Not going so well – June 1917

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

In early June Teresa wrote to her mother, Costanza: ‘I have been going every morning to a hospital near here and giving assistance to the surgeon, really helping with the operations, handling the instruments etc. things are not going so well as they ought on this front.’

Teresa looking to one side Cervagniano 1917

A photograph of Teresa taken in 1917

Teresa alludes to the fact that June 1917 was a time of set backs for the Italian army. The Tenth Battle of Isonzo met with defeat for the Italians. A major Austro-Hungarian counter-offensive was launched on the 3rd of June and reclaimed virtually all lost ground. By the time the battle was called off by General Cadorna on the 8th of June around 150,000 Italian casualties were sustained. In contrast, there were 125,000 Austro-Hungarian casualties.

Costanza’s letter of the 12th of June predicts more woe for Italy: ‘The news in Old Prussia is really too awful and of course it is all to the advantage of Germany and Austria. All our hopes now seem centred in America’s help.’

With floods of wounded Italian soldiers continuing to arrive, Mrs Watkins needed all the help that she could. She earmarked Teresa’s father, William Hulton, for canteen work.

Hulton, William photo with 1910 calender (2)

This photograph of William Hulton features in a calendar gift dated 1910

The heavy workload was taking its toll on Teresa and she was ill with anaemia. Costanza wrote to her saying that ‘I wish you would see Dr Nesti and consult him.’ Costanza also warned her not to stay up doing accounts for Mrs Watkins’s team:

do take my advice about accounts. NEVER DO THEM AT NIGHT. I can’t tell you how often I have bothered away literally for hours at night over accounts – quite unable to cope with them – and if I have had the strength of mind to leave them alone and wait till the next day, everything has smoothed itself out as by magic. It is nothing but brain fatigue which is always most apparent at night.’

Work for nurses was not made easier by the restrictiveness of the prevailing fashions. Like most women of the time they wore corsets, although some designers sold corsets especially designed for nurses that had elastic inserted above the waist to give extra flexibility.

June 1917 1

This photograph from the Imperial War Museum collection shows a WWI nurse, Florence Farmborough, in uniform. IWM Q 107167

However, despite the problems that they faced, the work done by Mrs Watkins and her team was much appreciated. Costanza wrote to Teresa about her uncle, Costanza’s half-brother Luigi Villari, who was known as Gino to his relatives.

cms 610177 185

Teresa’s realtive, Gino, on horseback in WWI.

‘Gino has met Sir Courthald Thompson at Salonica. He told Gino that your work at Cerv. has assumed the importance of a National Institution – Beaumont talked to me in the same strain.’

Costanza was proud of her daughter, telling her ‘of course you do better than anyone because you have a leaven of Italian blood and years of Italian and cosmopolitan training which makes you head and shoulders more capable than any pure English man or woman.’

June 1917

This photograph in one of Teresa’s wartime albums shows her with a fellow nurse in June 1917. The other woman is holding a jug that would have contained milk for injured soldiers arriving on trains at the station at Cervignano.


Lord Berwick (1877-1947)


Lord Berwick continued serving with the Shropshire Yeomanry. When Lord Berwick had begun his military training as a young man the Treaty of Vereeniging had not yet been signed, so the Second Boer War was still on and there was a possibility that Lord Berwick might have been sent out to South Africa.

Field Service Pocketbook 1917. Flags and lamps used by the military.

This Field Service Book dates from 1917 and was owned by Lord Berwick. The illustration shows a guide to flags and lamps used by the military.

He evidently took his military training seriously and several military books owned by him are preserved at Attingham. These include a Field Service Book illustrating flags and lamps used by the military, and a Field Service Pocket Book dated 1917.




In June 1917 an operating theatre opened at the Attingham war hospital, which became a Class ‘A’ Auxillary hospital. Class ‘A’ hospitals took patients directly from the ambulance trains whilst Class ‘B’ hospitals took in convalescent cases. Two open-air wards were installed on the colonnades on either side of the mansion. These apparently proved to be a great aid in treating severe surgical cases.

talk 16

This photograph shows soldiers and nurses enjoying some fresh air on a sunny day. The photograph was taken on the West Colonnade at Attingham.

Prior to the war Britain had relied on Germany for its supply of medicine. As the war progressed many gardens were used growing medicinal plants, such as dandelions, marigolds and foxgloves.

talk 11

It is possible that these plant shelves in the Attingham Walled Garden may have been created using beds from the WWI hospital at Attingham.

June 1917 marked a victory for the Allies on the Western Front at the Battle of Messines. On June the 7th a massive explosion in mines made by the British, Australians and Canadians beneath the Messines Ridge caused it to collapse, killing many Germans and losing them an important defensive position. Fighting continued until the 14th of June. Women were employed to sort and recycle uniforms of men killed in action.

June 1917 2

This photograph in the Imperial War Museum collections shows wounded British soldiers being pushed on trolleys near Messines. IWM Q5838

On June the 13th 1917 London suffered the highest civilian casualties of the war as German air-raids killed 158 people and wounded 425. The British conducted retaliatory air raids of Germany. Donated garments were sent to clothe refugees and victims of bombing raids. This photograph from the Imperial War Museum collection shows the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, damaged in the bombing raid.

This photograph in the Imperial War Museum collection shows bomb damage to the Royal Hospital in London. IWM (HO 33)

Queen Alexandra was the patron of many charities during the war. These included Alexandra Day, an annual event when roses were sold to raise money for hospitals and charities. It was first held in 1912 to mark the 50th anniversary of Alexandra’s arrival from Denmark and continues to this day. In 1917 Alexandra’s Day was held on June the 20th. People showed their support by wearing a wild rose to show that they had donated money.

This poster in the Imperial War Museum collection advertises the fundraising Alexandra Day in 1917. IWM PST 6050


In 1917 the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was formed. The women were nicknamed the wrens and tricorn hats were worn by the officers.

This photograph in the Imperial War Museum collection shows a WRNS worker in her office. IWM Q 19760

On Friday the 28th of June 2019 there will be a special WWI commemoration tour and talk held at Attingham. To find out more and book a place, please click here.


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