Tag Archives: D’Abernon

Outposts of Mercy – March 1916

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Teresa was as busy as ever with supply work for hospitals in Italy. She worked at this task with Bridget Talbot, who wrote asking if Teresa could quickly find some supplies for Hospital 022 as the big new wards of around a hundred beds had ‘got no pillows, very few sheets and no bed covers.’

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)

The need for rapid expansion indicates the strain that the fighting was putting on war hospitals. Mrs Watkins’s team were run off their feet but it was worthwhile, as Teresa’s friend Julia assured her how grateful the wounded soldiers were for all the work that the nurses were doing for them.

The heroism of Mrs Watkins’s team is captured by E.V. Lucas in Outposts of Mercy, a pamphlet about the efforts of the Red Cross in Italy written during the First World War. E.V. Lucas visited Mrs Watkins’s team at Cervignano, where he met Teresa.

Outposts of Mercy by E.V. Lucas. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Outposts of Mercy by E.V. Lucas. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Lucas wrote of the danger that the team faced since Cervignano was ‘a constant target for Austrian aeroplanes.’ The nurses lived in ‘a tiny wooden cottage beside the rail, just big enough for the fires which boil the coffee and milk for the poor fellows in the trains, and anything but big enough for the ladies to dwell in comfort.‘ Photographs show that at this time, compared to later in the war, the uniform and equipment used by Teresa and her companions was basic.

Teresa Hulton (left) with Mrs Nott (centre) and Contessa Carafa (right) in a hut a Cervignano, northern Italy, May 1917.

Teresa Hulton (left) with Mrs Nott (centre) and Contessa Carafa (right) in a hut at Cervignano, northern Italy, May 1917.

E.V. Lucas gave a vivid picture of the women going about their work:

‘What the soldiers in an English hospital train stopping at a village station in Essex, say, would think of three Italian ladies, unassisted, carrying hot coffee and bread from bunk to bunk along two or three hundred yards of compartments, I cannot imagine; but the grateful Italians have come to look upon the converse phenomenon without surprise.’

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.

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.

The ministrations of Mrs Watkins’s team were especially useful as ‘the authorities have had to make the meal time-table inflexible, so that a wounded man, brought in just too late for, say, breakfast, would have no chance of food until lunch, even though he had long been fasting.’

Wounded soldier carried on a stretcher, Italy, taken between 1915 and 1918.

Wounded soldier carried on a stretcher, Italy, taken between 1915 and 1918.

To see a short British Pathé film of a railway station canteen during WWI, please click here.

The toll that the war had taken on armies of all countries by March 1916 was vast. Many people must have feared that they would be the next to hear the news of a loved one’s death. On the 6th of March Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen D’Abernon, wrote that her nephew had been killed. Already he had been wounded twice since he joined the army and since August 1914, 28 out of the 30 officers in his battalion had died.

Lady Helen Vincent, who became Viscountess D'Abernon from 1914.

Lady Helen Vincent, who became Viscountess D’Abernon from 1914.

For others, the war brought new opportunities. Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, secured a post as a secretary in the Intelligence Division for the Admiralty in London. On the 27th of March she began her work and was to hold the post for several months, although, as with nursing, she was to find it not to her taste.

Teresa and Gioconda in a gondola in 1908

Teresa and Gioconda in a gondola in 1908

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Lord Berwick was working in Paris at the British Embassy in early 1916 but he remained in contact with his Shropshire Yeomanry friends. From the 14th of March 1916 to April 1917 the 1/1st Shropshire Yeomanry was based in Egypt. The order to sail to Egypt was mentioned in a letter to Lord Berwick from H. Heywood-Lonsdale, an acquaintance in the Yeomanry. He wrote to Lord Berwick from Gorleston a most infernal hole where we have had the roof burnt down over our heads.’

Shropshire Yeomanry badge on Lord Berwick's uniform in the Attingham collection.

Shropshire Yeomanry badge on Lord Berwick’s uniform in the Attingham collection.

Heyward-Lonsdale also described possible future movements:

‘I rather think we shall go to Salonika very soon’ and he hoped that the regiment shall spend ‘next winter in Vienna.’

