Category Archives: 1915

Deck the halls with…paperchains! – December 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Teresa’s work at the canteen and hospital at Cervignano continued to be busy in December. By the end of 1915 fighting along the Isonzo near to where she was based had cost the Italians 230,000 casualties and the Austro-Hungarian army 165,000. To see a map of the Italian Front and to read more about it please click here.

Information in the Attingham archive indicates that Teresa usually did her canteen work in the morning and helped out in the hospital during the afternoons. Her tasks at the hospital included dressing wounds and giving medication. Having had very few moments to spare for correspondence, Teresa was glad to have time off to return to her family and catch up on their news at Christmas.

Teresa treating a wounded soldier in the American Hospital in Florence, Italy, 1915.

Teresa treating a wounded soldier in the American Hospital in Florence, Italy, 1915.

Teresa proved to be useful in many different departments of war work in Italy. As well as nursing and serving in the canteen she found time to deal with supplies sent to Italian hospitals, canteens and rest stations under the care of Mrs Watkins. The expenditure on the distribution of stores made by the Joint Committee, formed of the British Red Cross and Order of St. John, rose to nearly £1 million a year during the war.

British Red Cross Letter in the Attingham Archive.

British Red Cross Letter in the Attingham Archive.

The station canteen set up by Mrs Watkins mainly served the special hospital trains that took wounded men to the war hospitals. Removable beds supported on brackets had been added on either side of the carriages. Some trains could carry up to 500 wounded men and had an operating table, dispensary and kitchen. By 1917 providing and running these trains had cost the Red Cross over £60,000.

Interior of an Italian Hospital Train, filled with wounded soldiers, somewhere on the Italian Front, 1915. © IWM (Q 53780)

Interior of an Italian Hospital Train, filled with wounded soldiers, somewhere on the Italian Front, 1915. © IWM (Q 53780)

As well as the canteen at Cervignano, some of Mrs Watkins’s team were working at San Giovanni di Manzano. At San Giovanni di Manzano there were three workers headed by Mrs Gordon-Watson and aided by local Italian women. They fed the wounded at the principal clearing station for the Gorizia front. Despite the severe fighting, they worked day and night with up to 2,000 wounded men passing through in one day.

Mrs Gordon Watson (left), Teresa Hulton (centre) and Mrs Watkins with cat (right) at the soldiers’ canteen at Cervignano, Northern Italy, October 1916.

Mrs Gordon Watson (left), Teresa Hulton (centre) and Mrs Watkins with cat (right) at the soldiers’ canteen at Cervignano, Northern Italy, October 1916.

As well as Mrs Watkins’s team, many other women were helping the wounded in Italy. In December 1915 Lady Helena Gleichen and Mrs. Hollings were attached as a radiographic unit to the army in Italy. They had been trained as X-ray operators and had raised private funds to purchase motor-cars fitted with X-ray apparatus. Between December 1915 and October 1917 they made 12,600 X-ray examinations.

Their work was commented on by G.M. Trevelyan in his book Scenes from Italy’s War, New York, 1919, p.108:

‘There was no more characteristic sight on the roads than the radiographic cars being driven by Mrs. Hollings and Countess Gleichen from hospital to hospital at the front.’

Bridget Talbot, one of Teresa’s friends who worked for Mrs Watkins, sometimes helped the two ladies with developing the X-rays.

To see a photograph of a mobile X-ray unit from the First World War, please click here. To see an oil painting by Lady Helena Gleichen depicting troops moving into Gorizia during the war, please click here.

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

In 1915 Lord Berwick received news that his relative and heir, Michael Noel-Hill (1897-1953), later the 9th Lord Berwick, had joined the army. At the age of 18, Michael was gazetted to the Rifle Brigade and went out to serve in France. Michael had a passion for shooting which had started when he was a boy from shooting sparrows and rabbits during his holidays.

Charles Michael Wentworth Noel-Hill, later 9th Baron Berwick, June 1922.

Charles Michael Wentworth Noel-Hill, later 9th Baron Berwick, June 1922.

Following Lord Berwick’s death in 1947 the title passed to Michael and he became the 9th Baron Berwick. However, he was seen as too incautious to entrust with the care of Attingham, so in the 1930s Lord Berwick begun discussions with the National Trust about the future of the Attingham estate.

Lord Berwick and his dog on the Portico steps at Attingham, 1938.

Lord Berwick and his dog on the Portico steps at Attingham, 1938.

Michael’s behaviour may have been due in part to his experiences during the war. James Lees-Milne was the National Trust agent who came to talk to Lord and Lady Berwick about the bequest of Attingham. Lees-Milne described Michael Noel-Hill in his book People and Places:

His Life epitomised the tragedy of a man of decent disposition but weak character, knocked endways by appalling experiences during the First World War and its aftermath. He was perennially out of pocket. Not that his cousin Tom did not at times come to his rescue and occasionally settle his debts. Nevertheless grinding poverty tends to make a black sheep blacker, and other troubles multiplied.’

 

Attingham

Christmas 1915 offered a jolly respite from the horrors of war for the soldiers convalescing at Attingham. Photographs from c.1917 show the Outer Library cheerfully decorated with paper decorations and a large Christmas tree. Convalescent soldiers often helped to make decorations like paper chains and Chinese lanterns.

Wounded soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham, c.1917.

Wounded soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham, c.1917.

The egg collection fund set up for Shropshire auxiliary hospitals at the beginning of the year had been a great success. In 1915 a total of 70,927 eggs were collected for the Shropshire hospitals to aid the diet of the men.

