WEEK 52: I HAVE NEVER SEEN SUCH A LABYRINTH IN ALL MY LIFE
Monday 21 to Sunday 27 June 1915
Pat Armstrong’s eventful journey ended on 24 June 1915, when he arrived in Gallipoli and set up camp on Gully Beach. Delighted to be re-united with Major General de Lisle and John Hardress Lloyd, he was nevertheless disappointed with having to leave his horses behind on the island of Lemnos. The lack of space, steep terrain and shortage of water made Gallipoli unsuitable both for horses and motor vehicles. Instead, mules and donkeys, which were better adapted to harsh living conditions, were used to transport supplies on their backs or by small manoeuvrable carts. Within three days of his arrival, Pat was bracing himself for de Lisle’s first offensive, the Battle of Gully Ravine. In Folkestone, the lack of able-bodied men had delayed the Armstrong family’s move to Grimston Gardens. To hurry things up, Heppie, Ione, Jess, Tommy and Mrs Armstrong spent the week painting walls and shifting heavy furniture, wearing themselves out in the process.
Monday 21 June
We went round to the house, as Upton’s1 things were supposed to come up, but they came up later instead. All the white furniture & things. We were there till late, fixing it all, & then took two loads after dinner.
Mercian. Maj Stewart’s battery was put onto the Queen Louise2 & set off to Gallipoli. Campbell came on board & asked me to dine with him that night. Went on shore in the afternoon wandered about & saw some of the Turkish prisoners. Met an old Maj in the Manchesters who had just come back from Gallipoli.
Tuesday 22 June
All the furniture etc came down from London, & we went round & showed them where to put it. Ione went to Miss Weeks. Moved some of the furniture, & did some of the painting. At six Ione took Muz down to the Harbour in the car, to see General Snow, he is coming back on leave. Muz is trying to get Algie a Staff Job! When they came back, we took over a load in the car, & then went over with a few more things after dinner. Went to bed at about eleven.
Wednesday 23 June
Got a letter from Pat, posted from Alexandria. We went round to the house, & I painted all morning. Ione went to Miss Weeks. I didn’t go back for lunch, they brought me round some. The porter brought some of the furniture & boxes round from here. Painted most of the time, & brought some boxes up. Muz was awfully tired so we sent her to bed, & Ione, Heppie & I took three loads round after dinner, boxes & glass etc. We didn’t get to bed till after one o’clock. Ione went & played tennis with Mrs Collins.
S.S. Aragon.3 Went on shore about 10 o’c & then had my teeth done about 11 o’c. Went for a short ride on Melody about 12 o’c. Rode Streethorpe into the island in the afternoon. Went back about 4 o’c. Left at 6 o’c & went on board the Whitby Abbey.4 Left about 8.30.
[This is an error for 23 June – see under 24 June.]
My dear wee Mus.
A mail goes out to-day so I’ll just scribble you a few lines. I told you we got here on the 20th. Well we sat here all that day on the Mercian. Then the next day they unloaded ½ of the — Bde & sent them off. Then yesterday the other half went off. I got my horses taken off about 7 a.m. & have put them on the island here. They are quite comfortably fixed up & I think will be alright, but it is sad to have to leave them. Still there isn’t enough room down there for a cat to skip on, so it’s not much good having horses & they would only get killed.
I left the Mercian & came onto this boat yesterday. Simply glorious it is just like living in the Ritz. Then to-night I’m going on down on a trawler. There seems little or no news here. The French have got on a bit but the rest of the line from all accounts doesn’t seem to have changed a bit. I’ll let you know more when I get down there. I hear that the censor is awfully strict so I don’t suppose that I will be able to tell you very much. A fellow was telling me yesterday that one of his letters arrived home & half of it had been scribbled out by the censor. You go into the house to-day don’t you? I wish I was there to help. What fun you will have but you mustn’t work too hard. How do I address it. I will go on writing to 14 Trinity till I hear from you about it. There is a boat going home to-day via Malta so I expect this will probably get to you before some of my other letters. I sent you a small parcel home. I expect you know what’s in it. I hope it arrives safely. I don’t expect it will arrive for some time as it has gone rather a roundabout way. I hope you get the table I sent you from Port Said. I think it ought to make a nice tea table. Well, wee Mus I’ll send this off now as I want to try & get on shore. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Thursday 24 June
Went round to the house early, & cleared the rooms for the woman to scrub, then carried boxes & things up. Then we came back for luncheon, & afterwards Ione & I did more painting in our rooms. Muz went down the town, & then came round to us, & we carried carpets about, & measured them, & got a few of them fixed. We got back for dinner at about 8-30, but Muz & Heppie stayed on, & didn’t get back till 9-30. We were all awfully tired. Wrote letters after dinner, & went to bed at about 11-30. We were to have got in to the house today, but it wasn’t finished enough. He couldn’t get enough men, because of the war.
