Thursday, 1 December 2011

Sepia Saturday 103

Alan has hit the nail on the head again.  I was waiting for the opportunity to introduce my Grandfather's eldest sister - my great aunt Barbara.

Barbara was born in 1878 in the Yorkshire village of Coxwold, the first  and eldest of ten born to a  Blacksmith and the daughter of a Stonemason.

She was, so I believe, nursing at the Westminster Hospital before joining the Queen Alexandria's Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1915.  She served at home, as well as in Egypt and on the Hospital Ships Letitia and Salta.  Indeed she was aboard the Salta when it hit a mine and sank outside Le Havre.


She was fortunate to be one of the few survivors of the sinking.  It  seems that the Skipper of the Salta decided not to follow the course laid out by a Royal Navy Minesweeper showing the safe passage into the Harbour. He steered outside the buoy marked area and into a German Mine.  She was doubly fortunate because many of the survivors that were dragged from the water, were drowned when their rescue craft hit another mine and sank.

After her demobilisation she was a District Nurse in the Malton area of Yorkshire.  Whilst I never met her, or indeed any of her siblings (including my Grandfather), I have this image of her riding around the lanes of North Yorkshire on a "Sit-up-and-Beg" Bicycle in thick black stockings, starched apron and capes streaming out behind.


  1. Glad I hit the nail on the head - and you did the same for me. The mention of the village of Coxwold rang a bell in my mind and I remembered that the other day, whilst compiling a list of Great Yorkshire Pubs I need to visit, I came across the Fauconberg Arms in Coxwold. As soon as Spring is in the air - I will visit and when I do I will raise a pint glass in memory of Barbara

  2. We used to go to the Fauconberg Arms quite regularly - but it's not as good for food as it once was. Coxwold was also where Lawrence Sterne lived. He wrote Tristram Shandy.
    The area round Coxwold would have been well suited for a 'sit-up-and-beg' bicycle. Barbara must have been lucky to survive the mine.

  3. That's an interesting story. It's hard to believe the skipper wouldn't follow the safe course and then the rescue boat suffered the same fate.

  4. Unfortunately, Coxwold doesn't have the life that it did when Barbara and her siblings lived there. It is a Village set in Aspic, too many holiday and second homes, and retirement homes. The Pub has had a rocky ride and was closed for a while. It was opened the last time I was there with my Father's cousin and her husband. She was born at Ivy Lea, on the cross road ,where her Father ran the forge. When he married his and Barbara's Parents moved from Coxwold to Wass to run a boarding house and smithy at Wass House, next to the Wombwell Arms. Another Pub on my to do list

  5. What an amazing story and life. At the time, nursing was one of the few professions young women could have that would allow them to lead a life of such adventure. Great tale!

  6. That is an amazing story. One wouldn't have thought the harbor to be so filled with bombs and yet that was the goal to destroy people. She was very fortunate to survive.