Having arrived in France, the British troops, Pat Armstrong among them, proceeded towards Charleroi to join forces with the French Army. Before reaching their destination, the British Expeditionary Force encountered the advancing German Army at Mons. The British infantry corps was immediately deployed in defensive positions to the east and west of Mons, while the cavalry division was kept in reserve. To hinder the advancing Germans, a group of Royal Fusiliers were given orders to destroy the bridges over the Mons-Conde Canal. The Battle of Mons, the first major action by the British Expeditionary Force, commenced on 23 August. Meanwhile in England, Ione and Mrs Armstrong collected their car from Goodnestone Park and made their way to Cantreyn to join the rest of the family as guests of Captain Harold Welch.
Ta so very much for yr letter – It is simply splendid that Maurice has got the Job, it is a chance of a lifetime, he didn’t seem to care about going with the 18th – I heard today from Major Prendergast that the 10th are coming home he has just come back from South Africa so ought to know. I do hope the war won’t last long but the Germans have so many men they will go on as long as they have any left – a good defeat at the start might knock the punch out of them. I have not taken over command of my army yet – they are getting on well & look quite smart. The men are cutting the oats today, it is much better than I expected, the pheasants have done a good bit of damage. There were very few grouse on the mountains this year & what were there were dreadfully wild, Dash did very well, I had only one dog so we had to take our time which was lucky as the sun was roastingly hot. I have a match for you now! The new coachman is a good deal smaller than you are you will feel quite proud walking beside him, but he is a decent little thing.
Boulogne. Walked about with General. Went down to the town & did some shopping with Algy & Geoff. Had to be back by 5 o’c. Rode down to Station was there much too early. Dined at Hotel. Loaded horses. Got crock on the eye with a rope. Train was awfully crowned. Went in a carriage with Francis & Rivey Grenfell & Wortham. We were quite comfortable, all things considered.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to an unknown recipient, possibly his mother:
Have arrived quite safely. Horses all well & don’t seem much the worse for the journey. The Bay has a rope gall which I hope won’t worry him much. I can’t tell you where we are or where we’re going to. So there’s really not much news. I am awfully fit & am at present being fed like a fighting cock. I got a small looking glass to day also a muffler & some chocolate so I’m alright. Will you get me that folding roof case if you can. My address is 2 Cav Bde Head Qrs, Expeditionary Force. Could you send me a small green willesch canvas bag with a lock on it to put my kit in. You’d get it from Wilkinson & Co in Pall Mall. Get one about the size of a pillow case, no bigger.
Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat.
Tuesday 18 August
At about nine, Ione & I went to the station, with Captain Welch, to see his scouts going off to Ludlow. Then we all went off in the car, to see them when they arrived, & we had to settle about their food & every thing. We had lunch, in a field, & Mr Salesby came & had it with us. Then we had tea at Craven Arms. We went & looked at Stokesay Castle. It has a lovely old Gate House, it was built about 10661. We sat in the fields & read & talked while he was seeing about his scouts. Then we had a lovely drive home in the dark, & got back at about 10-30.
On arrival at Amiens we heard that Gen Grierson was dead. Arrived Faumont about 1 o’c. Had some difficulty unloading. We were the first troops they had seen & were met with great ovation. Marched out to Obrechies, went very slow as it was very hot & horses were very unfit. Went into billets Algy Court Geoff & I lived in same house & had most amusing time. Rotten stabling for horses all crowded together in tiny cow houses
I didn’t know where to write to Muz, its 10 days since she wrote to me & then it was just at the mess waiting, & I expected you & she wd be off any day. I suppose Maurice has gone, have you any idea where to? Poor wee Muz she must be in a great state, did she keep up all right I’m sure she did till he’d actually gone, I’m so sorry you have left her. Write by return wee pet & tell us how she is & where he sailed from etc. Has Leddie2 gone too? I suppose everyone has, Nevvy has, he wrote to me “& now for Berlin” I wish they were all home again, it’s awful, but I wouldn’t have one of them sitting at home really but wee Jess isn’t it creepy. The Naval guns make me feel quite sick. The Germans seem to be doing anything but well, but of course it’s not really begun. It’s good to know our men are safely landed anyhow, our navy is grand – you have been in the middle of it all there. You must realize it all very much – will you give Rosy my love & tell her I have been thinking of her always. I can sympathise my boy has gone too, & I wasn’t able to pack for him & get him all his carpets!3 Mr Jack is in a great state B– was to be off, & 2 of the Montgomerys, I suppose are there now too – Mr Edward’s 2 boys in the navy no one really but is sending someone, & we must sit & wait wee Jess, if I’d passed y exam, & G. was well, I’d go as a nurse & do all I could. […] The wee boy man went off fast didn’t he? Was it [—] M. refusing to go with old Snow on his staff? Or was it better to go with the 18th. it seems to me the staff was rather nice!!
Tell me, I’m ignorant about military things!! & yr a dab!!!
G’s best love & to Capt W. too.
Wednesday 19 August Wrote to Pat & then we all went off in the car with Captain Welch. He had to go & see his scouts near Ludlow, we sat in the car, while he went & fixed them all. We had lunch on the side of the road, & then went & had tea with the Allcrofts at Stokesay Hall. We went & looked at Ludlow Castle. We got back here at about 8-30. When we were at dinner Mr Southwell & another boy came in, & stayed till 10-30. I had a bath, & went to bed at about 11-30. Got a post card from Muz to say they are on their way, so they ought to arrive about tomorrow.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
Hd Qrs 2 Cav Bde Expeditionary force
Here we are, quite happy & contented & living the best. We are at present all billeted in a little village. Geoff Algie Court & I are living here. The General & Grace next door & Rattle about 300 yds off. The weather is glorious just nice not too hot nor too cold. We went for a long ride this morning all round the Brigade I saw J.V for a few minutes yesterday in a car with Allenby he was in great heat. I hear that Brock is out here he is billeted about 5 miles off I believe. I can’t tell you where we are or where we are going to, not that any of us know at present but if I did I couldn’t tell you. We had quite a good journey out. The boat was the nastiest dirtiest old hulk I have ever clapped an eye on & came into the dock about 2 hrs late & then wasn’t fitted up properly. It took us hours to load & we didn’t get away till 4.30 the next morning. We got across about 5 that night & went into a rest camp till the next night. That wasn’t too bad either. The next day we pushed up here and are at present fairly handy to the business. So we may be scrapping anytime now.