Whitby Abbey. Arrived at Gallipoli about 12.30 am but they wouldn’t land us. Hedges very kindly gave me a bed. Got off about 6 am & walked round to Gully Beach to Div Hd Qrs. At 9 am Gen Egerton & his staff rolled up some wet road part of the line on the right. Going up the mile [?] track [?] & coming back by the Eski line.6
June 24. Hd Qrs 29 Div.
My dear wee Mus.
I wrote to you yesterday but put the wrong date on it & I find to-day is really the 24th. Well! here I am having arrived a few hours ago. I left Lemnos last night about 8 o’c. & got down here about 12 o’c. They wouldn’t take us on shore till 6 o’c this morning. The Captain of the boat I came down on a delightful fellow Hodgson by name who gave me a cabin. It was really his dressing room & I had an awfully comfy night. We sat up talking till about 2 am so didn’t sleep much as we were up again at 5 o’c this morning. I landed a 6 o’c & then walked up here it is about 3 miles from where we landed. I have just had breakfast & had a wash & sent a cart down for Ames & my luggage. The General is in great heart & says that this is a good shore. Of course the casualties are heavy. Most days they seem to range from about 40 to 60 under normal circumstances then one day some time ago they attacked they were about 300 odd. We are living in an awfully nice place. We have got a great big dug out as a dining room with two big tables & benches in it. It is about as big as Ione’s bed room. Then we sleep in tents outside rather cut into the face of the hill. We are quite close to the sea & have quite a nice view. In fact things are a deal better than I expected. I expected dreadful discomfort & everything dreadful but it all seems very nice. Mails are awful of course. Must end General is sending this in his by King’s message.
Friday 25 June
Went round to the house, & did some painting. After tea Muz & I unpacked a box from Kilboy,7 it was full of moths. It got too dark, so we couldn’t bring the things up. After dinner Heppie & I brought a load round, & brought some things back. We went to bed at about twelve.
Saturday 26 June
Went round to the house, & carried up a lot of boxes, & tidied the hall, & some of the rooms, so as they would lock clear. After lunch I came round, & washed a lot of china. Mary brought Mrs Stubbs round, & showed her. Heppie had brought some loads round, after dinner, & we carried carpets about, & things, & didn’t get to bed till after one o’clock.
June 26. Hd Qrs 29th Div.
My dear wee Mus.
I got a mail in yesterday afternoon & the only letter of any interest was one from B. Then I got another this morning with 3 letters from you & one from the Duchess. One of yours was written from Denistoun & the other from Paris. Dear wee Mus it was horrid seeing you & Jess gradually fade away in the distance, but you both really were wonderful. I am glad you struck a new hotel in Paris but you must have had an awful journey. There is a dead horse which has just been washed up on the beach which is stinking like nothing on earth. I was able to scribble you a few lines the day before yesterday until the General sent home for me by the King’s messenger.
I got up to the camp here about 7 o’c on the morning of the 24. It was awfully nice to see the General & Hardress again. The General had been a bit seedy. He did too much when he arrived first & he had tummy trouble. About 10 o’c that morning we walked round a section of the trenches. I have never seen such a labyrinth in all my life. The General has done wonderful work organising & getting everything straightened out. Hardress tells me that things were in a dreadful state when they arrived. The men were left too long in the trenches & the staffs never went near them & the reliefs had to be carried out across the open. He has got everything running splendidly now. The reliefs all run smoothly & the men come out quite fresh & have a few days rest & lots of bathing & go back as good as new. He has made one big communication trench which mules can go up. It’s a wonderful bit of work. Nobody else would ever have undertaken it. It meant an awful lot of work but it will save dozens of lives & means that one can go up to the trenches at any hour of the day. Now one of the staff go round a bit of the trenches every day. It is wonderful what a lot of good that does, lets both officers & men feel they aren’t forgotten. He will make a real good show of this & he seems very happy & pleased with things in general.
There seems to be great possibilities about the show. It is much better than I first imagined. Of course every bit of the peninsula can be shelled but it’s all nullahs8 & gulleys & the effect of shells is very local, besides they haven’t got enough ammunition to shell the whole place. They don’t shell this place from the Asiatic shore which is a good thing. I am quite enjoying it. The weather is perfectly lovely, hot in the day & cool at night & we have a lovely place to bathe from. The day I arrived I spent all morning as I told you going round with the General, then in the afternoon I went round another bit with Col Percival. He comes from Cork & must be a sort of distant relation of ours as his mother was a Maude. Yesterday I rode about with the General & saw some of the batteries registering.9 Then in the afternoon I went all round the left section of the trenches. The Gurkha Bde10 is on the left so it’s known as Gurkha Bluff. I went all round that & watched a battle ship shelling the Turkish trenches. The Gurkhas all look very well & seem very happy, that rough hills country just suits them. I started at 2 o’c & got back about 7 o’c & was going along most of the line up & down, in & out of fire, support & communication trenches. So that will give you some idea of what a labyrinth this place is. I will try & get you a map of the trenches. I can’t at present for reasons I will tell you some other time. I hope to be able to tell you some interesting news before many moons.
