So much to be done – January 1917

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)


Since Mrs Watkins’s team began their nursing and soldiers’ canteen work in Italy their places of work had grown more advanced. For example, Teresa now helped at a fully equipped operating theatre.

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The British Red Cross hospital operating theatre where Teresa assisted as a nurse

Teresa wrote to her lifelong friend Mary Dobrženský, a Hungarian countess, about her work with the wounded soldiers: ‘I really cannot get away – I can’t leave my work here. When there is so much suffering + so much to be done one cannot think of one’s pleasure. I have no money to give but I can give my work.’

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A photograph of Teresa taken in 1917

However, money was vital for the team to continue to operate. In January 1917 there was a call for funds to be sent for use at the soldiers’ canteen where Teresa was working in Cervignano. The appeal was successful and letters show that the Gigliucci family and Mr Hayman sent Teresa money to buy things for the soldiers’ canteen. People had to economise on many items and most letters from this date are written on very thin writing paper.

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These 1916 plans for one of soldiers’ rest stations established by Mrs Watkins are drawn on thin paper. Photograph courtesy of Hamish Scott

In addition to the supplies and funds, on January the 16th 1917 Teresa was sent a few manifestos’ by S. Waterfield ‘in the hope that you know someone who could spread them among the humble folk who know so little why they are fighting + cannot understand why the Allies do not accept the proffered peace.’


This 1917 calendar owned by Teresa shows a view of Renaissance Venice.

On the 26th of January 1917 Teresa received a letter from Rupert Thompson of the First British Red Cross Unit for Italy, who wrote from San Giovanni di Manzo. At San Giovanni di Manzo Mrs Watkins’s team worked in the hospital trains and routinely fed a special batch of wounded men who were sent off every morning at 6 o’clock. They also fed the wounded soldiers who came to them in ambulances straight from the dressing stations on their way to camp hospitals.

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This photograph showing soldiers outside the clearing station at Dolegna was taken in 1917.

Rupert Thompson grumbles about his colleagues in the Fourth British Red Cross Unit for Italy, telling Teresa that the Fourth Unit were ‘lent a house in Cervignano for a night while I was in Florence & left the next day taking all the blankets.’ Unfortunately ‘the major who provided the house, having some other guests to put up, called here & collared all mine! Isn’t it like the 4th unit?’

The Hulton family had more pressing worries as their house in Venice had already been damaged by bombing in 1916 and many people at the time feared that further destruction might occur in the beautiful city. Teresa described the bombing to Mary Dobrženský: You ask about our house in Venice. On 14/15 Sept a most enormous bomb from an aeroplane fell right through the house from the roof to the entrance hall + stuck in the paving without exploding’.

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A photograph taken in 1911 showing Teresa with Mary Dobrženský. Mary is holding the black dog.


Lord Berwick (1877-1947)


Lord Berwick was still serving as an Honorary Secretary to the British Embassy in Paris. His uniform, dated 1903, survives in the Attingham collection. It was made by T. W. Cook and Sons & Co.

Lady Berwick left a handwritten note with the uniform when it was given to the National Trust. She describes her husband’s uniform in great detail: ‘Diplomatic Uniform 5th class Attaché 1903. Full Dress and Levee Dress; Blue cloth coat, single breasted, stand collar lined with black silk, black velvet collar and cuffs gold lace, no oak leaves. Buttons; gilt mounted the royal arms, without supporters; surmounted by the imperial crown. Boots; military patent leather. Hat; Black beaver cocked hat with black silk cockade. Black ostrich feather border.’

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A photograph of Lord Berwick’s uniform displayed at a recent exhibition at Attingham Park

On the 7th of January 1917 Lord Berwick’s relative Michael, who later inherited the title to become the 9th Lord Berwick, was back in England recovering from wounds. He appeared before a Medical Board on the 22nd of January and was told that it would be six months before he could fight overseas again.

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Michael Noel-Hill pictured on a hunting expedition in 1922

It seems that Michael had made light of a serious wound and paradoxically was probably alive because his wound kept him away from the Front. Most of his battalion in France had been wiped out six weeks previously on the attack on Beaucourt, and over a quarter of the officers and men he left on the 2nd of November 1916 had been killed. Seventeen out of nineteen officers were killed or wounded. Despite these horrifying casualties Michael describes the taking of Beaucourt as a ‘wonderful show’ and wrote‘I would have given anything to have been there… I shall not be happy until I get back again’.




Throughout 1917 casualties of war were high and the convalescent hospital at Attingham was busy. In 1917 46 Ambulance trains came to Shrewsbury carrying a total of 6,459 men. This was nearly four times the total that had arrived in 1915. The wounded men were extremely grateful for the care that they received. One photograph taken at Attingham shows some convalescing soldiers and hospital staff posing before a banner upon which is written ‘God bless our commandant, sisters and nurses.’


A group of nurses, soldiers and hospital staff pictured in 1917 in the wartime hospital at Attingham.

A 1917 booklet published by the Joint War Committee, formed by the wartime coalition of the British Red Cross and Order of St. John, states that their expenditure, largely on the care of wounded soldiers, averaged £50,000 a week. By 1917 British subjects had donated £7,000,000 towards this work.

Attingham is lucky to have some First World War date memories recorded during an oral history project. Tom Jones recalled how, when his father brought Avenue Farm in 1917, the first thing Father did was to have about 200 Army horses and they came straight to Shrewsbury station, they’d been driven up the road and put on these fields and they grazed them right into the ground. They even grazed the hedges and killed a lot of the hedges because they were so hungry – they’d been on boats. They even ate the bark off the hedges.

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An officer with some considerably better fed horses than those described at Avenue Farm. The photograph is in the Imperial War Museum Collection, IWM Q 9019

‘Then, they’d been there about a month and then there was a big remount station at Leighton, at Leighton Hall. And about a dozen soldiers had come and they’d drive these 200 horses down the road and they’d be on horseback and take them to Leighton, they’d be broken in. And then another batch would come, and they ate the grass right into the ground, they’d even pull the roots up.’

The Women’s Land Army was formally established in January 1917. It had three sections; agriculture, timber and forage. From 1917 to 1918 female tractor drivers trained at Harper Adams College in Shropshire. Bishop’s Castle railway carried thousands of tonnes of timber, much of which had been felled by female foresters. This photograph shows members of the Women’s Land Army operating a tractor drawn plough.

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Members of the Women’s Land Army ploughing a field with a tractor. This photograph is in the Imperial War Museum Collection, IWM Q 54602


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