In September 1917, the Armstrongs spent a few days in the company of Mrs Armstrong’s second cousin Katrine Baird. Katrine was from an extraordinary family of nine children all of whom achieved considerable success in their lifetime. Katrine and her six sisters were fortunate in having a father who unusually for his era believed passionately in the education of women. He encouraged his daughters to get a university education and to establish a school of their own. In 1896, Katrine and her twin sister Alice founded St James’s School for girls in West Malvern, where their sister Diana also taught. In 1912, the sisters bought a second school, Abbot’s Hill in Hemel Hempstead. Katrine became the school’s Principal and was assisted by her sister Mary who had trained at the London Royal College of Music. Another sister, Georgina, was in charge of housekeeping at St James’s and later at Wycombe Abbey. In 1908, she purchased and became Principal of Evendine Court, a school of domestic science in Malvern. The eldest sister, Helen, was personal secretary to the Headmaster of Eton College until her death from pneumonia in 1908. Only the youngest sister, Constance, abstained from a teaching career. Instead, she learnt to drive a car and served in France during the First World War as a driver for the British Red Cross, receiving the MBE and two medals for her bravery.
Monday 17 September
We went up to meet Nitter by the 11 train. I cleared out the garage in the morning. Then she, Muz & Ione sat out in the gardens, & I got lunch ready. Afterwards I cleared away etc, & got things ready for tea & dinner etc. Then Ione lay down, & Muz, Nitter & I walked down to Sandgate, & looked at things for an auction, then went & had tea there, & walked back. Cleared away dinner etc, & then we all worked, in the smoking room, then Muz put Nitter to bed, & we went to bed at about twelve.
Tuesday 18 September
Gave out things etc, & got things ready for lunch. Muz & Nitter went down the town, & I cut out & started to make a hood for my wee godchild. After lunch Muz showed Nitter letters & I sewed. Then we went down the town to shop, & Nitter gave us tea down there. Ione had Miss Peters to tea, she came back from France yesterday.1 Then we packed our things, to go away tomorrow. After dinner Muz showed Nitter more letters, & I cleared away, & got things ready for tomorrow etc.
Jess’s wee godchild
Wednesday 19 September
We got things ready to leave, & E.2 went off before us, & we left by the nine train, & to Belle Orchard3 at about 1-30. We unpacked, & then walked about with Nitter. After lunch we walked about, & then went in a car with Alice, she went on, & we got out, & went to see Bodiam Castle, & had tea at the Inn, & she called for us again. We had High tea at 6-30, & then went for a walk with Nitter, then changed, & they began the plays at 7-30. They had three awfully good ones, & they all acted very well. Martin Harvey’ssister is there, & she taught them all. Lady Olga Osborne took the principal part. “Snowed up with the duchess”, “Releasing a Man”, & “Things we would rather have left unsaid”, were the three plays, they were very good. We went to bed at about 11, & Duskey slept in our room.
Thursday 20 September
We walked about the garden with Nitter, & saw all the place, it is very pretty. We had breakfast in bed this morning. I worked for a bit, & Muz & Nitter wrote letters. Then we went out again after lunch. Ione came down from London & arrived at about eight, & went straight to bed after dinner. Muz, Nitter, Miss Bateman, & Sister Polly & I played “Kuhan Kan”4. Sister P. is Martin Harvey’s sister. We went to bed at about 10-30, after having our baths. Alice went away this morning.
Here I am, going through a cure which promises well. My Mrs is not with me as she has to get the children off to school, but she is coming at the end of next week. My eldest boy is going, for the first time, to Winchester. This place is not so deadly slow as most watering places as there is a decent club and several old officers of my regiment frequent it. It is certainly a very pretty town. We shall have to leave the painting of the rail round Pat’s grave till I get back, but anyway I will do nothing till I have written to the 29th Div. Of course I may not go back anywhere near Arras which was within a 2 hours drive of Flers, where I was last. I am anxious to hear what you decide to do about Shorncliffe. I hope you will leave it but I can quite understand you feeling that nothing matters now Pat has gone. I always used to think about the possibility of his being taken, & was always anxious on your account knowing how fearless Pat was. I believe De Lisle used to feel the same. I quite hope that by the 16th Oct I shall be fit enough again to endure to the end. I do so want your prophesy, that I shall see it out, to be right.
T. d’O. S.
Friday 21 September
We all had breakfast in bed, & then we all went out to pick apples in the orchard, & pack them into the house. We worked all morning, & then grass was rather wet, so I had rather a tummy ache when I came in, & was “telephoning”5 a lot, so after lunch I lay down, & they were awfully nice about coming to see me, the others went up & picked more apples. I got up after tea, & Ione & I sat in the drawing room & talked to Lady Olga & Sister Polly, & Muz & Nitter went out. After dinner the others played bridge & we worked, & then I showed Mrs Fermen my book.
Lady Olga Osborne
Saturday 22 September
We all left by the 9 train. Lady Olga came some of the way with us, & then she & Nitter went on, when we changed. Then Ione went straight back to Clodagh with the luggage, & then met Mr Hamilton, & Muz & I got out at Ashford & went to see “Wipers“. She is really looking very well, but awful to see her locked up like that.6 Then we shopped & walked a good way looking for servants, & then came back by the seven train. Got Muz’s supper etc, & brought up water. Muz had her supper in bed. Ione dined with Mr H., Elizabeth came at about 9-30, & we went to bed at about 10-30.
Sunday 23 September
Gave out things etc: & then got the luncheon table ready etc. Ione went to church with Mr Hamilton & Miss Peters, & then Mr H. came back here for lunch. After lunch I worked for a bit, & Muz wrote letters, & Ione & Mr H. went up to the Grand, then Muz & I went to Manor House to see a new convoy & we didn’t get back till 5-30, then wrote letters etc, & then went to the club; Muz is taking it as Miss Walters is away. We locked up the house, as E. went out. Ione dined with Mr H.
A theatrical event
Ada Peters was working in France as a volunteer for the YMCA and was in England for a short holiday ⇑
Elizabeth, a domestic servant in the Armstrong household. ⇑
A large house and grounds in Hawkhurst, Kent, leased in 1916 for seven years by Katrine Baird’s twin sister Alice and operated as a convalescent home for some twenty patients, many of whom were soldiers suffering from shell-shock. ⇑
Probably Koum Kan, a two-deck card game resembling gin rummy ⇑
Euphemism for vomiting, diarrhoea or flatulence. ⇑
Pat Armstrong’s dog Wipers had been sent to England after Pat’s death but had to stay in quarantine for four months before being released to the Armstrong family. ⇑