Treacherous terrain – February 1917

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)


On the 27th of February 1917 Teresa became an associate of the British Red Cross Society. Attingham is fortunate to have her Red Cross Certificate preserved. Prior to joining the Red Cross, Mrs Watkins and her team had been using their own funds for their work. Since these were running low, joining the Red Cross was a good option as it would allow them to draw on Red Cross funds to continue helping soldiers on the Italian Front.

Teresa Associate of RCross Certificate 1917

This document, dated the 27th of February 1917, certifies that Teresa has been made and Associate of the British Red Cross

As well as battling the enemy the Italian soldiers had to contend with extreme weather conditions and treacherous terrain. More soldiers died in avalanches and of frostbite than died in combat on the Italian Front. Temperatures dropped below -20 degrees Celsius. When fighting uphill, as the Italians often were, more attacking than defending soldiers were needed.

A flavour of the conditions that the Italian and Austrian armies faced is offered by the account of the assault on an Italian position at 1,700 metres above sea level in the Cuklahöhe a year previously in which Johann Mickl, an Austrian-born officer, took part. The attack began on the night of the 12th of February 1916, having been previously delayed by heavy snowfall. The snow was so deep that, whilst they were marching to the foot of the Cuklahöhe, some men disappeared up to their neck in the snow, and the march took far longer than Mikl had estimated.

february 1917 2

This photograph in one of Teresa’s wartime albums shows soldiers at an outpost in the mountains

The men drew near the Italian position as dawn was breaking. Mikl’s plan to attack by stealth was threatened as they risked being spotted by flaking Italian positions. The three metre climb up a smooth ice wall that they had to make to reach the Italians seemed impossible until an Austrian officer used the trunk of an alpenrose, a species of rhododendron, to reach the channel ledge. The troops reached the Italian position and took the men by surprise. Most of the Italians surrendered.

Mrs Watkins album 108

In the album belonging to Mrs Watkins are a photograph of an Italian General on horseback and another officer whose image has, delightfully, been cut around and stuck to the page. The album includes signatures of the people Mrs Watkins worked with and helped during the First World War  (c) Hamish Scott

The Italians responded by concentrating their fire on the exposed position and there were heavy casualty tolls on Mikl’s company, not helped by the fact that at the high altitude the winter winds were chilling. On the 5th of March 1916, Mikl was wounded in the face by an Italian hand grenade. His company held the position until they were relieved on the 12th of April. For his leadership, Mikl was awarded the Order of the Iron Crown, Third Class.



Lord Berwick (1877-1947)


On the 15th of February 1917 Lord Berwick wrote from the British Embassy in Paris to his friend and Shropshire neighbour Lieutenant Colonel G. Weld-Forester, Officer in Charge of The Shropshire Yeomanry, seeking a reappointment to the regiment:

‘I would now like to go back to the Army. I only ask to go wherever I am wanted and if I can be of any service to the regiment I shall be most happy to be under your orders.’

Lord B Letter for Reappointment to SY 1917

A letter written by Lord Berwick on the 15th of February 1917 asking if he might be reappointed in the Shropshire Yeomanry

Lord Berwick also explained a little about his war work thus far:

‘Though I am at present in the service of the FO [Foreign Office], I am still in Army List as Lieutenant (T.F.R). I was attached to the 1st regiment in that capacity during first 6 months of the war.

‘I was reappointed here as Honorary Attaché 2 years ago. The FO applied for me at the request of the ambassador. I believed I could be more useful here than in the Army. I enclose letter Col. Lloyd wrote to me at the time.

by George B. Winter and Son

Lord Berwick’s c.1914 military cap made by George B. Winter and Son, Military Outfitters, was worn during his time in the Shropshire Yeomanry.

‘When the regiment went abroad, a year later, I applied to go with them, but there was not a vacancy. I would now like to go back to the Army and my chief here Lord Bertie [Ambassador] would be ready to release me. I am writing to you with his approval. In the event of you not requiring me, I would like to make an application to WAR OFFICE to be employed as they see fit.’

by Winter and Tracy

Lord Berwick’s c.1914 trousers made by Winter and Tracy for him to wear as part of his Shropshire Yeomanry uniform

Lord Berwick was welcomed back to serve in the Shropshire Yeomanry. In his autobiography People and Places James Lees-Milne, who worked for the Country Houses Committee of the National Trust, recounts being told by someone who knew Lord Berwick whilst he was in the Yeomanry that ‘if not a senior wrangler he was an advanced mathematician.’

by Winter and Tracy

Lord Berwick’s Shropshire Yeomanry uniform jacket made for him by Winter and Tracy, c.1914




The Germans resumed unrestricted submarine warfare around Britain, aiming to cut off imports and starve Britain into submission. Over sixty days the Germans sunk 500 ships. The efforts of people in the Attingham walled garden and in allotments on the estate to grow produce became even more vital to getting the country through the war. This painting from the Imperial War Museum Collection showing allotments in the grounds of Kensington Palace illustrates how many of the grounds of grand houses were used to grow food during the war.


This beautiful painting by Henry Rushbury shows allotments in the grounds of Kensington Palace during the First World War. The painting is in the Imperial War Museum collection, IWM 23492

In 1917 one of the National Trust’s founders, Canon Rawnsley, bought some land near Derwentwater in the Lake District. Renamed as Peace How, the land was donated it to the National Trust in memory of those who fell during the war.

Beatrix Potter and Canon Rawnsley

Canon Rawnsley is seen in this photograph stood beside Beatrice Potter


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