WEEK 16: AN HONOUR HE WELL DESERVED
Monday 12 to Sunday 18 October 1914
On 13 October, Captain Armstrong and his daughters Jess and Tommy received great news from England: Pat had gained his first mention in General John French’s military despatch, which had been published in the London Gazette on 8 October. Pat however had little time to enjoy this milestone for this was an intense week for the cavalry on the Western Front with the commencement of the battles of La Bassée (10 October-2 November), Messines (12 October-2 November) and Armentières (13 October-2 November). For Pat, the week also brought a firmer foothold as a consequence of the formation of a Cavalry Corps of three divisions under the command of General Allenby. General de Lisle, who was given command of the 1st Cavalry Division, used the opportunity to formally appoint Pat Armstrong as his aide-de-camp. Pat’s regiment, the 10th Hussars, who had just arrived in France, formed part of the 3rd Division and were billeted near de Lisle’s headquarters. In the midst of all the chaos, Pat managed to steal a moment to pay a visit to his fellow officers.
Monday 12 October
La route des Morts. Was awake most of the night & perished with cold. Sent Smallman in to Raymond about 6 o’c Geoff came out with 2 men to relieve me. Moved aft about 8 o’c. Gen got orders to take over I Cav Div. I had to go & collect his horses & kit & lay about most of the day. Germans were shelling a church in Vieux Berquin but didn’t do much damage. Billeted in Chateau la Motte. Most awful chaos as we were all mixed up with the Corps. Went into Haverskerque with the President to get our kits. Got back late. Had comfy little room. Chateau awfully nice. Several good Wapiti heads.
Tuesday 13 October
Wrote letters, then did some mending, & then went out with Poppy. The Morgan boy came up, but didn’t stay long. After lunch we went for a drive, & went to ask for the Hayes baby. After tea, Tom went for a ride, & Poppy & I walked with her. We went up to see Ellen Ryan […] Got a letter from Muz, to say that Pat is to be mentioned in despatches. She heard from General de Lisle & he said that “it was an honour he well deserved.”
Left at 7 a. m. with horses. Hd Qrs at Strazeele. Gen Briggs passed through with his Bde. Rode into Fletre with the Gen. Was then sent round to Mullens with messages. Saw Beale-Brown who was in action with 2 squadrons of 9 Lancers. Infantry attack started against Meteren at 1 o’c. Rode round to 3rd Bde to try & get Jim Beech [?]. Saw J.V. Billeted in farm at Thieushouck. Not very comfortable. Slept in room with Gen.
Wednesday 14 October
Started 7.45. Hung about a bit at Gen Briggs head Qrs. Then we all rode on to [Saint] Jans Cappel where Hd. Qrs was established. Rained very hard. Was sent off about 11 o’c with 5th D.G’s to go to 16 Lancers. They were held up for a bit. Some Greys were sniped at. Passed through Locre & saw George Cooper. Saw Brock at La Clytte & heard that the Regt was quite close. Got back about 3 o’c. Then we went into Dranoutre where we billeted for the night in a house belonging to some nuns. Went round in No 11 car to Cav Corps to try & get my kit. Ran into ditch on way back
Letter from Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong to Pat Armstrong
My dear Maurice
Isn’t it splendid that General de Lisle has mentioned you in dispatches you must have done good work for him. I am simply delighted dear old man, it will be such a help to you and such an honour, Jessie & Tommy nearly jumped out of their skins when they heard. Now I must tell you about “Frank” I sold him to a man named Biggs Atkinson for £65 & £2 back for luck he would not give me 1d more but it was better to sell, I lodged the money with Cox making it £100 so you will understand when you see your account – I was glad to hear the boots got to you safely, I have another pair exactly the same shall I send them to you at once or keep them for a bit? McMullen in Dublin sent you on three pairs of boots for horses1 , have you got them yet, we also sent chocolate & a cake, would you like another cake? What about warm under things for the winter? Tell me what you want & will send them at once – Dusky is here & quite at home she has filled out & grown into a fine dog running after the pony trap does her good – I’ll write about the ponies in a day or two when I come back from Dublin. If the weather turns cold will give them a shed to run in & out of & some hay – I’d love to go out & see you but suppose they would run me in as a spy? Jessie is writing to you so am sure she has told you all the news – we had one big covey of Partridge Drombane side. I got four out of it & am in hopes the rest will escape but they have a bad chance. The best of good luck to you –
write me a line when you have time –
your loving Sir.
