Collecting Nursing History 37
Lucy Cox 1883-1984

Sarah Rogers.

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Lucy Cox 1883-1984




Lucy in 1915, wearing Red Cross Uniform.

Lucy Cox, was the fourth of five siblings, and was born on 3rd January 1883 at the family home in Coton in Elms, Derbyshire. She had two older sisters and one older brother; all four were born in a five-year period, her youngest brother was born five years later.

On the 1891 census Lucy, aged 8 years was living at home with her parents and siblings. Her father's occupation was recorded as a general farm labourer. (2) By the 1901 census Lucy is aged 18, and a ward maid at the District General Hospital in Birmingham; Lucy was recorded on the census with the number 15: does this refer to the ward number, or was it her Hospital staff number? (3) Lucy Trained at Southwark Infirmary from  September 2nd 1905- September  2nd 1908.(1)

Fig 1 Postcard. Copyright; Peter Malezcek

The St Saviour's Union Infirmary opened in April 1887. St Saviour's Union became the Southwark Union in 1901 and in 1902 the Infirmary was renamed the Southwark Union Infirmary. When the L.C.C. took over administrative control in 1931 it became a general hospital and was renamed the Dulwich Hospital, this closed in 2005, and acute care was transferred to Kings College Hospital. (4)

Fig 2 Postcard. Copyright; Peter Malezcek

Archived records from St Saviours Union Surrey have several entries for Lucy: whilst she worked there as a probationer and later as a qualified nurse. (6, 7, 8, 9) Lucy was first appointed as a probationer on 31st August 1905, on a salary of £16/annum. However, Lucy is described as leaving on 20th October 1905, with the remark:

"Sickness among staff" (9)

Lucy rejoins, if indeed she ever left on 21st October 1905, an appointment, which the Local Board of Guardians, who ran the St Saviours Union Infirmary sanctioned on 12th May 1906. Lucy's salary appears to have gone down, as her starting salary is now given as £10/annum, rising to a maximum of £18/annum after £4/year annual increments , given at Michaelmas.(7)

Lucy is one of ten new nurse appointments sanctioned by the LBG on 21st October 1908. She is recorded as commencing work on 17th September 1908 suggesting that this is when she qualified. Her starting salary was £26/annum. (8) Among the register is one last entry; Lucy was reappointed on 7th April 1910, this time on a salary of £32/annum.(6) This would probably be when she was appointed to be a sister, as she stated in her WW1 records.(1) Lucy is on the 1911census aged 27, still working as a nurse. Her occupation is given as "infirmary nurse" at Southwark Infirmary, East Dulwich Grove, Camberwell. (5)


Lucy wearing an outdoor uniform hat.

Lucy leaves Southwark Infirmary in October 1913, having held the positions of probationer, Staff Nurse for one and a half years and Sister for three and a half years. Lucy's war records, weeded in 1935 and partly culled survive the complete cull of some nurses' records; thirty pages remain (some peoples records are a few pages, others run to 100's). (1, 6)

Her application form (not always retained during the records culls in the 1930's) gives useful information;

Lucy worked as a Private Nurse for one year, and in September 1914 volunteered and worked in France from September 1914 to June 1915.

"Nursing wounded and enteric" (1)

A specific question on her application form to join Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service-Reserve (Q.A.I.M.N.S. (R))   was

"What experience have you had in the nursing of Enteric fever?" (1) To which she replied;

"Cases during training and 2 months at Malaisse Hospital, France" Lucy signed her application form on 30th July 1915.

On 11 August 1915, Lucy signed her war office contract, as a Staff Nurse in the Q.A.I.M.N.S. (R) .The address she gave, was that of Harriet, her widowed mother, who was living in Fulham Rd, London. One year later, as was common practice, she renewed it again for a further 12 months, or "until my services are no longer required, whichever shall first happen " (1)


Lucy is on far right, with colleagues and staff in what is thought to have been a French Chateau, used as a war hospital in Fort Mahon.

Lucy is second from left, front row.

Hospital Newspapers from Fort Mahon, including some that Lucy is in:-


Hospital newsletter, with Lucy's name on, and photograph of staff, note the stylized flowers at the corners, as sketched into Lucy's autograph book, shown above.

Lucy worked in France and briefly at sea on H.S. Asturias (torpedoed by German u-boat and sunk off Start Point, 20th March 1917).

·         7 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS)

·         10 Stationary Hospital,                          on  22/9/15

·         1/2 S.D. Fd.amb                                          19/6/16

·         29 CCS                                                        25/6/16   

·         To Abbeville,                                                17/9/16

·         16 general hospital                                      20/9/16

·         29 CCS

·         10 Stationary Hospital                                 27/11/16

·         16 General Hospital

·         On Leave-21/1/17-2/2/17

·         Abbeville                                                       14/2/17

·         2/2  LonCCS

·         HS (HS Asturias, sunk 3 days later with 32 deaths )          8/3/17-17/3/17

·         Abbeville                                                       29/5/17    

·         36 CCS                                                         26/3/17

·         21 CCS                                                         22/4/17   

·         Abbeville

·         1 CCS                                                         

·         Leave                                                             7/6- 15/6 /17

·         21 CCS

·         Appt as Sister                                                17/6/17

·         Resigning                                                       26/8/17

Lucy moved around a considerable amount during this period, she was very fortunate not to be on HS Asturias when it was sunk.

