Tag Archives: Lord Berwick

A musical interlude – April 1916

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Although the war had brought dramatic changes for Teresa, many aspects of her life went on as they had before the war. In particular, her interest in music persisted. In April 1916 Teresa was invited to a dinner party given by Edith, Countess Rucellai and she was asked to play the piano to entertain everyone as she had often done before the war.

Teresa (left) and her sister Gioconda (right) in their home in Venice, early 1900s.

Teresa (left) and her sister Gioconda (right) in their home in Venice, early 1900s.

Teresa was a skilled musician and had been trained as a professional concert pianist. At the age of fifteen she became the pupil of the admired Swiss pianist Fraulein Wilhelmina Adler in Munich, Germany. She had to practise for three hours a day and had two piano lessons daily. In 1907 she returned to Venice where she became the pupil of Baron Giorgio Franchetti.

The Rucellai family, who invited Teresa to play in April 1916, had been friends of the Hultons since before the war. Letters in the archives show that they often sent donations to the war hospitals where Teresa worked.

Nurses, staff and patients at the Infermeria Britannica (British Hospital) in Florence, Italy, 1916.

Nurses, staff and patients at the Infermeria Britannica (British Hospital) in Florence, Italy, 1916.

As well as donations of items like sheets and bandages, war hospitals needed food supplies for the wounded soldiers. British Red Cross V.A.D. members worked as cooks in British Military Hospitals in places like Genoa, Bordighera, Cremona, Arquata Scrivia and Taranto. On average they prepared and served 40,000 meals per month. Dishes for the recovering soldiers included jellies, broth, custard and chicken soufflé.

Teresa (centre) with Contessa Carafa (left) and Mrs Nott (right), Joanniz, in the Udine province of northern Italy, May 1917.

Teresa (centre) with Contessa Carafa (left) and Mrs Nott (right), Joanniz, in the Udine province of northern Italy, May 1917.

Food was prepared for the canteen where Teresa worked at Cervignano by an Italian man, Ernesto. Photographs of him survive in Teresa’s wartime photograph album.

Photos of Ernesto in the Zona di Guerra 1916-1918 album.

Photos of Ernesto in the Zona di Guerra 1916-1918 album.

Click here to see a short British Pathé film of a railway station canteen.

Click here to see a film about lunchtime in a hospital in Southport, Lancashire.

Teresa’s uncle, Gino Villari, the half-brother of her mother, begun a new army post in Salonika, Greece. Her father wrote to her giving her Gino’s new address, although he added that he was ‘uncertain as to whether [Gino] will be comfortable in his new post.’

Luigi (Gino) Villari on horseback, Salonika, January 1918.

Luigi (Gino) Villari on horseback, Salonika, January 1918.

Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, was not enjoying her new job as a secretary in the Admiralty Intelligence Division in London. Gioconda complained that she had not been paid for her work and received few days off.

Gioconda, Florence, February 1916.

Gioconda, Florence, February 1916.

The Hulton family were also beset by the worry that the Austrian-Hungarian army would destroy Venice before the end of the war. Teresa’s father, William Hulton, wrote in a letter that he thought it might be a good idea to deposit valuables elsewhere.

William Stokes Hulton, Venice, 1907.

William Stokes Hulton, Venice, 1907.

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

In 1916 Lord Berwick was working as an Honorary Secretary to the British Embassy in Paris, but he had kept military books that he bought before and at the beginning of the war when he was in the Shropshire Yeomanry.

Advertisements for military publications and waterproofs in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

Advertisements for military publications and waterproofs in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

One particularly interesting book is Company Drill Illustrated (1914) which includes illustrations of commands and signals that Lord Berwick would have used in the Yeomanry.

Commands and signals in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

Commands and signals in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

The book is currently kept in the Inner Library at Attingham Park. Inside it is a paper with a list of questions that a commander should ask himself before attack. This was possibly left as a bookmark by Lord Berwick.

This book also includes many advertisements. These range from advertisements for pyjamas, a series of military books, coal-tar shaving soap and waterproof clothing to an advertisement for Turkish Baths in London guaranteed to ease illnesses associated with serving in the war.

Advertisement for pyjamas in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

Advertisement for pyjamas in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

 

Attingham

The Van Bergens, who were Lord Berwick’s tenants at Attingham during the war, were especially concerned for the welfare of wounded soldiers. As well as suggesting that Attingham was used as a war hospital the Van Bergens took a great interest in the Royal Salop Infirmary in Shrewsbury.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

Mrs Van Bergen was on the Ladies’ Auxiliary Committee whilst Mr Van Bergen was involved with the committee weekly board, the finance committee and the committee for appointing medical staff. The Van Bergens also donated ten guineas to the Royal Salop Infirmary. The Infirmary is now the Parade shopping centre. For more information and for images, please click this link.