Thursday 15 October
Poppy went off in the car, to meet Mr Clifford. Tom rode the pony, & Heppie & I walked up to see Mrs Tom Hayes’ baby, he is much better, they had the doctor yesterday. After lunch we picked violets to send to Muz, then drove in to Thurles in the car, & did some shopping, & got back at about six. After tea, we sat in the schoolroom, then I gave Dusky her dinner, then wrote. I picked some wild strawberries on the road, to send to Muz. Had dinner in the schoolroom, & sat there, & went to bed at about 9-30.
Dranoutre. Ready to move 7.30 but did not go. Bridges over Lys were blown up. Patrols sent out. Went round to Wytschaete & saw the Regiment. All in great form. All standing about doing nothing. Went down to Neuve Eglise with Gen & saw Tommy Pitman & Col Burnett . Stood about all afternoon. Was sent round to Gen Makin’s about 7 to get Billy Miles. Went & saw Clem in a pub. Cyclist was wounded on way out.
Letter from Blanche Somerset to Pat Armstrong
Thursday Oct: 15th 1914.
How nice to get your letter of the 5th. It is dear of you to write – & now that both the boys have gone it’s dreadfully lonely down here – Did I tell you how Mother & I went & saw them off from Ludgershall? It was awful for poor Mother as one never knew when they were really going, so many false alarms – and then when they really did go it was awful coming home through the deserted camp. But still I suppose it’s all in the day’s work! We haven’t heard anything from them yet (of course you know Frankie joined M’s regiment) although they sailed 10 days ago – It’s rather nice for both boys being together isn’t it? How awful for you having no good horses. Poor brutes it must be awful seeing them weary & hungry – I hear there’s 2000 Canadian horses coming to near here so I hope they’ll send them out to you as soon as they can. Mother & I went up to London the other day to buy undergarments for the boys! I should think they have a complete wardrobe by now if they get all the things that are sent as Ma sends something nearly every day! I’ll send you some chocolate or cigarettes or something soon, as you may get it some day – Pa is cubbing steadily now that it’s rained & the ground is softer, but I haven’t been out for ages, one is too busy & I don’t somehow feel like it. But we’re doing great things with the beagles & have now killed 6 hares which was the total of kills last season. We’ve got a whole lot of new ones & have brought the pack up to 14 ½ couples which makes a good sized pack – They’re a dear little lot & it makes one wish one could have the same fun with all one’s friends such as we had last year – My “coming out” has been rather knocked on the head hasn’t it? I shall be too old to go to balls by the time there are any again! Well must stop. Tons of love Pat dear. Write again soon
Dear wee pets
I think I’m going to send for you on Monday or Tuesday. I think the first rush of everything is over here now & everything likely to on as it is for months. Stricter orders about lights are issued now & I don’t think anything will better for months. There are some French children in the house will amuse Tom & teach her French! It’s like a French town, all the shops can speak French the papers are keeping us more in the dark than ever, but I think our people aren’t far off! We are just going to the Harbour I’ve begun a basket of toys for the children 60 toys so far.
Friday 16 October
Dranoutre. Left at 7.18 and went to Neuve Eglise. Nasty foggy day rained a bit in morning. Sat about & wrote letters etc. Went down to Ploegsteert with Gen to see 2nd Bde. Saw Geoff who was in great heart. Div intended to force the crossing of the Lys. It was so foggy that the guns couldn’t get into action. Reconnaissance went out in morning & reported all bridges barricaded. Went back to billets about 4 o’c. Chestnut mare had big swelling over her eye.
