While Mrs Armstrong returned to England after an emotional reunion with her son in Marseilles, Pat Armstrong continued his journey to Gallipoli to join the 29th Division. Formed in early 1915 from infantry units in distant garrisons of the British Empire, the Division had made its first landings as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at five beaches at Cape Helles on 25 April 1915. The campaign was ill-fated from the start, two of the five landing battalions being decimated by Turkish resistance. The Division was originally commanded by Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, whose blundering battle plans and blatant disregard of troops gave him a reputation as one of the most brutal and incompetent commanders of the First World War. Having been returned to England on health grounds, he was replaced as commander in chief by Major General de Lisle. The 29th Division was to suffer some of the highest casualties during the First World War but its members also won the highest total of Victoria Crosses (27 in all, of which 12 at Gallipoli), earning it the sobriquet ‘the Incomparable Division’.
Monday 7 June
We went out at about 9-30, & went & looked at the shops, & poked about. It was frightfully hot, we were nearly baked alive, it was awful! I have never been so hot. We got back at about 8-30, & went straight to bed. I had a horrid head ache from the sun. Later it began to rain, & thunder & lightning.
S.S. Elephanta. Cloudy & hot so hot. Wrote letters all morning. Read all afternoon & walked in the evening till my heels were sore.
Just a short scribe to tell you that I am on my way to Gallipoli to join my General. He left Marseilles on the 19th with Hardress & left me to bring on the horses. I am loving the world’s most amazing journey. I left St Omer on the morning of the 1st then went to Boulogne where I had about 5 hours, then on to Paris arriving there about 5 a.m. & leaving again about 11.30. I eventually arrived at Marseilles at 11 pm on the night of the 3rd. I was very busy trying to get my horses unboxed & things fixed up so you can imagine my surprise when at about 12.30 I suddenly ran across Mus & Jess. I got a letter off to them from Boulogne the day I was there & they had dashed across. Awful luck meeting them wasn’t it. They would never have found me if it hadn’t been by chance like that. We then got the horses reboxed & fixed up & eventually go to bed at about 3 a.m. We celebrated the 4th of June1 in Marseilles & had an awfully jolly day. Wee Mus wasn’t looking too well but she says that the change has done her good. I wish you could get her over to Lenaghan2 for a bit but am afraid you won’t be able to now as she goes into the house on the 24th of this month. I sailed on the 5th & am now thoroughly enjoying myself in the middle of the Mediterranean. It was very hot all yesterday but is cloudy to-day. Glorious it is to be really hot again. Nobody seems quite certain where we are bound for either Port Said or Alexandria. We are supposed to arrive at one or the other on the 11th. Then I get onto another boat & go on to Gallipoli. It will be very interesting seeing a new country but from all I hear of it not very pleasant. We live in dug outs & can never get away from shell fire. My address will be: – Hd Qrs 29th Division British Mediterranean Force. So be sure that sometime when you aren’t too busy that you drop me a line. Will you tell that little divil Gretta that she owes me a letter & that she is to report in writing at once. Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat.
Tuesday 8 June
We went out at about eleven, & went down to the Louvre, & looked about, then got some gas fittings there, for the dining room, hall & ball room. We didn’t get back till about eight. It was quite a nice cool day, & quite a nice wee breeze, so we didn’t get very hot, but Muz was a bit tired, as we had to wait for ages to get a bus home. We went to bed at about eleven. They had a roasting day in England.
S.S. Elephanta. Rather hot. Read nearly all day. Took some photos of the natives & watched them most of the afternoon. Found that Browning used to live at Roskeen & knew us.
Wednesday 9 June
We left Paris by the ten train, & got to Boulogne at 3-30. It was rather hot. I read nearly all the time. We went & talked to Major Hunter – in the 4th D.G’s, he is a friend of Pat’s. We had a lovely crossing, & did it in an hour instead of 1½, so there must have been a submarine or something! I read all the way over, & we had a lovely crossing. We talked to General Kennedy at the station. We came up in the ‘bus, as there wasn’t a taxi. Then we sat & talked to the others, & went to bed at about 11-30.
S.S. Elephanta. Nice sunny morning. Was woken up early by natives running round the deck. Had a long talk to Jardine & found that he had been quartered at Enniskillen & knew them all. Palfrey again fading badly. Gave the Palfrey some fever medicine.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
S. S. Elephanta. June 9.
My dear wee Mus.
I have been having great letter writing since I came on board. I have written to everybody I can think of, it will save me a deal of trouble when I get to Gallipoli. I don’t suppose I will have much spare time there to write letters to odd & promiscuous people. I will write this now so as I can post it as soon as I land. We don’t yet know where we are going to. I had hoped that we would stop at Malta but we didn’t go anywhere near it. We are going right out of the ordinary line of shipping. I suppose that is why we are taking longer. Personally I don’t mind how long we take as I am thoroughly enjoying myself. I’d like to stay here for a month. We are due to arrive sometime on the 11th. I suppose I will stay a day or two & then go on. The horses are all doing pretty well. “Melody” eats all day & anything you give her but “The Palfrey” isn’t so good. He has always fed well before but isn’t so keen about his food now. “Struthorpe” & “Blackneck” are both doing quite well.