And commented on the war in France:

‘…your appreciation of the Verdun affair is interesting, we have heard 3 of the forts have fallen, hope French are preparing a surprise for the Bosch.’

[For a list of slang terms used at the Front, please click here and scroll to ‘Allies and enemies’.]

Lord Berwick’s friend, Heyward-Lonsdale also went on to explain entertainments for the Yeomanry:

‘A paper has been started, run by the Doctor and Guy Rogers THE SHROPSHIRE WAR PAPER on the lines of THE SPORTING TIMES. Poker parties carry on.’

 He thanked Lord Berwick for his letter and informed him that Berwick had a mess bill of £4.7s.11d outstanding.

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

Attingham

Demand for British war hospitals increased and in March 1916 the War Office took over Cross Houses workhouse, near Attingham, as a hospital. The 321 inmates were accommodated in other workhouses or hospitals. The workhouse was named the Berrington War Hospital due to its proximity to Berrington train station.

Berrington War Hospital, formerly the workhouse at Cross Houses, Shropshire.

Berrington War Hospital, formerly the workhouse at Cross Houses, Shropshire.

The Attingham and Berrington war hospitals worked closely together. Berrington was the central hospital, acting as a clearing hospital for wounded soldiers. Attingham was one of several auxiliary hospitals that received patients from Berrington. There were over 3,000 auxiliary hospitals in Britain.

Wounded soldiers were sent by train to Berrington station. The hospital bell was rung and to alert people at the hospital that there was a train load of wounded soldiers to be collected.

Wounded soldiers, a nurse and a dog outside Attingham Hall, c.1917.

Wounded soldiers, a nurse and a dog outside Attingham Hall, c.1917.

Hilda Evans, born in 1902, vividly recalled the first convoy of 127 soldiers arriving at Berrington station. In an oral history recording she explained that initially, there were no nurses here at all, and they had to collect the people round. My mother was one – to help until they got the nurses here. And when they used that awful mustard gas, in the First World War, the poor lads were brought here with great holes burnt in their backs. It was dreadful to see them, dreadful; shocking.’

The aftermath of a mustard gas attack on the Western Front in August 1918 as witnessed by the artist, John Singer Sargent. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1460)

The aftermath of a mustard gas attack on the Western Front in August 1918 as witnessed by the artist, John Singer Sargent. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1460)

To see a 1915 photograph of patients in a gas ward receiving a salt bath treatment for their mustard gas burns, please click here.

Hilda Evans also described how the wounded men came ‘straight from the trenches here, because we had to cut their clothes off and they’d be full of lice and all sorts of things. It was dreadful. And they used to make a big bonfire and burn all their old uniforms, because they couldn’t do any good with them.’

Troops of the 2nd Australian Division in a support line trench checking their shirts for lice, northern France, May 1916. © IWM (Q 582)

Troops of the 2nd Australian Division in a support line trench checking their shirts for lice, northern France, May 1916. © IWM (Q 582)


A guardian angel – February 1916

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

On the 2nd of February 1916 Bridget Talbot wrote to Teresa asking her to assist with finding bed spaces for an overload of patients that had arrived. She also asked for Teresa’s help in finding supplies for various Italian Red Cross hospitals. They were especially in need of shirts, nightshirts, sheets, pillowcases and bed covers. A photograph in one of Teresa’s photograph albums shows that the Italian army sometimes used wheeled carts drawn by dogs to carry supplies.

Dogs pulling carts containing supplies, northern Italy, taken between 1915 and 1917.

Dogs pulling carts containing supplies, northern Italy, taken between 1915 and 1917.

Things didn’t always run smoothly with Teresa’s work organising supplies. George Barbour of the First British Ambulance Unit for Italy commented:

Your six bales came today and I spent half an hour with the canteen folk trying to make out what the clever idiot who numbered the bales last had been trying to do. All your numbers had been either obliterated, printed over or used again to form other numbers and the order was completely muddled up.’

