On the Western Front, June 1916 was spent in feverish preparation for the Battle of the Somme. The efforts included attempts to judge the efficacy of artillery to cut the wire protecting the enemy trenches and to collapse the trenches themselves. There was also a need to coordinate different types of artillery and mortars against targets appropriate for their calibre and type of ammunition fired. Intelligence was obtained through raids and patrols into enemy territory and through military demonstrations in which various tactics were tested. Pat Armstrong was in charge of organising one of these events but the end result was a disappointment. On 6 June 1916, the British nation was shocked to hear of the death of Lord Kitchener the day before on his way to Russia, when HMS Hampshire struck a German mine and sank, causing the death of more than 600 passengers and crew.
Monday 5 June
Colonel Douglas Proby
Muz, Mrs de Lisle & I went up to London by the 9-30 train. We left her at the station, & we went to the Express Club in Dover Street, & met Mr Penrose, Lady Jane & Miss Allen there, then we left them, & Mr Penrose came with us to lunch with Lady Margaret Proby, Betty was there, & he came in later. We had to leave early, as the meeting was at two. Kitty came to the meeting too. It was quite successful, but nothing was settled, as they said they would have to hear the other side first, & then would write. Sir Henry Procter was there to meet us. Afterwards Muz & I went off & shopped & looked for cretonnes etc, & then came down by the 7 train. When we got back we found Vaughan had gone by the 1-30 boat, & she had gone back to London straight from the Harbour. There was a huge list of the Naval casualties.
Acheux. Took ride. 3 falls. Motored to Marieux to 15. Flying Sqdn. Then went to 86th Hd Qrs. Cold windy & some rain. Demonstration in the afternoon by 86 Bde. Not much of a success.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
The old demonstration came off this afternoon and wasn’t as successful as I should have liked. The General wasn’t atall pleased which was rather distressing. I worked like the devil to get it right & then a lot of little things went wrong at the last moment. However I suppose it will be all the same in a hundred years’ time. But I’m worried as I feel that the General was disappointed. I wouldn’t mind otherwise but when I’m running a show for him I hate its not being a real success as it makes one feel he can’t depend on you. He was so awfully nice about it too. If he had damned me soundly I wouldn’t have minded but he was so awfully nice that it makes one feel as if one had sort of hurt him. I can’t tell you what it all was as if the censor got hold of it there might be trouble. We were practising cutting wire and shelling trenches. More details I can’t give you. I thought that it was going to be a d—d good show then little things went wrong at the start and spoilt it.
We had a great dinner last night in Amiens to celebrate the 4th of June. We sat down 168 strong. We had the most enormous room & huge great tables. They gave us a real good dinner & lots of bubbly. People got quite merry towards the end. I saw Percy Hambro there he sent his salaams to “Pat’s mother” and sisters. He was in great form. He is a full blown General now. A wire has just come in saying that the General has been granted leave so I expect he will push off on Wednesday. I wonder if Mrs de Lisle is still with you. It would be a great plan for her to meet him at the boat. Tell the General if you get the chance that I was very worried about the show to-day not being as successful as he would have liked it to be. Don’t know much about it just say that I told you that I was running a demonstration for him & that I was very disappointed that it hadn’t all worked out as well as it might have. Say something like that. Gen Snow’s A.D.C is one Buller in the 60th. He’s an awful good land & is a great friend of Percy’s. I will ride over & see the General at the end of the week. Percy comes out of the line on the 7th so I’ll go over there with him. I enclose a copy of the wire I sent to Harry for you to see. I think that the General will probably bring out Bobby Nickalls with him next week. I hope so anyway. This show is too serious now that Hardress is gone. I miss him awfully. I must off to bed now as it’s so late. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
P.S. I heard from the Times book club this morning saying that the books I sent Miss Wills to 93 Eaton Square had been returned labelled “wrong address”. Ask Ione how she spells her name & if she knows her address. I must have spelt the name wrong as the Baldwins would surely have known her address. I think she is going to stay with Bunty’smother.
Tuesday 6 June
Muz & I stayed in bed very late. After lunch Tom had three boys to dance & I went down, then Gladys Lucas came. They stayed for tea, then Mr Payne came in from Hythe, then Capt Murdie came, & Miss Peters later. Lord Kitchener has been drowned off the west of the Orkneys at 8 P.M. last night. He was on the “Hampshire”, & was either mined or torpedoed. He was on his way to Russia, on very important business. It was in today’s evening Paper. Did some tidying, & went to bed at about eleven.
