Having travelled to the Staff College in Hesdin with some reservation, Pat Armstrong found himself enjoying the six-week course. So had Walter Guinness (later 1st Baron Moyne and director of the Guinness brewing firm), who had undergone the course a few months earlier. Describing the daily routine of the college in his diary, Guinness noted: “In the morning we generally had certain actual operation orders of either Armies or Corps given to us and proceeded from them to work out our orders in syndicates in which we daily changed places and filled different posts. In the afternoon we had conferences and criticisms of our own and the Instructors’ productions and the evenings were generally spent at a lecture by some expert from outside. Towards the end of the course when things got organized there was perhaps a tendency to give us more to do than we were properly able to assimilate, but I certainly learnt a lot and had a very interesting time.”
Monday 12 March
Muz,Tom & I walked into the town & did some shopping, & then met Janet, & we walked out together. We had lunch early, & then drove over to Broseley1 in the waggonette, & bought some china. There is one shop with finished china, & one with unfinished. We got back at about 5-30, it was a lovely drive. Then I ran the whole way into the town, to get the post, but was too late. Muz & Heppie walked in slower.
I got a wire from you yesterday which I can’t make head or tail of. “Don’t let her do it writing”. I hope to get the letter to-morrow when we get back but I don’t know what it is at present. I wasn’t able to see her on the way down as we didn’t go that way. This has been quite a good trip. We started at 12 o’c yesterday & then saw an aeroplane sqdn on the way, had tea at St Omer & then got here about 7.30 pm. We had a tremendous dinner lots of bubbly & all got very noisy. Then to-day we went & visited all sorts of places this morning. I can’t tell you what we saw, the censor might object. This afternoon we went & saw a veterinary hospital, it was very interesting. We saw them unnerve a horse. We got back about 5.30 & had a lecture from 6.15 to 7.15 & then had another very cheery dinner. We visit all sorts of places to-morrow & are due back about 8.30 and then start serious work again the next day.
My military paper was quite a success. They wrote on it “a well considered & clearly expressed paper”, and gave me a “Good”. I was very pleased as I didn’t know what they’d say. I got a wire last night from the Division asking for my Christian name. Col Hill who is one of the instructors here says it’s for birthday honours. I think it’s doubtful personally. More likely pushing me off somewhere. However I won’t know till I go back. I haven’t had time to write to Rene’smother yet but I think your letter is splendid. I will try & write to-morrow night. Well wee Mus I must turn in. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
P.S. Thank you so much for this block. I was just getting short when it arrived.
Unnerving a horse
Tuesday 13 March
Took Dus: out, & then she lay out in the Frost. Heppie & I worked at the mats for a bit. Muz & Tom went in in the carriage, to the station, to meet Maurice, who was coming over from Shrewsbury. He came for lunch, then he & Tom went down to the Dingle, & later Muz & I went down, it was lovely. Dus: went into the river. Mrs Robson came for tea, & afterwards Heppie & Tom took Maurice into the station, but he missed his train, & came back here for dinner, & then caught the eight train. We worked at the mats, then Muz wrote letters, & didn’t come to bed till after 12, she stayed having tea with Janet. I went at about 10-30. We got a wire from Jimmy to say he is in England, & that Ione dined with him in Boulogne last night.
I was very glad to hear of your son’s intended marriage and that you approve. The financial aspect seems very satisfactory. Mr Adams in writing to me said he understood from you that your son would on your decease become entitled to approximately to £7000 a year & Moyaliffe which was settled upon him but the latter is not so[.] it is yours absolutely & not included in your settlement. Mayo & Sligo are settled & with the income from proceeds of sale & the small [—] parts produce I think about what you say[.] after your death they become liable to Mrs Armstrong’s jointure of £400 a year. There is nothing to prevent you settling Moyaliffe upon your son subject to your life interest but it is a matter for consideration if it would be well to do so. Things as regards land are as you know very unsettled here & one wants all the freedom one can in dealing with that commodity. The next matter is that annuity which you undertake to give him during your life[.] you will be asked I am pretty sure to secure this in some way[.] what can you undertake in justice to yourself? An increase will probably be expected on the £400. What occurs to me is the proposal on your son’s part should be to settle the proceeds of sales of Mayo & Sligo Estates & [—] portions. That you will pay £ [blank] a year for your life & not propose any settlement of Moyaliffe at present but that your intention was to leave it to him[.] would this meet your approval. When writing you might let me have Mr Maude [sic] last a/c to help me to check figures.
