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Monday 28 December 1914 to Sunday 3 January 1915

Monday 28 December 1914 to Sunday 3 January 1915

WEEK 27: WHAT WILL THIS NEXT YEAR BRING?

Monday 28 December 1914 to Sunday 3 January 1915

The Armstrongs and their friends celebrated New Year in mixed circumstances. Algie Neill on the island of Fiji was overjoyed to shake off the dust of Samoa and to enjoy the comforts of the Grand Pacific Hotel before a short reprieve to visit his sheep farm in New Zealand. In France, Pat was inoculated for typhoid fever, a serious and common illness among First World Soldiers owing to the poor hygiene and lack of sanitation which characterised trench life. Feeling unwell as a consequence and reluctant to face the infernal mud of the battlefields, Pat began the New Year by resting in bed. In Folkestone, Mrs Armstrong was disheartened by the news of the death of yet another family friend. Perhaps disappointed with the realisation that the war would not be over by Christmas, she gave up writing her diary. The sighting of German aeroplanes over Dover caused fears of a possible air raid. In the midst of such concerns, Ione Armstrong and Harry Tufton dropped a bombshell of a different kind.

Monday 28 December

Captain Reginald ‘Reg’ Prittie

Captain Reginald ‘Reg’ Prittie


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Went round to the Stubbses, & went down the town with Mary. Florence was in bed. Then we went out on the front. Tom & Heppie stayed in bed all day with colds, & Ione stayed in bed too. Muz stayed in bed all morning. After lunch I wrote letters, & did a lot of tidying, & put up a bookshelf, & pictures & things, & looked at all my Christmas presents. I got 67. I was rather tired. Went to bed at about eleven.

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Reg Prittie is in list of killed I’m afraid it must be true & that Pat & Harry are letting us get Xmas over. G is at St Omer & likely to be there for some days. There were several German aeroplanes over Dover today rumour has it that we got one down

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Le Nieppe. Rode into St Omer about 10.30 with the Gen & Cecil. Drizzling which turned to rain. Gen had his hair cut. In afternoon we motored down to Arques to try & see Gen Snow but he was out. Went in next door to Gen Stopford & wrote a note to G. asking him to dinner. Went for a walk in the evening with Cecil. Looked like hard rain so we came back.

Tuesday 29 December

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The Lucas children

The Lucas children


Muz & I went round to the Stubbses, & we met Madame Mullender, & she said she wanted to have the baby christened tomorrow. Mary came down the town with us, & we shopped. After lunch, we went to call on the Chataways. They were out, but we saw Doreen , the eldest sister had been married this morning. Then we went on to see the Mullenders, the baby is a month old on Thursday. The wee brother, Billy, is a dear wee thing. Muz went to tea with the Lucases, & I went down the town. Harry came for tea, & stayed for dinner, & went by the 9-30. We went to bed at about eleven. We heard that Reg Prittie has been killed.

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Scotland Yard requests people to keep indoors in London if hearing firing & in cellars where possible. I hear some refugees coming over again & perhaps may be wanted again at Harbour.

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Le Nieppe. Nice morning. Left at 10.30 with the Gen & Col Home & drove in Lang’s [?] car to inspect the Divisional troops. Mud was dreadful. Got back here to lunch at 3 o’c. Rode Melody into Arques & saw G. who came to dinner with me. It was awfully cold & froze that night.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Dec 29. Hd Qurs I Cav Div.

My dear wee Mus,

We had quite a good crossing yesterday & it was quite nice & warm. Brock & I got chaise & were very comfortable. When we arrived at Boulogne we found that there wasn’t a car for us. However Romer Baggallay took me up & Gen Barrow took the Mouse , they dropped us in St Omer where we had dinner & wired here for a car. We had to wait a couple of hours & got out here about 11 o’c. I found a large pile of letters & parcels in my room when I arrived. About a dozen parcels & crowds of letters. I haven’t had time to open them all yet. My clothes have come & are splendid. Awfully dressy my new coat I can tell you. It arrived the day I left. Pity it didn’t come before as I would have liked to have it at home. It is so thick that I don’t want a waistcoat & can keep it for when the weather gets really cold. I will send you back that thick waistcoat sometime as I have just too many clothes now. What a lovely lot of letters you did write to me wee Mus. I had quite a second Xmas last night. Will you thank the wee girls for all the nice things they sent me. I love that wee photo & case of you. My horses are all looking awfully well. I am going to ride into St Omer this morning with the General so I’ll get this sent off before I go in. It will get to you quicker. Don’t forget to send me back B’s letter. The General is awfully pleased with the waistcoat he showed it to me this morning in great delight. He was very funny said he couldn’t read your letter & didn’t know what was wrong with you. I am going to write to B again to-day. Do you think it matters how often I write as long as I write to the Duchess an odd time. But I love writing to her. Tell me what you think about it. I’ll only write ordinary letters. I must be off now. I’ll write again to-night & answer all your letters. But I want to get this off. The ink thing is lovely & just what I want. Best love wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Dec 29. Le Nieppe.

