Tag Archives: Attingham First World War

Medals of achievement – After the war

Teresa Hulton (1890–1972)

On the 18th of December 1918 Teresa received exciting news. She wrote to her mother, Costanza, ‘Just heard that Mrs W + I (and I suppose the Gordon Watsons) have received the Croce di Guerra.’ 

Croce di Guerre Announcement 1918

A 1918 postcard that mentions Teresa and Mrs Watkins receiving the Croce di Guerre (Italian War cross medal). Teresa signs the message with her childhood nickname, Bim.

The Croce di Guerra (Cross of War) was instituted by King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy in January 1918. The medal was awarded for merit in ‘land, sea or air operations after at least a year’s service in the trenches or elsewhere in contact with the enemy; to those wounded in action; those who had performed acts of bravery and those who had achieved promotion for a mention for war effort.’

The medal was bronze and the front shows the royal cypher and the inscription ‘Merito di Guerra’. The reverse shows a five pointed star on a background of rays. The ribbon is alternate blue and white stripes.

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Teresa’s Croce di Guerra medal. This small bronze medal is inscribed ‘MERITO DI GUERRA’. It hangs on a blue and white striped silk ribbon.

Teresa was awarded the Croce di Guerra in January 1919. She wrote to her future husband, Lord Berwick, about the ceremony that she and Mrs Watkins attended to receive their medals:

On the last evening General Caviglia assembled his HQ staff and presented each of us with the Croce di Guerra, making a charming speech. We were much touched and it is a nice ending to our war work especially coming from such a fine soldier’.

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Teresa and Mrs Watkins receiving their Croce di Guerra medals

In the same letter she added, upon hearing of Lord Berwick’s involvement with diplomatic work in Paris to negotiate a Peace Treaty: ‘I see you have been promoted. Many congratulations – we seem to be getting on in our military careers’.

Lord Berwick wrote back to her: ‘My dear Teresa, I was delighted to hear what a successful and pleasant journey you had and besides your other successes, that you had been decorated by General Caviglia with the Croce di Guerra. My very best congratulations – I feel this is a very great compliment to you and a surely well earned reward for your devoted work for Italy during the war and it gives me the greatest pleasure that you have it and as you say, to have received it in such circumstances and at the hands of so great a general makes it a still more valued possession.’

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This page in Mrs Watkins’s wartime album commemorates the day she and Teresa received their war medals (c) Hamish Scott

Teresa was also subsequently awarded the Medaglia Commemorativa Della Guerra 1915 – 1918 Per Il Compimento dell Unita d’Italia (the Commemorative Medal For The War 1915 -1918 For The Completing Of The Union Of Italy). This medal was introduced in July 1920. The title of the medal refers to ‘Completing The Union Of Italy’ because the Italians saw the First World War as continuing their endeavour to unite all areas of Italy into one nation by acquiring land held by Austria.

Circular bronze medal of 1920 inscribed: S.CANEVARI. GUERRA PER L’UNITA D’ITALIA CONIATA. NEL BRONZO-NEMICO (War for the Unity of Italy 1915 1918) NT 609990

The medal was awarded to armed service personnel, civilians who assisted the armed services and to Red Cross workers and ambulance drivers. The medal was designed by the sculptor S. Canevari. It features the King Victor Emmanuel III in a military uniform and helmet on the front and around the edge are the words ‘Guerra Per L’Unita d’Italia 1915 – 1918’ (War For The Unity Of Italy 1915 – 1918). The reverse shows a winged ‘Victory’ figure held aloft by two helmeted soldiers and around the edge are the words ‘COINATA N.EL BRONZO NEIVIICO’ (Coined from enemy bronze).

Another medal in the Attingham collection is the Croce Commemorativa della Terza Armata, Guerra 1915 – 1918. This is the Commemorative Cross of the Italian Third Army during the First World War. It features a white enamel and silvered bronze Greek cross surmounted by the Crown of Savoy. On the face of the cross is depicted the Lion of St Mark with a sword in its right paw.

