In the first few days of August, matters moved rapidly. Germany, having declared war on France on 3 August, invaded the country through Belgium on 4 August. As Belgium’s ports were close to the British coast, the move signified a threat to Britain’s security. At 23.00 on 4 August, much against the hopes of Germany, Britain entered the conflict. The news caused chaos across the country. Having failed to make contact with Pat by letter and telegraph, Jess and Mrs Armstrong determined to travel to Netheravon to see him. They battled their way through thronging crowds in London to catch a train, witnessing confusion and agitation all around them. As the 10th Hussars remained stationed in South Africa, Pat was unable to follow the order given to officers to return to their regiments. Instead, he began attempts to attach himself to the 18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own).
Monday 3 August
Canterbury Grand Cricket Week programme and badge
We all motored over to Canterbury for the cricket week’s first day[.] on our way we went up to Shorncliffe to ask for Mrs Churcher who had been ill. There we saw Captain Carbery & Mr Penrose for a few minutes & then went on, we lunched in the Hatfields tent & had tea in the Carabineers with Mrs Annesley. Colonel Annesley told us that he had heard officially that day that they were not to have any manoeuvres, Shorncliffe Tattoo also put off in case of mobilization & we heard that Petrol for tomorrow is doubtful.
Tuesday 4 August
Packed hard all morning, & then Muz & I went off by the 11 train to Salisbury. There were a huge crowd of soldiers & people at Waterloo. When we arrived we couldn’t find out where Pat was. We took hours to get on on the telephones, & couldn’t get wires through. At about 9-30 we really didn’t know what to do, so we hired a car (£2!) & came out, & found he was at Badminton but Capt. Argyll brought us in, to wait for him, then Capt Tomkinson & Mr Cobb came in. Capt Tomkinson made out a list of things he would want to take to the war. He didn’t get back till about 12, & we went in to his room, we didn’t get back to Salisbury till about four […] They were all so nice to us in the mess, they have all gone back to the regiments except some as they mobolised [sic] at 5-30 today.
August 4th. We were all packed into the car having got our Petrol successfully at usual price & going to get it at the shop & all ready to start tying down our last coats etc. [when] I got a message from Smith (Chauffeur) to ask me to speak to him at once. I ran down hurriedly & he then very nervously & flustered said he had to leave at once. We had no time to ask him why, decided quickly to catch the 11 train, Ione to leave car at Goodnestone Park1 & as things were going on in strides towards war, I wanted her to be with Tommy & Heppie, & Jess came with me to Pat as by then, we thought Polo most unlikely & war likely. We just only caught our train with a small box and started off. Everything quite quiet on the line between Folkestone & London, till nearing London where there were signs of agitation & when train got in we heard war had been declared, at Waterloo there was intense excitement, some women were crying, & no porters except three as far as I saw. I got one who took our box amongst others & as he told me it was the last he would take before going to the war I gave him 5/ for luck[.] I hope it didn’t bring him any as I saw him again!
‘All officers returning to regiments today’
Although we thought it huge excitement at Waterloo it grew in intensity as we went away, soldiers everywhere on the line, & on arriving at Salisbury Station the place was a camp. Soldiers fixing themselves in tents or without, in fact soldiers everywhere one looked, & all silent bustle, we went direct to Hotel in Salisbury where I’d wired to Pat to meet us & hear Vaughan’s plans & his, but no Pat; letter; or message: as I’d sent them wires, one on settling to come, another saying time, & another from London on our way I expected a message, & began to be a little anxious, & went to get a telephone message through. Found it quite impossible, & impossible to send a wire: before giving it up as impossible we tried various ways the last being an officer who got me for a second at Cavalry school, heard “Pat Armstrong has gone” & was rung off. This conveyed nothing to us but that he’d possibly started for France as we were ignorant as to the time it took to mobilize, so we decided to go & see what had happened, & find him on his way to anywhere! We got a taxi or car, for a large sum of money £10 to take us out to the school where everyone was very nice to us wouldn’t let us wait in the car for Pat who we heard was expected back any minute “from Badminton”. This was their cheery news & we sat talking to “Mouse” Tomkinson & Mr Cobb. It got later & later & feeling we were keeping them from bed I suggested waiting in Pat’s bedroom but wasn’t allowed so we waited till 2 when Pat arrived. We then talked to him & heard all his news here Polo was given up etc & then started back for Salisbury. Going back we realized a little of war, as we were pulled up by an officer & he asked us to drive very carefully as his men were asleep on the road, & we then saw men dead tired, asleep everywhere along the sides of the road side some just where they’d stood & others sheltering under the thatched walls, & all this in an absolute downpour. Our car dodged in & out of the sleeping men & we got to Hotel at 4 am, too anxious to sleep[.]
