In a dreadful state – September 1917

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Mrs Watkins’s funds, which until September 1917 had been supporting her team’s work in Italy, were running out. She was glad to join the British Red Cross which financed the work done by her team from then onwards.


Teresa’s Red Cross headdress and armband displayed in a previous exhibition at Attingham.

In September 1917 Teresa received a letter about the amount of stationery used at another Red Cross hospital, San Giovanni. In the previous 16 months they bought 147,100 sheets of writing paper and envelopes and 22,200 postcards. The total expenditure on the wounded soldiers in the hospital in 16 months was 3459.55 lires. One hospital at Campo Lugo had used 5,500 envelopes in September 1917 alone! These amounts give an idea of the phenomenal amount of work done by the Red Cross.


Soldiers at one of the rest stations run by Mrs Watkins’s team reading and writing letters

Not surprisingly, Teresa found little time to write letters herself. Correspondence with her mother, Costanza, in September 1917 is not conversational letters as they were before. Costanza’s letters seem to be one way, and to be written in support of Teresa who is fully engaged in war work. The letters were written on very thin paper, possibly due to wartime rationing.

boulle cabinet 016

A bookplate in one of Costanza’s music books. Costanza liked to be known as Zina.

By September 1917 Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, had returned to Italy and wanted to meet Teresa in Venice. Gioconda was thinking of joining Teresa working at the canteen established for Italian soldiers at Cervignano. Besides Cervignano, by September 1917 Mrs Watkins had organised the creation of 14 recreation huts. The team certainly needed extra help. In September 1917 Mrs Watkins’s team looked after 35,562 wounded soldiers!

rest station interior, Zona di Guerra album

A photograph from one of Teresa’s wartime albums showing a large number of men using one of the rest stations established for soldiers by Mrs Watkins’s team.

Teresa’s love of music remained strong. William Hulton asked if Teresa had been able to secure a piano. It is not known what this is for, but possibly she may have thought to use it to entertain the wounded soldiers or to give concerts to raise funds for the war effort as she had done when she was in London earlier in the war.

boulle cabinet 022.JPG

This beautifully illustrated copy of ‘Mikado’ is among the music books owned by Teresa.

As the end of September loomed, things were coming to a head on the Italian Front. After the Eleventh Battle of Isonzo, there was a general concern among Germany’s senior military commanders that the Austro-Hungarian army might falter. When the commander of the Austro-Hungarian forces in the Isonzo, Arz von Straussenberg, asked Germany for more help, Germany’s commanders felt that it was prudent to support him. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians planned an attack on Caporetto; a weak spot in the Italian line near where Teresa was based at Cervignano.


Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

In September 1917 Lord Berwick was made a Captain of the Shropshire Yeomanry. Interestingly, the badges on the uniform in the Attingham collection that was presumed to have be worn by him are those of a Major. This is puzzling as we have no definite evidence that he attained this rank.

Lord B's medals 2

These medals in the Shropshire Regimental Museum collection also state that the 8th Lord Berwick was a Major in the Shropshire Yeomanry.

In September 1917 Attingham Hall was still tenanted by the Dutch-American Van Bergen family. Unfortunately they were not as careful with the house as Lord Berwick should have liked. Sarah Jones the housekeeper later wrote to Lord Berwick about the damage to Attingham whilst the Van Bergens lived there. She was particularly unhappy with the condition of some curtains:

‘His Lordship had not long had them relined but now they are in a dreadful state, the colour gone and so far up the curtains are in holes it might be from the heat of the sun, with the blinds not down that has faded them but the bottom of the curtains I could not say unless from dust or the heat from the radiators that has rotted them. I am afraid there will be a lot of things spoiled.’


A pair of curtains in the Drawing Room at Attingham Hall. National Trust inventory number 609545



In September 1917 the British revised their strategy at Ypres to make regular narrowly focused artillery and troop attacks with limited objectives. Losses continued to mount.

On the 6th of September twenty-one year old Frederick Hughes died of battle wounds in Flanders. He had enlisted into the Cheshire Regiment at Ellesmere Port and at the time of his death was a private in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Frederick was the son of George and Lucy Hughes, gardeners at Attingham. The Hughes lived at 7 Berwick Wharf.


The walled garden at Attingham

Before the war Frederick had been in domestic service and had worked on the railways, along with his brother William who had been killed in action in France in August 1916 and was buried at Delville Wood Cemetery. Frederick is remembered upon Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

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