At the time of the First World War the Isonzo River, now in Slovenia, formed the boundary between Austria and Italy. Repeated attacks by Italian forces along this frontline had weakened Austro-Hungarian resources and left them vulnerable to a large-scale offensive. In October 1917, Germany determined to provide assistance to its strongest ally. Their well-planned joint offensive, known as the Battle of Caporetto, began on 24 October and took the Italian forces by complete surprise. The result of the attack was catastrophic: by the time the battle ended on 10 November, 40,000 Italian soldiers lay dead or wounded, 280,000 had surrendered and 350,000 absconded. In addition, some 650,000 civilians had been displaced, causing an enormous refugee crisis for the Italian government. Meanwhile in Ireland, the political situation was becoming increasingly unsettled. The so-called Irish Convention, an assembly which sat from June 1917 to March 1918 in an attempt to debate the call for Irish independence, created more problems than it solved by exposing the fundamental and evidently irreconcilable differences between the negotiating parties.
Tuesday 30 October
Kathleen and Ceely Maude
Muz & I had breakfast in bed, then I worked & Muz wrote letters. Afterwards Muz, Nitter, Dus & I went in a cab to Chipperfield,1 & explored there & had tea, it is an awfully pretty little place, & an awfully pretty common. I brought some lovely beech branches back. We walked back – about 4 miles – it was lovely. There was a lovely moon tonight, but the wind got up later, so I don’t suppose there will be a raid tonight. We went up to Sheila & Kathleen, & then went to bed at about 10-30.
Wednesday 31 October
Muz & I drove to the station with Anne Dundas, to see her off, she is going up to see her brother She is a relation of Con Prettie’swife. Then we walked back, through King’s Langley. In the afternoon I worked & wrote letters for a bit, then we went out for a little walk. After supper I worked, then we went up to Kathleen & Sheila & Monica. After tea Muz gave them all wishes, & we stayed there till supper time. They are all awfully Keen to be done again! We went to bed at about 11-30, as Muz did a few wishes when we went over.
I have not been able to get over to seen Pat’s grave yet. It is longer away than one imagines, and the officer whom I was going to ask to see about the painting is on leave, so nothing has been done at present. What I meant about a rougher life was only that houses etc do not exist in most areas and everyone has to live in huts, or as best they can. I am better off now and have a so called roof over my head and no doubt we shall make ourselves snug in time if we are not moved. I don’t quite understand this Italian move unless it is that the Boche wants to get all he can and then propose peace terms. I don’t see how he can go on much longer if the state of the country is anything like we suppose. But then of course we may be quite wrong as to the state of affairs in Germany but we do know that he will be very hard up for coal this winter. The improvement in my leg still goes on and I find I can get along pretty well.2 I don’t think I shall see much of Welch as the boundary is so altered that I have nothing to do with him now. It was odd my meeting him as I did. We are having fairly good weather here with bright nights which add a little excitement to life! I suppose there will be raids over England if you have the same weather.3 What a state Ireland seems to be in and how weak we seem to be as regards the rebels. I have no news as it’s all very quiet.
T. d’O. S.
Thursday 1 November
Muz & I went up to London by the nine train, & I left Duskey here. We went to see Ione, & T. was there too, & then we went to shop, & he came with us, & Ione went back to meet Mr Hamilton. When he left us, we did more shopping, & then went to Stewarts for tea, to meet Nitter & Reenie, & Daisy Maude came too. Reenie has started canteen work now. She showed us the miniature of Pat, & it wasn’t a bit like him. We came down by the six train, & Anne Dundas met us, & came down with us, her mother saw her off. We went straight over to bed after supper, & Nitter came over with us. Markie came back yesterday, on three days leave, he is going to Italy with his Division then. There was a big raid in London yesterday, & a good bit of damage done, & on the East Coast too.4
Friday 2 November
Muz & I took Sheila up to London by the ten train, to see Markie. We went to Ione’s hotel, & then didn’t find Markie for ages. He was to have met us at the station. At last we met him at 2-30 at the Berkeley! We left Sheila with him, & we went off & shopped, & Ione went back to meet Mr Hamilton. Then Sheila met us at the station, & we went down by the six train. She hadn’t had anything to eat all day, except at tea! After supper I worked at Kathleen’s dress, & then we went to say good night to Sheila, Kathleen, & Anne Dundas & Monica Assheton. Nitter came over & put us to bed.
Kitty and her girls
Saturday 3 November
Muz & I had breakfast in bed, & then came over & worked. In the afternoon some of the old girls came down from London, as they were going to have a hockey match, but it rained hard all day, so they couldn’t play. Some of the girls went back after tea, & two stayed on, Miss Tomkins & Miss Dalton. After tea Muz went down, & gave the girls wishes, & we stayed there till nearly supper time! After dinner we danced, & then we went to say good-night to Kathleen, Sheila & Monica Assheton. Then Nitter came over to up us to bed, & we had a bath, & afterwards Miss Jones came in to Muz’s room, & Muz did her fortune, & we went to bed at about twelve.
Elizabeth Gee, River View, Staines Road, Bedfont, Middlesex, to Mrs Armstrong
Dear Mrs Armstrong.
“He’s never tired of hearing of Pat”
My thanks for your letter my Husband was so sorry to miss you this time – but says better luck next time – he got 4 days extra & enjoyed his leave very much & went back much better – he did not have a chance to call on Miss Armstrong in Town we were up for 2 days joust previous to your letter – time went so quickly; so we were always darting off to look at a house & find it was just gone, the air raid seems to have sent such a number of folks this way.5 From what I can hear the division has done wonders and Robert was in hopes of seeing you & showing you the maps: but he hopes you will write to him, & he’ll hear your news. He’s never tired of hearing of Pat, they always feel he is still with them, when they have a victory, & they have been doing wonders lately. I met Col & Mrs Abbot at Charing X. the Colonel was going by the same train as Robt. they are so nice, & asked Robt. how you were also Jessie. Robt says please don’t think him rude if he does not answer your letters at once, but he was only getting 4 hours sleep in 24 – so his brain is in such a state at times he can do nothing but go for a drive; I have not got a house yet which is tiresome.
Yours very sincerely
Sunday 4 November
Muz & I had breakfast in bed, & then went for a walk while they were in church. Worked & wrote letters in the afternoon, then I went down to the different class rooms, & got names in our books, & talked till supper. Afterwards one of the govs played, & I sat between Kathleen & Marcelae [sic] & Muz sat further over. Afterwards we had a great rush, going round saying good-bye to the special ones. Kathleen & Sheila were going to be allowed to come & see us off in the morning. Nitter came & put us to bed.
“Got names in our books”
A village some 8 km south-west of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire ⇑
Snow had suffered a bad fall from his horse at the start of the war in 1914 which had left him prone to severe back and leg pains, necessitating regular trips home to recuperate.⇑
German bombers depended on good weather and moonlight to spot their targets while rain and high winds prevented flying ⇑
This was the first incendiary bomb raid carried out by Gothas over London, Kent and Essex. Twenty-two aircraft dropped 83 two-kilogramme bombs, killing 10 and injuring 22.⇑
Elizabeth Gee and her two daughters had left their home in Dover as a consequence of the risk posed by German air raids ⇑