WEEK 30: ORDER PROHIBITING HUNTING JUST BEEN ISSUED
Monday 18 to Sunday 24 January 1915
Home leave was a precious commodity which filled the thoughts and letters of soldiers of all nations. Although generally not freely available, British cavalry officers in the reserves on the Western Front enjoyed the rare pleasure of a string of short breaks at home during the winter of 1914-1915. On 19 January, Pat Armstrong made his third crossing to Folkestone in as many months. Enthralled by Romer-Williams’ pack of hounds he at once took steps to acquire one of his own to take back to the Front. However, an order prohibiting hunting thwarted his plans. Nor was Pat lucky in love: an outbreak of chicken pox at Badminton House prevented him from visiting Blanche Somerset and he had to make do with a passionate appeal by letter. Back in New Zealand, Algie Neill was delighted to discover that “the War instead of ruining me has proved quite the reverse”.
Monday 18 JanuaryMary, & did some shopping, & then met Florence & Miss Marlowe, & helped them to choose blouses. Duskey wasn’t looking a bit well, & was walking lame, so we took her to a vet, but he was out. She lay in the drawing room, & shivered all afternoon, & she could hardly move with her leg (left.) Mrs Thurburn came for tea, & Muz & Ione went to a nursing lecture with her, I stayed with Duskey. After dinner we went for another vet, but he was only a boy, & was very rough with her, & didn’t know anything about her, so I wouldn’t let him touch her. I lit a fire in the dining room & fixed her up for the night in there. We went to bed at about 12-30.
Le Nieppe. Snow on the ground & rather cold. Left at 10.30 & walked up to the wood. Gen & Mouse & Percy rode. Got 2 brace of pheasants & 4 rabbits. Shower of snow on the way back. Rode into St Omer at 3 o’c & put my name in leave book in P. M’s1 office. Rained hard on the way back.
Tuesday 19 January
The vet came to see Duskey, & he was so nice to her, & he thinks some of the muscles are strained, he is going to send me something to rub on, & pills for her to take, to deaden the pain. Pat arrived about 11, just as they were going to start to meet him. We sat & talked all morning, & after lunch went round to the Stubbses, & brought them round here, then Mrs & Miss Thurburn & Capt Robinson came for tea, & they all went up to the Tango Tea, & stayed here with Duskey. Mr Ryder came in, & I sent him on to them. Florence & Mary stayed for dinner & left at about ten. I wrote to Ned, & told him that it wasn’t Roger. Bathed Duskey’s leg, & settled her for the night. Pat came & sat in our room & talked till one o’clock.
Wednesday 20 January
I rubbed Duskey’s leg, & stayed with her all morning. The others went down the town. After lunch we all went over to Dover. Tom, Claude & I went in his car, & the others went in ours. Mr Babington took us over his submarine (17). Mrs Hankey was there too. Then we went & had tea in his wee room, & ate sardines! Mr Babington’s brother & a Mr Sassoon were there too. I went back with Muz & Pat, & we had to go the whole way without any lights. Miss de Luze came down & sat with us while we were at dinner, & Claude stayed too. The Stubbses were coming round, but thought they were too many. We went to bed at about 12.
My dear Jess
I have not written you since leaving Suva, Fiji but I have not heard from you either. After leaving Suva we had a comfortable and uneventful voyage to Auckland where I handed over the prisoners of war and details of soldiers and travelled down as a private individual to Wellington by train. On arrival there I went to report my arrival to ascertain what my future fate was to be. I was under the impression that I would be allowed to go home by the Niagara via Van Couver across Canada, but alas they have decided that I am to go with the 4th reinforcements from here to Egypt in April in the meantime I have to go to Trentham Camp near Wellington to train raw colonials a billet I loathe & detest but I presume it is what the authorities require & so I suppose it is doing the best for the cause. One has to put one’s personal feelings aside on these occasions. After leaving Wellington I came on by the ferry boat here on 14 days leave, got my motor and went through the same day to “Barrosa” to find that they had not quite finished shearing so I was able to see nearly all the wool and a good many of the sheep. I spent four days there & found everything going on splendidly. In fact I think I shall have a very successful year – better than my best hopes had anticipated – the War instead of ruining me has proved quite the reverse, but all the same I pray it will end very soon for others’ sakes if not for my own.
