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Monday 20 August to Sunday 2 September 1917

WEEKS 165-166: I AM SO TIRED OF THE WAR

Monday 20 August to Sunday 2 September 1917

Just four days after Great Britain entered the First World War, the government was empowered to introduce a wide range of regulations through the passing of the Defence of the Realm Act. Amended at least six times between 1914 and 1918, the Act aimed to protect the security of the state, direct resources towards the war effort and prevent any seditious activity during the war. It impacted on people’s lives in numerous ways, most obviously by introducing postal censorship and travel restrictions, limiting the opening hours of pubs and watering down alcohol. The Act also imposed a number of restrictions which at first glance appear curious although they had a practical purpose. Fireworks, bonfires and even flying a kite were banned as such activities could attract Zeppelins. In the country, feeding bread to horses and chickens was banned to prevent food wastage, while in London whistling for a taxi was forbidden for fear that the sound should be mistaken for an air raid warning.

Monday 20 August

jess__diary_cameoPacked the wee hood to send off to Kitty’s baby, & then went out with Poppy. Muz went to see Mrs Bryan. After lunch it rained a lot, so they had to stop the oats. Muz wrote letters. Poppy gave us each £5. Muz has settled not to go to Elise & Tony, so we cross over on Wed. night, & Tom & Heppie go to Lenaghan.1 After tea Muz & I went down to Mrs Gleeson, & Heppie walked down with us. She is looking much better today. After dinner the others went to bed, & Muz wrote letters & I croche[te]d & went to bed at about ten.

Kitty’s baby

Wednesday 22 August

jess__diary_cameoWe go. We left at about nine, & Poppy came up to Dublin with us then he went to have his hair cut, & we left the luggage, then met him at Jammet’s2 for lunch, then Tom & Heppie caught the train down to Enniskillen, & Poppy went away to do his business, & Muz & I went to see Tony, at his office, then back to Poppy for tea, then he left by the five train. We met Mrs Barry. Then we went off to a kind of fete, to see General & Mrs Percival. Emmie & Sheila had been there but we just missed them. Gen. P. said such awfully nice things about Pat and that he had done more to make the Division what it was, than anyone else. We left Dublin at seven, & had an awful crossing. I had to go up to the kitchen with Dus: & slept on the cook’s bed & we were both sick! But afterwards we had a carriage all to ourselves, & slept.

The Armstrong family

Thursday 23 August

jess__diary_cameoWe got in to Euston at about seven, but couldn’t get a taxi for ages, they are only allowed two gallons a day now, & people aren’t allowed to whistle. Then we went to the York Hotel, Ione is staying there, as Leslie is home on leave; & she is looking for servants too. We talked for a bit, then Muz & I had baths, then we went out for a bit, & Ione went off with Leslie, & we went to catch the one train down, but there wasn’t one till three, so we sat there till the train. I got out at Shorncliffe & Muz went on, & I opened the house & then met her. We were going to Miss Aldridge, but she was full up, so we are going to sleep in the best bedroom here! I went off & did some shopping, & then got tea & did some tidying & then got dinner, we are having meals in the Kitchen. The garden is in an awful state, full of weeds, & all the roses blown down. We went to bed at about nine.

Ione and Leslie

Friday 24 August

jess__diary_cameoI was up early to get Muz’s tea, & then had another sleep! Then got breakfast, & afterwards cleaned the hall, & polished it, it was pretty hard to go, as it was a bit mouldy. Then I cleaned out the servants’ hall & the schoolroom. Elizabeth3 came to see us, to say she can come tomorrow afternoon. Muz unpacked, & wrote letters, & tidied. We went for a little walk before dinner, & went to bed at about 9-30.

Saturday 25 August

jess__diary_cameoI was up early to get Muz’s tea, & then had another sleep! Afterwards I cleaned out the dining room, & all the Kitchen places, & papered drawers etc, & then left out china etc, for Elizabeth. Muz wrote letters, & tidied things, & swept the front stairs. Elizabeth came at five, it is nice having her back again.

Sunday 26 August

jess__diary_cameoI did out the drawing room, & the conservatory, & Muz tidied drawers etc. Elizabeth did Ione’s room, two servants’ rooms, morning room, & the smoking room. In the afternoon I did out the linen cupboard, & sorted some of the linen too. Then we had tea up in Muz’s room. We did quite a good day’s work! In the evening Muz & I went to church, & afterwards went down to see Miss Walters at the club for a few minutes, she was very pleased to see us.

Monday 27 August

jess__diary_cameoSorted out linen for the wash. Elizabeth did Muz’s room out, & scrubbed the back stairs. Muz mended linen all morning, Mrs Barrow came in to say we could have her gardener after hours, to tie up the roses, but he didn’t come in today. I suppose it was too wet, it just pelted all afternoon. I turned out the little room next Ione’s, then did the sky light room, & sorted all the linen, to be mended & for the wash etc. Muz had a fire in her room to air it, & she wrote letters. After dinner I got Ione’s supper ready, as she wrote that she was coming back tonight. I wrote a long letter to Heppie, telling her all about the house etc. Ione didn’t come, so we went to bed at about 11-30.

Tuesday 28 August

jess__diary_cameoGave out things4 etc. then washed the paint [?] etc in the cook’s room. Elizabeth did the ball room, best room & dressing room, so Muz moved up to her own room. Muz mended linen some of the morning. After lunch Muz & I went down the town to do some shopping & Mr Jenner was here when we got back, he is going to send a man up to put the window in the conservatory in, it was blown out last night. There are a lot of trees down too, as it was a big storm, & pretty stormy all day too. He is going to send a gardener up too. Then we went to tea with Mrs Walter, & Mrs Cleghorn was there too. Helen Halland [?] has got a little daughter. Then we went off & had a bath at the Burlington, & didn’t get back till 9-30.

