Soldiers of the Regiment
Mrs Rebecca Box
See also Mrs Elizabeth Evans
A Crimean Heroine
Dear Mr Editor
Through the kindness of Lieutenant Colonel Fryer, Secretary of the Royal
Cambridge Asylum for Soldiers’ Widows, I am able to narrate the
following incidents concerning Mrs Box, who died at the Asylum, on 18
Nov 1913, aged 83. Her husband was No. 1829 Private James Box,
discharged after 21 years service in 1862. He had two medals (Crimea and
Turkish) and one clasp, for good conduct badges. She joined the Royal
Cambridge Asylum in 1890. She used to tell many stories of the Crimean
War, where she was one of three women selected to act as nurses under
the late Miss Florence Nightingale.
In February last the Queen visited the Asylum, and talked with Mrs Box,
in her quarters for some time, giving her and al the inmates presents of
tea and sugar.
An old canvassing card, dated May Election, 1889, reads as follows:-
Rebecca Box, aged 60 years; widow of Private James Box, who served for
21 years, over two years of which was spent in the Crimea. During the
whole time his wife was with him, at the end of which he was invalided
from the West Indies. He gained two medals, one clasp and four good
conduct badges. He was discharged in 1862, and died in 1882. His wife
was injured by the explosion of the Greek Battery, before Sebastopol.
The case is strongly recommended by General H S H Prince Edward of Sane-Weiman,
GCB, General Sir George Langley, KCB; Lieutenant General Wilby, CB, Late
1st Battalion, 4th King’s Own; Lieutenant General Loweny, CB; The Rev.
Charles Tompkins; George Richmond, RA; Mrs R Jennings, Bramby.
Extract from a newspaper:-
Woman War Veteran – Death in Royal Cambridge Asylum of a remarkable
character. The funeral of Mrs Rebecca Box (who passed away at the Royal
Asylum for Soldiers’ Widows) on Monday, at the advanced age of 84 years,
took place at Norbiton Cemetery yesterday afternoon; the principal
mourners being the daughter, the son-in-law, and grandchildren. The
coffin was wrapped in The Union Jack.
The old lady, who had been in the Cambridge Asylum for the past 23
years, was the widow of Mr Box, who served in the 1st Battalion, 4th
Regiment (King’s Own) now Royal Lancaster. She went through the whole of
the Crimean War, with her husband, extending over 2 1/2 years. She was
originally one of the three women selected to act as nurses, under Miss
Florence Nightingale, and after performing these duties faithfully,
eventually followed her husbands’ regiment right up to the front.
Throughout the progress of the war she suffered extreme privations,
during the excessive cold was frost-bitten. While advancing on one
occasion with the regiment she was blown up by one of the Russian mines,
being precipated into a pit, where troops were under cover. “Beeky,” as
she was familiarly known by the troops, was a great favourite; and when
food was short the soldiers would even go without a portion of their
rations so that “Beeky” should have more. Her daring was most
noticeable, and she would find her way to the French lines and procure
Brandy, so that her boys should have something to “warm them up a bit.”
Possessing Herculean strength, it is said she could pick up a big
six-foot man, and put him on her shoulder.
Indian Mutiny – After the termination of the Crimean War, Mrs Box came
home with the regiment, but afterwards was in the Indian Mutiny, and by
one day only missed being in Cawnpore during the massacre. During her
stay in India she had the unpleasant experience of having a Cobra as a
bed-mate, and was compelled to be motionless for twenty minutes, while
the reptile was removed, it being charmed away by music.
The following is a reprint from ‘Our Hospitals and Charities and the
Subscribers’ Journal, March 1906:-
Another and somewhat less marked old women is able to tell stories of
the Crimean War, and of the wounded who were carried up the ravine, past
her quarters, crying for water, which she was not permitted to give.
The contributor was very much surprised at Mrs Box being allowed up to
the front, for he imagined that these devoted and lion hearted women, so
well mentioned by W H Flitchett in “Wellington’s Men,” ceased with the
It must indeed be most comforting to some of our old readers to think
perhaps their life-long companion, that they may leave behind in
straightened circumstances, may have the good fortune of being elected
to the Royal Cambridge Asylum for Soldiers’ Widows. HRH the Duke of
Cambridge, father of the late Duke (so many years Commander-in-Chief)
being anxious to ameliorate the lot of the soldier’s widow, the building
was opened (from his design) to his memory in 1854. These poor old
widows, having a bed sitting-room each, with a small scullery adjoining
it, which enables them to purchase their food. Electric light and fuel
is provided; each tenant receives a small income of seven shillings a
3rd December 1913.
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