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Duty Calls: Kiplin Hall in Times of War
THE FIRST WORLD WAR – Bridget Talbot
Bridget Talbot’s war began in summer 1914, when she attended training courses in home nursing and first aid. She also organised the Little Gaddesden Cooperative Allotment scheme in her home village near Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire to ensure local food production. When Belgian refugees fled to England after the German invasion in August, Bridget was on the Belgian Refugee Committee, which organised depots at AlexandraPalace and Earls Court in London to house them.
In January 1916, Bridget travelled through France to the Italian-Austrian war zone. She worked with Mrs Watkins, who set up first aid stations and canteens at Cervignano and Cormons to assist wounded Italian soldiers as they went by train to the base hospitals. Her report of April 1918 says:
Our principal work was feeding and tending the wounded in the trains, administering first aid in our chalet and assisting the Italian Red Cross Doctor in the station….over fifty thousand passed through in six months.
Bridget’s diary for 5 February 1916 notes: 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 was very close to the fighting, with gunfire and bombing all around at times. She also helped at local field hospitals and worked with Countess Gleichen and her sister, Mrs Hollings, at nearby Villa Trento, developing X-rays in the Red Cross car, often under Austrian fire. From June 1917, Bridget ran a canteen for British troops of the 7th Division, although things did not always go smoothly.
I had a terrific day yesterday dealing out thousands of cigarettes to all the batteries from 9.30 to 6 when Gen. H. came down and gave us a very fierce lesson in storekeeping and accounts for 2 hours …He is an extraordinary person for going into every detail and now I have to deal with 6 or 7 army accounts books. I am sure I shall make a hideous mess of it - Letter to her sister Kathleen, 12 June 1917
Bridget's letters and diary give a remarkable flavour of the danger and the fun she experienced during the war.
She remained with the Red Cross until 1919 and was awarded the Italian medal for valour, the Croce al merito di Guerra, and, in 1920, the O.B.E.
The end of the war was not the end of Bridget’s war work. In 1920, she went to Touzla camp near Constantinople, which housed 2000 Russian war refugees. She later set up a co-operative farm colony for refugees in Asia Minor.
Images: Top - Bottom
Bridget's letters were typed and circulated round the family, perhaps by Kathleen. 1915 is an error - the year was 1916.
Time for fun was much needed during the war. A smiling Bridget Talbot (centre) attends a horse show behind the Italian-Austrian front line in September 1918.
Bridget Talbot was awarded the Italian Croce al Merito di Guerra for her war work.
Duty Calls: Kiplin Hall in Times of War from Civil War to Second World War is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is part of a series of exhibitions and activities exploring the impact of war on the country house and its communities, on show throughout Yorkshire in 2014. Duty Calls is a Yorkshire Country House Partnershipproject. For more information visit: www.ychp.org.uk.