After leaving Barrosa I went down to Dunedin to stay with my father for a few days & am glad to say I found him in excellent health and spirits & looking younger than when I saw him last. He is now 76 years of age. I motored back from Dunedin here 250 miles & stayed one night on the way with “Dod” at their country place. She is going home in February with her son & daughter he is A.D.C. to Lord Liverpool temporarily but he is going home to be trained to go to the front if the war lasts long enough. My eldest brother’s only son & eldest sister’s two sons have already gone so I think we have sent every living male of a military age to do what little they can to assist. I feel the rotter of the family being here still but it’s what the authorities deem best & that ends it. I go up to Wellington by the ferry boat tonight and join the reinforcements on Monday next. It’s a long long way to Tipperary Jess!
I had a funny thing happen coming up from Dunedin in the car. My father was with me & suddenly I smelt something burning, my father was smoking a pipe I was just on the point of asking him what filthy tobacco he was smoking when I looked down & found the car was on fire. I had knocked the ashes out of my own pipe but the wind had blown them back into the car again and set the cushions on fire. We stopped & soon put it out. Luckily there was little or no damage done. I am taking the wee car up to Trentham Camp with me as I have two full months to put in before I sail. Eastwood goes with the 3rd reinforcements I am very sorry as I was in hopes he would come with my lot! I think this little country has done very well in sending men to the front. Already 10,000 men have been provided & the population of the entire country men women & children is only 1,000,000 I hope it will be able to keep up to strength what men it has promised to provide. I wonder what you & Ione are doing these days I presume you are still in Ireland at least I hope so as you will be safer there than in Folkestone. There is no knowing where these rotten Germans will drop their bombs. I wonder how you will like Dod she has promised to go & see you when she goes home. I am sure you will like her awfully, she’s an awful dear & still quite pretty although she’s over 40 now. I am looking forward to getting definite news of Wakefield & do hope he turns out to be all right. The regiment does not seem to have been in action lately at least I can see no names in the last casualty lists. Well Jess I must stop now as it’s time for me to be going off to catch my ship.
With best love from yours affectionately Algie.
Thursday 21 January
Ione & I took Duskey out for a walk, the 1st time since Monday. Pat went down to the boat to meet Mr de Tuyll. Mr Freeman came in, he is back on a week’s leave. Doddie came, & Mary came for lunch, & then we all went for a walk round by Shorncliffe Station, & home by Sandgate Road. It rained hard. Mary stayed for tea. At five I went down to the Soldiers’ home & helped Mrs Walter. Pat & Ione came down & met me. After dinner I wrote letters, & Pat & Doddie ragged. We went to bed at about 11.30.
Letter from Blanchie Somerset to Pat Armstrong
Thursday [21 January 1915]
Isn’t it maddening that we can’t have you here this time as the doctor says the infection won’t be out of the house for ages & also we have an old aunt who is ill & may die at any moment. In fact she can’t recover so of course you quite understand don’t you? I am angry Pat dear, but still perhaps next time it’ll be alright. What fun you must have out there with the beagles – We’ve killed 13 hares this season & for the last 3 times out haven’t done very much. Maurice got to London today, but I think he & F. are staying there for a bit. Pat, for god’s sake remember & don’t say a word to the two boys of our secret, I can’t explain on paper why but will next time I see you.
Best love from Blanchie.
Friday 22 January
Pat got three couple of beagles down, & when they arrived, one escaped, & we took ages catching her. I went down the town to get some couples. Then we took them out. Doddie & Ione went to tea with Mrs Forbes. Mary, Capt. Robinson, Pat & Tom went on to the Tango tea, & Doddie & Ione met them there. Then Mrs Handcocks & Mrs Wakefield came here for tea, & Muz & I took them on up to the Tango tea, & we stayed up there till about 7-30. Mrs Wakefield stayed for dinner, & left at about eleven. She can’t hear any news of Roger at all. She goes back to London tomorrow morning. We went to bed at about twelve.