Teresa’s Italian war medals NT 610024

Lord Berwick (1877–1947)

On the 27th of June 1919 Lord Berwick received from The War Office a formal notice of his demobilisation from the army, which had occurred on the 2nd of June 1919. The document included the following words of gratitude:

I am also to take this opportunity of conveying the thanks of the Army Council for your services to the Country during the late war and for the excellent work you have done’.

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Lord Berwick’s demobilisation certificate dated June 1919

Lord Berwick was awarded the British War Medal and The Allied Victory Medal for his war services.

Two medals by Spink and Son Ltd., circa 1919, hung on silk ribbons and sewn to a silver pin bar. One medal depicts a winged classical female holding a torch (the Allied Victory Medal). The other is cast with the head of King George V in profile (the British War Medal). NT 610076

The British War Medal is a campaign medal of the British Empire awarded for service during World War One. The medal was approved in 1919 for all who had served between the 5th of August 1914 and the 11th of November 1918. Approximately 6.5 million medals were issued.

The medal is circular and is made of silver (although some were bronze). The front of the medal shows the head of King George V. The reverse shows St George on horseback with the dates 1914 and 1918. The medal ribbon has a wide stripe of orange flanked by two narrow white stripes which in turn are flanked by two narrow black stripes, followed by two narrow blue stripes.

The Allied Victory Medal was issued within the British Empire as a result of the Peace Conference that resulted in the Treaty of Versailles. It was awarded to British citizens who had been mobilised during the First World War.

by Spink and Sons Ltd

Another photograph of Lord Berwick’s war medals NT 610076.1.1

The medal is circular and is lacquered in bronze. The front of the medal shows the winged figure of the goddess Victory. The reverse has the words ‘The Great War For Civilisation 1914 – 1918’ surrounded by a laurel leaf. The ribbon has a rainbow design with violet on the outside moving to red in the centre.

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Lord Berwick in his military uniform in 1922

The British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal awarded to Lord Berwick for his service in the First World War are inscribed to ‘Major Berwick’. Peter Duckers, former Curator of Shropshire Regimental Museum, said that these medals, which are now housed in the museum, would have been inscribed for the highest rank achieved by an individual and he is in no doubt that Lord Berwick was a Major at some point, although he did say this may have only been in an acting or ceremonial capacity.

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Lord Berwick’s military medals in Shropshire Regimental Museum


Treaties of peace – After the war

As part of his work for the British Embassy, Lord Berwick was involved in the Peace Conference in Paris in January 1919 that immediately preceded the Treaty of Versailles.  In March 1915 Lord Berwick had written to his future wife, Teresa, from Paris. He wrote: ‘it would be very interesting to be here at the end of the war, when peace negotiations begin.’

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Thomas Henry Noel-Hill, 8th Lord Berwick of Attingham

As part of his diplomatic work, Lord Berwick attended a formal dinner and wrote to Teresa on the 27th of February 1919:

 ‘The Ambassador gave a big dinner of 60 people on Saturday to meet the Prince of Wales… nearly all the principal delegates were there, with the exception of poor Clemenceau who was of course unable to come, and Lloyd George.’

Lord Berwick admired the Borghese plate that had once adorned the dinner tables of Pauline Borghese, sister of Napoleon. Lord Berwick was interested in the supposed link between furniture at Attingham and Caroline Murat, another of Napoleon’s sisters. William, the Third Lord Berwick (1773-1842), was reputed to have acquired objects from her palace in Naples and brought them to Attingham.

Caroline-Marie Bonaparte, Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples (1782-1839) by Louis Ducis (Versailles 1775 ¿ Paris 1847)
This portrait of Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples (1782-1839) by Louis Ducis, circa 1810, was brought by Lord Berwick in 1927. It now hangs in Attingham’s Drawing Room. NT 608957

Attending the dinner, Lord Berwick thought that ‘the most picturesque figure was the Emir Feisal (leader of The Arabs in World War One), closely attended by Col. Lawrence’ (T. E. Lawrence of Arabia).

