Monthly Archives: April 2020

Mementos of the war – April 1918

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

In spring 1918 the Germans pulled most of their troops from the Italian Front to prepare for their Spring Offensive on the Western Front. However, by this point in the war Italy’s fortunes were improving and the Italian army needed less help from the Allies to keep the Germans and Austro-Hungarians at bay.

Teresa had more time to resume the life she had led before the war. She spent Easter 1918 in Florence, a city where her family often stayed. A photograph of her was taken on Easter Day and survives in one of her albums.

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Teresa in her uniform photographed in Florence. ‘Bim’ is short for Bimbele, the Hulton family nickname for Teresa. (c) National Trust 610177.218

On the 23rd of April, Teresa told her future husband Lord Berwick that she had been to Rome. There she met Mrs Watkins, the organiser of the team of war nurses that Teresa had joined, ‘and we got through a good deal of business and also did pleasant things, though it was an unlucky moment really as one was haunted by the terrible fighting in France.

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Family friend Nerina Gigliucci wrote this memorial to nurses who died in Italy during the war. This copy was owned by Teresa’s sister, Gioconda.

Teresa saw her sister, Gioconda, who was working in Rome and ‘so happy with her life and work at the Military Mission, which cheered me very much!‘ Teresa planned to go to Venice with her father before going ‘to the front to see the Florentine Committee’s recreation huts “Casa del Soldato” in the 3rd Army, and I hope eventually to join Mrs Watkins again in the war zone, but she is at present running canteens for the British troops at Genoa and Arquata Scrivia.

The letter also discusses improvements that Lord Berwick spoke of making after the war. Teresa asks: ‘do you think you will ever carry out your scheme of making an Italian garden in England? I sometimes wonder if you care for your house Cronkhill very much. Houses are a burden and a curse to most of us. Even our very modest home in Venice has been a perpetual check upon my family and the amount my poor father has spent on repairs at various times could have been so much better employed.

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Teresa pictured after her marriage in the garden that she and Lord Berwick created at Cronkhill

The First World War remained a memorable time in Teresa’s life, as attested by the photographs and letters that she brought with her to Attingham following her marriage in June 1919.

The photograph albums contain images of places affected by the war, notable people, like General Porro, and the conditions in which soldiers lived, like this picture of soldiers in the mountains with a mule. They offer an interesting insight into life at the time.

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Italian soldiers with a mule used to bring supplies up to their mountain outpost

In addition to photographs and letters Teresa retained items from her Red Cross uniform, like her headdress and arm band.

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Teresa’s wartime nurse’s headdress and Red Cross arm band displayed at a temporary exhibition at Attingham

Teresa also brought to Attingham some objects relating to her nursing duties during the First World War. This container has a Red Cross label stitched to the lid reading: ‘I FERITI PRO MUTILATI Sold. Regg.’ It may have belonged to Teresa or her mother Costanza, but its use is unclear.

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A WWI date container with a Red Cross label in the Attingham collection. (c) National Trust 608913.1

Another object that Teresa retained was a Roman amphora that she notes as having collected during the war. She was given the amphora by a priest who was uncovering a Roman mosaic and artifacts at Aquileia during the war. The vessel would have been used for holding oil or wine. The amphora is now housed in a niche on the outside wall of Cronkhill.

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The amphora collected by Teresa during the war

Interestingly, Attingham has another link to First World War Italy through the family of George Trevelyan who was the warden of the adult education college that occupied Attingham Hall from the 1940s-1970s. George Trevelyan’s uncle, the historian G. M. Trevelyan, was the Commandant of the first British Red Cross ambulance unit to be sent to Italy after he had been declared unfit for military service. The ambulance unit retreated with the Third Army. G. M. Trevelyan was an important early supporter of the National Trust.

 

Attingham

In April 1918 ten emergency beds were added to the Attingham Hall war hospital, making a total of sixty beds. The hospital must have been a busy place when all the beds were full. The extra beds show that casualty tolls were far from slackening.

Just catering for the wounded soldiers was an effort. In Shropshire there was a collection of eggs to help feed the wounded soldiers. Nutritious and protein rich, eggs were the basis of many foods recommended for convalescent soldiers including soufflés and custards. In total 53,685 eggs were collected for convalescing soldiers in Shropshire during 1918.

The soldiers in the Attingham hospital enjoyed being able to get outside for exercise when they were well enough. Photographs include this image of recovering soldiers taking part in a boxing match.

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Two men having a boxing match outside the Attingham hospital. The fight looks rather uneven given the difference in size between the men!

On the 10th of April 1918 Attingham’s tenant Mr Van Bergen wrote to the War Office complaining that the roadway from the stables is wearing out and it requires repair. During the war the army used Attingham’s stables to train mules and horses for the Front and Mr Van Bergen threatens that this must stop unless the War Office pays repair costs for the road.

On the 1st of April 1918 the RAF was formed as the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were merged. In April 1918 Baron Richthofen, known as the Red Baron, a particularly successful German pilot, was killed in action. Air raids continued to be a menace to British people.

This 1918 painting by C. R. W. Nevinson shows civilians sheltering in the Elephant and Castle tube station in London during an air raid. The painting is in the Imperial War Museum collection (c)IWM ART 935