On 26 February 1918, His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Glenart Castle began its journey from Newport in South Wales to the French port of Brest. Ten miles west of Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, despite being clearly lit up as a hospital ship, the vessel was torpedoed by the German U-boat UC-56. The explosion destroyed most of the lifeboats and caused such extensive damage that the ship sank in just eight minutes, taking 162 people to the bottom of the sea. On the same day, several newspapers carried reports of increased lawlessness in Ireland in the form of boycotts and raids for arms and ammunition. “We are entitled to know”, had The Irish Times insisted on 22 February, “whether the Capital of Ireland is governed to-day by the King’s law or by the law of Sinn Fein.” Meanwhile Count Hertling, Chancellor of the German Empire in his speech to the Reichstag on 25 February berated Britain for hypocrisy, noting that “England’s war aims are still thoroughly imperialistic, and want to impose on the world a peace according to England’s good pleasure. When England talks about a people’s right of self-determination she does not think of applying the principle to Ireland, Egypt, or India.” For most people however it was the news of rationing which caused the greatest excitement, with meat, butter and margarine rationing coming into force in London and the home counties on 25 February. The one bright spark in the papers for the Armstrong family at least was the announcement of Ione’s engagement to Lindsay Everard on the last day of February.
Monday 18 February
We took our luggage to Paddington, & then went straight to the Curzon, to meet Ione & Lindsay, & talked to them, till we had to go to the train, then they walked to the underground with us. It was a longer way than we thought, so we were almost late, & I had to fly on & get the luggage out, & the man said he thought I would get heart disease!! We had two changes, as we had to get into the wrong part of the train. I read, & finished “The Knave of Diamonds”.1Rosie came to meet us, & we looked about for Jack, but we didn’t think he would really be coming. We went to bed at about eleven, as we were rather sleepy after our late nights.
Tuesday 19 February
I stayed in bed nearly all day, & had a good sleep! Muz wrote letters all day. I got up after tea, & read for a bit. Jack arrived at about 6-30, & we talked, & he showed us the plan of the Heligoland battle,2 & told us all about it after dinner, & we went to bed at about eleven. Lindsay went off to France this morning, & we got a wire from Ione to say she was coming up here tomorrow.
Wednesday 20 February
We all went in to the town, & then Tom & Jack came home by themselves, & Muz & I talked to Rosie. After lunch I took Tom & Jack down to the Dingle & played follow-the-leader! We went a good long way, & got back for tea. Jack was rather tired, so we all read after tea, & Muz wrote letters. After dinner Tom & Jack talked in the dining room. Ione arrived at 6-30, & we went to bed fairly soon after dinner.
Thursday 21 February
Ione stayed in bed all day. In the morning we all went in to the town, & got Rosie, & then went to get the milk from the farm for Ione, & Rosie left us half way. We came back by the Dingle. After lunch I took Tom & Jack for a walk across the fields, & home up Lucas’s farm. After tea Tom & Jack did puzzles, Muz wrote letters, & I read.
Friday 22 February
Read for a bit. Ione stayed in bed all day. We all went into the town, & then I went on to get the milk, & went rather a long way round, & home by the dingle. After lunch I took Tom & Jack in to see Mrs Welch, & then I returned to loose [?] them, & I came back, & they shopped! Then read for a bit, & Tom & Jack did a puzzle, then Muz gave Jack a wish. After dinner Janet came in for a bit, she had had a fall with her bicycle.
A cycling party at Kinlough House
Saturday 23 February
Read some of the morning. Jack went by the twelve train, & Tom & Ione wet to see him off, & I walked down with Muz, & then she went to meet the others, & I went for the milk. It was lovely & sunny. We came back by the dingle. After lunch I read & finished “The Hundredth Chance”3. Muz & Ione wrote letters, & after tea Muz & Heppie went for a walk, & I wrote letters till dinner time. Then we wrote letters again after dinner & went to bed at about ten. After tea Muz & Heppie had gone for a walk, & they carried a huge parcel for a woman, for a long way, so Muz was awfully tired, & her feet were bad.
Monday 25 February
I went off to get the milk, it was a lovely morning. The others all wrote letters, & afterwards we all read, & Muz, Heppie & Ione went in to the town, & Tom & I read. The cow came yesterday, so we don’t go for milk again.