Unprecedented August gale

Wednesday 29 August

jess__diary_cameoGave out things etc. Then Muz & I went down the town to do some shopping, & walked some of the way back with the Brinkleys. Mr Jenner’s gardener came, & Muz was out with him all afternoon, he dug some of the potatoes & a bit of the front bed. General Steele is going to send us in a man tomorrow. I washed out the greenhouse, & got the dinner ready as Elizabeth is out. Then got the little servants’ room ready for Ione to write in. Settled flowers in the hall etc, & wrote letters. Muz mended linen. After dinner wrote letters & tidied, & got Ione’s supper, we sat up talking to her till nearly twelve.

Letter from Percy Wilson to Mrs Armstrong

My dear Mrs Armstrong

“Very tired after that last show”

So many thanks for your letters. Poor old Gee. Somehow got mixed up with an aeroplane that was out of control & part of it hit him on the head. However I hear he is back with the brigade now. General Jelf is at home. The Naval & Military will always find him.5 We had a great show on the 16th & fairly put it across the Boche. We are out now resting & I can tell you are very glad to be out too. I am so sorry about the negative of that photograph. However I will get it for you – I will go & see Mr Boult tomorrow. He may have mixed it up with some others he has at home. Anyway I will see him & get him to get Mrs Boult to send it to you. Geisha6 is still with the 86th Brigade. I am feeling a bit old fashioned partly very tired after that last show & partly from a tooth which has been giving me a rotten time. I shall get home if I possibly can for the lad’s7 arrival but things look like being rather difficult to fit in as we may be up in the line – Old Baie expects him to arrive in about 3 weeks time Poor old thing I’m afraid it’s a bad time for her, & I only wish to Goodness I could be with her. I probably couldn’t do much to help her but anyway I could keep her cheery. She is at present at home. Ardmore, Stoughton, Guilford will find her. I am so tired of the war & personally I don’t see any end to it for a long time. I miss old Pat most awfully. Give my love to Tommy & tell her I am writing to her.

Yr Percy.

Thursday 30 August

jess__diary_cameoGave out things etc. Muz was out with the gardener, showing him what to do. Then she & Ione went up to the Grand, as a man in the 19th Hussars was going back from leave, & going to see them there, but he didn’t come. I tidied out the cupboard outside Ione’s room, & did a lot of tidying. Elizabeth did my room. After lunch did more tidying & cleaning, & Muz & Ione worked in the garden for a bit, & then went to Viva for tea, & then went to Mrs Lucas. Then they worked in the garden again, & Ione cut her finger with some of the raid glass, & she fainted. We went to bed at about eleven, after giving out things etc.

Friday 31 August

jess__diary_cameoGave out things etc, then tidied the cupboard in Heppie’s room, then washed curtains & things. Muz worked in the garden, with the man. Ione un-packed the car, & I helped her to blow it up.8 After tea we went off in the car to Brabourne to get a servant, but she had got a temporary place, so we went to see another one at Stelling Minnis, & she is coming next Thursday. On the way back we went to see the Brabourne one, in Hythe. We got back at about eight, I got the dinner ready as Elizabeth was out.

Saturday 1 September

jess__diary_cameoIone went up to London by the early train. I was awfully busy all day, getting things ready for Zooie & Jimmy. I went down & shopped in the morning, & got food ready, & their rooms ready. Muz wrote letters. They arrived at about seven, & at dinner time, I pretended to be going to the club, & I was really in the Kitchen doing the dinner, & passing it through to Elizabeth! Afterwards I washed up, & cleared away, & got things ready for breakfast etc. At about ten, I went in to the smoking room, to them, & crocheted for a bit, & we went to bed at about 11-30.

“Washed up, & cleared away”!

Sunday 2 September

jess__diary_cameoI was down early to help E. with breakfast etc. Afterwards cleared away, & laid lunch, & Muz came & helped me. Zooie & Jimmy went to church in Sandgate. I was busy all morning. After lunch we all walked down to the Harbour, to see about the boat, for tomorrow. After tea, got things ready for dinner, & then I pretended to be at the club & I was really in the Kitchen, & putting the things through to E! Ione came back from London by the late train, she had met Mr Wall on the way down, & he came in & talked for a bit. Then I got Ione’s supper, & we went to bed at about twelve. Muz heard the guns & bombs, & there was a raid on Dover at about eleven.9


Footnotes

  1. Lenaghan Park, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, seat of the Maude family and in 1917 the home of Mrs Armstrong’s brother Christopher ‘Kit’ Maude
  2. Jammet’s Restaurant at 46 Nassau Street, Dublin, established by French brothers Michel and François Jammet in 1901, was considered the finest restaurant in Ireland. It closed down in 1967.
  3. A domestic servant in the Armstrong family
  4. The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone
  5. The Naval and Military Club, also known as The In & Out, a private members club founded in 1862 for officers and gentlemen of the British Naval and Military Forces; the club was located until 1996 at Cambridge House, 94 Piccadilly, London
  6. One of Pat Armstrong’s horses during the First World War
  7. The Wilsons were expecting the birth of their first child
  8. Presumably Jess is referring to filling the car tyres with air
  9. In the three months after 1 September 1917, there were 29 air raid warnings in Dover

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