Violet Tours and the Boxer Rebellion

Violet Tours (1899-1979) was born in the British Legation in Peking and was the youngest survivor of the siege of the Boxer rebellion; a violent anti-colonial and anti-Christian uprising that took place in China between 1899 and 1901. Violet was known as the Boxer Baby.

In fact, she was lucky to survive at all as during the siege she was put out one day into the corridor in her sleeping basket. Madame Pichon, the wife of the French Ambassador, happened to pass soon after and enquired what the baby was doing there. On being told that the child was dead, Madam Pichon replied ‘Nonsense’, picked Violet up and cuddled her – and the rest is history. What she also did was to tell everyone that their ‘pet project for the rest of the siege is to make sue the child lived.’

Much of Violet’s early life was spent sailing between England and China with her mother and two younger brothers.

After leaving school towards the end of the War she worked for some years in the Ministry of Pensions but when her father returned to England from China in 1920 she started working in the Foreign Office where she remained until she married Nevill Garnons Williams in 1928.

As the daughter of one of H.M Consuls and the wife of a Naval Officer she travelled widely, her visits to foreign countries stimulating her deep interest in history and her formidable general knowledge. She later joined the WRNS and was subsequently transferred to their Headquarters at Queen Anne’s Mansions. She ended the War as Chief Officer Garnons Williams before moving to Abercamlais upon the Nevill’s retirement from the Navy.

Above: Women at the Seige by Susanna Hoe. The book tells the story of the 148 women from America, Europe, Russia and Japan who were held under seige with their 79 children for two months, without enough to eat and often under fire.

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