Monthly Archives: February 2020

Keeping in touch – February 1918

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

By February 1918 the tide of the fighting in Italy began to turn to favour the Italians. In 1918 Britain and France sent ten divisions to aid the Italians, as well as coal and steel for Italy’s war industries.

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This photograph in one of Teresa’s wartime albums shows a group of men around the Italian General Porro who is looking through binoculars

The input from Britain and France was ignored in this comment from Philip Barker who wrote to Teresa on the 2nd of February 1918 that ‘Italy saved herself, alone & without help. The next thing to hope for is that the world will set about saving itself: if it doesn’t start soon, for lots of us there will [be] nothing worth the saving.’

soldiers with guns

This photograph shows soldiers posed with guns

Philip Barker’s pride in Italy is reflected in many wartime letters written by people that Teresa knew. Teresa’s mother, Costanza, shows a similar high opinion of all things Italian. She wrote to her daughter, ‘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.’

The lull in the fighting gave Teresa time to resume the social life that she had enjoyed before the war. Maud Trelawny, with whom Teresa had stayed in 1914 whilst she was in England working to help Belgian refugees, visited Teresa for luncheon.

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This photograph shows Teresa (holding her hand up near her hand) entertaining two friends at Attingham after her marriage

Teresa sent another friend, Lady Helen D’Abernon, a gift of a basket. Helen wrote to thank her using a sheet of Red Cross paper. The inscription on the paper states that Helen was the Vice-president of the County of Surrey Branch of the Red Cross, Kingston Division. Helen calls this a ‘horrible sheet of paper, betokening a nightmare occupation.’

Another acquaintance, Costanza Spranger, sent Teresa a request for a photo of Costanza’s stepfather the historian Senator Villari. Costanza Spranger had ‘received the gift of a most interesting book of his with a dreadful frontispiece which I would like to change for Villari’s portrait.’ She mentions ‘there may be an engraving’ of Villari.’  This Hulton family photograph of 1903 shows Pasquale Villari (with the white beard) on the right.

Attingham Park © National Trust / Saraid Jones

A group including William Stokes Hulton, Costanza Hulton and her stepfather Pasquale Villari photographed in a mountain scene in Mittenwald, Bavaria 1903, NT 610168.48

Costanza Spranger was the mother of John Alfred Spranger, whom Teresa had assisted by doing secret intelligence work whilst she was in England earlier in the war. Costanza was the daughter of the Italy-based entrepreneur Alfred Hall and had married Commendatore Robert William Spranger, a mill owner who in the 1870s was president of the Società degli Artisti in Florence.

 

Attingham

The convalescent hospital established at Attingham Hall remained busy during 1918. Soldiers in need of hospital care arrived in Shrewsbury on trains from Southampton. They were taken to Berrington War Hospital and, after a medical examination, they would be transferred to a hospital with an available bed.

Whilst some went to Attingham, others were sent to the hospital established at Stokesay Court, another large Shropshire house which retains a remarkable wartime archive.

Records at Stokesay Court show that the average stay was around six weeks and that soldiers helped with chores when they were well enough. It is likely to have been similar at Attingham. As at many convalescent hospitals there was a list of rules to be followed. Concerts, boating trips and sports offered a light-hearted touch and many men remembered their time at Stokesay Court fondly. Unlike Attingham, where beds were set out in dormitory fashion in large rooms as was typical of war hospitals, every soldier convalescing at Stokesay Court had his own room.

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Dormitory beds at the Attingham war hospital

The British government was grateful for the efforts made by many people, especially women, during wartime. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act was introduced allowing women over 30 and most men to vote. Women could also become Members of Parliament. This marked a great success after women had campaigned for years for the right to vote.