WEEK 15: GRUESOME STORIES OF THE GERMANS
Monday 5 to Sunday 11 October 1914
After the First Battle of the Aisne, the 1st Cavalry Division marched to the zone of operations in West Flanders. The march took a week to complete and was made at night until the troops were clear of the Aisne country. In the daytime, men and horses were kept hidden to prevent enemy aircraft from collecting information about their movements. The Division arrived in Flanders on 11 October, the day after the fall of Antwerp to German troops. In England, Pat Armstrong’s regiment, the 10th Hussars, who had made their way from South Africa, were preparing to depart for France. Mrs Armstrong, who was fearful that the regiment might expect Pat to come back to them, warned her daughters not to discuss the matter in the hopes that ‘they may forget to ask for him if not reminded somehow!’ In Folkestone, the flow of refugees continued unabated, as did stories of German atrocities.
Monday 5 October
Hartennes. Breakfast 7.30. Allotted new horses to officers. Gen inspected them. People seemed pleased with them. Sat in wood & wrote letters. Horses all had to be hidden so as not to be seen by aeroplanes. Started again at 6 o’c & went to Coyolles. Rotten dark night & rained hard at times. Was left at cross roads had difficulty to get up as road was blocked. Sat for some time in road & got very cold. Gen refused to bivouac1 in wood. Geoff & I got lost with battery but eventually fetched up. Slept in library.
Tuesday 6 October
Oct: 6th Tuesday 1914 Badminton, Gloucestershire.
My dear Pat
I wonder if you got my last letter? I haven’t heard from you for such a long time, anyhow it seems like years. Mother & I have just got back from staying near Andover, where Frankie (you know he has joined M’s regiment?) & Maurice were in camp, so as to be near them to say good-bye. We have been up there 3 days waiting for them to go & it’s been too awful, continual false alarms, which were very trying to the nerves. At last they went at 6.30 this morning & although we’d said good-bye 3 or 4 times unluckily we didn’t get there in time to see them off although perhaps it was just as well for us both as partings are always rather upsetting, aren’t they? Mother’s been awfully good & brave but has felt it like anything I’m sure. I know I have. But I hope to goodness they will do well & come back soon. I’ve very little news to tell you. Things seem to go on pretty much as usual except when one thinks of all the awful things that are happening. We were staying up at F’s trainer Frank Hartigan to see them off & it was awfully interesting seeing all the horses going out to do their work & helping to break the yearlings. Some of them were being ridden for the first time. How I longed to get up & have a ride but didn’t dare as I can’t ride astride for nuts & they kick like the devil so I expect I should have taken some heavy falls! Talking about falls, do you remember the brown horse that kicked me so firmly on the head, I think it was almost the first time you’d been out with us, when he fell with me? Well later in the season I lamed him very badly & they can’t get him sound now so I’ve had to turn him out & see if that would do any good. Isn’t it a bore as he’s my best horse really. They haven’t taken any more of our horses so Pa is hunting a bit although it’s only to kill foxes so that they shan’t overrun the country. It isn’t much fun but we’ve got the beagles & we’ve killed 3 hares in 6 days!
Best love from Blanchie.
Write to me soon if you have time.
Wednesday 7 October
We went to Nenagh, & Poppy took the car off to be fixed, & Tom & I walked about. Then we had lunch in the hotel, & walked about & read the paper afterwards […] Heard from Muz this morning, she says that Mr Dalton told the Brinkleys2 that Roger had lost a leg & an arm, & somebody had heard he was dead. Darned after dinner, & went to bed at about ten. Got a letter from Algie, he is sending me some Barossa bunnies to make a coat! “While the allies are thus pushing their troops further & further to the north, on the Aisne itself they are making their might felt.”
Left REMY at 9 a.m. Glorious day. French line had bulge so we had to hang about in case we were needed to stiffen them. Marched in rear of 4th Bde. Went into billets at Aubvillers about 6 o’c. Were in very nice chateau, all had rooms to ourselves. Le Jeune very annoyed at my trying to open coach house. Tied our horses up in a farm yard. All mine had fever. Geoff’s bay mare was dreadfully lame.
Thursday 8 October
My dear Winona.
What on earth must you think of me for not having written before. I am most awfully sorry. I have been meaning to every day – It was so good of you to send the photographs – I am so glad to have them – & really will send the ones I promised you – We have had the house full until now – Mrs. Kavanagh & her two girls & Mrs. Stokes have all been here – The 10th were at Ludgershall – the other side of Tidworth for over a fortnight – & left Southampton on Tuesday – we motored down to see them off. Their horses looked most terribly bad – they were so badly looked after on the way home that 13 were suffocated on the boat – & the Col’s polo pony was in such a state it had to be shot. I wish they had had longer in England to get them fit – The Blues – 1st & 2nd Life Guards & Royals have also all been over at Ludgershall – & all left together. Gen Kavanagh was commanding the Guards brigade – I used to go over there nearly every day & ride about with the Kavanagh girls. Isn’t it splendid John getting the Irish Brigade – I hope you have good news of your brother – mine has just got into the 10th – & is to go out with a regiment – at present he is at Tidworth with the 18th Hussars. I have such a tiresome cold – it is a bore – as tonight we have the first aid exam – & I know I shall say just what I don’t mean. The other day I had a most exciting time. I thought I could ride John’s horse […] & took it up on the downs where it was frightened by some partridges & promptly ran away with me – you would have laughed if you had seen us going round & round the plain – the last straw was when it too headed straight for the range where the gunners were firing. I felt like a rabbit – eventually it stopped of its own accord from exhaustion. I was never more thankful to be on my own feet in my life!
