Monthly Archives: July 2020

Killed in action – July 1918

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

There were numerous successes for the Italian army fighting along the Piave River delta in early July 1918 with 3,000 Austro-Hungarian soldiers taken prisoner. The fighting along the Piave River in summer 1918 marked a decisive turning point in the war in favour of the Italians.

This photograph in the Imperial War Museum collection shows captured Austro-Hungarian trenches near the Piave River (c) Imperial War Museum Q 26389 

The Italian victories were welcome news for war nurse Teresa who had feared that her family home in Venice might be destroyed by enemy forces. Her future husband, Lord Berwick, wrote to her pleased to hear news ‘of the Austrian retirement, since when all has gone very well for Italy. I am so glad to think that you need have no further anxiety for your home.’

However, there continued to be numerous Italian and Allied casualties and war hospitals along the Italian Front remained busy. Teresa apologised to Lord Berwick for her late reply to his letter: ‘I have been practically living at my hospital, and was too tired to write. Now more nurses have been called in and I have two days rest.’

On July the 8th 1918 American author Ernest Hemingway was wounded on the Italian Front when he was struck by a mortar shell. He was eighteen years old and was an ambulance driver with the American Red Cross.

This photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Collection in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library shows Hemingway in uniform, photograph in the public domain.

Ernest Hemingway was handing out chocolate to Italian soldiers in a dugout when he was wounded. He was awarded the Croce di Guerra by Italy for his bravery. Although he was badly wounded himself, he picked up another man wounded by the shell and carried him to the first aid dugout. After the war Teresa was also awarded the Croce di Guerra for her war service as a nurse on the Italian Front.

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Teresa’s Croce di Guerra medal in the Attingham collection

Frederic Henry, the hero of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, was also an ambulance driver for the American ambulance corps and many details in the novel are based on Hemingway’s own experiences in Italy. The novel, which centers around Frederic’s love for an English nurse, gives a harrowing account of the retreat from Caporetto.

Teresa’s sister Gioconda remained busy working for the British Military Mission in Rome, journeying in mid-July to Milan.

Throughout Italy the efforts of many people helped pull the country through the war. Teresa’s wartime albums contain interesting images of daily life in Italy. One photograph shows a group of Italian peasants, another shows three girls picking fruit.

Mrs Watkins album 040

Italian agricultural labourers photographed in one of Teresa’s albums. One woman holds a pitchfork, showing how women took on tasks previously done by men who were fighting in the army.

 

Lord Berwick(1877-1947)

Lord Berwick was travelling in Italy where he was working as a Cipher Clerk. Whilst in a little country town where he was relieving another officer, he visited a silk factory which, he told Teresa, was fascinating: ‘I had no idea that silk in its raw state was so beautiful, though the colour would not perhaps be very becoming, too primitive!’

blue silk

Lord Berwick had silk woven in Lyon in 1911 to make new curtains for Attingham’s Drawing Room. He copied an earlier silk that the 3rd Lord Berwick bought in Lyon between 1827 and 1842. This fabric panel has been kept in store so its original colour has been retained.

However: ‘It is not very nice here during these hot days, the flies are very troublesome, and one does not get cool nights as one does higher up.  I have also been much busier and have little time for reading or writing.

 

Attingham

On the 23rd of July 1918 Percy Richard Heath of Atcham was killed in action aged 23. He was a Lance Corporal in the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), formerly the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI). Before the war Percy had worked as a waggoner together with his father and three older brothers on a farm near Attingham. In April 1915 Percy had enlisted into the KSLI in Shrewsbury. There is a memorial to Percy in St Eata’s church, Atcham. He is also remembered upon Soissons Memorial, France.

 

With thanks to Neil Evans, Shropshire Roll of Honour for the information on Percy Richard Heath.

attingham view

A view over the farmland seen from Attingham 

The Second Battle of the Marne, the last German offensive of the war, began in France. The Allies began a successful counter attack.

This photograph in the Imperial War Museum Collection shows German troops hauling a grenade throwing machine (c) Imperial War Museum Q 55372

Major changes were afoot in Russia. On July the 17th 1918 the Bolsheviks murdered the former Czar, Nicholas II, and his family. The country was racked by civil war, disease and starvation.