Egg collection poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10825)

Egg collection poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10825)

 

 

 


Not a moment to spare – November 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Teresa’s work both at the station canteen and as a nurse at Cervignano, northern Italy, proved to be extremely busy. Between the beginning of November 1915 and November 1916 the number of soldiers cared for by Mrs Watkins’s team amounted to over 42,000.  Estimates suggest that between June and November 1915 60,000 Italian soldiers had died and over 150,000 had been wounded.

Wounded Italian soldiers, taken between 1915 and 1918.

Wounded Italian soldiers. Photo taken between 1915 and 1918. © IWM (Q 65149)

Although Teresa received plenty of letters from family and friends, she often found no time to answer them immediately. Many letters sent to her at this time have notes pencilled on the top to remind her of what she wanted to include in her reply when she found a spare moment to write back.

Letter to Teresa Hulton, February 1916.

Letter to Teresa Hulton, February 1916.

As with many war hospitals, including the one at Attingham, people raised funds so that the soldiers could have occasional luxuries. On the 11th of November Teresa wrote that she had been giving out chocolate biscuits and cigarettes to a train of soldiers that arrived at Cervignano station.

Teresa Hulton (left) helping the soldiers from the train, 1915.

Teresa Hulton (left) helping the soldiers from the train, 1915.

A wonderfully detailed letter to her sister, Gioconda, sent on the 27th of November gives an idea of what life was typically like for Teresa as a nurse and at the soldiers’ canteen at the time. She commented that the hospital was regularly receiving ‘wounded trains between 30 & 60‘ from Cervignano station. Teresa also apologised to her sister:

These days we have been so busy that I have simply not had a moment for writing. On Monday Miss Quather went away, which was a blessing as she was rather a terror and Mrs Watkins and I were longing for her to go.’

Gioconda Hulton, November 1915.

Gioconda Hulton, November 1915.

Miss Quather was replaced by a new nurse, Mabel Campbell, whom Teresa was to find easier to get along with. Teresa and Mabel stayed in touch with each other after the war.

Teresa explained to Gioconda that on first impressions Mabel ‘is rather like a boy, for she has had a lot to do with boats, so knows how to make things look very neat and clean.’ This was surely a trait that would have been welcome when it came to keeping the bustling hospital and canteen organised!

Mabel Campbell worked alongside Teresa Hulton on the Italian front.

Mabel Campbell worked alongside Teresa Hulton on the Italian front.

Teresa also described the character of the Italian surgeon, Professor Terzulli, he was ‘a very quiet man but clever and pleasant.’ In between his medical duties he helped grind the coffee and cut the bread for the soldiers’ canteen. Teresa mentioned that she had assisted this kind-hearted man with surgical operations.

Hospital room at Gradisca, northern Italy.

Hospital room at Gradisca, northern Italy.

Other new acquaintances included many British ambulance workers who supported the Cervignano hospital. One such ambulance driver was Dr Thomas Ashby, an archaeologist and Third Director of the British School in Rome. As a pacifist and conscientious objector, he took on the role with the Ambulance Unit so that he could contribute without fighting. Dr Ashby helped Teresa to find petrol for the car that she drove and to have it repaired so that she could use it for war work. For further information on his WWI photograph collection, please click here.

Dr Thomas Ashby during the 1915-1918 war.

Dr Thomas Ashby during the war.

By 1917 nearly 1,300 ambulances owned by the Joint Committee formed of the British Red Cross and Order of St. John were serving the front line of fighting. Sixty were in Italy. A ‘Transport of Wounded Fund’ was established to help meet the cost of running the vehicles, which averaged £4,500 a week. Ambulance drivers usually took the wounded from the field hospitals to clearing hospitals and from there to hospital trains. However, at times they collected wounded men from first-aid posts where they were often under shell fire.

Ambulance convoy, Arquata, northern Italy.

Ambulance convoy, Arquata, northern Italy. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 5408)

Although it was hard work, Teresa was delighted with her new occupation, writing: ‘I should like to stay on here until the end of the year.’ Like many women, Teresa found that war work had financial benefits and informed her sister of her situation: ‘I have plenty of money to spare as life here is so cheap.’

Teresa Hulton on the Italian front.

Teresa Hulton on the Italian front.


The soldiers’ canteen – October 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

By early October, Teresa had arranged to work at the soldiers’ canteen set up by Mrs Watkins in Cervignano, northern Italy and was eagerly preparing to travel there. She made final arrangements with Isabel Campbell, the friend who had invited her to join her at Cervignano. Isabel’s letters offer an interesting insight into details of the life that Teresa was to lead working at the station canteen.

Isabel informed her of the living costs which were between 35 and 40 lire. She wrote:

‘…at present we eat in the station restaurant, which is rather poisonous, but when the canteen is finished we hope to do a lot of our own cooking there, and that would make things no doubt cheaper.’

Teresa Hulton May 1915

Teresa Hulton, May 1915

The women working at the canteen were temporarily staying in rooms at a villa, which Isabel described to Teresa:

 ‘…it is not very comfortable but I don’t know whether you mind that, no luxuries of any sort, such as hot water, and other discomforts the nature of which you can guess. But on the whole we manage to enjoy ourselves very much indeed.

 We also have daily air raids, generally one for breakfast, and another for tea, and two bombs have been dropped not far from our little chalet. But I don’t suppose that worries you.

 As accommodation is very scarce you might also have to share a room with me for a bit until we settle down.

 Now after reading all these unpleasantnesses I will tell you the nice things. They are building us a quite charming chalet outside the station opposite the platform from which the wounded entrain.’

