Tag Archives: Dunkirk

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.