Ruth Cox (born 1890): War and Memory Part I

Many people all over the British Isles suffered from injuries through bombings and air-raids, many too were courageous in their duties to help others and for their country (White Knobs Row, p. 10)

War is a topic in which Ruth engages with throughout her autobiography and is hugely influential to her life.

Ruth’s first engagement with the war in her autobiography comes with the beginning of the first World War. She writes ‘in 1914 the Great War started and George [Ruth’s husband] was called up and joined the Royal Engineers’ (7). Ruth remarks that due to George being called up for service, she and her son Wilfred did not see George for two whole years. This must have been a very hard time for Ruth and her new-born son, to go to work every day with the thought of her husband on her mind, hoping and praying for his safety whilst having to run the household and look after Wilfred on her own.

A member of the WRVS cleans a child’s gas mask

Ruth writes of the problems caused by George being away when she notes that by the time the ‘war was over in 1919, Wilfred was six years of age, and it took him a long time to understand that George was his Dad’ (6). This must have been hard for both Wilfred and George. Missing out on the first years of a child’s life will have been an incredibly tough time for George however he was fighting for his son and every other Briton’s life, and this must have filled both Ruth and her son Wilfred, with immense pride.

The return of her family after the Great War was a hugely exciting time for Ruth. She writes ‘When George, Alf and Bill came back after the war there was great rejoicing because the family were together again’ (7). Having the family back safe and sound in England after risking their lives for the country will have been a moment to savour for Ruth!

However, war struck once again, and again Ruth temporarily lost a loved one through War. This time however it was not her husband George who was called up, but it was her son Wilfred. Ruth, now older and more able to positively impact the war effort, decided on the very same day that Wilfred was called up, to go to the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) and sign up.


The Women’s Voluntary Service running a mobile canteen after a bombing

Ruth’s time in the WRVS impacted her life significantly. She writes of her duties and responsibilities during the war. One duty included ‘looking after people whose houses had been bombed’ (8).  Another duty was taking essential belongings to the Rest Centres which housed evacuees, Ruth writes about setting up cots for small children and that ‘each child was fitted out with two sets of underwear, stockings, pyjamas etc. We ladies of the W.V.S. looked after the children until they were settled into homes’ (9).

Find out more about Ruth’s role in the W.V.S. and what happened once WWII had ended in Part Two of my War and Memory post!


Cox, Ruth, ‘White Knob Row’,1:184 TS, pp.11 (c.4,000 words). Brunel University Library.

Photo’s: Daily Mail – WRVS


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