July 1914 dawned gloriously warm and sunny, with temperatures soaring to almost 30 degrees. In Folkestone, Mrs Armstrong and her daughters were looking forward to the inter-regimental polo tournament finals at Hurlingham, which King George V and Queen Mary were also attending. In Netheravon, Pat Armstrong had more serious business in mind. Dissatisfied with his mother’s living arrangements in a boarding house and her reticence on the subject, he decided to take matters into his own hands and find more suitable accommodation for the family. Things were a bit cooler in mid-winter New Zealand, where Colonel Algie Neill sat down after a long day’s work to warm himself by the fire while writing a letter to Mrs Armstrong. If any of them were aware of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, which had taken place on 28 June 1914, they made no mention of the fact. Indeed, although the assassination caused shockwaves across Europe, few believed that a few shots fired in Sarajevo would in a matter of weeks reverberate across Europe and wreak havoc on a global scale.
Ione and Harry on the steps of 14 Trinity Crescent, Folkestone
Monday 29 June
Did the flowers in the morning then did some tidying & mending, then read for a bit. Harry came for lunch, & afterwards, he told me, as a great secret! Then we went down to the cricket club for a bit, in the car, & came back here for tea. Ione walked to Shorncliffe station1 with Harry, to see him off. He is going up to London, to do his exam (qualifying). Lady Hothfield died this morning.
Tuesday 30 June
Did the flowers, then went down the town with Muz, & did some shopping. It was frightfully hot. Then I started making a new hat, & finished making another one. I worked at them from lunch time, till about six, & then went down the town again, with Muz. Then I did some washing, & got my things ready for tomorrow.
Enclosed is full particulars of that house I sent you the advertisement of. It looks rather nice & I think would be well worth having a look at. The rent is low but of course furnishing would be the trouble. Let me know what you think about it. It would be awfully nice to have a place like that wouldn’t it. Must be off now to a lecture.
Your loving Pat.
Wednesday 1 July
Muz & I went up to London by the 9-15, to see the semi-final of the inter-regimental, first we went & tried to find the Corrys to give them tickets, but couldn’t so left them at Selfridges, then had lunch there, & went down to Hurlingham, & saw the 1st Life Guards play the 15th Hussars, the L. G. won 6-4, a very good game. Then the 12th Lancers play the 16th Lancers. The 12th won 13-1. But we couldn’t wait to see the end of the game. Mr Wyndham-Quin (in the 12th) was crossed by Mr Brooke, & was hurt, so they played three a side, instead of putting the fifth man in. We came back by the seven train. It was dreadfully hot all day, & we were nearly baked.
Thursday 2 July
Did the flowers, then did some washing & mending, & worked at my hats. Muz & Ione went out in the car. I went down the town to do some shopping. At about seven, Mr Penrose & Mr Wright came in, to tell me that, they had chosen two more hats for me to try on! Captain MacGregor came in too, & stayed talking till nearly eight. The others went at about 7-30.
Friday 3 July
Did the flowers, then washed & sewed, & finished making my hat, with the pink top. After lunch, I went out in the car with Muz, & a private chauffeur gave her her first lesson, & she drove along the Canterbury road, & did it very well. Then she & I went round to see Mrs Lucas, but she was out. The she, Ione & I went to the theatre. It was an amateur thing that the Wiches got up, & a lot of the Folkestone people & soldiers, were acting “The Girl from Kays”. They did it very well. The place was crowded, so we could only get very back seats, at the last minute. All the men were in uniform. Mr Penrose, Roger, Mr Wright, & Mr O’Donivan, were in a box. When we came out, Mr Wright came & talked to us, & introduced us to Mr Massey-Westrop, & then they walked home with us.
I’ve been writing to Jess & got frozen at my writing table so have come over to the fire hence the pencil which please excuse, but I can’t manage ink sitting as I am with my nose half way up the chimney. Lovely times you had on your visit to Pat. Pity you could not be here this week to have Hottea Ham with me – I brought one today & have given it to my housekeeper to Hot for the shootists. I had a grand run down to Ashburton & back (84) miles today – the wee car was going splendidly. Tomorrow the shootists arrive & stay till Wednesday when Dad comes up to stay, I hope, for a month. Very nice of you to send me the wee flower plucked by Jess, of course it’s quite dead but as you say it was plucked by her & it’s gone into a wee keepsakebox of mine – I’m a very sentimental being Mrs Armie.
‘I am a very sentimental being Mrs Armie’
It’s a terrible pity Pat doesn’t give that Dusky to Jess I believe he would if he only knew what she was to Jess. Mrs Armie I [am] getting quite warm here now. Driving that wee car at a good bat in the middle of winter is a cold job & I’m only just starting to thaw. I wonder what you thought of the cutting I sent Jess about the Cruelty to Animals. I loved the postcard you sent it was really very clever & I should say very descriptive of your condition during your visit to Salisbury. You seem to have had a ripping good time down there. Mrs Armie is there any chance your coming out to see me. You never say anything about it so I presume it’s a hopeless wish on my part – but all the same do tell me if you think there is any chance of you coming. I am getting rid of my head shepherd who has turned out a most rotten type of man. He accused me of sending a man up to the upper homestead to spy on him & from the way I have heard him speak of his previous masters I think he must be a pretty good rotter. When mustering on the mountains here in the autumn I took the boots off my feet & blankets off my bed & gave them to him because I did not think his own were good enough & this is the rotten sort of return he makes, I shall be heartily glad to see him off the place. The extraordinary thing is he came to me with most excellent references but I think some of the writers would be surprized if they could have heard themselves discussed as I have heard them. I hear he has been trying to get all the other men to leave me but I’m glad they have sufficient sense not to chuck their billets for [a] rotter like him. I am glad Gordie likes his new job I thought there must have been some mistake when I saw in the paper that the other fellow had been appointed but G’s appointment must have been later than the one I saw. Good-night dear Mrs Armie.
My best love to you all
Saturday 4 July
Further particulars of a property for sale
Muz, Ione & I went up to London. We were going up by the 8-30, but the taxi didn’t come, so we went by the 9-15. We met Pat & Harry at the Berner’s Hotel, & had lunch there, & then went down to Hurlingham, for the final of the inter-regimental. Harry couldn’t come with us as Lady Hothfield was only buried the day before yesterday. We got down there at about two, to get places, but the game didn’t begin till four. The 1st Life Guards V 12th Lancers. The 12th won 8-6. They had a very good game. There was an awful crowd, but it wasn’t too hot. We came back by underground, & met Jim & Kicks at the station, for a few minutes. Pat came back with us. Captain Welch came down about some scouts, & came in to see us while we were having dinner. We went to bed at about twelve. I wore the hat that I made yesterday.
Sunday 5 July
Muz & I went to early service, & then went down & looked at the car, & then went down to see Capt. Welch, at the West Cliffe Hotel, & had breakfast with him. The others went out on the front, I washed & mended, & did the flowers, & some tidying. Pat went away by the three train, & we went up to see him off. I then went to the band. Muz went & sat with the Lucases, & Tom & I walked about for a bit. Mr Wright, Mr O’Donivan, Mr Leeching [?], Mr Davison & a friend of his, Mr Hogg, came for tea. They went at about 7-15, & Muz & I went to church, & got in just before the sermon. Capt Welch stayed for dinner, but had to get back to his boy scout camp in Hythe, by 9-30.