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Monday 6 to Sunday 12 August 1917

WEEK 163: THIS LAND OF UNPROMISE AND DUSTY DESERT

Monday 6 to Sunday 12 August 1917

The Third Battle of Ypres was launched by the Allies on an 18-kilometre front near the village of Passchendaele on 31 July 1917. Although the initial advance ended successfully, the offensive ran rapidly into trouble when the weather broke exceptionally early and Flanders witnessed the wettest August in thirty years, with five times the average rainfall. It is little wonder that the conflict was later to become known as the Battle of Mud. The ground, already pockmarked by heavy preliminary artillery bombardment in late July, soon turned into a muddy quagmire, stopping tanks on their tracks, swallowing up equipment, and drowning men and horses. As British and French soldiers struggled to maintain forward movement, the Germans took full advantage of the situation and inflicted terrible casualties with their machine guns. However, Haig blamed not the weather but General Gough for the lack of success and by the end of the month had him replaced as Commander with Herbert Plumer.

The Battle of Mud

Monday 6 August

jess__diary_cameoFinished reading “Two Eyes of Grey” by Daisy McGeoch.1

Tuesday 7 August

jess__diary_cameoWe were up at 6 A.M. & we all went in to the Thurles Fair with Poppy. He bought a calf, & Hunt bought a cow & calf. We walked about seeing everything till about 10-30, & then came back. It wasn’t a big fair, & very few people were buying because [blank]. Went out to the garden when we came back, & after lunch Muz, Tom & I went out in the pony trap, we went to see Mrs Gleeson, & went in to see the Keefs, & then went up to Drumbane. It began to pelt, & we got wet through, but we went to see Mrs Gleeson on the way back. I read for a bit, & Ione went out with Poppy. We went to bed at about eleven.

The Keeffe family of Moyaliffe

Wednesday 8 August

jess__diary_cameoPoppy went off to the mountains this morning & took Flanagan. I settled the flowers in the dining room in the morning, Muz wrote letters. After lunch I read for a bit, then Major & Mrs Phillips came for tea. Tom & Heppie went in to Thurles, & Ione didn’t come in. Poppy got back at about 7-30, & had got seven grouse, but said it was frightfully hot up there. Grousie2 did awfully well. Muz & I read for a bit after dinner, & went to bed at about 10-30. Finished reading “The Harvester” by Gene Stratton Porter.3

Thursday 9 August

jess__diary_cameoPoppy, Ione, Tom & I started off at about 9-30, to go to the mountains. Grousie sat behind with Tom & I. We went up Reiska Mt today, & when we got to the top, we stayed there, with Torry & the other man, & Poppy went off to shoot with Michael. We got a lot of heather, & then lit a fire with turf. Popp came back to us for luncheon, & afterwards it rained a bit, so we sat under a turf clamp [?], then Poppy went to shoot, & we lay under the bark, in front of the fire. It rained again just before tea. It was lovely near the fire, & we dried our stockings. Poppy came back for tea at about 5-30, & afterwards we came back, & brought some heather, & big bits of white marble! It had rained quite hard here all day. Muz had been down to Mrs Gleeson. Poppy got seven birds. They were rather wild. Muz & I had our baths & went to bed at about ten.

Grouse shooting

Smoke gets in your eyes!

Friday 10 August

Letter from Nina Williams, Rosehaugh, Church Stretton, Salop, to Mrs Armstrong

My dear Mrs Armstrong

I got enclosed letter some time ago & felt you wd. like to have it, so am sending it to you. I am slowly getting stronger but very sleepless. My husband was in this last big push, & was given the worst bit of the line; the ridge bit. He ought to get leave home soon but it is delayed owing to an * enquiry. I hope it will be allright, – * Please don’t mention this. I don’t know if I told you he has Lord Derby’s Division a very fine set of men, but when he got to know them he found some of the officers n’etait pas si bien!4 I am trying to find a country cottage outside Brighton & had got just what I wanted, then I hear the present tenants want to stay on. It was near Burgess Hill. I often think of you & feel for you so much. Would you care to see my husband’s very private diary. I will send it to you if you would. It is interesting. With my very best remembrances.

Yours very sincerely

Nina Williams

Letter from Bob Sievier, Attd C Flight RFC, 30 Squadron, Mesopotamia, 10 August 1917

Dear Mrs Armstrong,

Letter from Bob Sievier

Mother has just written me and informed me of your great loss – please accept my sincerest condolences. I know how tremendous your loss is and how you all will feel it so. Of course there is the satisfaction of knowing it happened in a great cause and that he is one of those who have helped smooth the path for the future – But it hardly fills the gap at the time & leaves a hollow feeling about the heart nevertheless. At one time I used to hear from the family but since I’ve been in Mesopotamia I have kind of lost touch with my old Tipperary friends but I always look at my mail hoping that perhaps I am not entirely forgotten in this land of unpromise and dusty desert. I hope next year to be fortunate enough to get home to learn to fly but once one gets East of Suez it is frightfully difficult. I hear Lisalie (Tomat’s) was hit by a bomb & that the Callaghans’ house was treated in rather a shameful manner. I don’t think the Hun realises that the material damage he does by “Baby” raiding is not equal [to] the moral damage he does himself by stirring up any latent hatred there may be left in those at home. If when you can spare a moment for a lonely old friend (almost “old” man) in Mespots you don’t know to what extent you would cheer him up and if in the future when I am back in civilisation & there is anything I can do for you never forget that I will always do my very utmost to do what I can for you. Please again accept my deepest sympathy I never knew him but heard so much about him that I almost think I did.

Yours v. s.

Bobbie Sievier

Best wishes to the family I hope the Tomat’s house is alright

Sunday 12 August

jess__diary_cameoI went up to the oats with Poppy. After lunch he sorted things out of his drawers to show us, & gave us a lot of photographs. Muz knitted. After tea Poppy, Ione, Tom & I walked down to Mrs Gleeson’s, & home by the avenue. Then I did some mending, & mended again after dinner. Muz & Ione went out with Poppy to fish, & they got two little trout. I did some mending up in my room, & we went to bed at about 10-30.

Memories of Moyaliffe


Footnotes

  1. Two Eyes of Grey was a song written and composed by Daisy McGeoch in c. 1903
  2. Captain Armstrong’s gun dog
  3. The Harvester (1911), a novel by the American author and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924), born Geneva Grace Stratton
  4. (Fr.) n’etait pas si bien = was not so good.

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