Collections from the First World War

Our collections include items that bring to life the many stories of those who experienced the war, on the battlefield and at home.

    An officer's dressing case

    The dressing case once belonged to the Hon. Thomas Agar-Robartes (1880-1915). Thomas, or ‘Tommy’ as he was more usually known, was killed at the Battle of Loos whilst serving with the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards. His effects, including this case, complete with solver and ivory monogramed fittings by Asprey & Co. of London, was returned to the family soon after his death. It is currently on display in his bedroom at Lanhydrock House in Cornwall.

    Photo of Lady Berwick

    Edith Teresa Hulton, Lady Berwick (1890-1872) worked for the British Red Cross at Cervignano in Italy, following the outbreak of the First World War. She received the Croce di Guerre from the King of Italy.

    Lady Berwick served in the First World War before her marriage in 1919, and later asked her mother to send over some aprons for 'messing at Attingham'. She also played the piano in a charity concert to raise money for the Nurses Association.

    A letter case from Ellen Terry

    This letter case was given to a soldier by Ellen Terry, on 24 September 1917, in gratitude for his giving his seat to her on a train. Inside was a photograph of Ellen Terry, which had written on the back 'This old letter case has brought me luck, I have had it for 24 years – will you mind it and have it for luck? My best thanks for giving me your seat. I have not even a cigarette to give.'

    Unfortunately it appears that the soldier was killed in the war, but his things were returned to his family, and as an old lady his daughter or niece donated the case to us in 1990.

    Wartime bread and butter

    A Staffordshire plate, part of a set known as the War Time Bread and Butter set, dated 1917, with a special message from Lloyd George, at Arlington Court. The inscription reads ‘I have no hesitation in saying that economy in the consumption & use of food in this country is a matter of the greatest importance to the empire at the present time.

    'Ally' teddy bear

    This ‘Ally’ teddy bear has his home at our Museum of Childhood at Sudbury Hall and was manufactured around 1916 by Harwin & Co. Ltd, in north London. The business was established in 1914, by G. W. Harwin after there was an import ban on German-produced goods after the declaration of the First World War.

    ‘Ally’ bears were designed as part of a series of mascots in uniforms for the Allied Forces in the First World War. This bear is dressed in the uniform of a British Officer and is a rare item; it is unusual today to find a bear of this type fully clothed.