Margaret Box, my Great-aunt, trained as a nurse, and joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, towards the end of the First World War, working primary in what was at the time Serbia. By March 1919 she and other nurses and doctors were working in a hospital in Sarajevo, which had been converted from a school to help deal with the casualties of war and the Spanish Flu. The Scottish Women’s Hospitals had already decided to wind up the hospital and several had already left. In this letter Margaret describes a visit from a parson.
20 days to come
‘Elsie Inglis Unit’
March 5th Wednesday
My dear Dad,
It is quite a long time since I had a letter from you so shall expect a good collection when the next mail does arrive. I have not much more news. Miss Gwynn has not come back yet. Dr Chesney had a telegram from Salonica but it was utter rubbish & no one could even guess what is was about or who it was from.
Danby, who has been wandering round the Balkans for a month looking for our lost goods returned a few days ago & is now off to Belgrad as, somehow, we have heard our goods are in that direction. No-one knows when she will turn up again!
The crocuses & primroses are lovely & other bulbs which look like lilly-of-the-valley, tulips, hyacinths, daffs etc are beginning to shoot up. The trees are not green yet & we have a sharp frost every morning, tho’ the sun is very hot.
We still have the picnic ?urge & get out on the mountains whenever possible, taking table knives with us to dig up the bulbs – the knives are getting beautifully clean & polished in consequence.
Last Friday a parson turned up so on Saturday evening we had a service & on Sunday morning Communion, after which Watson washed his surplice (which was very dirty & crumpled) & he went to Belgrad with the 2 English Tommies who had been ill here by the 10 o’clock train p.m.
His name is “Pobjoy” & altho’ he is commonly called “Hilljoy”, “Popjay” etc he is a very nice man & is by no means a killjoy.
I am still getting fatter & would take to drinking vinegar if we only had some!
I think I shall be much more likely to come home at the end of this month than to go to Belgrad with Dr. McIlroy but I can’t say how long we shall be on the journey. Nathan, Wright, Watson and I want to go together without the rest of the family but we don’t know whether we can manage it.
I hope you are all well – very much love to all
Your loving daughter
p.s. Thursday March 6th
Yesterday afternoon we were invited to a Farewell Tea at the Hotel Europe – given by the Mayoress & ladies of Sarajevo. We had rolls & lovely butter & pastry cakes. Some of the ladies had muffs in which they collected cakes & butter (wasn’t if funny) we were so sorry we had not thought of taking our buckets
I am not sure what was missing as the letter of December 19th suggested their luggage was arriving that night. It may have been medical supplies.
Knives digging up bulbs
I guess the bulbs were silver, and using them to dig up bulbs would rub the tarnish off them.