By mid October, Teresa had joined Isabel Campbell in the canteen work.  In total, there were six workers between the two canteens for the soldiers that Mrs Watkins had established. Most of the other women had come out from Britain to help and could speak little Italian, so Teresa’s knowledge of the language was useful in communicating with the Italian soldiers. To see British Pathé film footage of a wartime railway station canteen, please click here.

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

Italian flag in the Attingham collection.

In addition to working at the soldier’s canteen, Teresa continued with her nursing work in an Italian war hospital. Her experience dealing with supplies sent to the Belgian refugees in London put her in good stead as many of her friends sent her parcels of items containing sheets, pillowcases, food and clothing for the wounded soldiers. Knitted socks seemed especially popular to send and were doubtless much appreciated as autumn set in! Similar work was being done to supply British soldiers, as is seen in this IWM film of 1916.

Standard issue khaki wool socks from the First World War.

Standard issue khaki wool socks from the First World War. © IWM (UNI 12582)

In October, a growing number of casualties flooded into Italian war hospitals. The Serbian Army faced defeat and made a horrendous retreat through mud and snow across the mountains of Albania to reach Italy at Corfu. Fortunately, the help of a Mrs Mabel St Clair Stobart and her ambulance column saved many lives.

Another heroine of the Red Cross was Edith Louisa Cavell (1865-1915). She was the matron of a Belgian hospital who saved the lives of soldiers from both sides. However, when she helped wounded Allied soldiers escape to neutral territory, the Germans had her tried and executed by a firing squad in Brussels on the 12th of October 1915.

Recruitment poster with portrait of Edith Cavell.

Recruitment poster with portrait of Edith Cavell. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 12217)

By October 1915 war hospitals in France, where friends and relatives of the Hulton sisters were working, were crowded. Their friend, Lady Helen D’Abernon, who was nursing in a hospital in France, wrote how tired and ‘much older’ she felt. She was glad to return to visit her mother and arrange to begin a course in specialist anaesthetics nursing.

Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D'Abernon in her nurse uniform.

Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D’Abernon in her nurse uniform.


New opportunities – September 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

In September 1915 Teresa began work as a nurse in a team headed by Mrs Marie Watkins. Although it is likely that she received training and was working as a nurse before September, few letters have survived from this time to know definite details. However, a postcard dated the 21st of September has been preserved asking Teresa to start hospital work at 8am the next day.

Teresa in her white nurse uniform, 1915

Teresa in her white nurse uniform, Florence, Italy, October, 1915.

September was a busy month on the Italian Front and many people tried to help the soldiers. The first unit of the British Red Cross Society in Italy arrived on the Isonzo Front in September 1915. A field hospital at Villa Trento, near Udine, staffed by British sisters and V.A.D.s sent by the Joint War Committee, broke down the Italian resistance to the idea of employing women at the Front. For further information on V.A.D. work in Italy, please click here and scroll down to the second to last section. To see a V.A.D. recruitment poster from 1915, please click here.

First World War nurse

First World War nurse. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 13669)

Exemplary for her assistance to the Italian army was Mrs Watkins, who set up and ran rest stations for soldiers. She become a valuable friend to Teresa who worked with her for much of the war. Mrs Watkins gathered funds for the work done by her team from British ‘lovers of Italy.’ The Italian Ambassador was the patron of her scheme whilst the Count De La Feld, secretary of the ‘Pro Italia’ society in London, became the treasurer.

Teresa (right) sitting with Mrs Watkins (centre) at Costalunga, South Tyrol, Italy, August 1918.

Teresa (right) sitting with Mrs Watkins (centre) at Costalunga, South Tyrol, Italy, August 1918.

Mrs Watkins and her team established station canteens for the trains carrying wounded soldiers at Cervignano and San Giovanni in northern Italy. Teresa was based mainly at Cervignano, an important town in the Province of Udine and not too far from Teresa’s home in Venice.

Work was offered to Teresa on the 30th of September, when her friend Isabel Campbell wrote asking if she would like to join her working at the canteen that Mrs Watkins had set up for the soldiers. Isabel’s letter gives an interesting account of the preparation for the canteen:

Dear Miss Hulton,

I suppose you don’t by chance want a job do you? Tiny Cox told me she thought that perhaps you might be doing nothing.

We are starting a canteen here on the invitation of General Cadorna. So far only I was working by myself out here, as they are building us a chalet which is not finished yet. But when it is we shall want two or three people to help us. When we know how much work there will be to do we are sending back to England and one or two are coming out.

I was wondering if you would care to come and help us, as our Italian is most rudimentary, and you would be quite invaluable. If you could come I will let you know full particulars.

We have got billets here which are quite comfortable and clean, and I think we shall have great fun later on. Of course one doesn’t know yet if there will be little or much work. It would be very nice if you could come.

Yours sincerely,

Isabel V. Campbell’

British Red Cross Letter in the Attingham Archive.

British Red Cross Letter in the Attingham archive.

As well as the canteens, Mrs Watkins also created huts called ‘Case del Soldato,’ which were used by recuperating soldiers for recreation. At these rest centres wounded men taken from the trains were cared for until ambulances arrived, soldiers fighting locally could find sanctuary when they were sick and wounded trains could stop for the soldiers to be fed and to hand over laundry to be washed.

Teresa treating a wounded soldier in the American Hospital in Florence, Italy, 1915.

Teresa treating a wounded soldier in the American Hospital in Florence, Italy, 1915.

Funds raised by Mrs Watkins and her team also helped to supply X-ray apparatus and motor-cars that were run by women. To see a photograph of a mobile X-ray unit from the First World War, please click here.

