« « Week 105 | Week 107 » »

Monday 3 to Sunday 9 July 1916

Monday 3 to Sunday 9 July 1916


Monday 3 to Sunday 9 July 1916

At the start of the First World War, the British Red Cross and the Order of Saint John formed a joint committee with offices in London, Paris and Boulogne to deal with enquiries about missing soldiers. It was the only organization authorised to make such enquiries in wartime and by the summer of 1915 numerous other branches had been set up, including one in Folkestone. The work was carried out by Searchers who interviewed soldiers in hospitals and army rest camps to find clues to the whereabouts of missing men. Any news unearthed was passed on to relatives in an informal manner as official forms were considered impersonal and inappropriate for the sensitivity of the task. One of the better known Red Cross volunteers was the writer E. M. Forster who as a conscientious objector worked as a Searcher in Alexandria, Egypt.

For a guest post by Nick Metcalfe commemorating the Battle of the Somme, click here.

Monday 3 July

jess__diary_cameo Mended & gave out things etc.1 Then Kitty came round & we went down the town. I put on white things, as it was quite hot. After lunch I went to the Dew Drop2, & we had a huge crowd in, & were kept busy the whole time. Afterwards I went down the town to shop & pay bills, & I was rather tired. Did accounts etc when I got back. Letter from Pat dated 30th, but we have been hearing nearly every day. The “Push”3 is going on quite well, we have taken three miles some places. A wire from Gordon to say that he has started from Egypt, to come back. Muz went to tea with Mrs Ross at the Pleasure Gardens, & then went up to Moore Barracks Hospital, & didn’t get back till late.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong

My dear Sir,

Ione and Poppy at Dromineer

Ione and Poppy at Dromineer

I am afraid I have been awfully bad about writing but we have been so fearfully busy lately that I haven’t had a moment to myself. We attacked here on the 1st4 and I’m sorry to say were unsuccessful being held up by machine gun fire all along our front. The other corps further south however have done pretty well & have advanced about a mile taking 11 thousand prisoners. It is dreadfully disappointing our show being a failure as all our plans were so carefully worked out & we had every hope of a big success. However it’s cheering to know that the people south have done well and that a good many Bosch have been slain. I am going as Bde Major5 to the 86 Bde to-morrow. I am awfully lucky getting the job but it means a tremendous amount of work and responsibility. I have got a most charming General which is a great thing. I am looking forward to hearing how you did on the Derg6. Was it good this year? I forget if I told you that Hardress has gone as 2nd in command of the Inniskilling Fusiliers as a matter of fact he is commanding them now as Col Pierce was killed on Saturday. He is a great soldier now is Hardress. Bobby Nickalls has come as A.D.C.7 in his place. He is a charming fellow and one of the best men over the Pytchley country8. I have decided to call the horses “Tony” and “Sheelah”9 after Tony’s children10. I think they are good names don’t you. How I wish I was home to ride them. I think we ought to start handling them soon don’t you? However I’ll leave it to you as I know you will do what you think is best with them. Best of luck to you.

Your loving Maurice.

Tuesday 4 July

jess__diary_cameoGave out things etc. Then Kitty came round & we went down the town, & did some shopping. After lunch I went down again with Tom, & then changed, & Mrs Ross & Mrs Battiscombe came round to call for us, & they, Muz, & I went to “Adyar”11. Muz met Mrs Gordon-Canningthe son is in the 10th, Mrs Howard asked us to go out to Sibton12 on Sunday. Kitty, Miss Steele & I sat in the smoking room & talked then Muz, Tom & I walked back with Kitty. Ione went to the club from 5-7. After dinner Muz & I picked slugs off the potatoes, & Heppie worked at the rockery, then I settled flowers etc. Letter from Pat dated 1st. Then got stones with Heppie & fed Laddie13, as he wasn’t well.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

July 4.

My dear wee Mus.