In 1925 T. E. Lawrence bought Clouds Hill, a small cottage in Dorset now owned by the National Trust. It was conveniently placed for him to retreat to whilst stationed at nearby Bovington Camp, although tragically he died in a motorcycle accident in 1935 whilst returning from the camp.

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Inside T. E. Lawrence’s home at Cloud’s Hill

Lord Berwick wrote to Teresa about the Peace Conference again on March the 13th 1919. Unfortunately, ‘all the big questions still remain to be adjudicated on, and from the little one knows, no power except perhaps ourselves is animated by the Wilsonian spirit sufficiently to give up anything they want in the general interest… but there seems to be a feeling that Germany will relapse into Bolshevism if peace is not concluded soon.’

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Lord Berwick’s diplomatic uniform in the Attingham collection

The meeting of the Allied victors to set peace terms for defeated Central Powers following the end of the First World War was long and complicated. Thirty two countries were represented at the talks.

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The peace treatise document. Photograph in the Public Domain

The US President, Woodrow Wilson, would not support the punitive fines on Germany desired by other countries. In the end, the USA did not ratify the treaty and did not join the League of Nations. The British Prime Minister David Lloyd George had doubts about the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, prophetically saying in 1918 that ‘it is essential that the settlement after this war shall be one which does not itself bear the seed of future war.’

It took six months from the end of the war to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

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Lord Berwick in his military uniform outside his house at Cronkhill on the Attingham estate in 1904

On March the 24th 1919 Lord Berwick visited Noyon, France. In Noyon and its surrounding towns there was ‘hardly a house standing,’ and Montdidier was ‘entirely destroyed. Shell holes all round it.’ He wrote of the terrible damage to Noyon Cathedral, with its ‘roof entirely gone and part of the walls. All the glass gone.’ Fortunately ‘a very beautiful altar 18th century in the center of the church’ remained ‘undamaged.’ After twenty years of repair work the cathedral was restored.

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Noyon Cathedral (c) Wikimedia Commons

Lord Berwick was not the only one to attend peace talks. Teresa’s uncle Luigi Villari was involved in peace negotiations in the Salonica Peace Treaty that aimed at Serbian Peace. Signed on the 29th of September 1919 between Bulgaria and the Allies in Thessaloniki, it ended Bulgaria’s involvement in the First World War. After leaving the army Luigi spent his time lecturing and writing books.

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A photograph of Luigi Villari (1876-1959) wearing military uniform on horseback taken in June 1916NT 610177.185

In July 1920 Teresa’s friend Lady Helen D’Abernon accompanied her husband on the Interallied Mission to Poland which had been organised by Prime Minister David Lloyd George to attempt to influence Polish policy through a change in government, although the Polish victory at the Battle of Warsaw made the mission defunct before it could achieve any real importance. Lady Helen D’Abernon also accompanied her husband when he was sent as the British Ambassador to the Weimar Republic in the 1920s.

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Lady Helen D’Abernon

The war changed attitudes towards women working. Early in the war women helping the war effort under the auspices of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies were treated with disdain by some people. A friend of Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, wrote after the war that she thinks that the diplomatic service ought to be open to women as well as men, as women are ‘perfectly capable of this kind of work.’ 


A welcome peace – November 1918

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

On the 21st of November 1918 Teresa’s acquaintance, Eduardo Di Giovanni, wrote to Teresa that he had met Costanza who said that Teresa was ill. Eduardo wrote that he had heard that Teresa was ‘expected shortly to begin your work again. Are you not too ambitious perhaps for the strength you have? Last summer you seemed very frail, and I thought then that you needed rest. You have done so much already. Why not knock off a bit?’