In addition to dealing with supplies and donations sent to Mrs Watkins’s team, in February Teresa was also working at an American Red Cross hospital in Florence. Evelyn Gordon-Watson, a Red Cross nurse who was a friend of Teresa’s, wrote: ‘how grateful everyone is, you are really a guardian angel.’

Letter concerning Teresa Hulton's work at the American Hospital in Florence, 1916.

Letter concerning Teresa Hulton’s work at the American Hospital in Florence, 1916.

Being so busy with war duties, the last thing that Teresa needed was to fall ill. Unfortunately she developed a cold and her sister, Gioconda, wrote to her warning her not to tire herself out doing housework. Teresa and the other nurses had to do their own housework in the chalet that they occupied. With the Hulton’s money difficulties and impact of the war on domestic labour, the family were also short of servants.

Teresa Hulton in white Red Cross uniform, 1916.

Teresa Hulton in white Red Cross uniform, 1916.

However, some of Teresa’s friends had worse problems to contend with. Evelyn Gordon-Watson wrote that one of the new huts at her hospital was shelled during the night, which frightened the patients. Luckily no one was hurt.

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.

Due to the difficulty of bringing nurses from Britain, early in 1916 the British Red Cross organised First Aid lectures. They were delivered in Rome by the eminent Italian surgeon Professor Bastianelli, along with a series of Home Nursing lectures conducted by Sister Mary Sales. Exams were held at the Villa Trento hospital near Udine, Northern Italy. Classes were also organised in Milan, Genoa and San Remo to try and recruit more Italian-speaking V.A.D.s.

The Villa Trento hospital, near Udine, northern Italy. © IWM (Q 83686)

The Villa Trento hospital, near Udine, northern Italy. © IWM (Q 83686)

The Villa Trento hospital during WWI. Image courtesy of the British School at Rome photographic collection.

The Villa Trento hospital during WWI. Image courtesy of the British School at Rome photographic collection.

In February 1916 Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, travelled from Florence to Surrey, England. Here she stayed with the family of John Fletcher, her grandmother’s half-brother.

Gioconda visited her friend, Lady Helen D’Abernon, who showed her the ‘instruments for anaesthesia all neatly stowed in a small dressing-case.’ Gioconda was not keen on nursing and in a letter to her sister added wryly: ‘of course I looked solemn & experienced as we discussed them!’

However, Gioconda still dreamed of playing a useful part in the war effort. She contemplated doing war work in England, possibly in a munitions factory. This was an interesting choice as such work was often done by lower class women.

Ministry of Munitions 1916 poster

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

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Throughout the war Lord Berwick kept in touch with friends that he had met in the Shropshire Yeomanry. One such example is H. Heywood Lonsdale, who wrote to Lord Berwick at the end of February 1916.

The Shropshire Yeomanry, early 1900s. Lord Berwick is stood on the far right on the back row,

The Shropshire Yeomanry, early 1900s. Lord Berwick is standing on the far right on the back row.

There are also a number of war era books belonging to Lord Berwick preserved at Attingham. This example is the ‘Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society’ published in 1916. Lord Berwick was Vice-President of the society.

1916 Transactions

A 1916 booklet owned by Lord Berwick

The first volume of the regular run of Transactions appeared in 1878 and the society is still going today. The Transactions are the chief means for publishing important and scholarly papers on the history and archaeology of Shropshire.

Attingham’s collection of Transactions dates mainly from the early 20th century and were read by the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick. Both had a keen interest in local history and natural history. Lord Berwick was an important member of The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Attingham

The convalescent hospital at Attingham was kept busy as casualties continued to mount. February 1916 saw the beginning of the Battle of Verdun, the most extended battle of the First World War. Verdun, located in the north-east of France, had been a French military base since Roman times.

The Outer Library at Attingham Park as a hospital ward during WWI

The Outer Library at Attingham Park as a hospital ward during WWI

Following a heavy bombardment, the German forces launched a major attack against the French intending to cause heavy casualties. Fighting continued until December 1916 and it is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 men died at Verdun.

French troops firing a rifle grenade in a trench in Fort 4 Vaux, February 1916. Fort Vaux was the second fort to fall during the Battle of Verdun. © IWM (Q 49098)

French troops firing a rifle grenade in a trench in Fort 4 Vaux, February 1916. Fort Vaux was the second fort to fall during the Battle of Verdun. © IWM (Q 49098)

To see a map of the Verdun battle sites, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.