“Staying at a farm”

“Staying at a farm”

I came up here this morning and am now in a farm rather like the one in Bairnsfather’s book “I’m at present staying at a farm”. It rained pretty heavily to-day & has made the trenches very wet. I ploughed round them this afternoon and was up to my knees in places. I am going back to a better billet later on and am looking forward to getting my wet things off. I saw Percy to-day, he was in great form. He had a lucky escape on Saturday. His helmet was hit with a bit of shell which made a big dent in it, but it luckily did him no harm. I wrote to the Boss and Mrs de Lisle last night. I thought that it was a good time to write to her. I am sorry to have left the General but awfully pleased at having got this job. I do hope I can make a success of it. Fulton is doing Staff Captain as Gee was wounded. He is an awfully good fellow and I think will do the job awfully well. He tells me that he knows you all, apparently met you at dances at the Grand. He was at Sandhurst the same time as G. so is really senior to me. But he’s such a good fellow that that won’t make any difference. The General is an absolute topper I like him awfully. One Williams by name. I am leaving my horses back at the Division, it is rather lonely without them but at present I don’t suppose I will have much time for riding about, and the stabling in this part of the world isn’t good. I haven’t seen anything of old Hardress for some days now. I don’t suppose I will see much of him as he is now commanding his Battn and one sees very little of people in other Bdes.

Captain Bruce Bairnsfather

Captain Bruce Bairnsfather

I can’t help marvelling at finding myself in this position. It really does seem extraordinary. I do hope I will be able to compete with the work alright. It is a much better job than G.S.O314 but I must say I’m glad I did that first as I have learnt an enormous amount in the last five months at the Div. It has really been much better than if I had gone straight from Staff Capt to this job. I have just written to Irene Wills & will send you her letter in this. She sent me a copy of Bairnsfather’s book. Awfully nice of her wasn’t it. I wish you could get Bunty & her to go & stay with you. We got a wire to-night saying that six Squadrons of French Cavalry had broken through a wire heading for Peronne. Awfully good news that. If that is true I shouldn’t be atall surprised if we heard of ours going next. It would be a great triumph if they really did go through the “G.” in Gap. It would make me want to be back with them. But I must say I couldn’t ask for a better job than this. I got a letter from you this morning of July 1st. I’m so sorry to hear that wee Jess has strained her ankle what awful bad luck. Is it the old gammy one gone again. I think that we’ll have to put reducine on her!!! Whiteface is doing awfully well but I’m afraid that those old knees of hers will never go down perfectly. I’m glad you sent Mrs de Lisle those photos. I told the General that I would send her some. I sent you a lot of odds and ends of letters and receipts this morning. Will you keep them for me. There are several letters you might like to read. The old Bosch are shelling a bit now and are making a beastly row. Our guns are now answering them. We always have the last word when shelling starts. We let him have about double what he gives us. I don’t like this gunning it makes such a beastly noise. Well it’s 11.15 & I hope to hear any moment that I can shut down here & go off back to my billet. Best love dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.

Wednesday 5 July

jess__diary_cameoGave out things etc, & then went down the town & did the shopping. Brought back some curtains for the room next Ione’s. After lunch I settled flowers, got tea ready & changed, & Sir Arthur & Miss Marshall, two Miss Steeles, Lady Kitty Vincent, Col. & Mrs Battiscombe, Mrs & Miss Donnelly, Thomas Knox, Mr & Mrs Blacker-Douglas came for tea, & we had a most successful party, & they all stayed till late. Lady Kitty is staying down in Sandgate. Afterwards I fed the dogs, left out things, & tidied. […] Algie wired to say he had been wounded & was at 51 Welbeck Street15, he didn’t say how. I know on Sun or Mon. […]

Thursday 6 July

jess__diary_cameoMuz, Ione & I went up to London by the 9-30 train, then we went to Selfridges to do some things there, then after lunch went to see Algie at 51 Welbeck Street, he is not bad, hit in the wrist & thigh (both left.) His leg is to be ex-rayed tomorrow. There was another man in his room, who knew Pat. Then we went to see Mrs Cayley, then Ione went off & we had tea & went to see Mrs de Lisle, & stayed with her till train time, & met Ione at the station, but she travelled down in another carriage, & we got out at Shorncliffe. When we got back I left out things etc, & fed “Laddie”, he isn’t much better. Went to bed at 1-30.