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The nursing team that Teresa was part of are photographed with wounded soldiers (c) Hamish Scott

Teresa’s war efforts are even more admirable given that she suffered from health issues, including frequent severe headaches. Since the war began many had advised her to take it easy but she had valiantly carried on and many were grateful for the efforts that she made in her wartime work. E. V. Lucas wrote in his pamphlet about the British Red Cross in Italy, Outposts of Mercy,the wonderful missionary spirit of our countrywomen was never better exemplified than in the devoted toil of this little band’ established by Mrs Watkins.

Newspaper clipping from the Tribuna Illustrata showing Mabel Campbell and Teresa Hulton helping the wounded soldiers on the train at San Giovanni di Manzano, northern Italy, taken between October and December 1915.

A newspaper clipping from the Tribuna Illustrata showing Teresa and a fellow nurse, Mabel Campbell, taking refreshments to a train load of wounded soldiers.

The end of the war meant that Teresa could ‘knock off a bit.’ On November the 3rd the Austro-Hungarians signed an armistice with Italy. The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed as the ruling Habsburgs were overthrown and the armistice was signed by Austria and Hungary as separate countries. By November the 4th the fighting was over in Italy. 400,000 Austro-Hungarians had died and 1,200,000 had been wounded on the Italian Front. Italy had lost a total of around 650,000, with 950,000 wounded.

1732 Attingham atlas map

Europe pictured in a 1732 map book in the Attingham collection

Italy’s war aims had been to gain contested territory from Austria-Hungary, such as Dalmatia on the Adriatic Sea. The British and French argued that Italy’s contribution to the outcome of the war was limited and many of the territories that the Allies had promised to Italy were never granted, which led to resentment from many Italians.

As the war ended for Italy Mrs Watkins and Teresa were setting up beds in their new Gardone hospital and caring for some patients who had the Spanish Flu. Eva Williams wrote to Teresa saying that she supposes everyone in the hospital will be rejoicing in the peace news. Soon the wartime outposts established by Mrs Watkins would not be needed. Some photographs in Teresa’s album show the war hospital at San Giovanni Manzano where she had worked. In the images it is possible to see the debris caused by the war which needed to be cleared away.

Teresa holding a small animal stood with another lady

Teresa and a fellow war nurse stand outside a wartime shelter. Teresa (in the hat) holds a small animal which may be the abandoned kitten rescued by the nurses.

Eva Williams asked if Teresa was still looking after the grey kitten that had been adopted by the nurses. Teresa loved animals and owned many dogs whilst living at Attingham. Photographs show her with Tenace, a black and white French Bulldog who was given to her in 1908 by George Eustis, an American admirer. George Eustis had been traveling to the US via Paris when he purchased the dog and had it sent to Venice. Although she eagerly accepted the dog, Teresa refused George who was later to marry an American lady.

Teresa in square 1919

Teresa with Tenace in 1912

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

The London Gazette announced on 26th November 1918 that Lieutenant Lord Berwick had been promoted to a Captain in the Shropshire Yeomanry on 28th September and that he was to remain seconded.

Lord Berwick was uncertain about when he might be demobilised. He told Teresa on 19th November 1918 that he had ‘unexpectedly received orders to go on special duty.’  He was sent to Fiume (now Rijeka, in Croatia) but it was to be a short posting. He was to return to Headquarters that day because ‘I got other orders just as I was starting to come here.’ He was sorry to leave ‘an attractive sunny place … so soon’ but he hoped to see Teresa when he was back in Italy.  However, the following day he discovered that, ‘my sudden recall was due to a telegram from the War Office that I was to report to London at once.’

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Fiume stamps in Mrs Watkins’s wartime album (c) Hamish Scott

Coincidentally, Teresa’s next move was to Fiume, where she went with Mrs Watkins to open a recreation hut for Italian soldiers. ‘How I wish you were still there,’ she wrote to Lord Berwick.

