WEEK 28: I HAVE A DEAD ROT IN ME
Monday 4 to Sunday 10 January 1915
In Le Nieppe, Pat Armstrong was still suffering from the after-effects of his typhus inoculation, much to his mother’s disquiet. Mrs Armstrong was not alone in her concerns over immunisation. Health concerns aside, mandatory inoculation against contagious diseases was commonly perceived as an infringement of personal liberty in the early 20th century and caused widespread opposition in many circles. The mass-vaccination of soldiers during 1914-1915 was in part an attempt by the British medical community to gain public acceptance for the benefits of immunisation. To combat the boredom of being bound to his bed, Pat made contact with his oldest friend, Gordon Elton of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, who was billeted in Arques, just 8 km from Le Nieppe. In Folkestone, an angry letter from Major Tufton to Mrs Armstrong began to cast doubt over Harry’s plan to marry Ione.
Monday 4 January
[…] I went round to ask Helen for tea, & I talked there & looked at photographs, & then she came back with me. Mr Stubbs, Florence & Mary came too, & they stayed on till 7-30. Muz & I watched some of K’s army drilling on our way back. Zeppelins were supposed to have been seen over Dover & near here yesterday. […]
Le Nieppe. Gen & Hardress went to Furnes to see Tom Bridges . Felt rather rotten so stayed in bed. Had oil. Wrote a note to G who came in about 4 & stayed till 7 o’c. Had great chat. Read & wrote letters all morning. Cecil & Col Home went home by Calais morning boat
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
Jan 4. Le Nieppe.
My dear wee to Mus,
[…] I haven’t eaten much for the last three days as I have a dead rot in me or something of the sort. I am lying low again to-day as I’m not quite right yet. I have just had another dose of castor oil. I got up yesterday about 4 o’c & sat up for dinner. I didn’t take any part in the food contest but I wanted to hear the news. […] Sickening about that Scarborough business1 wasn’t it. I wish we had been able to round them up. I now hear that we had 36 hrs warning before the raid came off. I have just written a note to G & asked him to come in & see me. Arques is only 5 miles down the road. I’d like to see him, it’s rather boring sitting here. Particularly as I feel perfectly alright till I have to dash downstairs. Vulgar letter this Mother dear. […] No news from Russia but I think that they are doing alright. I believe that the end of the war depends more on them than anything else. We have got to push the Germans back so awfully far before we can have any real effect on them. In fact if they went back 50 miles it would really help them as it would shorten their lines of communication & lengthen ours. All we can do to my mind is to hold them here & keep them busy so as they can’t withdraw troops & in this way let the Russians get on. I think they ought soon be able to get at Cracow. Once that falls Silesia is pretty well open to them. Once they get Silesia the whole German line will have to fall back. But at present the country is bad & they are short of ammunition. So I expect that they will hold on where they are for a bit & then make a big push in about a month’s time. We hear that the Cavalry is going to be brought farther back still. With all those new reinforcements coming out they will want some place to put them & can only do that by moving us back. I don’t think that we will be put into the trenches again just at present. When the whole line starts to go forward we’ll be used but not until then, unless our line is broken somewhere & they want a gap stopped just for a short time. Will you tell Burtons to hurry them up with that frame. I want it badly as I’m afraid of the photos getting spoilt. I want a really nice frame, d— the cost, but I want it quickly. I got such a nice Xmas card from little Pilse . He used to be our Qr. Master & left in Africa. Dear little man I must write to him. […] Well wee Mus I think I have told you all the news. Best of love to you all. The very best of luck to you all for the New Year.
Your loving Pat.
Rather funny last night I gave Cecil two letters to post in England. He laughed & said I won’t take this one as I know it’s a love letter. Cruel wasn’t it. […]
Tuesday 5 January
Marjorie Garratt’s wedding. Muz, Ione & I went to the wedding at 12-15, she is marrying a Mr Nunneley, & he is deaf. Sally was the only bridesmaid. Muz got them to ask Mary, so she came too. After lunch we went down in the car to take the Mullenders for a drive, she & the baby came, but the father & Billy were out. We went nearly to Beachborough, & then it began to rain so we came back, & had tea, & then Ione & I took her back in the car, then we put the car up, & went down the High Street to do some shopping. We got back at about six. Then wrote letters, & went to bed about ten. Letter from Pat dated 3rd.
Jan 5. Le Nieppe.