Lord Berwick’s Land Agent, Louis Dease, was asked by the Government to use wood from the Attingham estate to help to supply railway sleepers to be sent to France for railway lines.

The egg collection set up to provide eggs for use in Shropshire war hospitals was going well with 67,110 eggs collected in 1916.

World War One egg collection poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10833)

World War One egg collection poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10833)

For 2016 the Walled Garden team at Attingham put on a display about food production during the war. They grew WW1 varieties of vegetables and there were even some hens to see!

 

 


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


A kindred spirit – January 1916

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

In January 1916 a new member of Mrs Watkins’s team joined Teresa at the Italian front. Her name was Bridget Talbot and she was to form a firm friendship with Teresa, keeping in touch with her for many years.

Bridget Talbot, October 1917. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Bridget Talbot, October 1917. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Teresa and Bridget’s lives have marked similarities, both in terms of their wartime experiences prior to working in Italy and afterwards. Furthermore, like Teresa, Bridget became the owner of a beautiful house, Kiplin Hall, which she was keen should be preserved for posterity. Like Attingham, today Kiplin Hall is open to the public.

Kiplin Hall, North Yorkshire. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Kiplin Hall, North Yorkshire. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Prior to working on the Italian front, Bridget had organised the Little Gaddesden Cooperative Allotment scheme in her home village near Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. When Belgian refugees fled to England after the German invasion in August 1914 Bridget was on the Belgian Refugee Committee, which organised depots at Alexandra Palace and Earls Court in London to house refugees.

Bridget Talbot as a girl. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Bridget Talbot as a girl. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

In 1914 she attended a training course in home nursing and First Aid to prepare her to work as a war nurse. In January 1916 Bridget travelled through France to the Austrian-Italian war zone. She worked alongside Teresa and other nurses at First Aid stations and canteens at Cervignano and Cormons to assist wounded Italian soldiers as they went by train to the base hospitals.

Bridget Talbot, early 1900s. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Bridget Talbot, early 1900s. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Bridget’s diary entry for the 5th of February 1916 gives a vivid picture of the arduous and frightening experiences that the women faced. She wrote:

rose at 5 in the pitch dark to do train of wounded. Felt very weird & warlike crawling down feeding men by the light of a lantern with the sun rising over the A. hills.

Bridget Talbot (centre) and soldiers, taken during her time working with Mrs Watkins in Northern Italy.

Bridget Talbot (centre) and soldiers, taken during her time working with Mrs Watkins in Northern Italy. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Like Teresa, Bridget was involved with a variety of work on the Italian Front. For example, Bridget helped Countess Gleichen and Mrs Hollings develop X-rays at the Villa Trento hospital. Sometimes they worked in a Red Cross car, experiencing Austrian fire at close quarters. Between December 1915 and October 1917 12,600 X-ray examinations were made by the sisters and their team. Interestingly, when Teresa had moved to Shropshire after her marriage to Lord Berwick, she received a telegram from Countess Gleichen asking if Lutwyche Hall, Wenlock Edge, was haunted!

Teresa Hulton (far right) in a Red Cross vehicle at the Villa Trento, 1916.

Teresa Hulton (far right) in a Red Cross vehicle at the Villa Trento, 1916.

Bridget remained with Mrs Watkins’s team until 1919, when she moved to Turkey to work with Russian refugees. After the war she was awarded the Italian Medal for Valour, the Croce di Guerra, and an O.B.E. In WWII Bridget invented a torch for life-jackets which saved the lives of many men in the Merchant Navy, Navy and RAF. Bridget focused particularly on the Merchant Navy whose ships, containing food for Britain, had been fiercely targeted by enemy ships during WWI.

Bridget Talbot at a horse show behing the Italian-Austrian front line in September 1918. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Bridget Talbot at a horse show behind the Italian-Austrian front line in September 1918. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

From the 1920s onwards Bridget worked tirelessly to save the threatened country houses and estates of Britain. This included helping to persuade the National Trust to purchase 5,000 acres of woodland on the Ashridge estate.

Bridget Talbot, c.19150. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Bridget Talbot, c.1950. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Her struggle to save Kiplin Hall lasted for over forty years. She tried to interest many organisations in using the house, from educational to social welfare and environmental bodies. Bridget visited Lord and Lady Berwick at Attingham on several occasions and like them wished to leave her home to the National Trust. However, the agents for the National Trust at the time refused to accept Kiplin Hall. Bridget took matters into her own hands and in order to preserve the house she set up the Kiplin Hall Trust in 1968. The Kiplin Hall Trust still manages the house today.