Letter from [Undated but c. July 1916] Lady Leila de Lisle, 5 Queensberry Place, London, to Pat Armstrong

After your nice letter it must be Dear Pat, & not Capt. Armstrong!

Thank you so much for writing. My Husband told me you were taking Capt. Grant’s place & I am personally very sorry, as I ken how much my General will miss you. When he was last at home, he told me what a help you were & what good work you were doing for the Division – I don’t think you have any idea how fond he is of you! So I ken he will miss you dreadfully – This has all been a terrible time & a great disappointment to you all – after the hard work of the last few months – but I am sure the stand the 8th Corps made has helped much all along the rest of the line & especially the French – I had a long letter from your mother today. I saw her a short time ago & she is very well & cheerful as usual. It always does me good to be with her. My best thanks for all you have done for my General. I can never thank you enough

Yrs very sincerely

Leila de Lisle

Friday 7 July

jess__diary_cameoWent down the town to do the shopping. Tidied & gave out things after lunch. Kitty came round in the morning, & we talked, it was rather wet. Lady Kitty, Lady Kitson & Mrs Battiscombe came for tea, afterwards Mrs B. Muz & I went to a lecture at “Adyar” on thought16, Lady Kitty & Lady Kitson sat in the garden, as they were tired, she goes away tomorrow, to work in Town at the “missing”. Afterwards I walked back with Mrs B then gave out things & tidied, we went to bed at about eleven.

Gordon_cameoLetter from Gordon Elton to Mrs Armstrong

Darling Muz.

“I feel you near now”

“I feel you near now”

Here we are sailing along in the most glorious deep blue mill pond. It really is beautiful I always wondered how on earth people could be so stupid as to pay large prices to sail in the Mediterranean. Now I know. You would love it here – if only we could push a button and have the war a thing of the past – no submarines, no uniform, and Muz on board, wouldn’t it be fun Muz. This is a ripping ship too she has only been sailing eighteen months. I hope you got my wire all right. They must have stopped our letters, for we got none our last week at Ferdan, I only hope one meets us at Marseilles. We heard just before we left Alexandria, of the British offensive, but we haven’t heard anything more. I do wonder what has happened. Is it the beginning of our offensive or only a strong demonstration to help the Russians. We have heard fragments of the French news they seem to have done well. I much prefer this scheme of a short advance over a long front, instead of attempting to cut right through, on a narrow front. Shall I get home on leave I wonder. I would love it. I shall have a lot to do if I do – because we have let Peacocks – Father is at Salisbury Plain and Doris at Ingatestone. I expect we will all meet in London. However it’s no use thinking plan [?] as if this offensive is on there will be no leave going – I do hope I see Pat and Algy. (Col Neill!!) Jolly good. I too Muz feel you ever so near sometimes & love it – I went to early service last Sunday and did then, and held your hand wee R +. I feel you near now and would love to give you a [—] darling. Love to children and lots to wee Rosalie.

G x.

Saturday 8 July

Tennis, anyone?

Tennis, anyone?

jess__diary_cameoGave out things, then went down the town & did the shopping. After lunch Kitty & Pam came round, & we sat in the garden. Monty & Mr MacLaren17 played tennis with Tom. Kitty & Pam stayed for tea, then Muz Kitty & I went down the town, then went to ask Mrs Ross to come to the club, but Lady Wallace was there, so she couldn’t. Gave Dus her supper, & then went to the club, just Muz, Kitty & I, we were fairly busy, & very tired. Went to bed at about twelve.