Lord Berwick travelled to Paris where, in his role as Honorary Secretary to the British Embassy, he helped with the forthcoming Peace talks once the war had ended.

An English version of the Treatise of Versailles, photograph in the Public Domain

An English version of the Treatise of Versailles, photograph in the Public Domain

By early November mass unrest had erupted in Germany and many men in the German Navy mutinied as they refused to engage in battle with the British Navy. On the 9th of November 1918 the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, abdicated and prepared to leave Germany. Germany was declared a republic.

On the 11th of November 1918 at 5:10 am in a railway carriage at Compiègne, France, the Germans signed the Armistice. This became effective at 11am; the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Fighting continued along the Western Front until precisely 11 o’clock, with 2,000 casualties experienced that day by all sides. Artillery barrages erupted shortly before 11am as soldiers wanted to claim that they fired the last shot in the war.

armistice

This photograph in the Imperial War Museum collection shows the train in which the armistice was signed (c) IWM Q 58432

Total estimated casualties of all the nations that fought in the First World War were 8.5 million killed and 21 million wounded.

 

Attingham

On the 6th of November 1918 Private Ernest Thomas William Luther of the Machine Gun Corps, formerly the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI), died aged twenty as a prisoner of war. He was the son of John and Ann Luther who lived in Uckington, a village near Attingham. His father was a wagoner. Ernest had enlisted in Shrewsbury into the KSLI. He was buried at Saint-Ghislain Hainaut Province Belgium and there is a memorial to him in St Eata’s Church, Atcham.

Another Shropshire man to die in November 1918 was the poet Wilfred Owen. Born in Oswestry in 1893, he came to live in Shrewsbury in 1907. Wilfred Owen attended the Technical College by the English Bridge and from 1913 to 1915 was teaching at a school in France. He returned to England to enlist into the army.

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A photograph of Wilfred Owen in the Imperial War Museum collection (c) IWM Q 79045

Wilfred Owen died on the 4th of November 1918 crossing the Sambre Canal on a raft. The Second Battle of the Sambre, which began on the 4th of November, was the final Allied attack of the war.

Staff and patients in the war hospital at Attingham were relieved to hear that the war had ended. During the war 38,000 V.A.D. nurses had worked in convalescent hospitals or driven ambulances in Britain. The wartime convalescent hospital at Attingham saw a total of 397 patients admitted, with one death. Attingham Park Auxiliary Military Hospital closed after the end of the War, late in 1918 or early in 1919. In a letter to Lord Berwick in April 1919, Captain Van Bergen, the tenant of Attingham Hall, referred to the hospital as ‘a great boon to the country and county’.

A poster commemorating the use of Attingham Hall as a military hospital during WW1

A poster commemorating the use of Attingham Hall as a military hospital during WW1


Triumphs and losses – October 1918

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

The Spanish Flu pandemic had been sweeping the globe since early 1918. Teresa and others called the virus outbreak Spanish Flu because it was mainly reported in Spanish newspapers.  It was causing havoc all over Europe but because most European countries were at war with each other reports were suppressed to conceal the impact of the virus on their forces.  Spain was a neutral country, not involved in the fighting, so the epidemic was reported in their newspapers giving rise to its association with Spain.

Teresa’s friend Lillian Carlyle wrote to her that some of the people they knew had Spanish Flu, including Christobel the daughter of Evelyn Gordon-Watson with whom Teresa worked at the Italian front.

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Mrs Gordon-Watson and her daughter Christobel with a group of soldiers (c) Hamish Scott

Teresa suffered acutely when she caught the Spanish Flu and was brought lower than during any of her previous trials during the war. She later admitted in her diary: ‘while I was ill, I heard of the deaths from ‘flu of a number of friends, among whom 5 or 6 young men and girls – and for a time I quite hoped my time had come too.’

