Tag Archives: Mrs Gordon-Watson

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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)