Monthly Archives: July 2018

Heavy losses – July 1916

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Teresa continued to be extremely busy sending and receiving bales for the Italian war hospitals and soldiers’ recreation huts. Her friends made a lot of things for the hospitals and sent these to Teresa. There was a constant demand for items like sheets, pillowcases and knitted socks. Friends also donated money to help the Italian soldiers.

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This 1916 photograph shows a large group of soldiers standing on the platform at the railway station at Cervignano , north-east Italy. Partly obscured by the other bodies, there is possibly a person lying on the ground. Close by and looking at this person stands Teresa Hulton dressed in her nurse’s uniform and wearing a hat and a large white apron.

A heatwave created problems, making the hospitals an uncomfortable place to work. Teresa was asked to supply fly papers to one hospital.

In July 1916 the Italian government prohibited the running of motorcars except on war business. Sometimes private cars were used to carry supplies and Teresa used a car for war business.

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This photograph shows Teresa Hulton sitting in the back seat of a car being attended to by two soldiers. She is wearing a white hat with a black band around it. In the extreme left foreground of the picture another soldier can be seen giving a salute. A second woman, presumably Marie Watkins, is standing outside of the car. Other photographs in Attingham’s collection show Teresa driving.

Dr. Thomas Ashby of the Red Cross ambulance unit helped Teresa if she encountered problems with the car. He often visited Teresa to check what medical supplies were needed in Cervignano. The supplies needed in July included boric acid eye drops. Boric acid was in demand in war hospitals as an antiseptic for irrigating wounds.

G. M. Trevelyan and Lord Monson in an ambulance

Teresa’s wartime album contains this image of the historian G. M. Trevelyan and Lord Monson in a Red Cross vehicle. G. M. Trevelyan was placed in charge of the Villa Trento war hospital where Thomas Ashby was based as an ambulance driver. You can find more images of G. M. Trevelyan in National Trust collections here.

All the hospitals were packed and friends who were nurses wrote to Teresa saying that they had no time to visit her. Teresa often pencilled notes on top of letters that she was too busy to answer straight away. In July 1916 her mother, Costanza, was also working in a war hospital.

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Costanza Hulton

Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, wrote that she wished to return to Italy in October as she found her London Admiralty work dull and she was frequently paid late. Gioconda stayed with her Aunt Mary and her friend Lady Helen D’Abernon for a week each whilst she was in London. Lady D’Abernon was preparing to go to France to do specialist anaesthetics nursing.


Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

On the 25th of July 1916 Lord Berwick wrote to Teresa from Cronkhill where he has been for three weeks. Cronkhill is an Italianate villa on the Attingham estate designed by John Nash that came into the care of the National Trust in 1947 after Lord Berwick’s death. Click here to find out more.


Cronkhill (c) Laura Turner

Lord Berwick told Teresa: ‘my time has been very well filled up and particularly the last week, having had splendid weather, I have been out all day, going round seeing farmers and listening to their troubles, chiefly labour shortage, and Government requisitioning, seeing the ravages of the winter storms in my woods, and planning out a few improvements to be made “after the war.” I have enjoyed very much being in the country, after rather a long bout of Paris.

‘Things seem to have settled down to war conditions. Women are largely taking the places of men and very well. The seriousness of the war is I think at last thoroughly realised and well it may be, when one reads daily the long casualty lists.’

Lord Berwick at Cronkhill with Constance and Eugenie M. Morrice (1905)

Lord Berwick at Cronkhill in 1905 with two relations on his mother’s side, Constance Morrice and Eugenie M. Morrice.

Lord Berwick praised Teresa’s efforts to keep the soldiers’ spirits up at the recreation huts. He told her that whilst he was in London an artist friend, Fred Stratton, showed him a photograph of Teresa in her nurses uniform and asked if she might send him one.



The Battle of the Somme, an offensive led by the British and French armies, was launched in Picardy. The battle lasted until November 1916 and there were massive losses. In the opening day 19,240 British soldiers were killed, making it the heaviest ever casualty toll in a 24 hour period. This was partly due to the fact that, despite a week of bombardment, the German defences remained largely intact.

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The steps leading down to a huge German underground shelter at Bernafay Wood, near Montauban. The photograph, taken in 1916, gives a good idea of the size and depth of many German dugouts on the Somme. (c) IWM Q 4307 A

On average it took five days for an injured soldier to travel from the Western Front to a hospital in Britain. The wounded went first to a Regimental Aid Post and then to an Advanced Dressing Station close to the front line. If further treatment was required then the wounded were sent to a Casualty Clearing Station. Those who would take longer to recover were sent to auxiliary hospitals on the French coast, such as the hospital where Teresa’s friend Lady Helen D’Abernon worked, or to war hospitals Britain, like the one at Attingham.

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This photograph in the Imperial War Museum Collection shows three 8 inch howitzers of the 39th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), firing from the Fricourt-Mametz Valley during the Battle of the Somme, August 1916. IWM Q 5817

Supplies of timber were important during the war and were in demand for things like making pit props. Wood had often been imported from Norway before the war. Large country estates like Attingham offered a valuable source of timber. Surviving documents from 1916 relate to payments for work in the woods and plantations at Attingham.

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An archive document relating to work done at Attingham’s woods and plantations.

Work supplying timber was often done by women. The Women’s Forestry Corps was founded in 1916 and by 1918 400 women were working as foresters.

The greater acceptance of women workers taking the place of men called up to fight is shown by the numerous female gardeners starting work at Kew Gardens in 1916.

As well as wood, the Attingham estate was used to supply trained horses, mules and donkeys for work at the Front. A photograph shows soldiers with a donkey, which would be a useful pack animal in the war. Some donkeys were even used to help remove wounded soldiers from the battlefield. They frequently faced danger from enemy fire and many were killed or wounded.

Soldiers in hospital blues with man in dark clothing and a donkey

Soldiers in hospital blues from the war hospital at Attingham are photographed with a man in dark clothing and a donkey.