Lieutenant Colonel Eustace Shearman

Lieutenant Colonel Eustace Shearman

My dear wee Mus,

[…] Cecil told me this morning that he saw Shearman last week & he told him that he nearly applied for me to go back to the Rgt as they were so short but now they are full up & don’t want me. It would be so cold going back & besides the General wouldn’t let me. I’ll take good care I don’t go. […] I hear that there was nearly a big naval battle when Scarborough was bombarded. They had the whole fleet out waiting for them but they slipped through in the fog. The German fleet was out in support & they hoped to round up the raiding ships & so draw in the German fleet. Sickening wasn’t it. If we could only have a big naval success it would hurry things a lot. Will you tell Bonbon that a frame the same size at the one I showed her will do for B’s photo. I got it from Burtons in Bond St. Ask her to try & get me another like it. The size I showed her would be best. But a stock smaller would do. Tell her to send it as soon as she can, as I’m afraid of the photo getting spoilt. […] All my very best wishes for the New Year.

Your loving Pat.

Wednesday 30 December

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Letter from Pat dated 28th. Sybil sent me rather a nice photograph of herself. I was going round to the Stubbses, & I got a note to say that the baby was to be christened at twelve, so Mary & I went down to the Parish church. I was godmother & Mr Chataway was godfather & the father stood as Proxy, as he is a Roman Catholic. He was christened Charles John. After lunch I wrote letters, Doreen Chataway came for tea, & afterwards Ione & I worked at Muz’s surprise for new year’s day. […]

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Reg Prittie was killed by a stray bullet while walking up from supports he was killed on 19th but they didn’t tell us so as to let Xmas over. 10,000 soldiers had come into the town today & are being billeted everywhere it’s possible. Some houses are very scared at having to have them & lodging houses are pleased in some parts of the town.

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Le Nieppe. Went out for a ride at 9.30. Rode down to level crossing & saw the men of XXVII Div digging. Left at 10.45 with Gen & Col Home to inspect 1st Bde. Went round KDG’s1 then went back to lunch. Bell-Smyth & Wickham in KDG’s came to lunch. Afterwards went round Bays & 11th Hussars. Sunny day awfully cold coming back. Was inoculated.

Algie_cameoLetter from Algie Neill to Jess Armstrong

Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva.

[For the first part of this letter, see 26 December.] Since writing the above we have arrived at Suva the capital of Fiji. It is much cooler here & I have started to feel more energetic again. This is a new hotel just started by the Union Steamship Company of N.Z. it’s really an excellent hotel beautiful clean & very well run. All Indian servants, they make me feel as if I were back in the Shiny East once more. I enclose a few stamps for Tibbs will you please give them to her with my love. I have just had a letter from Lambie he says things are going well at “Barrosa” he has counted 3,000 lambs up to date & I expect a few more will come in at the shearing muster. The shearing will just be about half way through when I get back. I am afraid I am not going to get a very fat wool cheque this year as most of my wool is fine merino for which there is very little demand owing to the war. Those who have coarse wools are getting enormous prices as they are in great demand for soldiers’ uniforms & blankets. I do hope the news of Wakefield’s death will prove to be untrue I am in hopes that he will turn up in some German hospital a prisoner. It appears a good many of those who are unaccounted for do turn out to be prisoners. If he was wounded in the feet he would very probably be taken prisoner. I don’t think returned letters signify anything once a man is reported missing. I trust your last report of O’Donovan being back with the regiment is correct. I see Mrs Armie is still at 14. T.C. 2 I wondered whether she would stay there or go over to Ireland. I thought she would probably remain in Folkestone so I’ve always addressed her letters there. Well Jess I must end up now.

With best love from Yours affectionately Algie.

The Grand Pacific Hotel

The Grand Pacific Hotel

Thursday 31 December

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We can’t take some Belgians for a run in car as it’s pouring out so I’m going to write letters. Mary Stubbs came to lunch & we made her eat 6 mince pies to make up her dozen! Very hard work it was they are all going to dance tonight & are all very nice about wanting me to go but as it’s not necessary I’d rather not. I wrote two letters on 1st Jan & went to bed. They all got back from dance at 2-30 having enjoyed themselves very much.

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Le Nieppe. Felt rather rotten so stayed in bed. Gen went to inspect II Bde. Got up in time for lunch. Went out for a short ride on Melody about 2 o’c. Went down to level crossing. Came in & wrote letters all the afternoon. What will this next year bring? Will the war be over by April 1 wonder? Will things with B go on alright.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Dec 31.