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Teresa (in the centre) is photographed with two fellow nurses at the opening of a new rest station for soldiers managed by Mrs Watkins (c) Hamish Scott

Many people whom Teresa’s sister Gioconda was acquainted with had Spanish Flu, including Joan Bentwick who Gioconda worked with as a secretary in the Intelligence Division at the British Admiralty. Fortunately Joan survived. Another acquaintance of Gioconda’s, Miss Heynes, died after only three days of sickness. Gioconda was offered Miss Heynes’s place working in the British Embassy in Rome.

Gioconda, Rome 1918

Gioconda photographed in Rome in 1918

Before Teresa fell ill she went to meet Mrs Watkins, the leader of the group of war nurses, at Verona. On October the 11th a fellow nurse, Georgiana R. Sheldon, wrote to Teresa from the American Hospital for Italian Wounded: I hope that you will let me know how things have been arranged and whether you and Mrs. Watkins are going directly to Gardone to arrange the convalescent home.’

The other hospital staff at the American Hospital were leaving but Georgiana stayed: ‘I feel the need of a change more than I can tell you, but, at the same time, I do not think this is the moment to travel, and also I do not like to leave the Hospital when, at any moment, there may be a possibility, although I hope not a probability, of an outbreak of the influenza in our midst. This morning we heard that little Nadine Kirsch has died of it and the boy, Giulio, is very ill indeed.’

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Georgiana Sheldon’s signature is fourth from the top among the signatures preserved in Mrs Watkins’s wartime album (c) Hamish Scott

Georgiana appreciated keeping in touch with Teresa, adding humourously: ‘Do send me a card, now and then, and tell me how you are and keep up our spirits here. You must not forget that you have a life of excitement and must therefore stand by the dullards who are here in Florence.’

The situation for the Italian army was hopeful in October 1918 as they mounted an offensive targeting Vittorio Veneto and broke through a gap near Sacile. On the 24th of October Italian divisions incorporating British, French and American soldiers crossed the Piave River and attacked the four remaining Austro-Hungarian armies.

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British horse drawn transport and an Italian motor ambulance crossing a temporary bridge in October 1918 during the Vittorio Veneto offensive (c) IWM Q 26722 

The Austro-Hungarian defensive line was destroyed with 30,000 Austro-Hungarian soldiers killed and over 400,000 taken prisoner. On the 3rd of November 1918 Austria-Hungary sent a flag of truce asking the Italians for armistice. The armistice took effect on the 4th of November 1918 at 3pm.

The war was almost over and the casualties near the end of the war are poignant. On October the 25th Teresa received a letter from Adolf Keyeux, the Belgian refugee boy who she had helped with his education in England where he had fled in 1914. Adolf had just joined the Belgian Army in the Field. On October the 17th the Belgian King Albert had entered the city of Ostend on the Belgian coast.

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The reverse of an envelope enclosing the letter sent to Teresa by Adolf Keyeux

Teresa kept the letter, noting that it was found on the body of a dead German officer who had taken it from Adolf who had been killed. The letter is even more heart-breaking because of the cheerfulness with which Adolf writes telling Teresa that ‘we are very heartily welcomed everywhere in our reconquered county’ and went through Bruges just after the Germans left, which felt like ‘a real triumph’ as ‘all the people were out, shouting & cheering us, thousands of flags were flying.’

Adolf adds: ‘You will excuse my writing you such a hurried letter but we are so busy in these times. If we push the Germans back, it is not always without pain. I am now in a post that is what may be termed a ‘good job’ but I have plenty to do. It is often dangerous but always I remain lucky and as I volunteered to see interesting things, I am just in the right place.’

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Teresa’s future husband, Lord Berwick, was to fall victim to Spanish Flu in December 1918. His time in hospital recovering from the illness prompted him to worry about the fact that he was thirteen years Teresa’s senior. He wrote: ‘when I went into hospital I felt so old and tired and the Drs. made me think that I was not very strong, so that I began to think that it was too late to start life again.’