With love & do write to me
Yours affectionately Evelyn.
Dear wee Jess,
Lovely we’ve got a card from Pat & at last a near date, dated 5th & this is 8th three days ago he was fit & well isn’t it just lovely when we hear three weeks back it’s not comfy at all! […] the paper looks much better today & I like to hear of the Kaiser having fainting fits! He’s a bit disturbed inside when he does that. I make out that the end of our left wing must be only a short way from Ostend & this will mean that if marines we saw leaving Dover & ones we heard went a few days before from Dover are sent to Ostend they’ll almost meet our troops & then should be able to do the circling action they have been trying for & just get round them & besides that others have gone & are going & now those Regiments are going from Salisbury that Mrs V. says started yesterday. It certainly looks good as to our position, but they are getting reinforcements up too. I wonder where Pat & the General were doing the night march & if to some other big scheme – it’s difficult to follow them really but they had been fighting in almost a line & then looks like moving on up. Did you see that at Brussels or near there the Germans have laid bombs with tops & bottoms out for them to fall into, all covered up lightly! Good idea that! but can’t be too dangerous when it’s known.[…]
Friday 9 October
Went in to Thurles. Mr Sims gave us a box of chocolates. After lunch I wrote letters, then we went out in the pony trap, & went to Clonoulty. After tea Tom went out for a ride, & had a fall, the pony slipped […] Major Gray reported to have died of wounds, & Nevvy & Roger reported missing as well as wounded. They started bombarding Antwerp at midnight on Wednesday. The cavalry battle on the most northerly extension of the allied left wing is now developing almost to the North Sea.
Oct 9 2 Cav Bde Head Qrs
My dear Wee Mus
I haven’t had a second to write to you since Sunday […] There is a lot of strangles4 going about now & most of the horses have got slight goes of fever. We had a late move again yesterday. I like these late moves, it’s getting quite cold now in the early mornings. We did about 25 miles without anything very eventful happening. It was a glorious day, & it was quite nice trekking along. I rode the grey again & like her more than ever. The General has christened her “Nutmeg” which suits her well. I am going to call my new chestnut mare Lady B & the bay mare Diana5, don’t you think that a good idea. Haven’t christened them officially yet but am thinking about it.
I have had quite an amusing day to-day. The Bde moved off at 9 o’c & I sent my horses along with my servants & came along in the motor. I halted in a village & let them come up & then went on about 6 miles & found a place for them to water. We then had a huge lunch by the side of the road while we fed the horses. After that the General got in the car & we went to see if we could shoot a partridge however we had no luck but it was quite fun. I got in here about 4 o’c & was given a lovely fat pear by the lady of the house. The general is living in a nice house about 100 yards off. Geoff, Coleman (the American who has the car) & I are living here. This is an awfully nice house. I have got a table which I’m now writing at & a jolly good bed with sheets which I’m going to get into in a minute or two as it’s about 10.30. I got a box of chocolates from the Duchess to-night & have just written to thank her. Awfully nice of her isn’t it. I am sending you two letters I got from her. I think I told you in my last letter that B is allowed to write to me now & that I had a long letter from her. Splendid isn’t it. I quite like war under these circumstances. Comfy billets lots of letters & parcels & the best of good food. Oh! I nearly forgot to tell you that I loved your beef tablets the other night we’d been going all day without food & they were awfully good. I gave one to the General & it did him a world of good. He is an awful good sort really but “belly aches” a lot as Rattle expresses it. Well I must be off to bed now.
Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat
Saturday 10 October
Oct 10. Hd Qrs 2 Cav Bde.
My dear wee Mus
[…] The General has just come in from Cav Div Head Qrs & says that a Cav Corps is going to be formed consisting of the 1st & 2nd Cav Divisions. Gen Gough has got command of the 2nd Div which was formed about a month ago and there is a rumour going about that the Gen is going to get command of this Div & Allenby is going to command the Corps. This is private at present so don’t say anything about it. If he does this he will be entitled to his A.D.C’s so then I’ll have a proper job & will draw extra pay for it. Geoff gets £150 a year for his job. It would be splendid to draw some more money wouldn’t it. Besides it would be awfully interesting being on Cav Div Staff. I expect something will be settled by the middle of next week. I will write & let you know as soon as anything is definitely settled & let you know how to address my letters. I think I told you that the Duchess sent me a box of chocolates yesterday. Awfully nice of her wasn’t it. They are just coming to lay the table for dinner so I must cease fire.
Best love wee Mus.