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.


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.


‘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.


An all-consuming war – December 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

By December Teresa had given up most of her work with Belgian refugees at Edmonton, London. Although she continued helping at the Aldwych refugee centre, she was thinking of leaving and trying another form of war work.

Teresa (left), her sister Gioconda (centre) and their mother, Costanza (right), May 1909.

Teresa (left), her sister Gioconda (centre) and their mother, Costanza (right), May 1909.

In a letter to her sister, Teresa explained that she wanted to work as a nurse. Teresa may have been pleased when her cousin Rosemary suggested that she should join her working at a hospital in Dunkirk run by the Duchess of Sutherland. Click here to see a paining of the Duchess of Sutherland and here to discover more about her war work.

However, letters in the archive reveal that work at the Dunkirk hospital seemed to be just as exhausting as work with the Belgian refugees. Rosemary described how she often had to stay up most of the night as she was so busy. Many trains arrived at Dunkirk containing as many as 600 soldiers. There are some evocative paintings by French soldier, Victor Tardieu, which can be seen by clicking here and scrolling down.

Despite Rosemary’s description of the busy hospital, Teresa applied for the post of hospital secretary at Dunkirk. Unfortunately her application arrived too late as someone else had just been appointed. Undeterred, later in the month Teresa applied to work for the Postal Censor Bureau in London and was offered the job.

Censura mark on letter

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

Teresa had difficulties finding accommodation in London. She had been moving between the homes of various friends and relatives in the city since early summer. Teresa planned to stay in England more permanently to do war work, therefore, this arrangement was no longer practical. There are numerous letters written between her and friends who advised her on various Ladies’ Clubs where she could stay.

With the weather turning chilly, Teresa found that her wardrobe, which she had packed expecting to remain simply for the summer, was unsuited to the English winters. Gioconda sent Teresa ‘a box containing a muff & collar of hyena (or whatever it was) by sea.’ Gioconda was amused that ‘the captain refused to accept money for the stamps thinking the box contained clothes for the front.’

Teresa Hulton wearing her furs in November 1915 on the Italian Front.

Teresa Hulton wearing her furs in November 1915 on the Italian Front.

In Italy, their mother, Costanza, was making shirts for a soldier’s organisation. Despite the country remaining neutral, the war was very much in everyone’s thoughts.

This was even more so in England. On the 10th of December Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen Vincent, wrote ‘we all talk, think, sleep, eat of nothing but the war. I can hardly remember the time when I have spoken for more than two minutes of anything else. But when all this horror & suffering will end remains devilishly veiled & uncertain.’

Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D'Abernon

Lady Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D’Abernon

However, there were light-hearted moments. On the 23rd of December Teresa helped with the War Dependents’ entertainment put on by the London General Omnibus Company. Her help was much appreciated and the entertainment must have been a jolly start to the festive season. To see a poster for a similar event, please click here.

Teresa Hulton in 1912.

Teresa Hulton in 1912.

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

In December 1914 Lord Berwick was still with the Shropshire Yeomanry stationed on the East Coast of England as part of the Home Defence. For more information on the Shropshire Yeomanry, please click here.

On 16th December 1914 Lord Berwick wrote from The Royal Hotel in Lowestoft to Teresa Hulton:

‘we are kept rather busy here … If the Germans select to raid this point on the coast, my regiment is rather critically placed, as our Brigade is rather scattered, and we should have several hours to hold on before other troops can be brought up by train.’

Lord Berwick in his uniform.

Lord Berwick in his uniform.

Attingham

At the Attingham hospital the staff and wounded soldiers were preparing for a very different Christmas to that of 1913. The peaceful surroundings of Attingham Park must have been a blessing to the soldiers who came here 100 years ago.

The Outer Library at Attingham as a hospital ward for wounded soldiers.

The Outer Library at Attingham as a hospital ward for wounded soldiers c.1917.