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Lord Berwick on his wedding day

 

Attingham

People in Shropshire received news of many Allied victories in October 1918. The end of the war was coming into sight. Teresa’s friend Tiny Cox, working in a London hospital, wrote that ‘we are literally working 12 hours a day – considering the heavy fighting & grand news now the casualty lists have been unimpossibly small. I’m to think we may really be without a war in a few months.’ 

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This photograph in the Imperial War Museum collection shows pipers of the Gordon Highlanders marching though the newly liberated Douchy-lès-Ayette in France in October 1918. © IWM Q 11412

Allied troops renewed their offensive in France, beginning a series of battles that forced the Germans back. The Allies broke through the remnants of the Hindenburg line. The German army retreated and many prisoners were taken.


Short staffed – September 1918

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

By September 1918 Teresa was again working with Mrs Marie Watkins and her team of nurses helping soldiers on the Italian Front. A letter dated September the 20th 1918 from Mrs Watkins told Teresa: ‘I will wire to you as soon as things are difficult & count on your help.’

Teresa’s assistance was valuable as some of Mrs Watkins’s team were ill. Bridget Talbot was ‘in hospital with Jaundice’ and the soldiers’ canteens she took charge of were closed until she felt well again. Another nurse, ‘Mrs Gordon-Watson is at the hospital at Bordighera convalescing – Lillian Trelawny will tell you all our news. She is a great success here.’

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Mrs Gordon-Watson and a fellow nurse with some Italian soldiers. The baskets of fruit and jugs suggest that they are serving refreshments to the troops. (c) Hamish Scott

Mrs Watkins writes that ‘the ambulance solution is undecided & if the B.R.C. [British Red Cross] don’t provide one I shall try to collect the money + believe I could do so easily.’

She adds: ‘I shall have to have another uniform made – could you find out if there is a good tailors in our new neighbourhood – say Verona.’ In her next letter she told Teresa to ‘decide if you prefer B.R.C. or the order of St. John – I belong to the latter which is much more interesting historically. The uniform of the former is blue – and the latter black.’

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The hospital at Fasano where the team of nurses worked from 1918-19. Mrs Watkins is seated at the front wearing black (c) Hamish Scott

Mrs Watkins and her team had begun their war work using their own funds. As these ran low in February 1917 they joined the Joint War Organisation, formed by the combined Red Cross and the Order of St. John, using the organisation’s funds to continue their work. It seems that Teresa had a choice between the uniforms of the two organisations.

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Teresa wearing a formal Red Cross uniform and headdress in 1919

On the 10th of September 1918 Teresa wrote to her sister, Gioconda, from Castel del Piano, Perugia describing her work. This mostly involved dealing with supplies as she had done earlier in the war:

Mrs G. W. [Gordon-Watson] was ill all the time and at last General Newlands (R.A.M.C.) who is a friend of theirs heard about it & sent a doctor & an ambulance + insisted upon carrying her straight off to an English hospital partly for nurses at Montecchio near Vicenza – so Christobel + I remained alone for a few days until Mrs Carlyle arrived + I left.’

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Teresa’s fellow nurse Christobel Gordon-Watson holding two pigeons. No explanation as to why is given but pigeons were used for war work in the First World War (c) Hamish Scott

Teresa was ill herself, suffering from an awful toothache for a fortnight. ‘However, in spite of all these unpleasant accidents it was I repeat very jolly – we had several nice friends who came to see us + brought presents of food, etc., as usual; + we were made much of by everyone.’

Teresa anticipated World War Two when she wrote that the war ‘might easily be very bad for the character; having whole armies at one’s beck + call makes it quite difficult to return to the simple status of one among thousands when one comes back to civilian life again!’

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A 1941 photograph of Lord and Lady Berwick in the garden at Attingham

Teresa enjoyed looking at the old buildings and churches in the picturesque town of Perugia where she was staying with four other nurses. She wrote: ‘The country is lovely, olives + cypresses + brown hills & beautiful sunsets.’