Your loving Pat
P.S. The new lamp you sent me is good. I sent back the torch as I had bought two small lamps at Le Mans when I was there
Dear wee Jess
We’ve been frightfully busy all afternoon & just came in now at nearly 8 […] wounded soldiers were arriving & Belgian refugees flying from Antwerp & Ostend etc. 2500 & something came over yesterday, I haven’t heard the numbers today […] Ione didn’t see the wounded soldiers which was a good thing though none of them were bad feet & hands were worst. All very cheery & jabbered French to me hard! & told me about their wounds. I fixed up one man’s hand rather better for him & he was so grateful, it had been hurting him. There were carriage fulls of them they didn’t know what hospital they were going to but Red X officers had them in charge.
They told us appalling stories done to Belgian women & children said it wasn’t war at all as they had war more with the civilians than with the soldiers & that the civilians got the worst of it, that if it was possible they’d fly from soldiers, but they were very hard men when women & children were concerned. Knew no fear of a child. There was so much of comic in their stories & all very cheery. They aren’t like our men really, not in the wanting to get well quickly & go back. They’ve had enough, even the lesser wounded ones who have only lost a couple of fingers don’t want to go back, they describe the hissing of the shells vividly & say no more!! Some sat silent & I think they might have spoken differently, I was hoping they would! One very sweet faced looking boy gave me a look as if to say he’d go back (but he wasn’t able). He just said no German can be left! There were three carriages of men, they’d had to fly & they gave gruesome stories of the Germans too. One lot of very respectable people we found rooms for told me that one poor woman in their village had her husband taken to be shot & she ran to one officer & prayed him to spare her husband she had 8 children & no one to do for them. The officer firmly said how many can you keep alone, & she said she couldn’t keep 8 they’d starve without her husband & begged him to spare him he answered that that difficulty was easily overcome & she thought her husband was safe. He called some soldiers & ordered them to kill six when this was done he said can you keep those two without starving them & departed & shot her husband before her. The woman who told me this was rather nice class of people teacher in a school one was & both a Dr. One poor girl broke into sobs at intervals said she’d left everything & her dog, & the old woman began to cry & said she’d left her husband’s photographs […] Must stop now I’m rather tired & want to go to bed. I wrote pages to Ned this morning, such a lot of rot I wrote!!!
Bless you wee ducks
your loving Muz
My dear old Jed
Thank you awfully for your birthday present & will you thank the baby6 for me too, I will write to her when I have a moment – you dear old things remembering it – I am bothered to death with Harry I got this the other morning, & wrote & said Ma wouldn’t let me get spliced7 then he wrote an awful letter & I haven’t heard from him since – he says he most probably won’t come back from the war at all & if he does most probably without an arm or leg, & then I won’t want to marry him, & so on – It’s too silly for anything, & I think I will just break this whole thing off, it’s not worth the bother of the whole thing – Send me back his letter, as I want to remember what he says in them all till the row is over – show it to the baby & tell her I will write when all the trouble is over & done with – she will understand […] We have been frightfully busy today, carting the Belgians, from the harbour to different Lodging houses, & fixing them all up – 1000 came in yesterday & a lot too today It’s so horrid seeing all the poor B— soldiers, they come off the boat on stretchers, & some walk, with hands done up & arms – one poor man had a hand hanging without any fingers – it’s so wonderful how cheery they are – It was the greatest luck just as we were coming home I found a poor sailor lying in a heap in a little dark corner & he said he had broken his ankle & that he had been there for ages, & that porters had told the doctors, but that they wouldn’t come, & look at him, I got one after a lot of trouble then thought & had better not see it set alone! So went for Ma, & she stayed, & I went & lit the lamps on the car – then we took him off to the Junction Station & put him into the train – The doctor said it was too swollen to know if there were bones broken, Ma thought it was only a sprain but it must have been worse as he was in agony, & a great big strong man, so it must have been bad – Well Jed I must stop, with best love to all & ta most awfully again your loving Charlie P.T.O. Send H’s letter back to – Babe has asked me to marry him again!!!!!
Sunday 11 October
Wrote letters, & then went in to Thurles. Got a letter from Muz, she & Ione have been at the Folkestone Harbour, looking after the Belgian refugees. Then I did some mending, after lunch we went out for a drive & went up to see Mrs Tom Hayes’ baby. Then we sat in the smoking room, & had a fire for the first time. After tea we all went for a walk, as far as the Gleesons. Gave Dusky her dinner & then did some darning. Mended after dinner & went to bed at about ten.
- To stay in a temporary camp without tents or cover. ⇑
- Sybil and Ruth Brinkley of Allershaw, Folkestone, daughters of John Lloyd Brinkley, who was originally from County Sligo. ⇑
- Evelyn Wardell (afterwards Mrs Anthony Stokes) was stepdaughter to General John Vaughan (1871-1956) of the 10th Royal Hussars; his wife, Louisa Evelyn, was widow of Harold Piper Wardell. ⇑
- An infectious bacterial disease of equine animals characterized by inflammation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract causing a strangling or choking sensation. ⇑
- The horses were named after Lady Blanche and Lady Diana Somerset, daughters of the 9th Earl of Beaumont. ⇑
- Her youngest sister, Tommy Armstrong. ⇑
- Spliced = married. ⇑