On the eve of the August bank holiday, Pat was getting ready for the Cavalry School’s autumn polo tournament, in which he was to play in Lieutenant-Colonel John Vaughan’s team. Polo, the world’s oldest team sport, was not only an enjoyable pastime but an essential training tool for cavalrymen, increasing as it did their skills in speed and manoeuvrability. Eager to share the day with his family, Pat wrote to his mother inviting them to join him for the occasion. However, as July was drawing to a close, alarming news from Europe threw holiday plans into uncertainty. Declarations of war by Austria-Hungary on Serbia on 28 July and by Germany on Russia on 1 August signalled the prospect of Britain entering the rapidly spreading conflict. In Folkestone, Mrs Armstrong decided to begin a diary to record the events about to unfold. Meanwhile her husband, who had intended to escort the family to Ireland for their annual holiday, returned to Moyaliffe alone.
Stayed in bed all morning, to try & get rid of my cold. After lunch Poppy, Ione & Tom went down to watch the cricket, & then at about 3-30 Muz & I went & called for Ione, & took her up to the sports. General Snow came & talked to us the whole time! Muz stole some peaches, & tried to put them into his pocket! Walked about with Poppy, when we came back. On our way back from the sports we went to the cricket ground, to call for them, but they had gone. The Tuftons were there, & we talked to them for a few minutes.
Programme of the Cavalry School spring tournament, 1914
I have just sent you a wire about this autumn’s Polo tournament here. It starts on Aug 3. It ought to be quite good fun. Do come down if you can. We have got a lot of outside teams coming & it ought to be quite good polo. I am playing with Pedlar (7), J. V. (7), Hornby (8) [blank space] (3) total 25. Then the next week we are going down to play at Cicester [sic, Chichester], where I hope to sell my ponies. I do wish you could come down here. I think you could get that house for as short a time as you like. Why not come down here on Monday & see the place for yourself. You can go to Little Weld anytime. Why not go there in Jan when I leave here. You could take the house down here for 2 or 3 months & have a lot of fun. I’ll have to go back pretty well straight after this course & won’t be able to see much of you. I see that Joe Airlie has got leave till Jan 31 so I shall probably have to go back soon after him. I think I shall try to go to Hythe but don’t know if I shall be able to manage it. I am going to Badminton1 this week end. Frankie asked me there from 1-6 but I can’t go. So I’m going this week end & will then stay there on Wed night after the show. Couldn’t you come down here on Sunday night & see the polo on Monday. You could let Heppie & Tom go to Welch for a bit & then when things are settled let them come down here. I stayed with David last week end. His wife is quite nice all things considered, but it is a pity.
Best love wee Mus.
Your loving Pat
Thursday 30 July
Went down the town with Muz to shop. Barbara came with us. We heard that six officers & 400 men went off suddenly last night, at an hour’s notice to Sheerness. General Snow went by the eight train too. Ione stayed in bed, & Muz & I went over to the Fete at Sibbetswold (the Rice’s2 place) the Plumptres were there, & Patty Lloyd-Edwards. It was rather fun. We came very early. Mr Penrose & Mr O’Donivan had been down to see us, but we had missed them. When we got back, Muz & I went out on the front, & talked to Mrs Norris, & she told us to see her garden. At 9-30 Ione & I went off to the Blake’s dance, there weren’t very many people there, & hardly any men because of this scare of war. Ione & I danced together most of the time. Everyone was sitting out most of the evening. We got back here at about one, but sat & talked till about two. Muz was asleep when we got back.
Letter from Lieutenant-General Thomas D’Oyly Snow, Government House, Woolwich S. E. to Mrs Armstrong
‘Personally I don’t think there will be war’
My dear Mrs Armstrong.