Lt: Lucy far left. Rt: Lucy in middle.


Lucy, far left on steps.

Hospital fancy dress as mentioned in nurses journals from WW1, Lucy 2nd row, seated, 2nd from left.


Photographs of Lucy and colleagues on and off duty.

Sketch, assumed to be Lucy.


 A sketch (above), thought to be drawn from nearby when she nursed in Norfolk.




Various sketches in Lucy's autograph book, reflecting what Lucy's patients' concerns and pleasures at that time.


A further selection of sketches (above), again reflecting concerns, and the soldiers humour.

The Magnificent.

Above - 'The Magnificent' was converted into a troopship from a disarmed battleship, and used to evacuate troops in 1915 -1916 from the Dardanelles. It is thought that these comments reflect the lack of comfort on the Magnificent compared to that on the Asturias.

Lucy resignation letter, dated 22nd June 1917, was written whilst posted to the 21CCS in France.

"My reason requesting release is my forthcoming marriage" (1)

Despite the shortage of nurses, not until WW2 were the rules on married nurses relaxed both in civilian and military hospitals. Her resignation was received 5 July 1917, and gratuity recommended. The ward Sister wrote her report the day before Lucy returned home to marry her fiancé.

"Confidential Report. Miss Cox is a very good conscientious nurse, indefatigable in her efforts to do all that is possible for the welfare of her patients under her care, she is also excellent as a ward sister. While in this station she had charge of the serious surgical ward whilst on day duty." (1)

A letter written by Lucy (from her sister's Annie's house on the Isle of Wight on 25 January 1918 on black bordered notepaper, makes tragic reading:

"Dear Madam, would you kindly inform me, have you a vacancy for nursing abroad? Also would it be possible to rejoin Queen Alexandra's reserve: I left the service on august 25th 1917, my reason the being my forthcoming marriage. Owing to circumstances over which I had no control, this was not possible and I would like to continue my nursing. I have been nursing here (a doctor's house) for several months..." (1)

Lucy's sister Annie (Nancy) was also a nurse, and was married to a Doctor Hands; their house is mentioned in one of the documents. It is thought that Lucy was therefore working for her brother in law after her bereavement. Annie Hands was pregnant in 1917 and it is thought that Lucy was there when Annie's child was born. Lucy became the baby boy's Godmother who was born on 5th October 1917. 

Family lore does not report the name of her Fiancé, apart from the tragic fact that her sweetheart was killed in the war. WW1 saw the decimation of a generation of young men, who signed up to "defend King and Country," never to return. Records vary but approximately 800,000 British men died whilst serving Great Britain in WW1. My Father's family Nanny also lost her fiancé in WW1: she never married.

Lucy is mentioned in despatches, which was announced in The London Gazette on 24th December 1917.

Lucy's official 'Mentioned in Despatches' letter.


Subsequently, a note within her service file states:

"Served in France from August 1915 - August 1917, Good Report. Re-employment offered but cannot be offered foreign work.1.2.18" (1)

Lucy was obviously offered other work with Q.A.I.M.N.S. (R), but declined:

"I beg to inform you I have been appointed Ward sister at the War Hospital, Norwich for which post I applied some weeks ago." (1)

Perhaps she decided to go back to nursing soldiers in order to deal with her sorrow, a job, which reports state that she was very capable at.

In 1919, Lucy writes from St. Botolphs lodge, Worthing, requesting the newly increased annuity to nurses;

"And would be glad to benefit from the increase, if eligible" (1)


From 1927-1948 approximately, Lucy worked in the old Central Home, West Ham, which was formerly the old workhouse and cared for  the chronically sick and infirm.

Above - a selection of photographs showing Lucy with other staff ; Lucy is in nurses uniform, and in the centre, always smiling!


Lucy's nephew Patrick's marriage, Lucy is far right, and her sister, Patricks mother Annie Hands is 2nd left.

Lucy came from a Catholic family and took her duties as Godmother to her nephew very seriously. In 1957, she moved in with her other unmarried sister Harriet from their flat in West Cliff, Southend to live with their nephew and his family in their home in Maidenhead . They all started going to church and the children went to Catholic schools. Lucy could frequently be found, entertaining old soldiers, now homeless and living as "tramps," often minus a leg from WW1 to tea on the steps of the family house, caring for them as she always had her patients. Lucy never talked about her wartime experiences, but she did share her knowledge of how to bandage ankles, elbows and wounded teddies, and how to do hospital bed corners with the sheets and blankets.  Lucy was a very religious person and she went frequently to retreats at the Cenacle. In addition, and she was a member of a lay order, making several pilgrimages to Lourdes with patients. Lucy died in 1984, 18 months after her 100th birthday.