My dear wee Mus,
[…] Cecil & Home went off yesterday & come back again on Monday. Cecil says that he will bring out anything for me. He laughed & said that he would bring any letters etc. out for me but he expected the one I wanted most would come from further afield. I suppose they all know as I have photos up in my room. Do you think it does the child any harm? Suppose the worst came to the worst & it doesn’t come off successfully do you think it would matter people having seen her photo in my room. Because after all on a show like this one doesn’t have photos of anyone who you aren’t really fond of. Let me know what you think. Of course everybody who has been here has seen them. Hardress knows them quite well. I showed him her photo to-day. But I’d rather do anything than do the child any harm. Of course if it all works out alright as I hope it will, it doesn’t matter. […] I stayed in bed all yesterday & feel as fit as a flea to-day. G. came in about 4.30 & had tea with me & stayed till nearly 7 o’c. Awfully nice of him wasn’t it. Just made all the difference & passed the day splendidly. […] No sign of Ames yet. He went away this time last week for 72 hrs. I am afraid he must be sick, there will be hell to pay if he isn’t. D—d annoying anyway. Mouse’s fellow is looking after me & I must say does it awfully well but it’s annoying not having Ames. […]
Your loving Pat.
Le Nieppe. Felt quite fit. Down to breakfast. Standen came in & we talked for a bit. Gen & Hambro went up to the Bdes. Rode into Arques about 11 o’c to see G. He had gone to St Omer, rode there but couldn’t find him. Stayed in all afternoon. Drizzly & horrible. Col Bucknall stayed the night en route for England. Ames came back.
Wednesday 6 January
[…] Tom had a kids’ party, & had about fifteen children; Mary & Florence & Miss Marlowe came too & they played with the children splendidly. Harry came in for tea too. […] Mary & I are going out to Beachborough, to see Roger’s ponies tomorrow, we are going to walk out.
Le Nieppe. Glorious morning. Hardress took photos. Went out for a ride but it came on to rain so I went in early. Walked over to Arques in the afternoon with Percy to see G. Got back in an hr & 10 minutes. Dined with G that night & stayed there till about 12 o’c. He was going off next day to St Eloi2 stopping at Meteren & Westoutre on the way.
Thursday 7 January
Two letters from Pat, dated 4th & 5th. Mary & I didn’t go for our walk, as she said it would be too wet. I went down the town & did some shopping, & brought a photograph of my baby to the nurses. Heppie helped me to put up pictures after lunch, & I wrote letters after tea. After dinner we sat up till tea talking. Muz heard from Major Tufton. We went to bed at about eleven.
Jan 7. Le Nieppe.
My dear wee Mus
No letter from you to-day but I got Sunday’s letter that night so didn’t expect one to-day. It has been another beastly day, raining all day & blowing hard. I went & dined with G last night & had great fun. The poor old thing wasn’t too fit, has got a nasty cold. I stayed there discussing matters with him till after 12 o’c. It has been grand seeing him again but now he’s gone I shall miss him awfully. They went off this morning, stay to-night at Meteren. That is where we used to go forward to in December when we were on duty & now would go there again if we were standing to or anything like that. They go on to Westoutre to-morrow & then go into the trenches in front of St Eloi. The line bends forward there in front of St Eloi & then comes back again behind Wytschaete & Messines. You can see it all on the map. I am afraid I won’t see much of him now as they are too far away but it has been awfully nice having him near here for a few days.
[…] There is absolutely no news at all. It was good work the Russians rounding up that Turkish Army Corps wasn’t it.3 There seems to be a good deal of talk about Austria retiring from the earliest. If the Russians can only push on well into their country, I think it is quite likely that they will. It would help a good bit as it would give Germany a much bigger line to hold. They are pretty well done in in any case but there are still a good many of them which helps Germany. Standen is going home to-night & will take this also a couple of rolls of films. You might send me some more sometime as I’m getting a bit short. […] I am sending you a pipe I got from the King & Queen for Xmas also a box from Princess Mary.4 We all got them awfully nice they are. You can use it for pins or something. Best love to you all dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
P.S. I’m sending you an Xmas card from Pilse. Keep it for me.
Saturday 9 January
Jan 9. Le Nieppe.