My dear wee Mus,

I have just got your letter written on Sunday. I think that letter I wrote to B was alright wasn’t it. I hope to hear from her soon again. There is absolutely no news to-day. I was inoculated last night & felt a bit old this morning so stayed in bed late. The Gen went off to see the 2nd Cav Bde. I didn’t see any fun in ploughing about all day in the mud like we did yesterday, it would probably have made me feel rotten. As it is I feel quite fit & my arm doesn’t worry me a bit. I like this new paper I got when I was at home. It makes letter writing much easier. The little blocks are nice to carry about but this is nicest to have in my room. It has been a beastly day to-day. Horribly cold & trying to rain all day. I went out for a ride for about an hour after lunch & am now going to have a good letter writing evening. I have got a lot to write & it’s rather a good chance of getting them done. Did I tell you that Disi sent me a cake & plumb pudding for Xmas. Mildred a cake. Bee a cake. So we have got crowds of cakes now. I gave G. one of mine the night he dined with me. He was awfully pleased. I met his General the other day he is awfully nice & very amusing. Looks a real good sort. G. seems awfully happy & is very pleased with his job. I think I shall probably go & dine with him to-morrow night. He has asked me to go there one night. He is only 5 miles off down the road, so it’s awfully nice. I asked Pokes to come & stay with me but he has just gone off home. I wish I was going to have another go. […] Well wee Mus I have no more news. Best love & wishing you all a very happy New Year.

Your loving Pat.

The home troops!

The home troops!

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Captain Maurice Beresford Armstrong

Dec 31. Hd Qrs I Cav Div., British Expeditionary Force.

My dear Sir,

The bit & martingale arrived yesterday & are splendid just what I wanted. No sign of the clippers yet. I’m afraid they must be lost. No! I don’t clip my horses all over only trace high & their heads & necks. They keep much fitter like that & are able to do fast work. If you leave long coats on them they get awfully distressed if they have to gallop. I saw my ponies last week, they are looking awfully well. They all say that they aren’t a nuisance so I’ll leave them there. I have never seen them looking so well. I was so sorry you couldn’t come over for Xmas. I am afraid it will be a long time before I get home again. This war looks like being a long show I’m afraid. The country is so deep & wet now that it is quite impossible to do anything. We hear good news of the Russians which is comforting. I wish they could have a real big victory & get into Siberia. It would hurry things up well. It is horribly cold out here. It is an awful job to keep warm. It has frozen hard the last two nights which helps to dry the country up a bit. I was inoculated for enteric3 last night & have been feeling rather old fashioned all day. I expect I will be alright again to-morrow. Best of good luck for the New Year.

Your loving Maurice.

Friday 1 January

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Went down to the Mullenders, on my bike, to ask them to come for a drive in the car. About lunchtime it began to pelt, so I walked down to tell them we wouldn’t come, & I walked back with them. After tea Ione went out to telephone to Harry, & while she was out a dog came into the rabbits, & the grey one died a few minutes afterwards, we took a long time finding the other three, but they were alright. Afterwards Florence & Mary came in, & stayed till after seven. When they left we had the surprise for Muz, it was a forest of wee trees, & was all decorated. After dinner I sat up & talked to Muz, & we didn’t go to bed till after eleven.

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It’s an odd time to keep a diary as the days are so filled with incidents about war news that one would have to write pages every day, each day teams with — for months past, & what one would call “an uneventful day” pages could be written of each hour! Last night ends 1914.

Saturday 2 January

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Muz, Tom & I & Mary went down to take a baby out, I am taking George Albert Van Houtte out now, he was born Dec 23. We went down the High Street, & on the way back, it began to rain, so we had to shelter. After lunch I went round to see Helen, as she has to lie up, she has strained her heart, & stayed till about 3-30, & then dressed, & went to the Garratts’ wedding reception4 with Muz. Harry came for lunch, & went back by the six train. They have been billeting soldiers in Folkestone for the last fortnight, & have got about ten thousand here now. Got a letter from Maria Maude. Went to bed at about eleven.

Sunday 3 January

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Muz, Ione, Tom & I went to church. It was Intercession Sunday, for the war. It rained hard all day. When we got back Harry was here, & after lunch they broke “it” to Muz!5 Muz & I went down to the boat, to see Major Hambro, & give him Pat’s parcel. We stood at the wrong boat for ages & only found the other just as they were going out. We spoke to Mrs Jelf (he was going out) & she came back & had tea with us, & left by the 4-30 train. Mr Turley suddenly turned up for tea, he is down for the weekend, & back wounded. Then Major MacGregor came in, & left at about 7-30. Harry went at 5-30. A lot of the soldiers marched in to church here, & had a service at 9. Went to bed at about eleven.

Harry and Ione in happier days

Harry and Ione

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Footnotes

  1. King’s Dragoon Guards
  2. 14 Trinity Crescent, Folkestone, Kent.
  3. Enteric fever, i.e. typhoid
  4. A reception to mark the forthcoming marriage of Frances Marjory Garratt and William Pitcairn Nunneley
  5. Ione Armstrong and Harry Tufton had become secretly engaged

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