The weather is perfectly glorious, just lovely & warm & not too hot. I am enjoying myself thoroughly. You remember the fellow that Jess said she thought knew me well! I was talking to him last night & he asked me where I lived & when I told him at Thurles. He said “Oh! You’re the Armstrong’s of Thurles are you”? He lived for some time at Roskeen which is about 3 Irish miles out of Thurles, & now lives near Fermoy. Browning his name is. This morning I was talking to a little Captain man Jardine by name he used to be a trooper in the 7th Hussars & was in John Vaughan’s troop. Then he got a commission in the Munsters & afterwards in the Middlesex. He knows all the people we know. Nevy, Welch, Ward & them all. He told me that he was a whole winter at Enniskillen & knew them all well. He is full of stories about them all & absolutely loved the place. Nevy apparently lent him his old pony Max you remember the brute. Well he had the time of his life on this thing. He had Micky Keeran working for him. He seems an awfully nice little man. He sits at the same table as I do at meals so we will have great chats now. Funny how small the world is isn’t it. I wrote to Zoo the day before yesterday & have shut up the letter so you can tell her this news when next you write to her. He says that he wants to go back & spend a winter there & live in the Imperial hotel & hunt. He says that you can live there in the winter for 4/- a day. He is very enthusiastic about it & got awfully excited when I told him that they were my aunts.
I have already taken two rolls of photos since I left. I’ll send them home as soon as I can. Great luck I had a good supply by me wasn’t it. I still have got 9 rolls left, which ought to do me till you can send me out some more. Anyhow with 9 rolls I ought to be able to get a lot of interesting photos. But I feel sure that as soon as I land there will be hundreds of things that I want to take. I never took any photos on my way out the first time so I will have to make up for lost time now. Be sure to send me two copies of each won’t you. Well wee Mus I have no more news for you to-day. I think that was simply a splendid effort of yours dashing over like that & did make such a huge difference. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Thursday 10 June
Muz, Heppie & I went round to the house. They have done a good lot since I saw it last. They have papered all the top rooms. The servants’ are kind of brownish yellow with red flowers, & looks quite pretty. Muz’s is a very pale grey, Tom’s, white ground with pink & blue. Mine white, Ione’s white ground with blue, & the spare dressing room white. It rained nearly all day. After lunch I wrote a lot of letters, & did some tidying. Muz wrote letters too. At seven I went down to the club, but there was only Miss Callaghan & another woman there. Only about five men came in. I think they are going to shut the club as this place has been made in to a Canadian station, & then since the riot on Saturday night, Folkestone is going to be out of bounds.
S.S. Elephanta. Palfrey fed up well. Seems a bit warmer. Wrote letters most of the morning. Wrote 17 letters & 5 post cards. Everybody very cheery & made quite a lot of noise.
Friday 11 June
Fishing boat in Port Said harbour
Muz & Heppie went up to London by the 8-30 train to look at electric fittings. I went about the tassels for the blinds, & then went down the town. I met Florence & we went & shopped, then I went in to talk to the others, & then Florence walked home with me. After lunch I did a lot of tidying & writing & then read for a bit. Ione went to the Tango tea with Noel, Mr North & Mr Nicholson. Finished reading “A Maker of History”.3 Then put Tom to bed. Ione went to the dance at the Metropole. Muz & Heppie came back by the nine train, they have got blankets & looked at electric lights. […]
S.S. Elephanta. Seemed a good bit hotter. Got into Port Said about 3.30. No orders for me. Went & saw Col Elgood who was awfully kind & made arrangements for me to put the horses in the S.P.C.A. stables. Couldn’t get them off that night. Went on shore with Balfour, Browning etc. Went to the Kursaal4 not good show.
Saturday 12 June
I went down the town. Talked to Florence, then went to Miss Walters, but she was out. After lunch I went round to see Mrs Boddam-Whetham, but she was out; then I went to Miss Walters. After tea Muz & I went to see Mrs Phillips – Mrs Winstanley’s mother – then went to the Manor House to ask about Gordon having his hand done. I found a wee stray puppy, & brought him in for the night. Ione went to the tango tea with the Wyndhams, then dined with Madame de M, & went to the dance. We got a wire from Algie from Plymouth, to ask if we were still at Folkestone. I took a wire down to the General. He has just come back from Egypt. […]
Port Said. Got the horses off about 8 o’c. Then went & fixed up things at the stable. Had lunch on board & then took horses away at about 2 o’c. The 9th & 125 moved away about the same time as I did. Took Melody out for a short ride in the evening.
Sunday 13 June
Street scene in Port Said
Did some washing & ironing in the morning. Then Muz & I went down the town, to ask about the wee puppy I had found last night. Then we went to the Griffiths to see if they knew anything about Ned. Griffith was one of the search party, that went to look for him. Muz & I lay down for a bit before tea. Ione went to tea at the Grand. We got a wire from Algie to say that he was coming by the 9-30 train. Ione went up to the Grand with the Wyndhams after dinner, & Muz, Tom & I went up to meet Algie. His train was very late. He hasn’t changed a bit. We sat talking till 12-30. He came back in command of a lot of New Zealand men, & is temporary Major.
Port Said. Left by the 8 o’c train for Alexandria rather hot journey. Arrived about 3 o’c. Went to Hotel Barnard. Then went on to the docks & fixed things up. Dined at the Metropolis & met Brydon who introduced me to the Davis’s. Went on to a show with them in the evening.
4 June was an annual celebration at Eton College to mark the birthday of its greatest patron, King George III. Today, the “Fourth of June” is celebrated on the first Wednesday before the first weekend of June. ⇑
Lenaghan Park, home of the Maude family near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh ⇑
A novel by E. Phillips Oppenheim, published in 1906. ⇑