Women transported supplies and wounded soldiers. Letters in the Attingham archive show that Teresa could drive and used a car for war work.

Teresa sitting in an ambulance vehicle at San Giovanni Manzano, northern Italy, October 1915.

Teresa sitting in an ambulance vehicle at San Giovanni Manzano, northern Italy, October 1915.

As well as numerous British helpers, some American volunteers also went to the Italian Front. These included the author Ernest Hemingway, who was severely wounded in July 1918 whilst performing his duties as an ambulance driver. His 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms features an ambulance driver who falls in love with an upper-class English V.A.D. nurse in wartime Italy.


A month of sorrow – August 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

August 1915 was a sorrowful time for Teresa following the death of her maternal grandmother, Linda Villari. Originally from Brighton, Linda was the daughter of an English textile merchant. By her first husband, the Italian Vincenzo Mazini, she had a daughter, Costanza (Teresa’s mother). But after Mazini’s death she married the Italian historian and senator Pasquale Villari and had a son, Luigi (Teresa’s uncle). A scholarly lady, Linda wrote for magazines and produced a history of archaeology.

Linda Villari in 1906.

Linda Villari, Teresa’s grandmother, 1906.

During this month Teresa’s uncle, Luigi Villari, was stationed in Florence and was part of the Italian cavalry. His horse was named ‘Fanciullo’ (‘laddie’) and he sent Teresa a photograph of himself mounted and wearing his uniform. He was known as ‘Gino’ to his relatives.

Luigi Villari, Florence, 1915.

Luigi Villari, Teresa’s uncle, Florence, 1915.

Other changes in the family were afoot. Having previously had little luck with finding war work that suited her, Gioconda hoped that becoming a nurse in a hospital in Florence might be to her liking. She wrote to her sister:

‘Yesterday afternoon I began work at Hosp. There are only 7 convalescent men there now & there is not much to do. They all get up & walk about. The place is very curious but clean & gay. My companion is Signa Miglionini who is dull but not a bad soul.’

Gioconda in 1911

Gioconda in 1911

Lady Helen D’Abernon, a close friend of the Hulton sisters, who was training as an anaesthetist at Guy’s Hospital in London at the time, was especially pleased to receive the news that Gioconda had taken up hospital work. In her letter to Gioconda she wrote:

‘I shall be eager to hear of your hospital- what kind of wounds you see? Or is it more typhoid & fever? I don’t like to think of you running any risks dear, dainty, little Gioconda- and if you have to do with fever patients you cannot plunge your hands too often in disinfectant. I remember your old habit of always washing your hands- it must not desert you now.’

Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D'Abernon in her nurse uniform.

Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D’Abernon in her nurse uniform.

However, Gioconda found that her experience in the hospital in Florence proved to her once and for all that she was not fitted to be a nurse. She told Teresa just after beginning the job, ‘If my work were more congenial I should be enjoying all this thoroughly.’

Gioconda Hulton, Florence, February 1916

Gioconda Hulton, Florence, February 1916

Soon, Gioconda had given up her nursing post at the hospital and her mother, Costanza, had taken her place. Costanza found that nursing came more easily to her and helped at the war hospital for some time.

Attingham

By August, Britain had been at war for a year. A conflict which many had thought would be over by Christmas 1914 now seemed to have no end in sight. Deaths continued to mount. Throughout the country, many must have been wondering whether they would be the next to hear the tragic news of the loss of friends and loved ones.

Interwar period British poppy.

Interwar period British poppy. © IWM (EPH 2313)

On the 23rd of August 1915 22 year-old John Carswell (16485), from the Atcham parish, died from wounds received in battle. The 1911 census records John aged 16 as working as a labourer on a farm near Attingham. He probably helped his father who was a cowman on the farm. John had been a private in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and is remembered on the war memorial plaque in St Eata’s Church in Atcham.

St Eata's Church, Atcham, Shropshire, early 1900s.

St Eata’s Church, Atcham, Shropshire, early 1900s.

On 28th of August 1915, the Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News reported:

 ‘Private John Carswell, 1st King’s Shropshire L.I., son of Mr. T. Carswell, Uckington, Upton Magna, joined the Force, in December, 1914, proceeded to the France last April, and went straight into the firing line. Wounded in the battle of Hooge, he died from the effect on August 23.’

Private John Carswell.

Private John Carswell.

With thanks to Neil Evans and Phil Morris for their work on the Shropshire Roll of Honour. For further information on their work, please click here.


Summer holidays – July 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Although Italy was at war, Teresa still found time to have a much needed break. She visited the beautiful Appenine mountains, most likely on a trip with her family as no correspondence was sent to her from them during July. The Hultons often visited beautiful places around Italy where Teresa’s father, William Hulton, could paint. A letter of the 21st of July shows that Teresa was staying at Hotel Abetina Saltino, Vallombrosa.

Increasing casualties overseas led to the British Red Cross sending many V.A.D.s to work abroad in mid-1915. They were given an inspirational message written by their Commandant-in-Chief, Katharine Furse. On the back of this message was a prayer by Rachel Crowdy, Principal Commandant in France. To see the message and prayer, please click here.

V.A.D. apron in IWM collection.

V.A.D. apron in IWM collection. © IWM (UNI 12338)

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

 In July 1914, Lord Berwick was working as an Honorary Secretary to the British Embassy in Paris. However, he had retained many of his books and papers relating to his training in the Shropshire Yeomanry, which he re-joined later in the war. These books are now kept in the Inner Library at Attingham and the somewhat battered, water-stained appearance of many of the books testifies to them being well-used.