Algie_cameoLetter from Algie Neill, 51 Welbeck Street, to Jess Armstrong

My dear Jess

How very nice of you all to come up & see me. Rita was here yesterday but I missed her as I was away being Xrayed. They found no metal, the thigh bone is cracked but there is no displacement so I shall very soon be fit again. The other wounds are not worth counting. Dod comes down from Scotland this afternoon. This room is now a mass of the most lovely flowers. I wonder if Ione will go out to France personally I hope she won’t – much better doing some sort of good work at home. There are lots of men no use for anything else to drive cars at the base in France. I know she would be awfully angry if she knew my views – but there they are all the same. I hope to be able to get down to see you at the end of next week. Best love.

Yours affectionately


Sunday 9 July

jess__diary_cameoMuz & Tom went to church, I stayed in bed a bit late, then did a lot of tidying etc. Kitty came round after lunch, then Muz, Ione, Mrs Battiscombe & I motored over to Sibton Park for tea & we punctured at the gate so a Capt. Hall filled the tyre with straw as we couldn’t get it mended! He & Ione worked at it all the time! There were a lot of people there, & some of them played tennis & bridge. Mrs Howard gave us some lovely flowers. We took ages coming home, as we had to go so slowly, as the tyre was tied on with wire! Tom had the boys for tea. We were rather late for the club, Ione came down with us, but we weren’t very busy. Muz was rather tired. & walked some of the way back with Kitty, then she walked back with me. We went to bed at about 11-30.

Letter from Frank Stanley Layard, 1st Border Regt., to Pat Armstrong

“I am quite willing to do the job”

“I am quite willing to do the job”

My dear Captain Armstrong.

Many thanks for your note, dated 8/7/16. I am quite willing to do the job, if the C.O.18 will allow me; one reason, it would be a change for me; & another thing I very much want to learn something about it; it is just the sort of job I should like to get later on.

Did you see my report from the school?

I am going to ride down to see you as soon as I can; at present we are not allowed to leave the Camp, without very special leave. Hope you are keeping very fit.

Yours sincerely

F Stanley Layard


  1. The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone
  2. The Dew Drop Inn at Bouverie Road West, which had been established by four Folkestone-based Canadian women. The proceeds of the tearoom were devoted to charities.
  3. The Battle of the Somme.
  4. This was the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
  5. Chief of Staff.
  6. Lough Derg in Dromineer near Nenagh, County Tipperary, where the Armstrong family had a small fishing lodge.
  7. Aide-de-Camp.
  8. A village and parish in Northamptonshire.
  9. Captain Armstrong had purchased two horses on his son’s behalf as a form of post-war investment.
  10. Maurice Anthony Maude (1900-1926) and Sheila Cornwallis Maude (1901-1970) were two of Anthony Fritz Maude’s children.
  11. Adyar was the name of a property on Shorncliffe Road, Folkestone, acquired by the Folkestone Theosophical Society in June 1914 for lectures and at-homes..
  12. Sibton Park House in Suffolk, which had been purchased in 1897 by Captain John Howard (1963-1911), MP and owner of Chartham Paper Mills. In his will he expressed a desire for his wife “to enjoy every luxury and comfort during her widowhood that my estate can afford” and instructed his trustees “to study her interests and comfort in preference to those of my son should a question arise as to their respective interests, as I think my son would be better fitted to endure any hardships that might arise”.
  13. A stray dog rescued by the family in January 1916.
  14. General Staff Officer (Grade 3).
  15. The location of the McCaul Hospital for Officers, a private nursing home established by Royal Red Cross Nurse Ethel McCaul (1867-1931) at the turn of the century.
  16. On 7 July 1916, Mrs Grenside delivered a lecture entitled “Development of Thought” at the Theosophical Lodge, Adyar.
  17. Colin McLaren.
  18. Commanding Officer

« « Week 105 | Week 107 » »