‘Send me out 100 cigarettes a fortnight’
I have been rather unlucky up to the present with horses. The Bay got a rope gall & is lame & Howkins got kicked about the hock last night an awful bore. I am glad to say that the little mare is fit & well, but she’s a fidgety little thing & rather tiring to ride at present. None of them are serious & ought to be right in a day or two probably before we leave here. We got rather a start last night. I was going round the outpost line with the General when suddenly we heard two shots from a big gun. They were quite close & we thought that the forts were firing on some Germans. But afterwards we found out that it was only some houses being blown up to improve the field of fire round one of the posts. I have great difficulty in this lingo. It is far harder than it used to be as now whenever I want to say anything I always think of it in Hindustan first & then have to put it into French, which isn’t much of a success. Will you get me a little blue book called “French self taught” & send it out to me. I also want a waterproof sheet to lie on. Get me one that isn’t too bulky as I want to carry it on my saddle. I also want a green willenden canvas bag about the size of a pillow case no bigger with a lock on it. You could get one at Wilkinson’s in Pall Mall. If they haven’t got one the right size in stock they can soon make one. Will you send it along as soon as you can. It may be some days before you get this as I should think that posts will be very odd. I am going to have a great dinner party here to-morrow night if we are still here. Will you tell the Tabard people to send me out 100 cigarettes a fortnight. Starting in about a month’s time. I have got 500 at present which ought to carry on for more than a month. Tell them to start the last week of September unless you tell them to the contrary. I have just written to the Duchess & to Moyaliffe. I wish I could write to B but suppose it is better not. If anything particularly exciting happens I’ll write to her & send it to her mother to give to her. Well I must ring off now as I have got to go & have an arms inspection & see the horses fed. Best love to you all. Tell wee Tom I was sorry not to have been able to see her.
Your loving Pat.
P.S. I got my wire cutters back from the 18th alright. Good work wasn’t it.
Friday 21 August
Order of war service
Captain Welch went in to Bridgnorth early, & later Ione, Tom & I walked on, & we met him on the way, & he came back with us. We went round to Mrs Welch’s house & she lent us books. Then we shopped, & saw the eclipse. Captain Welch came back later. I wrote letters, then read for a bit. It was lovely & hot this morning, but rain & thunder this afternoon. Muz went for a walk with Captain Welch. We had dinner early & drove in to Bridgnorth, to go to church, for the war service. Read the paper, when we got back.
Obrechies. Left at 6 am & did very slow march to Harmignies where we arrived about 2 o’c & put all our horses in a field. Advanced troops got in level with the enemy. Message was passed back that an action was likely to take place. Bridges’ Squadron was sent out to reconnoitre. We sat about outside an inn & eventually slept on some straw in a house opposite
Saturday 22 August
Captain Welch and his boy scouts
Muz, Tom, Heppie & Captain Welch went in the car to see the scouts. I wrote letters & read for a bit, then Ione & I walked into Bridgnorth, to see the market. They didn’t get back till rather late, & then we went off to have tea with the Gilmores. They were going to play tennis, but it was too wet. We went & looked at the garden, it was awfully pretty. After dinner we read for a bit, & then went to bed at about 10-30, but Muz & I had a bath & talked, so didn’t get to bed till nearly twelve. We have had two letters & a post card from Pat so far, but don’t know where he is.
Heppie Ione & I went with Captain Welch in his car to see scouts. He has worked these scouts up very well, but it’s not enough for him to be doing now & it seems odd that the war office should be leaving a good man like this idle when he is anxious to get back to his Regt. & be doing something. We all had tea with the Gilmores meaning to play tennis but they couldn’t play it was too wet, walked about the garden, feels so odd to be leading one life & Pat another. Japan has declared war on Germany & fighting has been going on since yesterday
Harmignies. Ready to move at 4 am. But stood about all day. Heard that 4th D.G’s had a scrap & Hornby had struck a man. Three prisoners came in which caused great excitement. Rode round to 3rd Bde. Sat about all afternoon. Saw other Bdes pass through. Saw Babe King. Left at 9 o’c & did a night march to Thulin found Rattle there who was very sleepy. Last part of march was very bad on cobbled stones
Sunday 23 August
Thulin. Had breakfast about 8 o’c. Weary after night march. Blues horse was in stable wounded. Started men cleaning saddles when a report came in to say that the Germans were advancing in strength. Rode out with Gen to look at position. Bridges prepared for demolition. Met Dawson with Squadron 19th Hussars. Germans attacked in evening, was sent back on a pony to bring out the Bde. A lot of firing but we had no casualties. Left about 8 pm and retired South to Moliere. 9th Lancers left to hold the railway line. Spent most uncomfortable night in a garden
Stokesay Castle, a fortified manor house, was built in the late 13th century by wool merchant Lawrence of Ludlow.⇑
Zoo’s nickname for Captain Edward ‘Ned’ John McNeill Penrose ⇑
It is not clear who Zoo is referring to as she was unmarried and had no children.⇑