Acheux. Took ride at 7.30. Started to rain about 9 am. Very heavy rain left about 11 am with Ovey and went round left sector & O.P. Got back about 4 pm. Nice warm afternoon.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
“Not a word to a soul”
My dear wee Mus.
T. goes home with the General early to-morrow so I’ll just scribble a few lines for him to take for me. He is taking my saddle home for me will you get it relined & give it to him to bring back for me. I think he comes back on the 12th (Mon) so you will have to get a move on there. Will you pack up my camera & some films very carefully & get him to bring it out but not a word to a soul what it is. I had a long day to-day in the trenches and am going round to-morrow, arranging about dumps etc. I’ve had no letter from you now for two days. But I expect you have been up in London at the old Y.M.C.A. meeting. You’ll see T. to-morrow & he will tell you all the news, it’s nearly 1 o’c so I’ll turn in. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Wednesday 7 June
Ione went up to London by the 8-30, & then is going down to Camberley to stay with the Kirwans. Capt. King is going down there to stay with his sister-in-law. The servants went with Ione’s luggage, so I had to answer the bells, with my skirt & blouse over my nightie! After breakfast I went up to the attic & worked at the newspapers, & got a lot done, & after lunch too. Then Muz & I went to tea with the Allens, there were four other people there too. Then we went to Viva, but she was out, then we went to Mr Roberts, & he showed us his house & played the organ to us. Then we went to Mrs Arnoldi, she was most awfully depressed, as their people are having such an awful time up at Ypres. When we got back Capt Ross was here, he & the General are back on leave. After dinner he & his mother & Muz & Tom walked down to Sandgate about Pat’s saddle. Heppie & I worked in the garden. Bed at one.
Acheux. The Gen & T went on leave. Took ride 7.30. Went round trenches with Ovey, Bayley & Rushton & marked the dumps. Got back about 4 o’c. Rode for a short time in the evening. A good deal of work in the evening. Heard that K. had been drowned in on the Hampshire. 86th Bde relieved 88th Bde in the left sector.
Thursday 8 June
Muz & I went to a Canadian Red Cross meeting at eleven. Mrs Cleghorn is going over to Canada for a few weeks, so somebody else is taking her place. We walked back with Capt. & Mrs Ross, then we came back & had some bread & butter, as we wouldn’t be back for lunch, & then Muz & I walked up to the camp. They are clearing the hospital as much as they can, as they are expecting a lot in next week. We came back & changed & went to tea with Mrs Gye. Afterwards I went down to see Mrs Mac Averty at the Dew Drop inn, I talked to her for a bit. After dinner I wrote letters, & went to bed at about one. All the officers have got to wear black on their arms for Kitchener, till the 16th.
Friday 9 June
“Some Little Boys”
Peter’s wedding. Worked at the newspapers, up in the attic all morning, then again after lunch. Then after dinner, I tidied my part of the attic, & got it all nice, papers & all, so now I can begin the rest when I have time. We wired to Peter to say we couldn’t go up for the wedding. Tom had some little boys for tea, then she & Muz went out for a walk after dinner, Heppie worked at the Rockery it looks very nice. When it was dark, I went out & got a lot of stones, then Muz came out for a bit then Heppie & I went, & we got a lovely lot. Went to bed at about 12-30.
Saturday 10 June
Stayed in bed rather late, as I had earache & tooth ache. Then did a lot of mending the rest of the morning & again after lunch & tea. Then Muz & I went to the club at seven, Mrs Boddam-Whethamthe only other one. Was at the desk the whole time, so wrote letters. Kitty & Major Winstanley came down to the club to see us. Heard from Algie this morning, he has been given command of the 5th (sic) West Yorkshire Regt. We went to bed at about 11-30. Ione has been with the Kirwans but goes to the Probys tonight.
Acheux. Left about 10.30 with Percy & Fuller. Called at 86 H.Q’s then at 87th. Went round Fort Jackson & then on to southern O.P. Looked in at Auchonvillers on the way back. Rode out to training ground in the evening.
Sunday 11 June
Muz & Tom went to early service, I stayed in bed rather late. Then Muz & Tom went to church & then out on the front. I mended all morning, & again all afternoon. Muz went to see Mrs Cleghorn & then we went to the club at 6-30. Miss Keir didn’t come, so Muz & I were alone & Miss Hewson at the desk. May came down late to wash up, & we let the women go home. We went to bed at about 11-30. Ione didn’t come back, as she is going to stay with the Harters.
The Harter boys
Acheux. Stayed in all morning a good deal doing. Rode over to Corps in the afternoon. Got back about 6 o’c. Dobbie brought our book. Went through it with Ovey till about 12.30. The Gen arrived back with Nickalls.