My dear wee Mus
[…] Yesterday I started off about 10 o’c & rode over to see the Regt & had lunch with old Brock. He was in good form but was laughing at people getting D.S.O.’s. Rather silly he is about them I think. I was disappointed not to see Pokes, he hadn’t got back from leave. I saw Basil who was in great heart. Maurice asked me if you had sent him a cushion & told me to tell you that he hadn’t written because he didn’t know who it was from. He was awfully nice about it & seemed very pleased. Brock was awfully pleased with his own cushion & told me he had already written to you. He says that he is going home again next week. Maurice told me that he was going in about a fortnight’s time and said that if I was at home then I must come over & that he would give me a hunt. I didn’t see him for very long but he seemed pleased that I had gone down to Badminton. Frankie is at home on a month’s leave. Lucky little devil. He’ll have the time of his life. I’d like to get home again but don’t think that there is much chance just yet. As a matter of fact I would like to stay out a bit longer & then if I am to get leave get it about the first week in February. The country at home must be awful now, nearly as bad as out here. I have ordered a pair of breeches from Sandon5 & a pair of field boots from Maxwell & told them to send them to 14 Trinity. So will you keep them till I write for them. My breeches are pretty well done in & I want to have a pair in reserve in case I want them suddenly & it’s such a nuisance having to wait for things like that. I shall want the field boots later when the weather gets a bit better, they are much the most comfortable things, but I think that those Newmarket boots are not for the wet walks. When the boots come from Maxwell you might get them unpacked & have them well greased. I’ll tell him to send you some grease for them. There are some trees in that small black tin box you might get put into them. […] Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Sunday 10 January
[…] Miss Walter came round to ask me to go & help her, at the soldier’s home, tonight at seven. Miss de Luze came for tea, & stayed on late. She is staying in the house, & is working at the Manor House hospital. Mrs Fitz-Gerald asked us to be nice to her. Ione went down to the soldier’s home instead of me. […]
My dear Wee Mus.
Not much news these times. I got a grand long letter from you yesterday. You really are good about writing. The Gen, Hambro & I went to Church yesterday with the 1st Bde. Just an open air service. But it was a real glorious day. It froze a little in the night & was a lovely sunny day, never had any rain till about 6 o’c. It’s nice sun to-day but doesn’t look like holding I’m afraid. In the afternoon the General & I went for a ride we just sallied round. The country is so heavy you can’t ride across it one practically has to stick to the road. We got off it now & again but it was over our horses’ fetlocks. I went for a walk in the evening with Wilfred so had quite a good bit of exercise. I don’t know yet what we are going to do to-day. I rather want to go out with the 2nd Bde beagles they meet at 1 o’c, but don’t know if I will be able to get a car or not. […] I must post this now as the Liaison officer will be long in a few minutes & will take this. I’ll write again to-night. Best love wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Letter from Blanchie Somerset to Pat Armstrong
Sunday Jan 10th 
– I don’t know what to say in answer to your questions. My letters are not read, but if they come by the evening post, Mother sees them & then promptly says “oh I see you’ve a letter from Pat, let me see what he says” or “can I see it.” Well I can’t very well refuse, but then again if it arrives by the early morning post you could say what you liked as not a soul would see it as all my letters come straight up to my room. So you see it just depends on the posts & I don’t know if, when you send the letter off say one evening you have any idea when it’ll reach me – Do you see what I mean? You’ll be glad to hear my ankle has quite recovered, but Di & I have developed chicken-pox this morning! Just our luck isn’t it? You know Master had it about 2 weeks ago & we thought we’d escaped but the beastly spots came out this morning & Di is feeling pretty bad, poor little thing – I shall look more beautiful than usual in a few days’ time I suppose with large spots all over my face! Frankie came back last Monday with a month’s sick leave. I don’t think he goes back till the 4th. Feb. M. was rather depressed I think going back all by himself – Well, Pat darling, think over the problem & see if you can find a solution –
Best love from Blanchie.
Whatever you do, don’t let the boys6 know our secret as they’d split at once to Mother. I don’t trust either of them a yard.
- The coastal towns of Whitby, Hartlepool and Scarborough had been attacked by the German Navy on 16 December 1914⇑
- A village south of Ypres.⇑
- Battle of Sarikamish, 22 December 1914-17 January 1915, which ended in the Russians virtually encircling the Turkish troops, forcing them to surrender ⇑
- Princess Mary, daughter of George V, had approached the British government in October 1914 to create a fund to solicit donations from the general public towards a scheme to provide every soldier with a Christmas present from ‘home’. The public response was overwhelming and raised some £170,000. The gift comprised a brass box embossed with Princess Mary’s silhouette and monograms, containing chocolates for nurses, tobacco and cigarettes for smokers, and acid tablets, writing paper, envelopes and a pencil in the shape of a bullet for non-smokers.⇑
- Sandon & Co., Savile Row tailors in London⇑
- Her half-brothers, Frankie and Maurice de Tuyll ⇑