Bridget Talbot in her later years. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Bridget Talbot in her later years. Image courtesy of Kiplin Hall.

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Before the war, whilst studying at Trinity College, Oxford, Lord Berwick became friends with the Oxford don and Classical scholar R.W. Raper. In 1902, Raper recommended that Lord Berwick try for a position in the Foreign Office as an Honorary Attaché. The following year Lord Berwick’s diplomatic uniform was made and it remains in store at Attingham today. The uniform consists of a hat, coat, trousers, sword belt, sword and scabbard. To see these objects, please search ‘609711’ on the National Trust Collections website.

Bicorn hat, part of Lord Berwick's diplomatic uniform made in 1903.

Bicorn hat, part of Lord Berwick’s diplomatic uniform made in 1903.

At the beginning of 1916, Lord Berwick was once again working in Paris at the British Embassy. He remained involved with the British Embassy in Paris and assisted with the peace negotiations at the end of the war.

Lord Berwick as a young man at Oxford University, c.1898. His uncle, the 7th Baron Berwick, died in 1897 and Thomas became the new owner of the Attingham estate.

Lord Berwick as a young man at Oxford University, c.1898. His uncle, the 7th Baron Berwick, died in 1897 and Thomas became the new owner of the Attingham estate.

Attingham

In January 1916 the Military Service Act was introduced conscripting able-bodied single men aged eighteen to forty-one. The huge losses to the British army and the fact that fewer men were volunteering to fight meant that such measures were deemed necessary. The introduction of conscription meant that more women workers were needed to take the place of men called up to fight.

Parliamentary Recruiting Committee Poster No.151, 1916. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 5253)

Parliamentary Recruiting Committee Poster No.151, 1916.       © IWM (Art.IWM PST 5253)

The increasing losses and injuries suffered by those in the British army are illustrated by the many casualties that the Attingham hospital, and other nearby hospitals, saw during 1916. In 1916 a total of eighteen ambulance trains came to Shrewsbury with 2,838 men.

Nurses and soldiers at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

Nurses and soldiers at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

Growing numbers of wounded men needed tending and feeding. However, for people throughout Britain, the war was taking its toll on the amount of supplies brought in from overseas. In 1916 commodities began to go up in price and the financial strain on war hospitals in Britain was heavy. However, the Shropshire hospitals were complimented by the Red Cross Headquarters in London for running their hospitals at a lower cost than those in other counties.

Nurses and soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham, c.1917.

Nurses and soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham, c.1917.


Deck the halls with…paperchains! – December 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

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

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

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

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

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

British Red Cross Letter in the Attingham Archive.

British Red Cross Letter in the Attingham Archive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Attingham

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


Summer holidays – July 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

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

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

V.A.D. apron in IWM collection.

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

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

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

Lord Berwick's military books

Lord Berwick’s military books.

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

Regulations for the Imperial Yeomanry, 1903

Regulations for the Imperial Yeomanry, 1903.

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

Field Report books, unknown date.

Field Report books, unknown date.

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

List of men in platoon.

List of men in platoon.

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

Manual of Map Reading and Field Sketching, 1914.

Manual of Map Reading and Field Sketching, 1914.

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

Manual of Elementary Military Hygiene, 1914.

Manual of Elementary Military Hygiene, 1914.

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

Attingham

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

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

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

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

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

Attingham Stables, 1925.

Attingham Stables, 1925.


Nurse Hulton – June 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

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

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

First World War advert for aprons

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

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

Photograph of Teresa Hulton in a blue silk Red Cross headdress

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

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

Teresa Hulton's Red Cross armband

Teresa Hulton’s Red Cross armband.

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

Teresa Hulton's Red Cross 1917 ID card

Teresa Hulton’s Red Cross 1917 ID card

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

Attingham

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

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

Ministry of Munitions 1916 poster

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

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

Captain Van Bergen

Captain Van Bergen, c.1917.

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

The Sultana Room at Attingham.

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

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

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

Soldiers recovering on the Colonnade c.1917

Soldiers recovering on the Colonnade c.1917

Men at Attingham, c.1917.

Men at Attingham, c.1917.

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

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


Heading for Italy – May 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

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

Belgian refugee children, 1918

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

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

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

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

Strand Workhouse Edmonton from north entrance to Belgian Refuge c 1915

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

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

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

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

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

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

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

Teresa's Italian Red Cross Certificate, 1915

Teresa’s Italian Red Cross Certificate, 1915

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

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

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

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

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

 

Attingham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A tiresome time – April 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

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

Censura mark on letter

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

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

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

Teresa's mother, Costanza, 1913.