Lucy and her great niece.

Lucy in 1968 aged 85 on the occasion of her niece-in-laws remarriage.

Lucy with her extended family, with whom she lived.


On Lucy's hundredth birthday in 1982, the Lady Mayor wrote congratulating her and requesting  permission to visit, she also received two official telegrams one from the Queen, and one from Norman Fowler:



....and a letter from the Prince and Princess of Wales;


A tea pot stand, much worn, thought to be a retirement gift to Lucy, with Guys hospital coat of arms is in the bottom corner.

Lucy appears to have been a warm and caring person, whose fiancé, like many other young men at that time was tragically killed during WW1 whilst serving his country. Lucy continued to serve her country, even after her fiancée's death, so close to their intended marriage. The photographs show Lucy mostly smiling and laughing, reflecting her great sense of humour,  who lived with her extended family until her death.

Lucy had five siblings; three sisters, Ann who was born in 1877 and known as Annie/ Nancy, Margaret who was born in 1880, Harriet who was born in 1882, and two brothers; William who was born in 1879 and Bernard, who was born in 1888. Both Annie/Nancy and Harriet also trained as nurses.

Lucy, Harriet and Annie/Nancy's mother...also Harriet Cox.

Annie (Nancy) Hands, nee Cox

Nancy was born on 17th March, 1877 in the  Burton Registration district of Derbyshire. In the 1901 census she was found working aged 24 as a 'Mental Nurse' in Derby Borough Asylum in Rowditch, Derby;  but known as Annie Agnes Cox, her year and place of birth, given as ' Coton - on Elms'  both correspond with the families oral histories.(11) It is not known if this is where she trained. It has not been possible to find her so far in the 1911 census, using either name. Nancy married Dr Charles Hubert Hands, in Kensington in 1916, he had trained at St Bartholomew's hospital London. After their marriage they lived in London and the Isle of Wight. They named their son Charles Patrick Hands, known as Patrick, perhaps  because his mother had been born on St Patricks Day.

 Nancy/Annie and Charles' marriage certificate (Above).


Lucy's  brother in law Dr C Hands, sister Annie and their son Charles.

Family oral history relates that Dr Hands was Doctor to some famous people - who included the Tennyson family, Marconi, and A. A. Milne. Nancy and Charles had one child, Charles Patrick Hands. Nancy's husband  Charles died in the mid 1945; Nancy moved in with her son and his family in Hillingdon in the early 1950's, and died in Hillingdon hospital, in 1956.(13)

Harriet Cox
Harriet was born in 1882; one year before Lucy, also in Coton on the Elms, Derbyshire. Harriet has been easier to find on censuses, in 1891 and 1901 she is living with her family, and in 1911 she is working as a nurse in the London County Council run Horton Asylum, Epsom.(12)  It looks unlikely that staff records have survived for this hospital and period, so not more may be found out about her, through this source. Harriet and Lucy came to live with their nephew in Maidenhead in 1957 and on 14th december,1960 Harriet died in Maidenhead aged 79 years.

Unknown nurses; these photos below were found among Lucy's possession, they are not thought to be her sisters; both have chatelaines hanging from their waists, carrying what appears to be the coat of arms used by St Bartholomew's hospital on at least one, and a pair of scissors. From research and advice, it is thought that they date from approximately 1878-1894.




1. The National Archives, WO/399/1811: Lucy Cox.

2. 1891 census. RG12/2199

3. census, RG13/2845


5. census

6. London Metropolitan Archives, SOBG/157/1, Register of Officers, 1887-1914 pg20

7. LMA, SOBG/157/1, Register of Officers, 1887-1914 pg 32

8. LMA, SOBG/157/1, Register of Officers, 1887-1914 pg 227

9. LMA, SOBG/157/1, Register of Officers, 1887-1914 pg 275

10., accessed 1st January 2014.

11. The National Archives, 1901 Census, RG14, Piece: 2965,, accessed 1st January 2014.

12. TNA, 1911 Census, RG13, Piece: 2875; Folio: 80; Page: 17,, accessed 1st January 2014.

13. GRO, England & Wales Civil Registration Indexes, Death Index, 1916-2007  England and Wales London, England, accessed via on 1/1/2014.

14. 1st January 2014.


1-2, Copyright; Peter Malezcek.

All others Copyright; Lucy's family.


With grateful thanks to Nancy and her family for inviting  me to research Lucy's life, to my dear husband Harry for finding me the "work", to Peter for sharing his hospital postcards, my neighbour Suzanne for her detective work in finding Annie as a nurse, Katie, the Archivist at St Bartholomew's Hospital and Will as ever for editing, and uploading it onto


© Sarah Rogers 11/2/2014.


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