Wednesday 5 August
Programme of the Beaufort Hunt Farmers’ Club Annual Exhibition
I got up early to try & find a cheaper car to take us out to the school but instead of finding a cheaper car could get none, finally I stood in front of a car pulled it up, & insisted on having it […] Pat had gone to Tidworth to 18th H when we arrived & the idea was that he was going to France with them as 10th were in South Africa & Pat wouldn’t wait for them. When he came back he told us nothing was settled all was vague as to any date for 18th etc to move from Tidworth & surrounding camps. He then took us out in Mr Lecky’s car to Badminton where we spent a nice few hours & got back at 8-30, so too late to go & collect our clothes then, but we didn’t feel that that mattered! We felt very pleased that we’d decided to do what “Mouse” suggested i.e. stay at the cavalry school & so be on the spot to hear all that was happening, instead of being so far from Pat & we didn’t want to trouble the Vaughans who were in the midst of war themselves too. They had fixed up Mr Lecky’s room next Pat for us & were so kind & nice altogether, Pat had given us his bedding & slept in his camp things & Major P had piled up books etc so that Jess wouldn’t push me on to the floor. A very funny night it was, our over strained minds imagined every sound was a call for Pat to go & we had little or no idea of what was to happen next, & so the night rolled on[.]
Thursday 6 August
[…] when we could get up & dress we found water in the jug but not enough! & no soap or towel! We used a petticoat as a towel, & made several attempts to get some water but as no one knew we were there & kept popping out from every where it was impossible! & we gave it up, & dressed as best we could using side combs as a brush & comb & no dressing!! Then we were able to get to Pat’s room, & packed his things all morning making out what he’d be likely to want or rather what he could do without! & so the morning passed. Pat got back from Tidworth at 2 & took us to Salisbury where we got some necessary things for him had tea there & came back to the school. Pat had to leave us & go to Tidworth but still we were nearer than at Salisbury without our car & we regretted thousand times having left our car knowing that we didn’t really want it when Smith had gone. Ione Heppie & Tom had gone to Shropshire on 5th but we thought we should get Ione down to us to see Pat so I wired to them to come (not much faith in wires arriving as my others to Pat rolled up when I was at Cavalry school myself) but anyhow it gave her a chance to come.
Friday 7 August
Major Allan B. Pollock
We wrote letters all morning I wrote to Zooie & Algie. Pat came over at about two, & then he & Muz went into Salisbury to meet Ione by the train. I read, & had tea with Capt. Pollok. Pat saw a horse in Salisbury that Gladys Heath had given to the government, so he took it, as his third charger, he rode it back, & Ione drove Mr Leckie’s car. Pat came down for dinner, but didn’t stay long. Captain Pollok played his gramophone to us, & we danced for a bit. Went to bed at about 11-30. Ione is sleeping in Pat’s room tonight.
I wrote letters all morning[.] Pat arrived with us from Tidworth about 2 & we went in to Salisbury to meet Ione, & left Jess to have tea with Captain Pollock as car wouldn’t hold all being a small two seater, we saw a horse Pat [thought] that would do him so Pat took it off to Tidworth but it was no use as Mr Heath wanted it himself he’d only sold it to Government & was keeping it. Ione & I went back to the school & later Pat came again after dinner but only stayed a short time, Captain Pollock played Gramophone for us & decided that as “Pat had his mother he’d have his so wired for her to come” which she did next day.
Saturday 8 August
Wrote letters, & read for a bit. Mrs Barry came over from Ireland, to help Captain Pollock with his packing & things. Pat came over after lunch. Miss Wardell came up in the afternoon, & we all had tea together. Captain Pollock walked back with her. Pat stayed for dinner. Captain Pollock played his gramophone for us, & we danced. Muz & Mrs Barry went to bed early. We went to bed at about 11-30. Finished reading “John Allard”.