Lord Berwick's military books

Lord Berwick’s military books.

One of the earliest of these military books that he possessed was Regulations for the Imperial Yeomanry, published in 1903 shortly after he joined the Shropshire Yeomanry.

Regulations for the Imperial Yeomanry, 1903

Regulations for the Imperial Yeomanry, 1903.

Lord Berwick also carried with him Field Report books. There are a number of these remaining and they would have been used by Lord Berwick to make notes which could be dispatched to other members of the regiment. Two of them have striking brightly coloured marbled front pages.

Field Report books, unknown date.

Field Report books, unknown date.

Another important book was the Field Service book. One dated 1913 has a type written list of names of men in two platoons tucked in the front. Lord Berwick’s name is at the top of the list and some of the men seem to have been divided into four groups judging by the numbers written beside them. The date of this list is not known but since Lord Berwick does not appear to have owned another Field Service book until 1917 it is likely that it is dated from the First World War. Certainly many of the men named would have fought during the war.

List of men in platoon.

List of men in platoon.

Lord Berwick evidently took his duties seriously and owned many military instruction manuals. These include a Manual of Map Reading and Field Sketching dated 1914. This map includes many illustrations and diagrams, for example, of how to draw a panorama for use from a military position.

Manual of Map Reading and Field Sketching, 1914.

Manual of Map Reading and Field Sketching, 1914.

In the same series was the 1914 Manual of Elementary Military Hygiene. This dealt with subjects such as disease, sanitation, water, food, clothing, equipment, physical training and marching, instructing soldiers to keep mentally occupied on a march by singing and whistling.

Manual of Elementary Military Hygiene, 1914.

Manual of Elementary Military Hygiene, 1914.

In addition to military handbooks, Lord Berwick also enjoyed some lighter reading. During the war, Adela Dugdale of Terrick Hall near Whitchurch sent Lord Berwick a copy of Vernede’s war poems.

Attingham

The convalescent hospital established at Attingham was busy over the summer of 1915. The impeding arrival of wounded soldiers would be announced by telegram so that help could be prepared for them. Like most V.A.D. hospitals, the hospital at Attingham held regular teas and concerts to keep up morale. Summer was an ideal time to hold such fund-raising events.

Soldiers and nurses outside the Outer Library at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

Soldiers and nurses outside the Outer Library at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

Although both in Britain and Italy women were being called upon for war work, some felt that more women could be helping. The 21st of July saw the ‘Women’s March Through London’ in which 30,000 women marched along the streets carrying banners demanding that they be allowed to do war work. Letters to Teresa Hulton show that early in the war many women had to face the prejudice that work was not suitable for them.

In the Shropshire countryside, with male farm labourers leaving, women were called upon to do agricultural labour. The fodder for the mules and horses in the Attingham stables would have probably been collected by the Women’s Forage Corps. To read further information on the Women’s Forage Corps, please click here and scroll down to section 3. To see an object in the Imperial War Museum’s collection connected with the Women’s Forage Corps, please click here. To see an example of a large Remount Depot with members of the Forage Corps, please click here.

Attingham Stables, 1925.

Attingham Stables, 1925.


Nurse Hulton – June 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

In Italy, spirits were high as in June 1915 the Italian army made a rapid advance into Austria-Hungary, which looked as though it would be quickly defeated. The Italian front line stretched for 650km. Much of the fighting was along the valley of the River Isonzo, near where Teresa was based at Cervignano. There were twelve Battles of the Isonzo between 1915 and 1917. To see a map of the Italian Front and to read more about it please click here.

Voluntary British nursing units were being sent out to Italy, including a group headed by Mrs Marie Watkins with whom Teresa was to work. Like most war nurses, Teresa would have been appointed on a two week’s probation and then was taken on for longer once she had proved her worth.

First World War advert for aprons

First World War advert for aprons. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 13669)

Teresa would have had to buy her own uniform. Nurses’ uniforms were priced at roughly £1 19s. The blue silk Red Cross headdress which Teresa wore during the war survives in the Attingham collection.

Photograph of Teresa Hulton in a blue silk Red Cross headdress

Photograph of Teresa Hulton in a blue silk Red Cross headdress, Florence, 1918.

Nurses had to make their own red crosses for their armband and aprons. With no guidelines for dimensions, no two crosses were the same! The emblem is an inversion of the Swiss flag and alludes to the origins of the Red Cross in Switzerland in the 1860s. Attingham is fortunate to have Teresa’s Red Cross armband in the collection. On the reverse is an official Red Cross endorsement stamp.

Teresa Hulton's Red Cross armband

Teresa Hulton’s Red Cross armband.

The brassard (arm band) was worn on Teresa’s left arm. If she was captured in an invasion, in theory it entitled her to the international protection accorded to all Red Cross personnel. Teresa would also have carried a certificate of identity to show that she was under Red Cross protection. To discover more about the Red Cross work during the war, please click here.

Teresa Hulton's Red Cross 1917 ID card

Teresa Hulton’s Red Cross 1917 ID card

Amongst Teresa’s war letters are many tragic stories. One of the new faces at the hospital where she worked was Ethel Harbier. In June 1915 Ethel wrote to Teresa stating that she must travel from Italy to England because her two nieces both lost their husbands on the same day. How times had changed for these women.

Attingham

In June 1915 there was a scandal as the British Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, blamed the failure of the battle of Neuve Chapelle on a shortage of munitions. In Britain a shell crisis led to more women being employed in munitions.

