Tag Archives: Uniform

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.


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.


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.


‘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.


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)