Letter from Elizabeth Gee, 254 Links Road, Tooting Junction, to Mrs Armstrong [undated but written at around this time]
Dear Mrs Armstrong
Letter from Lizzie Gee
Thank you for yours. Robt. went last Monday and we felt very lonely for a bit & then we settled down to our old way again – we miss him more every time, but he is alive & that’s much to be thankful for. I don’t seem to care what else happens – we had a lovely time this leave he was so well & able to enjoy every hour – he did enjoy seeing you & Jessie & Lady de Lisle, he telephoned to her to know if convenient to take the “Cross”4 to her little son, & she said no he had measles and could not see anyone or anything – Robt wired her the day he was going & asked could he have the latest news to take to the General as he would see him soon after he landed the other side she said phone again on Monday at the last minute, he done so & could not get on the girl at the exchange said they had dozens of calls for that number but could not get on, so I hope he was not worse. Mrs Cheape was going to call the next day and enquire – so I hope he is better – I met General & Mrs Cheape at Lunch & Capt. L[—] it was a very nice affair at the Criterion.5 They are very charming people, the General is Handsome and a fine man. Mrs Cheape asked me to her place in Hill Street Berkeley Square but it was a day I couldn’t go[.] she has returned to Fife now. I met a Mrs Howard & Mrs Evans, Capt Evans’ wife at the Savoy – & she knows Miss Irene Wills well – she tells me Miss Wills is still very sad – indeed – I don’t wonder – poor girl she will never replace what she has lost.
Capt Deardon did not go back with the General & Robt. but Robt. is acting Brigade Major via Howard on leave, & Wally goes back to take up the position next to Pat he is most loved in the Brigade he is so reliable so I hope he goes out & the Brigadier & Robert mean to have him back, Howard is not liked[.] I wish Jessie could meet Capt Deardon she would like him – & he did love Pat – so did Robt tell you about “Geisha”6 he always took her in her 2 lumps of sugar – one morning he was out early, but not back all day so she got no sugar – so she wouldn’t come out. They had an awful bother with her – till the groom said, the only thing I can think of is, the captain hasn’t been in with her sugar so the sugar was fetched – & out she came then, we should love you to come down to see us in our little “dugout” when you are in Town – Just Jessie & you – it’s not exactly Park lane but a tram from Victoria no. 20, 22 – or 10 – Tram fare 3d – so it isn’t far – brings you almost to our door. I must close for you will think me a nuisance the raid was very bad here the other night I don’t seem to have dodged them – will now close.
PS Thank you for giving Miss Abbot my address she wrote me such a nice letter.
Wednesday 27 February
Muz, Ione & I went in to the town, as we thought the engagement would be in the papers, but it wasn’t. We went to see the Welches, & Rosie was going to work at the soup kitchen, so Muz & I went down with her. I had rather a pain, so after lunch, went & lay down, & didn’t get up till dinner time. We went to bed fairly early.
Thursday 28 February
Ione’s engagement was in the papers today, & great praise of the 29th Division too, & all about Captain Gee. Muz & Ione went in to the town in the afternoon. Ione came to bed early, & Muz came up later with Heppie.
“In the papers today”
Friday 1 March
I stayed in bed all day, & read, & finished “Basil Lyndhurst”.7 Muz wrote letters. In the afternoon Ione came up & lay down. Rosie came up in the morning. Ione came up to bed early, & Heppie brought Muz up later.
Sunday 3 March
Muz & Ione went to church. Tom wrote, & Heppie worked at the mat, & I read, & finished “The Sowers”.8 After lunch I did some mending, & worked all evening, & Muz read. Went to bed at about nine, & Heppie brought Muz up later.
The old and new styles of hunting
The Knave of Diamonds (1913), a novel by Ethel May Dell (1881-1939), author of popular and racy romance novels mostly set in India and other British Colonies. She was generally loathed by critics and adored by her mostly female audience ⇑
The Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, a skirmish fought between British and German Squadrons on 17 November 1917 ⇑
The Hundredth Chance (1917) was another novel by Ethel May Dell ⇑