A month of sorrow – August 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

August 1915 was a sorrowful time for Teresa following the death of her maternal grandmother, Linda Villari. Originally from Brighton, Linda was the daughter of an English textile merchant. By her first husband, the Italian Vincenzo Mazini, she had a daughter, Costanza (Teresa’s mother). But after Mazini’s death she married the Italian historian and senator Pasquale Villari and had a son, Luigi (Teresa’s uncle). A scholarly lady, Linda wrote for magazines and produced a history of archaeology.

Linda Villari in 1906.

Linda Villari, Teresa’s grandmother, 1906.

During this month Teresa’s uncle, Luigi Villari, was stationed in Florence and was part of the Italian cavalry. His horse was named ‘Fanciullo’ (‘laddie’) and he sent Teresa a photograph of himself mounted and wearing his uniform. He was known as ‘Gino’ to his relatives.

Luigi Villari, Florence, 1915.

Luigi Villari, Teresa’s uncle, Florence, 1915.

Other changes in the family were afoot. Having previously had little luck with finding war work that suited her, Gioconda hoped that becoming a nurse in a hospital in Florence might be to her liking. She wrote to her sister:

‘Yesterday afternoon I began work at Hosp. There are only 7 convalescent men there now & there is not much to do. They all get up & walk about. The place is very curious but clean & gay. My companion is Signa Miglionini who is dull but not a bad soul.’

Gioconda in 1911

Gioconda in 1911

Lady Helen D’Abernon, a close friend of the Hulton sisters, who was training as an anaesthetist at Guy’s Hospital in London at the time, was especially pleased to receive the news that Gioconda had taken up hospital work. In her letter to Gioconda she wrote:

‘I shall be eager to hear of your hospital- what kind of wounds you see? Or is it more typhoid & fever? I don’t like to think of you running any risks dear, dainty, little Gioconda- and if you have to do with fever patients you cannot plunge your hands too often in disinfectant. I remember your old habit of always washing your hands- it must not desert you now.’

Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D'Abernon in her nurse uniform.

Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D’Abernon in her nurse uniform.

However, Gioconda found that her experience in the hospital in Florence proved to her once and for all that she was not fitted to be a nurse. She told Teresa just after beginning the job, ‘If my work were more congenial I should be enjoying all this thoroughly.’

Gioconda Hulton, Florence, February 1916

Gioconda Hulton, Florence, February 1916

Soon, Gioconda had given up her nursing post at the hospital and her mother, Costanza, had taken her place. Costanza found that nursing came more easily to her and helped at the war hospital for some time.


By August, Britain had been at war for a year. A conflict which many had thought would be over by Christmas 1914 now seemed to have no end in sight. Deaths continued to mount. Throughout the country, many must have been wondering whether they would be the next to hear the tragic news of the loss of friends and loved ones.

Interwar period British poppy.

Interwar period British poppy. © IWM (EPH 2313)

On the 23rd of August 1915 22 year-old John Carswell (16485), from the Atcham parish, died from wounds received in battle. The 1911 census records John aged 16 as working as a labourer on a farm near Attingham. He probably helped his father who was a cowman on the farm. John had been a private in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and is remembered on the war memorial plaque in St Eata’s Church in Atcham.

St Eata's Church, Atcham, Shropshire, early 1900s.

St Eata’s Church, Atcham, Shropshire, early 1900s.

On 28th of August 1915, the Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News reported:

 ‘Private John Carswell, 1st King’s Shropshire L.I., son of Mr. T. Carswell, Uckington, Upton Magna, joined the Force, in December, 1914, proceeded to the France last April, and went straight into the firing line. Wounded in the battle of Hooge, he died from the effect on August 23.’

Private John Carswell.

Private John Carswell.

With thanks to Neil Evans and Phil Morris for their work on the Shropshire Roll of Honour. For further information on their work, please click here.

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