Things have been pretty quiet these last few days & casualties have gone down a bit. The French got on a bit on the night the night before last. They took a couple of trenches & held on to one of them alright. They are doing pretty well from all accounts. I wish you could see this place as I see it from here. The whole side of the cliff looks like a honey comb with dug outs. We are really very comfortable & have got a nice big dug out which we use as a dining room & office & sleep in tents. I find I have been pretty busy since I arrived. I have been going round the trenches again all this afternoon. I am at present sitting out in front of the dug out with my back against a wall. Over my left shoulder I can just see a torpedo destroyer cruising about quite close in to shore. I have taken over Camp Commandant & have about 100 men 33 horses & 9 mules under my tender care. It strikes me that I will be kept pretty busy down here. But it is a great thing to feel that one is pulling one’s weight. I got such an awfully nice letter to-day from the Duchess. What luck it was I wrote as soon as I found out about M. for certain. It would have been dreadful for her to have got a letter of condolence before she had heard that he had been killed. Dreadful for them all having to let F. go out 48 hrs afterwards. I got rather a depressed letter from B. She didn’t like my coming out here as it’s so far away & was also rather distressed as she had to shoot one of her hunters, the one she offered to me in August last, as he had got a thorn in one of his joints. She was going away for a fortnight which will do her good. I wish you could get her to go & stay with you. I’m sure she’d be let go if you asked Tib too & I’d love you to get to know her well. Well! I must go & wash now for dinner or I’ll be late & that upsets the General. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
27th. Rather busy just been round the Bdes with the General.
Sunday 27 June
[…] I had a horrid tummyache so stayed in bed as late as I could. Algie & Gordon came at about twelve. We all went down to the post office, & after lunch went round to the house. After tea we went out for a walk on the Front. We met Mr O’Brien, he is down for a few days. He was wounded in the arm. After dinner we sat & talked, & Gordon did wishes. We went to bed at about twelve.
Gully Beach. Went to Church at 7.30 with the General. Went round part of the line with the Gen in the morning. Went to India 86 & 87th11 Bde Hd Qrs Gen gave final instructions for the attack.12 Got back about 12 o’c. Very hot & thirsty. Felt very slack went & lay on Parton’s bed. At 4 o’c we rode round to Hd Qrs 155 Bde & saw Gen Scott Moncrief13 afterwards went on to Corps.
- Upton Brothers, complete house furnishers, antique dealers, removal & storage contractors, undertakers, house decorators & glass & china dealers at 42, 44 & 46 Sandgate Road and 24, 26, 28 & 30 Tontine Street, Folkestone.⇑
- SS Queen Louise, a cargo ship launched in 1912⇑
- Royal Mail Ship Aragon, built in Ireland in 1905, served as a troop ship in the First World War, taking part in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. It was sunk by a German submarine in the Mediterranean in 1917, with 610 lives lost ⇑
- Merchant ship Whitby Abbey was requisitioned by the admiralty from February 1915 to December 1919 and served in the Gallipoli campaign ⇑
- A continuous trench running across the Peninsula which had been dug out in the early stages of the Gallipoli campaign ⇑
- An island of Greece in the northern part of the Aegean Sea ⇑
- Kilboy, near Nenagh, County Tipperary, was the seat of the Barons Dunalley. At the time of the First World War it was occupied by Henry O’Callaghan Prittie, 4th Baron (1851-1927) and his wife Mary Frances née Farmer (1857-1929) who were close friends of the Armstrong family. Their son Reginald had been killed in action in December 1914.⇑
- (Hindi) nullah = watercourse, riverbed or ravine ⇑
- To register = to sight a gun on a target; more specifically to pre-record the position of a target relative to a gun in readiness for future engagement.⇑
- 1st/6th Gurkhas who had landed at Cape Helles and led the first major assault against the Turks; a high point captured during the attack was named after the brigade as Gurkha Bluff ⇑
- The 86th and 87th Brigades were assigned to the 29th Division and consisted of regular army battalions serving overseas in the outposts of the British Empire.⇑
- The Battle of Gully Ravine (28 June-5 July 1915)⇑
- 155th (South Scottish) Brigade assigned to the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division ⇑