Monthly Archives: June 2020

Piave River – June 1918

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Photographs in the Attingham collection reveal information about Teresa’s life in Italy in June. An Austro-Hungarian offensive launched in June 1918 was resisted by the Italians and marked the culmination of Austro-Hungarian attacks on Italy. On June the 15th, urged by the Germans, the Austrians began an offensive along the Piave River in Italy. They planned to take Venice and destroy the Italian army.

This photograph in the Imperial War Museum collection shows Italian Marines taking up positions along the Piave Front (c) Imperial War Museum Q 19081

The Austro-Hungarians crossed the river but they had insufficient supplies to hold their position and had to withdraw. By the 23rd of June the Italians had recaptured all their lost territory and the Battle of the Piave River ended. The Austro-Hungarians suffered massive casualties with 60,000 killed and many wounded or captured. Austro-Hungarian soldiers on the Italian Front began deserting.

Teresa’s wartime photograph albums include pictures of many interesting incidents. In the album of photographs dated May 1916 to August 1918 there is a photograph showing two men parachuting to safety from a military balloon after an enemy attack. Balloons were useful for observation in the war and the first parachutes were used by balloon crews during this time.

Mrs Watkins album 070

A quickly snapped photograph of men descending from a balloon using parachutes

Later a photograph shows Teresa about to make a hot air balloon flight near Asolo. Mrs Watkins also had a ride in a balloon. The man who took Teresa up in the balloon was Captain Gallese, the man shown coming down in the parachute. The photograph also depicts an armoured vehicle.

Mrs Watkins album 071

Captain Gallese, Mrs Watkins and Teresa take to the air in a hot air balloon

Another happy time captured in the images is the garden party held for Bridget Talbot in June 1918. Bridget Talbot had worked alongside Teresa doing canteen, nursing and supply work. They remained friends after the war and Bridget visited Attingham when Teresa later became Lady Berwick. Between 1920 and 1922 Bridget Talbot worked in Turkey helping Russian refugees.

Teresa continued to regularly correspond with her future husband Lord Berwick. Following his declaration of his admiration for her in May she wrote to assure him she remains his ‘unchanging friend’ but is worried about discussing her feelings in letters due to them being read by the censors.

Lord Berwick replied on the 11th of June: ‘I fear that it is I who have embarrassed you, more than the Censor: if so I am very sorry. What I wrote you after seeing you in Venice was written on no sudden impulse, I tore up many sheets of paper trying to tell you what was so much in my mind. I am not good at self analysis or describing my feelings, but I felt then and still feel for you, after these few weeks of settling down again, so very much more than ordinary friendship, that I felt I must tell you this, and your kind answer gave me great pleasure. In the interval nothing has happened to make me think that I was wrong to tell you this, and I hope I have done nothing to make you think less kindly of me.’

 

Attingham

A camp for German prisoners of war had been established in Shrewsbury and some prisoners undertook agricultural labour, although it is unknown if they worked at any farms on the Attingham estate.

Prisoners of war in Shropshire

reference number: PH/S/13/A/5/354 German prisoners of war at a camp in Shropshire (c) Shropshire Archives reference number: PH/S/13/A/5/354

German prisoners were not the only new arrivals. In the latter stages of the war troops from the USA and Canada were stationed in Shropshire. By summer 1918 the American army had become very involved in the war. At the Battle of Belleau Wood troops from the USA experienced significant casualties with 1,811 men killed before they won the wood from the Germans.

Spanish flu began, killing many of the troops already weakened by war. An estimated twenty five million people worldwide died in the epidemic in just six months, more than were killed in the war. Those infected by the flu pandemic in 1918 included British Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

Many people were still doing their bit for the war effort. Princess Mary, the daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, began a nursing course, working at Great Ormond Street Hospital in June 1918. After the war she became Commander in Chief of the British Red Cross Detachment.

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Queen Mary and Princess Mary photographed at the Trooping of the Colour in Hyde Park on the cover of The Sphere, 12 June 1920 (c) The British Newspaper Archive