Blanchie my darling.
As I can’t come & see you I must write & tell you what I hoped to be able to say to you when we met. […] I have been in love with you for ages but thought as you were so young it would be better not to speak at present. Well when you asked me to kiss you I absolutely couldn’t help telling you as I realised to my joy that you did care for me. Our time alone together was so short that I couldn’t say half the things to you which I wanted to. Well, darling what I want you to do more than anything else at present is to break off that engagement. Not that it makes me love you any the less but it puts me in a very difficult position. I am sure you will realise this yourself. Will you do this for me darling? Do write & tell me you will. Blanchie darling I am not going to ask you to marry me at present as if I did I would first have to ask your mother’s consent. This at the present moment she would never give as she would say that you were far too young. So for the present we must just go on loving each other & be to the outside world only friends. From what you told me your mother knows that I am fond of you. Well if we get engaged & she found it out she would probably stop me writing to you & not let me see you for ages & besides on no account do I want to deceive her. What I want you to do is to wait till you are a bit older & then let me know if you will marry me. You can be quite sure that now & always I am dying to marry you but I am going to leave it absolutely to you when that time shall be. I am prepared to wait for you as long as you like & until such a time as your mother thinks you are old enough to get married. Darling I know I oughtn’t to write to you like this while you are still engaged to another but I absolutely must. I can’t bear this uncertainty & absolutely must know if you really care for me enough to break it off with the other man. Blanchie darling do write to me quickly & tell me that you will do this. You don’t know what it all means to me. […] Good bye my darling. How I wish I was going to see you. I hope & pray that you get this safely & that it doesn’t fall into anybody’s hands. I go back on Tuesday so do write to me here. I can’t rest till I get an answer from you.
Your loving Pat.
Saturday 23 January
Went down the town & then we took the beagles out in the morning. After lunch Pat, Doddie, & I walked down to the Harbour. Pat wanted to send a note over, to tell somebody to get something to meet the beagles on the other side, on Tuesday. Doddie stayed outside, then we took the beagles out again, then Pat & I walked down to Goddens. Mayor went & Capt. Robinson came for tea. Then Capt Robinson came & dined & we went to the dance, it was great fun. Muz lost her wee pearl brooch on the way back, with the Stubbses, so Pat & I went out & looked for it when we got back. Pat got a wire from the General saying hunting & everything had been stopped over there, so he could not take the beagles.
Sunday 24 January
We all went to church, & stayed on for 2nd service, then we went out on the front for a bit. After lunch the Stubbses came round, & we walked down to Sandgate, to ask about Muz’s brooch I took photographs of the beagles. Pat took them out, & the others went for a walk, & Muz, Doddie Florence & I went down to Sandgate, we met Capt. Spooner there, & he said he would ask at the camp garage. I went round to the house with Florence, & Miss Marlowe & Mr Harvie were there, & they did fortunes, & then came back here for tea. Capt. Robinson & Mr King came too, and the others came back late. After tea we all sang songs & ragged. They left at about 7-30. Pat ragged with Doddie after dinner & we went to bed at about one.
Thanks very much for your nice letter. I am so awfully sorry that you were wrong. Poor dear old Roger. However we’ll go on hoping. Yesterday my mother wrote & said a friend of hers had just heard of a man hit in August who was still alive. I wonder do you know a fellow called Lidwill – a very nice man he is commanding this – our third battalion; he comes from the north of Tipperary. I have just had orders to start for the Low Countries tomorrow with two new batteries. We go to the base first & then I pray to the 87th. If they send me to another regt I think I shall desert & join the Germans. I simply wouldn’t stand not being with the regt. Please give my love to all the family & your godchildren! & please write to me out there.
Your humble servant
- PM = Provost Marshall ⇑