Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)
Teresa enjoyed some respite from her nursing duties in July 1917 when she went with her parents to stay in the Apennines.
Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, was still in England so she was unable to join her family. She wrote that she had given up her work for the Admiralty in England and hoped to return to Italy in September, saying: ‘it does seem such ages since I left Florence. I feel I am growing more Italian every day I live.’
Gioconda apologises for not writing: ‘of course I meant to & should have written to you sooner to enliven your solitude – but have been suffering from my chronic complaint apathy of the scriptorial muscles.‘
Gioconda comments on the uncertainty about the war felt by many people at the time. ‘We are just getting news of the great Anglo-French offensive – the papers are full of it & one simply sits & hopes it will be all it should to bring those monsters to their knees. But many people seem to think the war will go on till next year.’
Teresa and her parents stayed in Villa I Tatti, a house owned by Bernard Berenson. Berenson was an American art historian with a special interest in Renaissance art and a good friend of Teresa’s father, William Stokes Hulton, who was a talented amateur artist.
Teresa had visited Villa I Tatti before, on the 10th of May 1916. She had written to her future husband, Thomas the 8th Lord Berwick: ‘It is a joy to be surrounded by such lovely things. Mr B is always nice to me and Mary B is a perfectly dear woman, so kind and genial.‘
Also visiting the Berensons that May was ‘Bakst the ballet artist who to my astonishment has made two flattering and rather pre-Raphaelite pencil drawings of me! Quite small, done in two mornings. He is going to have them photographed and will send me copies.’
Teresa sent one copy of her portrait to Lord Berwick as a New Year’s gift in January 1917. He pronounced it to be: ‘a most charming and graceful portrait of you, and a very good likeness, as the artist has given you your eyes and expression, which is the essential I think to make a portrait like the sitter. You could not have sent me anything I liked better as a souvenir of you.’
Bernard Berenson knew some distinguished people. Whilst the Hultons were at Villa I Tatti Prince Paul of Yugoslavia and the Italian pianist Ildebrando Pizzetti were also staying. Prince Paul of Yugoslavia was described by Teresa as ‘nice, and cultured and often goes to the Berensons.’ He had an interest in collecting art and later became regent of Yugoslavia during the early years of the Second World War. He was forcibly removed from power in 1941 as his desire for neutrality was not shared by many in the Yugoslavian army. A keen pianist, Teresa would no doubt have enjoyed meeting Pizetti who composed many pieces of classical music.
The house had beautiful formal gardens. The gardens at Villa I Tatti were designed by Cecil Pinsent, a British garden designer and architect. Through his work for the Berensons, Cecil Pinsent gained commissions from many wealthy people in Tuscany and created many acclaimed gardens. In 1925 Pinsent came to stay at Attingham Park and drew up plans for the garden. However, Teresa decided not to follow them.
The workload for Mrs Watkins’s team showed no sign of slacking whilst Teresa was away. The Red Cross hospital at Nova dell Judicio used 14,000 sheets of paper and envelopes in July 1917. The team continued to expand their operations to additional sites and in July 1917 took on the feeding of wounded soldiers at the clearing station of Dolegna.
The rest stations manned by Mrs Watkins and her helpers offered soldiers a respite from the toil and danger of the Italian Front. Photographs in Teresa’s albums show many happy occasions, such as soldiers at a gym.
Another photograph taken at a recreation area for soldiers shows them playing a game of bowls.
Lord Berwick (1877-1947)
In July 1917 Lord Berwick was a Lieutenant in one of the three Regiments of the Shropshire Yeomanry at a training camp in Northumberland. Letters from his sister, Mary Selina, trace his movements in 1917 from the camp at Morpeth to Newbiggin and Woodhorn. ‘Fancy you being in command of the squadron this week,’ she wrote to him at Woodhorn Camp on 4th July.
In July 1917 an Arab force guided by T. E. Lawrence, remembered as Lawrence of Arabia, captured the Red Sea port of Aqaba. After the war, Lord Berwick met T. E. Lawrence at the Peace Conference in Versailles.
The people of Shropshire would have read of numerous developments in the war in newspapers of July 1917. On July the 2nd Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies.
The 31st July marked the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres, popularly known as Passchendaele. Fighting continued until the 10th of November 1917. This 1917 painting by the artist Paul Nash shows a battle scarred field near the village of Passchendaele.
In 1917 the British royal family changed its name from the German sounding Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.
A ‘Vegetable Day’ organised by the Women’s Auxiliary Force (W.A.F.) was held on the 11th of July 1917. People sold vegetables to raise funds for war related causes, including canteens for soldiers and sailors, entertainment for the wounded and growing vegetables for hospitals. This poster in the Imperial War Museum collection gives further details.