Teresa’s mother, Costanza, 1913.

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

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

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

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

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

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

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

Teresa Hulton in 1914.

Teresa Hulton in 1914.

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

Teresa with two dogs, Potten, England, 1915.

Teresa with two dogs, Potten, England, 1915.

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

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

Teresa Hulton in 1913.

Teresa Hulton in 1913.

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

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

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

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

 

Attingham

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

 

 

 


A piece of cake – February 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

As well as helping at two centers for Belgian refugees, doing secret intelligence work and working in the postal censorship office, Teresa made time to lend a hand at events put on to raise funds to help the war effort. On the 16th February 1915 Teresa and some of her friends were selling at a sale of cakes and preserves in aid of a Belgian field hospital.

Teresa and her stall at the Attingham garden fête, 1924

Teresa and her stall at the Attingham garden fête, 1924.

Teresa did all that she could to help the Belgian refugees and had taken one of the young Belgian boys, Adolf Keyeux, under her wing. He was especially bright and Teresa made an effort to help him with his education. Eventually she assisted him in gaining a place to study in Leeds. Throughout the war he sent letters and cards to her, updating her on his progress and asking for her advice and assistance.

Teresa reading in 1912

Teresa reading in 1912.

Other people who were also concerned with the care of the Belgian refugees had more trouble. On the 28th February Teresa received a letter from H. E. Ayris who had taken on Monsieur and Madam Busscherts, a refugee couple who had come from the Edmonton centre, London.

Belgian refugees leaving Ypres, 2nd November 1914.

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

 

The Busscherts had just had a baby, which was putting pressure on Mr Ayris’s resources. He wrote asking Teresa whether he could seek financial help from the committee established to care for Belgian refugees. Times were hard for the Busscherts family as their Belgian landlord threatened to seize their possessions unless they forwarded him rent money.

As well as assisting the refugees, Teresa was also keen to help her own family, especially her sister, Gioconda, who found it difficult to settle to doing war work. Gioconda wanted to join Teresa working with the refugees in London but their mother, Costanza, felt that it might be ‘too much responsibility. She is so dependant and has so little initiative, and if she only has you to lean upon, you may find her too heavy.

Gioconda in Italy, 1908.

Gioconda in Italy, 1908.

 

Attingham

1915 marked the beginning of a busy few years for the British Red Cross hospitals in Shropshire. In 1915 a total of twelve ambulance trains came to Shrewsbury with 1,666 men. About forty were taken to the Royal Salop Infirmary and many soldiers were so badly wounded that they had to be carried to the institution on a hand ambulance. In February Mrs Van Bergen, the tenant at Attingham Hall, visited the Royal Salop Infirmary, eager to do all that she could for the wounded soldiers.

Wounded soldiers and a nurse at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

Wounded soldiers and a nurse at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

As the Commandant of the Attingham hospital, Mrs Van Bergen’s uniform would have been much grander than that worn by the nurses as a mark of her higher rank. Her uniform would have consisted of a scarlet two-piece jacket and skirt, a blouse with a collar and tie and a hat with a ribbon and a badge of rank.

(Source: Storey, Neil R. & Housego, Molly (2010) Women in the First World War, Shire Books)

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

The convalescent hospital at Attingham took in many patients. Less badly injured or recovering soldiers were taken in ambulance wagons or in borrowed motor cars to local military hospitals like the one at Attingham. Helpfully, a motor ambulance, funded by members of the Ludlow Race Society, had been presented to the Shropshire Red Cross Society in January 1915. To see a British Pathé film of WWI ambulance vehicles, please click here.

Motor car at the front of Attingham Hall, c.1917.

Motor car at the front of Attingham Hall, c.1917.

Mr Van Bergen wrote to Lord Berwick’s Land Agent, Louis Dease, in February 1915 asking if it would be possible to make two tennis courts at a corner of the field near the river. He also mentioned that grooms with the army, which used Attingham’s stables to train mules and horses to send to the Front, sometimes left the gates open and livestock escaped.

February must have been a worrying month for many people in Britain as Germany declared that the waters around Britain were a war zone in which naval, merchant and passenger ships could be sunk without warning. On 18th February 1915 German U-boat attacks began and soon the number of ships being sunk was outstripping the number being built.

Lifebelt from HMS Formidable, sunk on the 1st January 1915 in the English Channel by torpedoes from German U-boat U24. © IWM (MAR 66)

Lifebelt from HMS Formidable, sunk on the 1st January 1915 in the English Channel by torpedoes from German U-boat U24. © IWM (MAR 66)