Heading for Italy – May 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

On the 8th of May Teresa finished her quarantine for German Measles and was able to visit the refugees that she had been helping at Edmonton, London. However, few remained there and Teresa’s work consisted mainly of tying up her duties and making sure that the refugees were as comfortably settled as possible.

Belgian refugee children, 1918

Belgian refugee children, 1918. © IWM (Q 27757B)

One example of her kind work was with Adolf Keyeux, a bright young Belgian refugee who wanted to continue with his studies. By mid May, Adolf Keyeux was resuming his studies in Leeds where he was to remain until he was old enough to serve in the army in 1918 in Belgium, his homeland. He continued to write to Teresa regularly.

A colleague from Edmonton, Edith Thorndike, told Teresa what an excellent job everyone felt that she did helping the refugees:

I wonder if you know how much you helped the Belgian work really – your method of working was so thorough and you won’t mind me saying now that it was much appreciated at Edmonton!

Strand Workhouse Edmonton from north entrance to Belgian Refuge c 1915

Strand Workhouse Edmonton from north entrance to Belgian Refuge c 1915. To see more information on the Edmonton workhouse please click here.

By late May, Teresa’s refugee work in England had come to an end and she made plans to leave for Italy to rejoin her family. However, her return was hastened by the major events unfolding in her home country.

On the 23rd of May 1915 Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, entering the First World War on the side of the Allies: Britain, France and Russia. When the war had begun it had been expected that Italy would take sides with Germany and Austria-Hungary, with which it had formed the Triple Alliance. The reason for Italy joining on the side of the Allies was mainly to gain territory in southern Austria-Hungary, where Italian was the main language spoken. When war was declared crowds gathered to cheer the Italian royal family. Click here to see a photograph of this event.

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

Italian soldiers were moved to strategic points on the border that the country shared with Austria-Hungary. Teresa’s mother, Costanza, wrote to her daughter: ‘people are going to Venice to see it for the last time!

Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen D’Abernon, commented that her old life in Venice felt remote. She worried how the beautiful architecture and artworks in Italy would fare during the war.

Upon her return to Italy, it is likely that Teresa fulfilled her long-held ambition to do a period of Red Cross training. This would have involved  lectures, practical training and exams in both first aid and nursing. She received her Italian Red Cross certificate in October 1915.

Teresa's Italian Red Cross Certificate, 1915

Teresa’s Italian Red Cross Certificate, 1915

By May, Lady Helen D’Abernon had finished her work at Guy’s Hospital, London, but was thinking of nursing in France. She wrote that in ‘these days of tension and anxiety’ it was impossible to sit in the sun with folded idle hands.Helen found nursing ‘very interesting’ but also commented:

‘…judging from past experience it is not a thing one can do by halves – but rather a kind of vampire devouring all one’s zeal & strength & energy.’

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Teresa enjoyed a brief meeting with Lord Berwick on her journey back to Italy. She stayed for two days in Paris where Lord Berwick was stationed as a diplomat and arranged to have lunch with him. Lord Berwick enjoyed her company and their friend, Fred Stratton, told Teresa that Lord Berwick ‘said nice things’ about her.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

 

Attingham

May 1915 was in many ways a time of tragedy. The Second Battle of Ypres raged throughout much of May as both sides tried to gain control of a strategic town in Belgium. It was the first time that Germany had used poisoned gas on a large scale on the Western Front. The battle resulted in 70,000 Allies being killed, wounded or missing.

A destroyed North Midland Farm, Messines Road, May 1915.

A destroyed North Midland Farm, Messines Road, May 1915. © (IWM Q 60496)

The dead included Herbert John Martin (16424) of the Atcham parish who was killed on the 25th of May at Ypres. At 37, he was the oldest man in the parish to die as a result of the war. He had been a private in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He had enlisted in December 1914, arrived in France on 4th May 1915 and was killed in action on 25th May. He is remembered on the plaque in Atcham and on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial, Belgium.

With thanks to Neil Evans and Phil Morris for their work on the Shropshire Roll of Honour.

There was tragedy on the seas too as on the 7th of May the Lusitania sank, with over a thousand passengers and crew meeting their deaths. The ship was torpedoed off the southern coast of Ireland by a German U-boat. The sinking of a non-military ship carrying 128 Americans caused great protest in the USA.

Lifebelt from the RMS Lusitania, torpedoed without warning and sunk by the German Submarine U20 on 7th May 1915, with the loss of 1198 lives.

Lifebelt from the RMS Lusitania, torpedoed without warning and sunk by the German Submarine U20 on 7th May 1915, with the loss of 1198 lives. © IWM (MAR 127)

May 1915 also saw the fall of the Liberal Government and the establishment of a new coalition.

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