Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)
Heavy bombing of Cervignano by aeroplane left many of the buildings destroyed. The air-raid must have been terrifying for Mrs Watkins’s team. Many bombs dropped near the house where Teresa was based.
Teresa’s photograph album contains several pictures that give an idea of the extent of the damage. She took many of the photographs from the window of the house where she was living, including one of the field directly outside with holes caused by bombs.
With such damage being done during the war it is not surprising that many people received wounds from flying debris and shrapnel. On the 15th of October 1916 Teresa’s father, William Hulton, wrote that the youngest son of a family friend who was serving as a solider had died of blood poisoning as the result of a shrapnel wound.
The hospital where Teresa worked needed constant supplies to deal with such wounds. M.T. Hindson, who worked for the Red Cross ambulance unit, sent Teresa some pads for the wounded coming off the hospital trains as he knew that she spent ‘a good deal of time making such pads.’
Reading the wartime letters collected by Teresa, a spirit of camaraderie is often apparent as people attempted to do all they could to help the war effort. Teresa’s organisational skills and many acquaintances were valuable to Mrs Watkins’s team. William Hulton asked if Teresa could find a job for a girl called Evelina Santini who wanted to help nursing and had been trained by the blue nuns.
As well as the practical difficulties that they faced, the change of scene and occupation for women becoming war nurses was often trying. Teresa’s friend Lady Helen D’Abernon was in St James’s Hotel, Paris, doing anaesthetics nursing on the Western Front. She comments: ‘It is rather strange & not altogether delightful to live for 3 months amongst quite total strangers.’
Lord Berwick (1877-1947)
On the 19th of October Lord Berwick received a letter from Private O. Swaffield of the First Somerset Light Infantry who was wounded and in hospital in Edmonton, London. The letter was redirected from Attingham to the British Embassy in Paris. The writer was probably Sydney Owen-Swaffield, an acquaintance who was of a similar age to Lord Berwick. Records show that Sydney and his wife Maud had tea with Lady Berwick in 1929.
On the 17th of October 1916 one of the Attingham estate’s tenant families, the Benbows, received tragic news of the death of their son John Henry Benbow. He was aged just eighteen. The Shrewsbury Chronicle’s account of his death, dated the 27th of October 1916, makes heart-rending reading:
‘Mr and Mrs Benbow, Attingham Home Farm, received on Sunday last the sad news that their only son, Pte J. H. Benbow, had died of wounds in hospital. He joined the 2/4 KSLI in which he served one year and 10 months, and during the past summer was sent to France where he was attached to the 1/5 South Lancashires.
‘In a letter to the sorrowing parents, the Chaplin, Rev A. B. Brooker, says: ‘He was not in the least afraid, and faced death quietly and confidently. He seemed so young and so small to die a soldier’s death, but he had the heart and courage of the bravest man. Good doctors and nurses were with him, and his every want was supplied, but they could not save his life, and he very soon became unconscious, and later passed quietly away.’
The letter brings home the importance of good medical care during the war. Welcome funds were raised in October 1916 during a successful collection called ‘Our Day.’ It was organised by the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John. Since October 1914 the two organisations had been collaborating in a Joint War Committee.
Large donations were given by the British royal family. Queen Alexandra, the President of the British Red Cross Society, wrote: ‘The unselfish devotion of all those who are connected with the British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John of Jerusalem is deeply appreciated by the whole world. I pray that God’s best blessing may rest upon their noble and magnificent work, which has been unsurpassed in this terrible war, and that a generous response will be given by everyone in the country to our appeal for funds.’
This cigarette tin in the Imperial War Museum collection was given as a Christmas gift in 1914 and bears a picture of Alexandra with the inscription, ‘With Best wishes from Alexandra.’