Dear wee pets
Ione has gone off to dance looking awfully nice in her yellow dress which she’s had all newly done up. She went last Sat & she & Nicola I believe had great fun, the men had no one to dance with these times, rows of them from Canterbury & Shorncliffe. I’m afraid it’s a mistake her going like this without me but I simply couldn’t go wee Jess. Pat is fighting now as near to us as less than half-way to London papers say only Cavalry engaged so he’s well in it, & it’s gruesome work. I’ve done nothing all afternoon & wish I had. I couldn’t somehow face going down all the way to the Harbour alone to that work, & am regretting I didn’t as a King’s Messenger I hear came over & I might have heard something, but Ione was laying down resting & I was feeling I couldn’t go alone. We can do such a lot down there it’s a sin these times not to be doing it. I do wish I knew what was happening the other side they had Ostend yesterday & fired on the last boat of people they just got in as the boat was starting it pushed off as quickly as it could & was out of danger before they could get a shot at it. Savages they are it was crammed with women & children. 4 people died on the boat that went into Dover we hear & it’s in Morning Post. 2000 of our own wounded came over yesterday & landed at Southampton & more came to Dover but for some reason couldn’t get to shore & had to stay out all night fearful hardship for the wounded. And one spy was caught coming across yesterday & the detectives told me we had 90002 now prisoned in he said some may be alright but they are safer where they are. Three suspects were shown into the little room at the Harbour while I was talking to those detectives they let me stay & it was very interesting they went through one man’s papers, & took everything out of the pockets but were satisfied with passes etc. & let them go. One was a Count & the other a reporter don’t know what the other was. I hear two of our English soldiers died on the boat coming over. I think a lot are very badly settled now one man with all ribs broken came over night before last & another crushed inwardly they were taken out of the boat – having had a rough crossing – & taken to Hythe, had two nights there & were taken to Shorncliffe & one man left at the Hotel who is almost well & rest about 100 all went up somewhere by train. Now why those two very sick men couldn’t have been left seems odd, the Hotel man told me that at 8 he was rung up to ask if he could have rooms ready as they thought of bringing them he said yes. 20 minutes later they rung up to say room not wanted. At 9-20 rung up to say 60 beds to be ready & he had to go into the dining room & tell all the people at dinner that they must pack & go & first load of wounded arrived ten minutes later. At the boat that those men were on & we were there this is what happened! […] unless I wire to the contrary will you come over Tuesday & be with me on Wednesday. I’m off to bed the room is full of boxes!! & I’d like to be across this bit of sea best love ducks
your loving Muz
Saturday 17 October
Wrote letters, then walked about with Poppy. Then worked at my dress, & Heppie sewed some of the skirt on the machine. After lunch I picked figs, & did them up to send to Muz. Then we went out for a drive, & went to Clonoulty. After tea I worked at my dress again, & then gave Dusky her supper. Poppy got a letter from Pat, dated Oct. 10th. After dinner, did some sewing, & read things about housekeepers for Poppy. Went to bed at about ten.
Dranoutre. Left 7.15 & came to Neuve Eglise, stayed there till 10 o’c & moved on to Ploegsteert where head quarters stayed all day. Stood about most of the morning. Went down to Le Bizet & saw Col Mullens with the Gen. Went round with the Gen & Mouse to Cheer & saw Gen Briggs. Enemy were holding the river in force from Warneton to Armentieres Div was ordered to force a passage so as the bridges could be repaired but were unable to do so. Infantry took over the line about 5 o’c.
Sunday 18 October
Worked at my evening dress, nearly all morning then went out with Poppy, & then gave Hindes’ children some apples. After lunch went for a drive, when we were coming home, we thought the house or something was on fire, but it was only Poppy burning weeds. We saw the nationalist volunteers drilling, as we went past. Worked at my dress the rest of the evening, then gave Dusky her supper. Worked at my dress again, after dinner, & went to bed at about ten.
Chateau de Ploegsteert. Left Dranoutre at 7.15 & rode to the Chateau with Hardress. Position practically unchanged. Hardress went out with General. I stayed at chateau all day. A few shells came over in the afternoon. Hardress had his best mare killed. Rode round & saw another Chateau with Mouse & saw heavy guns in action. Expected we might be shelled out of this chateau.
- Captain Armstrong had sent Pat three pairs of brushing boots used to protect horses’ legs from injury that may occur if one leg or hoof strikes or ‘brushes’ the opposite leg.⇑
- Only 31 German spies were arrested on British soil between August 1914 and September 1917; Mrs Armstrong’s figure may refer to the number of Germans residing in England at the start of the war and reflects the outburst of paranoia over German spies which characterised the outbreak of the war in Britain.⇑