The Armstrongs had barely recovered from the news of Gordon Elton’s death at Passchendaele when another family tragedy was announced in the papers. This was the death of Mrs Armstrong’s first cousin, General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude from cholera in Mesopotamia on 18 November 1917. Maude had served in France at the start of the war and was later given charge of the 13th Division which suffered heavy casualties at Suvla during the Battle of Gallipoli. The last man to be evacuated from Suvla Bay, Maude was subsequently transferred to Mesopotamia where he was made Commander of all Allied forces in July 1916. Methodical and organized, Maude achieved considerable success in Mesopotamia by leading his forces in a series of victories, including the Second Battle of Kut on 23 February 1917 and the capture of Baghdad on 11 March 1917. Following his sudden death, probably caused by contaminated milk, operations in Mesopotamia were scaled back and British offensives did not resume until late February 1918.
Monday 19 November
Muz got breakfast, while I did Duskey’s house etc. then I lit the fire, & Muz wrote letters. Then we went down the town to do some shopping, & got things to send the Moyaliffe people for Xmas, so we had lunch in a wee shop, & then didn’t come back till about five, after tea Muz wrote letters, & I put the pudding on, & lit Muz’s fire etc, & then we went to the Burlington to have a bath.
Letter from J. Young, 212 Cromwell Road, S.W.S 7, to Mrs Armstrong
Dear Mrs Armstrong,
Yes it is indeed a sad blow that our splendid boy Gordon has been killed. He was so full of vitality, so joyous & happy & — & getting on so well, that one could not think death was meant for him – but God wanted him for work elsewhere, & yr boy too, – they gave their lives for their King & their God – & have won higher honors [sic] thank earthly ones – & this must be our comfort. Dear Gordon was killed instantly, while walking along the first line with his Genrl – they heard the German shells coming, & laid down. One fell close to Gordon & a piece of shrapnel hit him on the back, penetrating to his heart – The General & Genl Jackson fetched a stretcher & carried him at once to the Hd. Quarters, where he was buried the next morning – all the Division mourning his loss – The Genrl. wrote two hours after to poor Doris – we feel it a great mercy getting these particulars so quickly, & knowing that he had no pain or suffering, happy to the last & giving that happiness to others – I know how fond you were of him & of how good you were to him & realize yr. true sympathy, – he had an exceptionally beautiful nature – We dare not wish him back – excuse scrawl I have so many letters to acknowledge – It is a heart break to poor Colonel Elton
Tuesday 20 November
Muz heard from Mrs Young this morning that Gordon was hit though the heart. Muz got breakfast ready, while I did Dus’s house etc, & then lit fire. Then men came to do the blinds, & I mended all morning. Then we got lunch ready, & then we went to both hospitals, & then went to tea with the Thurburns on the way back. Col: L, & Dolly were there. General Sir Stanley Maude has died in Mesopotamia, after a few day’s illness, so we went down to get a paper. Then we got supper ready, & wrote letters, & went to bed at about ten.
The death of General Maude
Wednesday 21 November
Muz kept the fire going in her room, by putting coal on in the night. I got the breakfast ready etc: & then we went off to Ashford by the 11 train, to get “Wipers”. She was awfully pleased to get out, but not as wild as I thought. Then we took her for a long walk into the country, then came back & had lunch, & went to the Registry office, & then to see the girls, but they were both engaged. “Wipers” followed beautifully, & knows us awfully well, she is a lovely dog. Then we came back by the 4 train, & Miss Peters met us, & then we put her to bed in their garage, she will have to meet Duskey in the morning! We got dinner ready etc, & went to bed at about 10-30, & wrote some letters first.
Thursday 22 November
Muz got breakfast while I lit the fire, & then we went in to Miss Peters, to let “Wipers” out, Muz & Miss P. took her down Sandgate hill, & I took Duskey round the other way, & met them! They just sniffed at each other, & didn’t mind a bit, then we brought them back, & Miss P. went off, & they both played in the garden! Duskey was awfully sweet to her, & she is awfully good. Afterwards we unpacked parcels that had been stored at Lenaghan1, & we left the dogs outside, & they were awfully good. Then Elizabeth2 came, & stayed for tea, she says she is coming tomorrow morning. The I did some washing, & lit Muz’s fire, & she wrote letters, then I got dinner ready, & cleared up afterwards & Muz sorted old letters etc, then I wrote letters, & we went to bed at about 12.
Wipers and Duskey
Friday 23 November
Elizabeth came at about nine, she is going to come every morning now. We took the dogs down to Sandgate for a walk, & went to see a women to get her husband’s address, for his mother.
Saturday 24 November
E. came at about nine. After breakfast we went down the town to shop, & went to the fish market. In the afternoon we went to call on Mrs Evans, & she was in, but going out for tea, so we didn’t stay long. Then we went to tea with the Lucases. When we got back E. went home, & posted a parcel to Jimmy with a pork pie! Then we got dinner ready, & I lit Muz’s fire.
Letter from Alice Elton, Spring View, Bedlington, Northumberland, to Mrs Armstrong
My dear Mrs Armstrong,
A letter from Alice Elton
Thank you very much for all your sympathy in our great sorrow. We know that you truly feel for us as you understand so well alas! what we are suffering & shall always suffer, our two dear splendid boys, for I loved Gordon like my own son & share in my poor Alfred’s overwhelming sorrow. He is stricken indeed, & seems at the end of everything, the light of his life has gone out & for 28 years Gordon had been his joy & pride. It is an overwhelming grief, & though we know “all is well” with him we cannot but sorrow for ourselves, our irreparable loss, our blank & desolate lives. It is anguish to know we shall never see his dear face or hear his cheery voice again, but we try to be brave as he would have wished. Surely so good & gallant a man is now among “the Saints of God without fault” & that radiant young spirit is being perfected beyond the veil.
We were so proud of him as you were of your Pat, & we knew they would both do great things. Perhaps they have done the greatest thing of all in giving their lives for others. We are thankful for the mercy of our beloved Gordon’s painless death & that he was carried back at once. His grave is in Duhallow Cemetery on the Canal Bank N.W. of Ypres, & a special cross is being put on it, so when this terrible war is over we can go & see where our dear one is laid.
We know you were very fond of him too, & our mutual sorrow draws us together. Thank you again for your real sympathy, with love.
“Saints of God without fault”
Sunday 25 November
E. didn’t come, so Muz got breakfast, while I lit the fires. Then we went for a walk towards Caesar’s Camp, & then thought it was going to rain, so turned, & it came on awfully heavy, so we ran, to get the dogs in. Then we got lunch, & got tea ready, then Muz wrote letters, & I washed the curtains & counterpanes out of the servant’s room. We thought Miss Carleton might be coming for tea, but she didn’t. Miss Peters came in, & stayed till 6-30, & then we went to the club, & were very busy. Then we got the hot water up, & went to bed at about 11. I had lit Muz’s fire before we left.
Lenaghan Park, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, home of the Maude family ⇑