Ruth Cox (1890): War and Memory Part II

Welcome back to Part Two of my blog on Ruth Cox (1890): War and Memory.

Ruth writes that in order to be accepted into the Women’s Voluntary Service (now called the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service) that she had to undergo ‘certain examinations, i.e.’ we had to pass through the gas chamber, stay for three minutes and then come out’ (8). Not a very desirable task at all! Passing this sort of examination shows Ruth’s passion and willingness to help others. Ruth writes that in addition to passing situational examinations, she also received three months first aid training. The first aid training was followed by an examination, which she also passed with flying colours.

Her memories of the war show what a terrifying time life must have been like in Britain. She writes that ‘During the war, we had to carry gas masks in case nerve gas was sprayed by German aeroplanes, everyone carried a gas-mask, it went everywhere with us (8). The very fact that an item such a gas-mask had become part and parcel of daily life shows how accustomed to war that Ruth and the rest of Britain had become. Living in fear daily that a German aeroplane may or may not drop nerve gas on innocent people must have been a terrible thing to have to deal with.

A World War II Gas-Mask


Another part of Ruth’s job in the W.V.S. was providing respite and aid to workers such as firemen. She writes, ‘we had a rough time with the bombers and our firemen needed the help of a cup of tea and sandwiches’ (9). This a really interesting point as it shows that not always does help have to come in the form of a grand gesture, even something as simple as providing workers with sandwiches and a flask of tea helps in getting them through their shift and presumably raised morale.


Finally, the day dawned when the war was all over (10)

Ruth recounts the end of the war, she writes of V Day ‘8th May 1945, fathers sons and daughters returned home. Eventually.’ (10)

An interesting event that Ruth writes about is a party she attended at the end of the war which took place in Tom Shepley Street. Ruth writes that ‘one of the boys, Ted Booth was coming home from a prisoner of war camp and we had a great party in the street for him. We were all so pleased to see him safely returned to his family. There were bunting of red white and blue hung along the street’ (10). This shows the impact that war had on Ruth and the other families in Hyde. The rejoicing will have been a sight to behold and I imagine Ruth was thoroughly pleased that throughout both world wars, she lost neither husband nor son.


Tom Shepley Street in Hyde as it appears today, the site in which a grand street party was thrown for a returning soldier.

The war and Ruth’s description of her role in the war serves to showcase what a kind and selfless person she was. Ruth’s work ethic that I had previously mentioned during the Life and Labour post is evident throughout the war. The needs of other people, people who had been transported to Hyde with no family, came before her own and Ruth chose to be do anything she could to help as many people as she could.



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

Tom Shepley Image

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