I can say at once that if war does come and they give me leave to take another galloper I would take your boy. At the same time I am pretty sure I should not be allowed anyone extra. All the War Staff have been made up for some time and even I do not know who has been allotted to me. It’s not like it used to be when nothing was arranged till war broke out. I am sorry I can give you a no more definite answer. I do a lot for you and yours but I have little power. However I will do what I can. Personally I don’t think there will be war. Every nation is merely taking precautions. I thought from what I heard when I got back to the Hotel that I was more needed at my Head Quarters than at Folkestone so I left by the 8-30 train last night.
Yours very sincerely
T. D’O. Snow.
Saturday 1 August
Lieutenant-Colonel John Vaughan with his wife Louise
Packed hard all morning & again after lunch, & tied up a lot of books & pictures. Then we went up to the 3rd sports3, & took the Blakes up with us. Mr Penrose came to us as soon as we arrived, & stayed with us the whole time. Muz had tea with Colonel Churcher & his mother, & Ione & I & Mr Penrose stood. Later Mr Wright arrived, & Major Burrowes came & talked to us. Mr Penrose asked Muz to take us to the dance tonight. I did a little packing when we got back, but I was rather tired. We went to the dance, & had the greatest fun. Mr Wright came on after the theatre. Muz nearly fainted, but we didn’t know anything about it, till afterwards. Mr Penrose wanted a lot more dances, but I couldn’t give them to him. They are all awfully excited about the war, & expect to be off any minute.
I’m going to try & write a sort of diary & letter combined & will begin it on 1st August 1914 as we are in anxious times with a big war pending, never knowing quite what is going to happen next. Our present plans are that Ione Jess & I go to Salisbury to see a Polo match which Pat is playing in, playing for Colonel Vaughan in his team. The Vaughans asked us to go there at any time so we think of going to them but nothing settled, our usual going to Ireland now is not to be, but we are leaving 14 Trinity as usual & have been busy packing & storing our goods & chattels. Tommy & Heppie go to Cantreyn4 & we join them there after Salisbury, we are settling to motor there & then on from there to Cantreyn, while settling our plans vaguely & indefinitely. When there on 1st August we went to 3rd H sports taking Blakes with us in the car; the sports were amusing[.] Ned Penrose was with us all the time & took care of us. I had tea there with Colonel Churcher & his Mother […] later a lot of the people there persuaded us to go & dance at the Grand which we did, & all were in great excitement over possible war with Germany.
Sunday 2 August
Dorothy ‘Doddie’ Hubbard
Packed hard all morning, & packed again after lunch, & then I went down to the post office with a telegram, & Muz & Tom went out on the front. I followed them out, but couldn’t find them, I saw Mr Penrose in the distance, he had been lunching with his cousins. Mr Wright & he came for tea, & Mrs Wilson came in later. They went at about seven. They are awfully excited about the war, & longing for it! We won’t see them again now, as we are off on Tuesday. Roger is still away with his men somewhere. Mrs Wilson went about ¼ an hour afterwards. Did some packing & things after dinner, & went to bed at about 11-30.
Mr Penrose & Mr Wright & Mrs Wilson came to tea to say good bye to us as we are going to Salisbury on Tuesday to see the Polo match Pat [is] playing for Cavalry School. Roger Wakefield is still at Sheerness where he & others were hurried off to fearing a raid of some sort; also General Snow who had been coming to dine wrote instead that he had left hurriedly for London an hour after we had seen him here; he had been going to his hotel & back for dinner. It all has been rushing along, but we still go on with plans for Salisbury & fire over to Shropshire to stay at Cantreyn hoping for no war! […] Doddie Hubbard rushed in at 10-30 having had to leave France she was very flustered & had no idea where she could go at this hour for a room, so we told her of one or two & told her to come back to us if she couldn’t get in we’d have put her on a sofa or shared a bed. She did not come back got in at Lyndhurst5 , her mother & aunt are still in France.
Badminton House, home of Henry Somerset, 9th Duke of Beaufort. ⇑
In 1914, Sibertswold Place was the home of Admiral Sir Ernest and Lady Rice. ⇑