Wednesday 14 March
Tom & I went down to the dingle & took Dus:. We got some flowers to send Boden, to the hospital. Afterwards we all went in, & moved furniture about, in the drawing room, & after tea Tom & I walked in to the town to post letters. Jimmy wired to say that he was over in Ireland, & they both might cross on Monday. We worked at the mats after dinner, & went to bed at about 11.
Thursday 15 March
Tom, Heppie & I walked into the town, & Susie walked most of the way. We went & chose hats for Tom. Mrs Welch & Rosie came up in the morning. Mrs Lewis came up to see Muz. Muz got her two sons to join, last time we were here, & they went out with Jimmy. I darned stockings all afternoon. Janet came in for tea, & worked at the mats for a bit. Worked at the stockings again after dinner, & finished them all. Then I Muz & Heppie worked at the mats. Muz & I had a bath, went to bed at about 12-.
Boo and Susie
Friday 16 March
Wrote letters nearly all morning. Rosie came up, & took them down to the post. After lunch I mended, & got a lot done, as I worked at it all afternoon & got a lot of Muz’s things done too. After tea Muz & Heppie went in for the post, I did more mending, & went to bed at about 10-30, but Muz worked at the mats, so didn’t come till much later.
Saturday 17 March
Muz, Heppie, Tom, Janet & I went in to the market. Far more crowded than last Saturday. We drove in, & walked out again. Mended after lunch, & after tea went for a walk with Muz. Bapaume in our hands.2
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
Only a brief letter to-night as it’s late & we have been having rather a strenuous time lately. On Thursday we had a lecture from 9 to 10 & were then given a scheme to be handed up at 9 am the next morning. I worked at it solidly till 5.30 with only 10 minutes for lunch, then had a lecture till 6.30 then had diner at 7.30 & got to work on the scheme about 8.30 and finished about midnight. A damnable day. Yesterday we had an allez-allez in the country. Had a lecture from 9 till 10. Then were given a scheme had to write orders and be at a rendez-vous at 11.30. That took a bit of doing then we walked about till 3 o’c. Writing messages and answering questions. It was really rather fun. I had my horses out & went for a ride & got back about 5 o’c & had a lecture from 5.30 till 6.30. Then after dinner I worked up till 1 o’c doing my notes etc. To-day we had a very hurried scheme. First a lecture from 9 till 10, then a break till 10.15 then another lecture till 10.45 when we were given a scheme to be handed in at 1 o’c. We had an awful rush. I have just done a couple of hours work on my notes & feel like bed. I like this course but it’s very strenuous. We finish this day fortnight. I’ll be glad in some ways & sorry in others. It’s awful hard work but it’s rather jolly being here. Yes I got a V.G for the last essay. They were rather pleased about it. Faulkner who teaches us that subject came up to me & said he was very pleased with it & that he had shown it to Corry. He is the commandant. I’m afraid the long scheme won’t meet with so much success. If I get Fair I’ll be lucky.
Rather a strenuous time!
I got your wire when I was at Calais & letters two days afterwards when I got back. I quite see your point & think you are quite right. It puts me off this trying to rush me like this. After all it ought to be the man who puts those things in the papers. It’s all rot & I’m d—d if I’ll be rushed. I sent you a budget of Rene’s letters to-night. I hadn’t time to write. I saw Babe King to-day. He is awfully changed. He has a sort of forced cheery manner but looks awfully well. I hope to get a few days leave after this course (but doubt it) and go to Boulogne with him. He has a trip & he says he will drive me down. It’s about 30 miles. It would be rather fun. I hope to go & see Bonny3 to-morrow. We have a lecture at 10 & another at 6 & that’s all. But we have a scheme to-morrow night which is a bore. I’m very sleepy & must write a line to Rene. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Sunday 18 March
Muz, Tom & I walked in to church, & then went up to the Welches to get the post. We all read in the afternoon, & Tom & Heppie had a sleep! Then Miss Wright (archdeacon Wright’s daughter) came for tea, & brought a wee child, who she is looking after, for a sick mother.