Monthly Archives: August 2018

A thief in the night – August 1916

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Hopes were high in Italy as Italian troops successfully captured the town of Gorizia, north-east Italy. M. T. Hindson, who worked in the Red Cross ambulance unit, wrote to Teresa after an Italian victory that was possibly this battle:

The enemy crept away from it like a thief in the night or so the tale goes, left out one soldato, who overslept himself, to fall a prisoner to Italian arms. Our ambulances have actually been there- on service- some nights ago, au clair de la lune.’


This photograph in one of Teresa’s wartime albums shows a Red Cross ambulance

M. T. Hindson goes on to describe ‘the trenches the soldiers had patiently defended so long. Poor things they were, I can tell you, protected only at the front by walls of sacks in which the shells had made gaps every here and there. I thought of the difficulty of repairing these gaps so close to the enemy snipers.’

Spurred by the success at Gorizia, on the 28th of August 1916 Italy declared war on Germany. German forces were mobilised but unfortunately the Allies had no troops to send to Italy’s aid and Italy had to fight both the German and Austro-Hungarian troops alone. Austria-Hungary had to contend with an attack from Romania that joined the war on the side of the Allies and began an invasion through the Carpathian Mountains.

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These photographs show the mountainous terrain in which soldiers fought on the Italian Front

Things had been getting increasingly busy for Mrs Watkins’s team and Teresa wrote asking a lady called Maude Benn to help her in her hospital work. Unfortunately Maude replied that she felt she was too old to help.

Teresa’s friend Lady Helen D’Abernon was in France doing anaesthetics nursing. She helped with five or six operations a day. She wrote that the patients think she is an expert and dread their operations less since she started work.

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Lady Helen D’Abernon sent this postcard, featuring a photograph of herself, to Teresa

In August Teresa took a well earned rest from her war work. Photographs show her playing tennis with her friend Mabel Campbell, one of the nurses she worked with at Cervignano.

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Teresa enjoying a tennis match against fellow nurse Mabel Campbell

In mid August Teresa went to Vallombrosa, near Florence, where she spent time swimming. A dip must have been especially welcome after the hot, stuffy conditions that she had been working in! From August to September Teresa’s father William Hulton was staying at Pisa and also spent time bathing.

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This small monochrome photograph in one of Teresa’s wartime albums shows two ladies (possibly Teresa and a friend) in bathing costumes at Grado, Italy

Teresa was faced with an important decision as she received a proposal from one of her suitors, possibly Pietro Sella. Her mother, Costanza, wrote that she was ‘right not to decide at once‘ but advised Teresa to ‘let him have some rope – and hope.’ Costanza added, I should have liked you to have a title.’ Costanza’s hopes were to be realized in 1919 when Teresa married Thomas, the Eighth Baron Berwick of Attingham.


This artificial orange blossom wedding wreath was worn by Teresa on her wedding day




In August 1916 the number of beds for convalescent soldeirs at the Attingham war hospital was raised to 30. Photographs show that beds were placed in the Sultana Room and Outer Library, now Lady Berwick’s tearoom.

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A war hospital bed set beside the fireplace in the Sultana Room

Like most war hospitals, the Attingham hospital would have had a list of rules. Unfortunately this does not survive but an idea of what it may have been like can be gained from looking at the list of rules for Stamford Hospital at Dunham Massey, another National Trust property that has a fantastic record of this period in its history.


A list of rules for patients at Stamford Hospital

In 1916 the British Army began awarding a brass ‘wound stripe’ with the approval of King George V. It was worn on the left forearm and showed that the wearer had been wounded in combat.

On the 18th of August 1916 tragedy struck the family of George and Lucy Hughes, both of whom were employed in the gardens at Attingham, when their son William Hughes died. The Hughes family lost two sons in the war. William’s younger brother Frederick was to die in 1917. Before the war William had worked as a carter for a railway company. During the war he had been a Lance Corporal in the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consorts Own).

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The walled garden at Attingham (c) National Trust

In August 1916 a documentary film of the Battle of the Somme was shown in 34 cinemas in London. The film was the first documentary to show real footage of men fighting in battle. Nationwide release followed a week later and in total the film was seen by over 20 million people.

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This invitation card to see the Battle of the Somme film is in the Imperial War Museum Collection. IWM HU 95419

To watch the film, please click here.