Troubled times – November 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Despite its huge size the Aldwych centre, were Teresa worked at the start of the war, was full of refugees by November. Teresa played a vital role in helping refugees find work and dealt with travel expenses as refugees were moved all over Britain. Other refugees stayed in London with many finding work in armaments factories near Edmonton, north London.

Teresa was clearly much loved by the refugees that she helped. It must have been satisfying for her to receive many ‘thank you’ letters from refugees telling her how pleased they were in the situations that she had found for them.

Wounded Belgians in a Scottish hospital were also grateful for her help in finding their relatives. Many letters in our archive from the refugees are written in French. Teresa’s fluency in this language must have helped her communicate with the refugees and would have been reassuring to them in a foreign land. Members of the Interpreting Department of the Women’s Emergency Corps were often sent to help the Belgian refugees communicate with people in Britain.

Belgian refugees leaving Ypres, 2nd November 1914.

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

Despite this, the vast amount of work left Teresa tired. She wrote to her sister, Gioconda, explaining her busy daily routine:

this work at the Rink [Aldwych Centre] is so hard & finding that I come home quite exhausted and after dinner have to write letters and organise the refugee’s business. I go off at about 20 past 9 + from the moment I arrive at Aldwych am up to my eyes in work + besieged by refugees all clamouring to be allocated – we can just snatch half an hour for lunch… then go back to work again & never stop till 7! Then home, change, dinner & refugee correspondence interspersed with political discussions with darling Lady Wenlock who is so keen & insists on entering into long conversations when I am trying to write. I crawl off to bed about half past 10 or 11. I am so tired I simply cannot think to write! Irene comes back from Eastwick in a day or two & then I mean to work less hard at the Rink- for I have been in her place all this time.’

Teresa Hulton at a writing desk in her family home in Venice, 1913.

Teresa Hulton at a writing desk in her family home in Venice, 1913.

 

Another problem for Teresa was the Hulton’s financial situation. Allowances for all members of the family were cut because her father, William Hulton, had invested in Deutchsbank when in Munich and his investments were going badly. Her mother, Costanza, explained that the family annual income was reduced from £925.00 to£583.00 and that it might not be possible for them to afford to continue living in their Venetian home.

 

Teresa’s income from refugee work was helpful and she told Gioconda that she had ‘heaps of money and never any time for shopping!’ She wished that her sister could join her but lack of money and the war made this difficult. Instead she advised Gioconda to ‘work at the Red Cross work this winter in Florence.’ She commented: ‘I bitterly regret not to have done any of that.’

Gioconda, Teresa and their friend, Mary in St Marks Square, Venice, 1914.

Gioconda, Teresa and their friend, Mary in St Marks Square, Venice, 1914. Mary was Teresa’s close Hungarian friend and many letters from Mary remain in the Attingham archive.

Gioconda took her sister’s advice and wrote that she and her mother, Costanza, were thinking of beginning a course in Red Cross instruction. Feeling that the workload as a nurse would be less overwhelming for Teresa, Costanza suggested that she undertake a nursing course at Guy’s hospital, where Teresa’s friend Lady Helen Vincent was training to become a nurse. Costanza advised Teresa that a ‘woman who has small but chronic disability, like your headaches, is a fit person to be a nurse.’

 

Attingham

Although many local people were fond of the Attingham tenants, the Van Bergens, others were suspicious of the Dutch-American family. When two nephews came to visit the Van Bergens and took photographs of the view from the roof of Attingham many people thought that the boys were spies.

Attingham Hall during the early 1900s. View towards the west side of the house.

Attingham Hall during the early 1900s. View towards the west side of the house.

Besides the hospital that had been set up in the house, other areas of the Attingham estate were put to use for the war effort. The War Office used the stables rent free as stabling for remounts. Mules were trained to send overseas to the Front. In 1919 a detailed compensation claim for dilapidations caused to the stables at Attingham and Cronkhill was made for £584 10s 3d including £2 5s to ‘Renew linings to windows gnawed by mules.’ £500 was offered and the claim was settled.

The Stables at Attingham Park. Photographed by Country Life in 1921.

The Stables at Attingham Park. Photographed by Country Life in 1921.