The appeal for female munition workers was to have a devastating impact on country houses which relied on the work of female servants. Maids left in their droves, attracted by the higher wages and independence that working in a munitions factory offered. Later in the war, Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, was to consider doing munitions work in England.

Ministry of Munitions 1916 poster

Ministry of Munitions 1916 poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 0402)

On the 23rd of June the London Gazette stated that Mr Van Bergen, the tenant at Attingham had been made a temporary Captain. He may have spent the remainder of the War in Sheerness, Kent, where the 5th Battalion was stationed. In 1918 he was a temporary Captain at the War Office. After the War he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Captain Van Bergen

Captain Van Bergen, c.1917.

In October 1914 the Van Bergens had opened a war hospital at Attingham and by June 1915 wished to use more rooms. However, Lord Berwick had to balance his wish to help the wounded soldiers with his desire to care for the house and its contents. He was worried that some of the beautiful interiors might sustain damage if the rooms were used by the soldiers.

The Sultana Room at Attingham.

The Sultana Room at Attingham. The room was later used as a hospital ward containing beds for the soldiers.

At a VAD hospital like Attingham, medical officers were paid £1 a day, matrons £1 1s a week and nurses £40 a year. Part-time local VAD nurses were unpaid but board, laundry and travel expenses could be claimed. It is likely that many of the women in the village of Atcham helped out at the Attingham hospital.

To make them immediately obvious as convalescing soldiers, patients at the Attingham hospital were made to change their khaki for a blue flannel hospital jacket and trousers, a white shirt and a red tie. Soldiers kept their own cap and boots and photographs show men from an array of different regiments convalescing at Attingham.

Soldiers recovering on the Colonnade c.1917

Soldiers recovering on the Colonnade c.1917

Men at Attingham, c.1917.

Men at Attingham, c.1917.

To see some coloured photographs of wartime soldiers in their hospital blues uniform please click here.

Visitors to Dunham Massey, a National Trust property near Manchester, can get a sense of what a wartime hospital in a country house may have looked and felt like. For more information on this please click here.


Heading for Italy – May 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

On the 8th of May Teresa finished her quarantine for German Measles and was able to visit the refugees that she had been helping at Edmonton, London. However, few remained there and Teresa’s work consisted mainly of tying up her duties and making sure that the refugees were as comfortably settled as possible.

Belgian refugee children, 1918

Belgian refugee children, 1918. © IWM (Q 27757B)

One example of her kind work was with Adolf Keyeux, a bright young Belgian refugee who wanted to continue with his studies. By mid May, Adolf Keyeux was resuming his studies in Leeds where he was to remain until he was old enough to serve in the army in 1918 in Belgium, his homeland. He continued to write to Teresa regularly.

A colleague from Edmonton, Edith Thorndike, told Teresa what an excellent job everyone felt that she did helping the refugees:

I wonder if you know how much you helped the Belgian work really – your method of working was so thorough and you won’t mind me saying now that it was much appreciated at Edmonton!

Strand Workhouse Edmonton from north entrance to Belgian Refuge c 1915

Strand Workhouse Edmonton from north entrance to Belgian Refuge c 1915. To see more information on the Edmonton workhouse please click here.

By late May, Teresa’s refugee work in England had come to an end and she made plans to leave for Italy to rejoin her family. However, her return was hastened by the major events unfolding in her home country.

On the 23rd of May 1915 Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, entering the First World War on the side of the Allies: Britain, France and Russia. When the war had begun it had been expected that Italy would take sides with Germany and Austria-Hungary, with which it had formed the Triple Alliance. The reason for Italy joining on the side of the Allies was mainly to gain territory in southern Austria-Hungary, where Italian was the main language spoken. When war was declared crowds gathered to cheer the Italian royal family. Click here to see a photograph of this event.

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

Italian soldiers were moved to strategic points on the border that the country shared with Austria-Hungary. Teresa’s mother, Costanza, wrote to her daughter: ‘people are going to Venice to see it for the last time!

Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen D’Abernon, commented that her old life in Venice felt remote. She worried how the beautiful architecture and artworks in Italy would fare during the war.

Upon her return to Italy, it is likely that Teresa fulfilled her long-held ambition to do a period of Red Cross training. This would have involved  lectures, practical training and exams in both first aid and nursing. She received her Italian Red Cross certificate in October 1915.

Teresa's Italian Red Cross Certificate, 1915

Teresa’s Italian Red Cross Certificate, 1915

By May, Lady Helen D’Abernon had finished her work at Guy’s Hospital, London, but was thinking of nursing in France. She wrote that in ‘these days of tension and anxiety’ it was impossible to sit in the sun with folded idle hands.Helen found nursing ‘very interesting’ but also commented:

‘…judging from past experience it is not a thing one can do by halves – but rather a kind of vampire devouring all one’s zeal & strength & energy.’

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Teresa enjoyed a brief meeting with Lord Berwick on her journey back to Italy. She stayed for two days in Paris where Lord Berwick was stationed as Honorary Secretary to the British Embassy, and arranged to have lunch with him. Lord Berwick enjoyed her company and their friend, Fred Stratton, told Teresa that Lord Berwick ‘said nice things’ about her.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

 

Attingham

May 1915 was in many ways a time of tragedy. The Second Battle of Ypres raged throughout much of May as both sides tried to gain control of a strategic town in Belgium. It was the first time that Germany had used poisoned gas on a large scale on the Western Front. The battle resulted in 70,000 Allies being killed, wounded or missing.

A destroyed North Midland Farm, Messines Road, May 1915.

