Monthly Archives: September 2014

The shadow of war – September 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

By September 1914 letters show that for many, the reality of war was beginning to sink in. Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen Vincent, wrote:

‘The awfulness of this gigantic war is being brought home here when we see so many wounded & increasingly worse accounts of one’s friends. A child bride of last year is today a widow.’

Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D'Abernon

Lady Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D’Abernon

 

Teresa too was moved and on the 10th September wrote to Lady Vincent that she would like to work with Belgian refugees. 160,000 Belgian refugees flooded into Britain between 1914 and 1915 as the Germans invaded Belgium. Upon arrival, many came to London where Teresa was staying with relatives.

 The Mayoress of Hampstead, London, with whom Teresa was to work, made a plea to help the refugees:

I appeal to the inhabitants of Hampstead for the Belgian Refugees, who consist mainly of women and children, and who are arriving here in hundreds almost daily. After the gallant resistance that Belgium has offered, with the result that their country is overrun by the German army, it is only right that we here in England, who are luckily exempt from this scourge of invasion, should do something to help these people who have lost their homes and all they possess. They are arriving absolutely penniless, and in most cases with only the clothes they stand up in.’

From The Tablet, September 1914.

To see British Pathé footage of Belgian refugees receiving help during WWI, please click here.

Belgian refugees outside Hudsons Furniture Repository, Victoria Station, London, September 1914. © IWM (Q 53305)

Belgian refugees outside Hudsons Furniture Repository, Victoria Station, London, September 1914. © IWM (Q 53305)

Lady Helen Vincent was well placed to help Teresa find work and got in touch with Edith de Mullway of the Aldwych Belgian refugee centre who arranged for Teresa to visit to see what duties were required.

The Aldwych centre was set up in a roller skating rink that had been taken over by the War Refugees’ Committee. Roller skating was popular in the Edwardian times and in 1911 the Aldwych roller skating rink was used as a meeting place for suffragettes. To view an interesting blog post about the Aldwych centre and its use before the war please click here.

 

The Old Skating Rink, Aldwych, in use as a clearing house for Belgian refugees, October 1915.

The Old Skating Rink, Aldwych, in use as a clearing house for Belgian refugees, October 1915. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2238)

 

The centre provided food and accommodation for the refugees and tried to find them work and homes. By the end of September Teresa was working as an allocator, helping Belgian families find homes and jobs in England. Many of them took the place of gardeners, labourers and servants as these roles were left empty as people were called up to war or left to do war work.

Teresa also dealt with donations and provisions sent to the centre, an important grounding for her later role in Red Cross hospital work in Italy. The Aldwych centre dispensed medicines and provided medical aid for an average of 60 patients daily. At the end of September there was an illness scare amongst the refugees and Gioconda wrote warning Teresa to be careful not to fall sick.

Teresa as a young woman

Teresa as a young woman

 

Although Italy remained neutral, it too was beginning to feel the effects of the war. Gioconda wrote that Italy’s commerce was affected by the war and that ‘there seems to be no money to spend & the outlook is very black.’ Gioconda gave a vivid account of how war affected the atmosphere in Venice by the end of September. She wrote:

‘Venice is very curious just now. Very few of the people generally to be seen at this time of the year, the Piazza almost deserted & of friends & acquaintances hardly a soul- on the other hand there are many suspicious looking individuals about- nondescript types both male & female- Then there are quantities of soldiers of every kind.’

 

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Lord Berwick was stationed with the Shropshire Yeomanry in Morpeth, Northumberland. To see a short film about the type of training he may have undertaken with his regiment, please click here.

The Shropshire Yeomanry, early 1900s

The Shropshire Yeomanry, early 1900s. Lord Berwick is on the right of the picture and is the last man on the back row.

 

Attingham

By January 1915 there were 25 Belgian refugee families in the Atcham rural district, the parish in which Attingham is located. They may have helped on the Estate.

Cutting the grass in the early 1900s at Attingham. This photograph was taken by the side of the Outer Library on the west side of the house.

Cutting the grass in the early 1900s at Attingham. This photograph was taken by the side of the Outer Library on the west side of the house.

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