Tag Archives: Ypres

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.



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)



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.




‘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.



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.

Kitchener in petticoats – October 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

October was to be a busy month for Teresa who continued her work in London dealing with donations of money and clothes for the Belgian refugees as well as helping them to find work, such as sewing, working on farms, giving music lessons and working as gardeners. Letters show how grateful the refugees were for her help, particularly when she helped reunite them with their families.

Belgian refugees receiving clothes, Ostend, 28th August 1914

Belgian refugees receiving clothes, Ostend, 28th August 1914. © IWM (Q 53217)


As well as working at the refugee centre at Aldwych, Teresa also found work at a centre for Belgian refugees at Millfield House, Edmonton, which had formerly been a workhouse. Teresa proudly described her work in a letter to her sister Gioconda:

‘My Millfield House Refuge is going most beautifully. My only fear is now that the refugees will soon give out – I shall be upset giving up this work – I got 35 to Darlington today, 50 to Brunner, Mond & Co, Northwich tomorrow, 50 to Keighley etc. besides various smaller departures. Everyone seems quite pleased with me + my work and I think you may say a little about my achievements for I quite inspire respect!’

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.

Gioconda replied that she followed Teresa’s ‘instructions to brag a little about’ her war work. Gioconda told her sister:

‘I expect that by the time you come back to Venice, (if Venice exists any more & is not reduced to a heap of muddy bricks) you will have gained the reputation of being Kitchener in petticoats.’

Lord Kitchener poster

Lord Kitchener poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 2734)


Teresa was enthusiastic to help the war effort as much as she could and applied for work censoring letters. The disappointing reply which she received shows the prejudices that many women faced at the time. She was told:

I do not know if they would allow a lady to do the work of censoring letters, and I am afraid you would find it very uncomfortable working in camp; and of course you could not live here, as it would be still more uncomfortable and rough for you.’

 Teresa had applied to carry out this work at Frith Hill camp, a prisoner of war camp in Surrey that Londoners came to visit as a day trip! To see more information on the Frith Hill camp please click here.

Postcard of the Frith Hill camp, Surrey.

Postcard of the Frith Hill camp, Surrey. Image courtesy of Picture Postcards from the Great War 1914-1918.


Teresa was far from the only lady pushing against the constraints placed on women. Gioconda’s friend told her of a newly married lady who went with her husband to Galicia dressed as a soldier but was discovered and sent back.

October also saw the Hultons affected by the tragedy of war. A family friend, Katherine Bernard, lost her younger son and wrote to thank Teresa for her condolences. She described that though she felt sometimes that she ‘couldn’t bear the idea of never seeing him again in this world’ she tried to find comfort in the fact that she knew where her son’s grave was and that his actions were ultimately successful, writing ‘It seems to give one immense Brotherhood all this sacrifice + suffering for so fine a cause!’

Katherine was far from alone in her loss. October 1914 marked the beginning of the First Battle of Ypres fought over a strategically important Belgian town. The battle left around 56,000 British casualties.

First Battle of Ypres, 1914. Distrubution of mail on the roadside near Ypres. The 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards, October 1914.

First Battle of Ypres, 1914. Distrubution of mail on the roadside near Ypres. The 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards, October 1914. © IWM (Q 57197)



With casualties of war mounting, Attingham Park Auxiliary Military Hospital was much needed when it opened on the 20th of October. The first patients were Belgian officers and privates. The Outer Library was used as a ward and had previously contained a billiard table but this was moved to the Picture Gallery when the hospital began. In 1914 there were only 11 beds and this had increased to 60 by 1918.

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

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

Mrs van Bergen, the tenant at Attingham, was the Commandant of the Attingham hospital and she was in charge of all hospital affairs except for medical and nursing services. Medical attendance was provided locally and voluntarily, with Mr R. de Salis Stawell, a medical practitioner in Shrewsbury, acting as the surgeon. Mr R. de Salis Stawell  was later awarded an OBE for his war work. Two nurses, Sister West and Sister Johnson, were joined by numerous staff in other functions as well as medical staff from nearby Berrington hospital if required. Many local women volunteered at the hospital.

Mrs Van Bergen (left) and a nurse at Attingham Park during WWI

Mrs Van Bergen (left) and a nurse at Attingham Park during WWI

Convoys of wounded soldiers usually went straight to Military Base Hospitals before being sent to the voluntary hospitals, but in Shropshire trains came straight from Southampton or Dover. Initially there were no ambulances and hospitals had to rely on the kindness of tradesmen in Shrewsbury for the use of their commercial vehicles and on loans of private cars. To view footage of soldiers leaving a ship and boarding an ambulance please click here.

Wounded soldiers and nurses in a car at Attingham Park during WWI

Wounded soldiers and nurses in a car at Attingham Park during WWI.

The patients at Attingham were generally less seriously wounded than at other hospitals and needed convalescence. The servicemen preferred the auxiliary hospitals to military hospitals because they were not so strict, less crowded and the surroundings more homely. Photographs show the Outer Library ward with flowers and pretty bedspreads. By 1918 there was an average number of 33 patients resident daily and on average patients stayed for over a month.

Nurses and wounded soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham Park during WWI

Nurses and wounded soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham Park during WWI.