A destroyed North Midland Farm, Messines Road, May 1915. © (IWM Q 60496)

The dead included Herbert John Martin (16424) of the Atcham parish who was killed on the 25th of May at Ypres. At 37, he was the oldest man in the parish to die as a result of the war. He had been a private in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He had enlisted in December 1914, arrived in France on 4th May 1915 and was killed in action on 25th May. He is remembered on the plaque in Atcham and on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial, Belgium.

With thanks to Neil Evans and Phil Morris for their work on the Shropshire Roll of Honour.

There was tragedy on the seas too as on the 7th of May the Lusitania sank, with over a thousand passengers and crew meeting their deaths. The ship was torpedoed off the southern coast of Ireland by a German U-boat. The sinking of a non-military ship carrying 128 Americans caused great protest in the USA.

Lifebelt from the RMS Lusitania, torpedoed without warning and sunk by the German Submarine U20 on 7th May 1915, with the loss of 1198 lives.

Lifebelt from the RMS Lusitania, torpedoed without warning and sunk by the German Submarine U20 on 7th May 1915, with the loss of 1198 lives. © IWM (MAR 127)

May 1915 also saw the fall of the Liberal Government and the establishment of a new coalition.


A tiresome time – April 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

In early April Teresa decided to give up her work at the Postal Censor office and to stop translating secret documents. She wrote that the work required her to be a ‘blend of Sherlock Holmes and Scarpia,’ which she felt did not suit her. [Scarpia was the Chief of Police in Tosca, a French play and later an Italian opera set in Rome in 1800.] Her war work elsewhere was also coming to a close. Although she still found helping the Belgian refugees fulfilling, by April there were few new arrivals and most of the Belgians had left to work in places all around Britain.

Censura mark on letter

Censura mark on letter. Click here to watch a film about postal censorship during the war.

Eager to remain in Britain, Teresa thought of applying for a job teaching languages in Manchester. Being fluent in several languages, including Italian, French and German, the work would have been ideally suited to her. However, her mother, Costanza, was not happy with her daughter’s ambition as she felt that it might not be suitable for her. She wanted Teresa home. It had been nearly a year since they had last seen each other. On the 23rd of April Costanza wrote:

‘…there is a doubt in my mind that you may have some other reason for wishing to stay on in England which you have said nothing about. I mean that you may think that by coming away now you are risking losing a possibility of marriage which you would like. If this is the case, please tell me so frankly.

Teresa's mother, Costanza, 1913.

Teresa’s mother, Costanza, 1913.

Her mother’s suspicions may have been right. Lord Berwick, who was working in the Paris embassy, continued to correspond with Teresa after their initial meetings before the war began. In April he gave her the card of the artist Fred Stratton, knowing that Teresa would enjoy visiting his studio. Teresa came from an artistic background and the love of the arts which she shared with Lord Berwick was later to be evident in their tasteful restoration of Attingham.

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

Fred Stratton and Teresa seem to have got along well and he wrote to her later to thank her for her cheering visit. He told her:

You know I said that I felt as if I had known you always – well you greet me as if you had known me always.’

Teresa’s friendliness was doubtless a great asset to her war work but her plans of staying on in Britain were to be dashed. By the end of April she was suffering from a ‘troublesome cough‘ which was diagnosed as German Measles. Due to her illness, on the 22nd of April Teresa was obliged to give up her work with Belgian refugees.

On the 26th of April Teresa left the London home of her Aunt Mary, with whom she had been staying for much of the war. She went to stay with her uncle and godfather Jack Hulton and his wife Blanche in Surrey.

Teresa described to Gioconda her frustration at being confined due to her illness. She hated having to ‘remain shut up in my room or else come & sit in the garden but absolutely in quarantine! It is most tiresome.’

Teresa Hulton in 1914.

Teresa Hulton in 1914.

As she recovered, Teresa was able to occupy herself with dressmaking and helped in the garden, doing tasks such as cutting the lawn. With servants having left to do war work, her help would have been much appreciated.

Teresa with two dogs, Potten, England, 1915.

Teresa with two dogs, Potten, England, 1915.

During the war, many genteel ladies began to do practical gardening tasks, which would have been virtually unthinkable before. In 1915, Mary Hampden, author of Every Woman’s Flower Garden, wrote:

 ‘Years ago women – always defined as ladies –  piled outdoor tools in semi shame, afraid of being considered vulgar or unfeminine; now the spade is recognised as an honourable implement in female hands.’

Teresa Hulton in 1913.

Teresa Hulton in 1913.

Teresa’s illness and the fact that she had to give up her war work in Britain made it seem like a good idea to return to her family in Italy. Keen as ever to do all that she could to help the war effort. It is likely that Teresa’s mind turned to her future work. Letters show that she was already taken by the idea of nursing.

The ‘romance’ of the Red Cross was commonly advertised in the press and periodicals of the time, encouraging many young ladies, mainly of the middle and upper classes, to become nurses. Hearing how casualties of war were mounting with the second battle of Ypres beginning in April, Teresa may have felt a desire to be able to do something to help wounded soldiers. Nursing was to become her occupation for the next three years.

1915 oil painting of a nurse, soldier and child by William Hatherell.

1915 oil painting of a nurse, soldier and child by William Hatherell. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 5194)

 

Attingham

The Attingham war hospital remained busy and the growing demand for more auxiliary war hospitals in Shropshire was met by the opening of Stokesay Court as a war hospital in April 1915. For more information on the Stokesay Court hospital, please click here. For information on their forthcoming event on 18th and 19th April to commemorate the opening of the hospital please click here.