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Teresa wearing her Red Cross headdress whilst in Florence in 1918

Teresa was living in ‘a most charming old villa, rather délabrée for it had been uninhabited for years. However, Anna who is a perfect wonder has managed in a very few weeks to make it very pretty and comfortable. The house is full of pictures, prints & all sorts of pretty furniture, so that she has good material to work with, and there are pretty painted rooms etc. & a long terrace garden with open work brick walls + gates & altogether the makings of a lovely place.’

Teresa added that: ‘My plans for the future are very unsettled but I hope to hear from Mrs Watkins that the convalescent home on the Faccia di Garda is really coming off + in that case I shall join her again very soon.’

She did manage to get a break from her nursing duties to meet her father in Florence where she went to go shopping and have her hair shampooed.

The war was going well for Italy. On the 15th of September the Allies pushed the Bulgarians out of Serbia. Italian, French and Serbian troops made rapid gains, advancing nearly twenty miles northwards from Greece in three days.

Family friend Lady Helen D’Abernon sent a letter to Gioconda who was in Rome. She wrote how strange it was to see German prisoners working in the woods and growing crops. She laments that her estate at Esher Place in Surrey suffered four years of overgrowth and neglect since the war began due to the shortage of staff.

Servants at Attingham Hall in the 1930s

Servants at Attingham Hall in the 1930s

During the war 400,000 people left domestic service to enter the armed forces or war production jobs like metalworking and engineering. Of the one million women working in munitions a quarter came from domestic service. Before the war there were few jobs open to women and domestic service was the dominant female occupation.

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This poster in the Imperial War Museum collection gives an idea of the propaganda spread to encourage women to enlist for war work © IWM Art.IWM PST 13195 

Wealthy families encouraged their menservants to enlist by promising to guarantee an income for their families and to keep jobs open if they returned. Some wealthy households replaced footmen with ‘footgirls’ but most reverted to Parlour Maids. There were female chauffeurs and gardeners. As a result women’s wages increased.

The war created great social change and the world of domestic service would never be the same. After the war the Berwicks struggled to hire and retain staff for Attingham.

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Lord Berwick had served with the Shropshire Yeomanry as a Lieutenant since before the First World War. On September the 28th 1918 he was promoted to the rank of Captain.

Lord B's uniform, Reg Museum 3

Lord Berwick’s uniform as a County Deputy Lieutenant is now in Shropshire Regimental Museum 

By the 22nd of September 1918 Lord Berwick had returned to his cipher work in Italy following a visit to Attingham. He wrote to Teresa: ‘I found my home very untidy, the Park overgrown with ragwort and thistles, and the paths round the house non-existent. Also my tenant (who must be an Irish-American) had selected the front lawn as a place to keep an enormous sow and young pigs! He is protecting himself behind the Defense of the Realm Act to get out of most of his responsibilities, feeding the deer, keeping up the vinery and the place in order, in fact the Lease is practically a dead letter, not a satisfactory state of affairs.’

On his way back to Italy he stopped at Paris, which he found ‘unrecognisable, one is hustled on the pavement by burly and very plain Y.M.C.A. workers, the American twang meets one at every turn, and American lorries crash along the Champs-Élysées. I suppose one must not be ungrateful for this welcome though rather noisy help in the war effort.’

Unfortunately upon getting back to Italy he developed ‘a very high temperature which continued till Friday. I rather foolishly offered to continue my work, as there was no other cipher officer here, it was a great effort and had the effect of prolonging my illness.’

By the 30th of September Lord Berwick was taken to an Italian clearing station ‘as my temperature was going up again and I could not get proper treatment and food where I was.’ He was transferred to a Base hospital. ‘How I wish I could find myself being handed a cup of tea enroute by yourself, or find you at the Hospital where I am going. But fate seems to be very unkind to us at present.’

The many long letters that Lord Berwick sent Teresa at this time illustrate their growing attachment in advance of their marriage in June 1919.


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.

 


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