 


The shadow of war – September 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

By September 1914 letters show that for many, the reality of war was beginning to sink in. Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen Vincent, wrote:

‘The awfulness of this gigantic war is being brought home here when we see so many wounded & increasingly worse accounts of one’s friends. A child bride of last year is today a widow.’

Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D'Abernon

Lady Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D’Abernon

 

Teresa too was moved and on the 10th September wrote to Lady Vincent that she would like to work with Belgian refugees. 160,000 Belgian refugees flooded into Britain between 1914 and 1915 as the Germans invaded Belgium. Upon arrival, many came to London where Teresa was staying with relatives.

 The Mayoress of Hampstead, London, with whom Teresa was to work, made a plea to help the refugees:

I appeal to the inhabitants of Hampstead for the Belgian Refugees, who consist mainly of women and children, and who are arriving here in hundreds almost daily. After the gallant resistance that Belgium has offered, with the result that their country is overrun by the German army, it is only right that we here in England, who are luckily exempt from this scourge of invasion, should do something to help these people who have lost their homes and all they possess. They are arriving absolutely penniless, and in most cases with only the clothes they stand up in.’

From The Tablet, September 1914.

To see British Pathé footage of Belgian refugees receiving help during WWI, please click here.

Belgian refugees outside Hudsons Furniture Repository, Victoria Station, London, September 1914. © IWM (Q 53305)

Belgian refugees outside Hudsons Furniture Repository, Victoria Station, London, September 1914. © IWM (Q 53305)

Lady Helen Vincent was well placed to help Teresa find work and got in touch with Edith de Mullway of the Aldwych Belgian refugee centre who arranged for Teresa to visit to see what duties were required.

The Aldwych centre was set up in a roller skating rink that had been taken over by the War Refugees’ Committee. Roller skating was popular in the Edwardian times and in 1911 the Aldwych roller skating rink was used as a meeting place for suffragettes. To view an interesting blog post about the Aldwych centre and its use before the war please click here.

 

The Old Skating Rink, Aldwych, in use as a clearing house for Belgian refugees, October 1915.

The Old Skating Rink, Aldwych, in use as a clearing house for Belgian refugees, October 1915. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2238)

 

The centre provided food and accommodation for the refugees and tried to find them work and homes. By the end of September Teresa was working as an allocator, helping Belgian families find homes and jobs in England. Many of them took the place of gardeners, labourers and servants as these roles were left empty as people were called up to war or left to do war work.

Teresa also dealt with donations and provisions sent to the centre, an important grounding for her later role in Red Cross hospital work in Italy. The Aldwych centre dispensed medicines and provided medical aid for an average of 60 patients daily. At the end of September there was an illness scare amongst the refugees and Gioconda wrote warning Teresa to be careful not to fall sick.

Teresa as a young woman

Teresa as a young woman

 

Although Italy remained neutral, it too was beginning to feel the effects of the war. Gioconda wrote that Italy’s commerce was affected by the war and that ‘there seems to be no money to spend & the outlook is very black.’ Gioconda gave a vivid account of how war affected the atmosphere in Venice by the end of September. She wrote:

‘Venice is very curious just now. Very few of the people generally to be seen at this time of the year, the Piazza almost deserted & of friends & acquaintances hardly a soul- on the other hand there are many suspicious looking individuals about- nondescript types both male & female- Then there are quantities of soldiers of every kind.’

 

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Lord Berwick was stationed with the Shropshire Yeomanry in Morpeth, Northumberland. To see a short film about the type of training he may have undertaken with his regiment, please click here.

The Shropshire Yeomanry, early 1900s

The Shropshire Yeomanry, early 1900s. Lord Berwick is on the right of the picture and is the last man on the back row.

 

Attingham

By January 1915 there were 25 Belgian refugee families in the Atcham rural district, the parish in which Attingham is located. They may have helped on the Estate.

Cutting the grass in the early 1900s at Attingham. This photograph was taken by the side of the Outer Library on the west side of the house.

Cutting the grass in the early 1900s at Attingham. This photograph was taken by the side of the Outer Library on the west side of the house.

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