 

 

 


‘Memorable, unusual years’ – March 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

By March 1915 war casualties were mounting and still the fighting showed no sign of ending. Conflicts in Europe had a great impact on Teresa’s refugee work. One example of this was the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, which began in France in March and cost the British over 11,000 casualties.

A 2.75 inch mountain gun at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, France, March 1915

A 2.75 inch mountain gun at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, France, March 1915. © IWM (Q 67854)

On the 11th of March Teresa was informed by the War Refugees Committee that ‘for the time being the number of arrivals have decreased considerably owing to the difficulty of transport.’ The fighting meant that it became nearly impossible for Belgians to flee their country and reach safety in Britain.

Belgian refugees leaving Ypres, 2nd November 1914.

Belgian refugees leaving Ypres, 2nd November 1914. © IWM (Q 53383).

Despite this, Teresa was still busy helping the many refugees already in Britain. Adolf Keyeux, a young Belgian refugee who had previously received assistance from Teresa, wrote again to her in March. He asked for help in getting a permit to allow him to return to the Continent for a few days to visit relatives. By the 25th of March his journey had been arranged, but he returned to Britain soon after his trip to continue his studies in Leeds.

At the time any travel overseas was difficult. Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen Vincent, wrote that it would be impossible for her to journey to Venice and visit Gioconda, Teresa’s elder sister. Helen poignantly wrote:

‘1914-15 will ever rank as memorable, unusual years – not only in the History of Nations but in the infinitely insignificant story of individual lives.’

Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D'Abernon in her nurse uniform.

Lady Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D’Abernon in her nurse uniform.

 

With so many men away fighting, the British government was keen to do all that it could to encourage women to fill their places of work. On the 17th of March the Board of Trade issued an appeal for women to register for war work at their local Labour Exchange.

A Women's Land Army worker during WWI

A Women’s Land Army worker during WWI. © IWM (Q 30887).

As for many women, war work was financially beneficial for Teresa and she wrote to her sister about her income:

I tell you that I, who am always short, find I am very well off under the present regime, you can take my word for it! Besides, uncles & aunts have a way of tipping you when they see you.’

Teresa Hulton, 1913.

Teresa Hulton, 1913.

Balancing several different work commitments was a skill honed by both Teresa and many other women during the war. Doing so helped her find a sense of strength and independence that surprised her family.

During March, Gioconda was still worried about being unable to settle to war work herself. She wrote:

I feel myself utterly incapable of continued useful work: do you think I should ever be of any use anywhere?

The prospect of joining Teresa in Britain was still appealing but the journey was fraught with danger and not an expense that Gioconda could easily afford. At the end of the month, there was a glimmer of hope as Gioconda was given work in an Italian hospital for a week. However, she soon felt that nursing was unsuited to her.

In contrast, the sisters’ friend Lady Helen Vincent was glad to have started nursing at Guy’s Hospital in London, although she wrote: ‘the hours are early & late & long.’ In her letter she also commented: ‘these big hospitals provide one with all opportunity of studying every conceivable malady that poor suffering flesh is heir to.’

Sign hanging outside Charing Cross Hospital at Agar Street, London, September 1914.

Sign hanging outside Charing Cross Hospital at Agar Street, London, September 1914. © IWM (Q 53311).

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Lord Berwick wrote to Teresa on 3rd March 1915 from Paris where he was an attaché with the British embassy. He told her that:

‘I have been here about two weeks, and I feel quite at home again, but at first I felt it rather being kept at a desk again all day instead of getting plenty of fresh air and exercise.’

Much of the work was interesting but, ‘I had hoped for rather more military work than I have.’ He found Paris ‘quiet’ and ‘solemn’ and urged Teresa to let him know if she came to Paris at any time. The two were to meet in June as Teresa was on her way back to her native Italy.

 

Attingham

In March 1915 the British navy imposed a sea blockade on German shipping imports, meaning that no food or medicines could be brought from Germany to Britain. Despite the shortages and rationing of food in Britain, people were keen that the convalescing soldiers in auxiliary hospitals should be well fed. Egg collections were set up throughout the country to donate eggs to the wounded. Posters show that egg collecting was one way for children to do their bit for the war effort.

Egg collection poster from WWI.

Egg collection poster from WWI. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10836)

 

In spring 1915 a Mrs C. Dugdale and a Mrs Swire started an egg collection for use in the hospitals in Shropshire. Red Cross publications of the time show that custards and soufflés were an important part of diet of recovering soldiers and would have been served at the Attingham hospital. Between 1915 and 1918 254,511 eggs were collected for use in the Shropshire war hospitals. Some of the eggs were probably provided by tenants of the Attingham Estate. Click here to listen to a short recording about egg collections in Shropshire.

The Walled Garden at Attingham played an important role in providing food and possibly medicines that were scarce in Britain due to the war preventing foreign trade. The Attingham Estate also provided wood to the Army Pay Office in Chester and some of the tenanted land was used as a rifle range.

Two ladies from the Women's Land Army fruit picking during WWI.

Two ladies from the Women’s Land Army fruit picking during WWI. © IWM (Q 30845).

Stokesay Court, another VAD Auxiliary Military Hospital near Attingham, was opened on April the 19th 1915. To discover more about the fascinating story of the Stokesay Court hospital, please click here.

To mark the centenary of the opening of the hospital, over the weekend of Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th of April 2015 Stokesay Court will be holding a Red Cross Hospital Centenary Weekend. This will include tours, re-enactments, a concert based on First World War concert programmes and the reading of letters and other information from the fabulously detailed archive relating to the hospital. For more information about the event, please click here.