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Monday 17 to Sunday 23 July 1916

Monday 17 to Sunday 23 July 1916


WEEK 108: IT’S NO GOOD WORRYING ABOUT ME

Monday 17 to Sunday 23 July 1916

As the first phase of the Battle of the Somme was nearing its end, Pat Armstrong enjoyed a rare treat of a day off. Taking off with his protégée Stanley Layard in a motorbike equipped with a side car, the two young men headed off on an inspection tour of areas captured by the British forces. In England, Pat’s mother and sisters were making preparations to welcome Algie Neill, who was coming to Folkestone for a short break to recover from his injuries. The Armstrongs also had the great joy to briefly meet with Gordon Elton who was returning from Egypt to take up his appointment as General Staff Officer (Grade 2) to the 58th Division in France. Ione Armstrong upset the family equilibrium by developing an interest in joining the war effort as a volunteer on the Western Front.

Monday 17 July

jess__diary_cameoIone stayed in bed all day. I gave out things1 & tidied etc. After lunch I went to the Dew Drop2, & we were quite busy, then Muz, Tom & Mr McClaren met me, & came down to shop with me, we didn’t get back till about 7-30, & was very tired. Put Dus to bed, gave out things etc, then did the accounts. […] Pat has been “mentioned in despatches,” again, the third time. General Munro & the Dardanelles this time, it was in Friday’s paper, & we nearly missed it! Muz heard from Gordon, saying he will be down on Wednesday, & Algie may come down with him.

Tuesday 18 July

jess__diary_cameoTidied & gave out things, then Muz & I went down the town to do the shopping. Kitty & Pam came round, & they came down with us, but had to go back early. Kitty came back from London yesterday. After lunch tidied, & got tea ready, cut sandwiches etc. May & Lizzie3 cleaned brass & some of the rooms etc. Capt. Fraser came, & he & Ione went up to the Grand. Tom had four boys & Jean to tea, & then danced. After tea Muz & I went down the town again to shop, & we got photo frames, & went to see Mrs Ross on the way back. Capt. Fraser was here when we got back. Put Dus & Laddie4 to bed. Ione went up to the Grand, & got back at about 10-30. I gave out things etc, then made photos bigger, for the frames etc, then went out to the garden to get some flowers, got very nice, mauve ones […]

A gathering of friends

A gathering of friends

Wednesday 19 July

jess__diary_cameoGot things out for luncheon, & made puddings etc. Fixed the table & all kinds of things, & was awfully busy all morning. Then changed, & we went down to the Harbour in the car. Capt Fraser came down with us, & then went away. We weren’t allowed to go on the Harbour, so we waited in the car & ate cherries, till Gordon came out, he had about ¾ hour before the boat went. He had had lunch on the train, & hadn’t time to come up. Muz & I went out on the Front to see the boat going out, had lunch at about three, then put things away etc, then tidied & wrote letters. Muz & Ione went to tea with the de Hoghtons, after dinner I wrote more letters, the others went to bed early, I waited till it was dark, & then got some branches in the garden. Muz wrote letters.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

July 19.

My dear wee Mus.

I’m sorry I’m so bad about writing but with the amount of work on hand at present it is really almost impossible, it is now 12 o’c & I have just finished my day’s work. So if one is going to write decent letters it means sitting up all night to get them done. To-day the General & I left here at 10 o’c & walked hard all round the line getting back at 4.30. Then I had a good deal of work to do and was at it till about 6.30 with a few minutes for a sort of tea lunch. Then I went for a short ride till about 7.30. Bobby Nickalls came to dinner and went about 9 o’c and I’ve been at it ever since. So you see the day is pretty well filled up. I will try and write whenever I can but I can only promise you a long letter once a week. I hate your missing my letters wee Mus but it really is awfully difficult. I have got a great little side car which I borrowed from some motor machine gunners who we have attached to us. It is awfully useful & saves one no end of walking. Layard & I went down to Fricourt5 in it the day before yesterday. The General said I was to go off for the afternoon as I was working too hard!!! So off we went & had a most interesting time. They have done a real good push down there. I went all along part of the German trenches and saw some of their dugouts. One dressing station within 500 yds of their front trenches had two stoves and nine little beds for about 40 men, all beautifully boarded and finished. Then we saw a dugout which was labelled “adjutant”. It was beautifully finished & had a sort of green cloth all round the walls like wallpaper.

“Saw some of their dugouts”

“Saw some of their dugouts”

We wandered about there for a bit while the old bike was being fixed, she got water in the carburettor, then with great difficulty we went on to Mametz, the roads were awfully muddy & the thing kept on skidding & the wheels got bunged up with mud. We eventually turned just short of Montauban6. It was really awfully interesting and opened one’s eyes as to what actually has happened. Until one actually sees the ground one can’t realise what a move they really have got on. They really have done wonderful work. I hope to hear that we have taken Pozieres7 and Martinpuich8 soon. I saw a lot of people I knew down there. I met Sally Home who is now a General in Mametz, he is awfully fit & is now chief of the staff of a Corps. The Regt are somewhere down there. As soon as we got relieved I am going down to see them. But I can’t get away just at present. I heard from old Pokes to-night. I’ll send you his letter. You ask what the General is like in war. One of the very best, he practically lives in the trenches. He is much the best Brigadier in the Div. He is most awfully energetic and wonderfully sound. The 7th D.G’s had a little scrap last week9. They stuck 16 Bosch in High wood, but there was still a line of trenches in front of them so they couldn’t go on. Apparently all the Germans think that we have no cavalry, they were awfully surprised & said that they thought that all the cavalry had been done in on the retreat from Mons. Best love dear wee Mus. Don’t worry if you don’t hear much from me as it is awfully difficult to write these times.

Your loving Pat.

Thursday 20 July

jess__diary_cameoGot things ready for lunch, made puddings etc, & was very busy all morning. Then cut sandwiches & got things ready for tea. Then Mr & Mrs Plumptre & Lord & Lady Dunalley motored over for lunch, then they all went out on the front, & I put things away etc. They went at about 4-30, then Lady de Hoghton & Joan, & Lady Raphael came for tea. Tom went to the field, & Muz & I were going to meet her, & saw a huge motor smash on the road10, & Tom met us there, then we went on to see Kitty & I played with the children in the garden; Kitty walked back with us, & then she & I sat in the garden. Then we had dinner in the pantry. Ione went up to the Grand to the Mundies. I did some tidying, & put Dus & Laddie to bed. Then went to bed at about 11-30.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

July 20.

My dear wee Mus.

Stanley Layard

Stanley Layard

I got two letters from you to-day written on Monday. It’s no good worrying about me. Our Hd Qrs are miles away from shell fire & I really don’t go to the trenches any more now than I always did. To-day I have been in the office all day, it’s now 5 o’c & I’ve been hard at it since 9 o’c this morning. I want to go out now in a few minutes but must just write you a few lines as you seem to be anxious. It is 10 times quieter here now than it was the last month at Helles & you weren’t anxious then. There really is nothing to worry about. It is horrible to feel that you are worrying & in the middle of a lot of work to get letters from you every day saying do write. I really don’t know what to do about it. It is so awfully hard to get everything done & write letters at the same time. I will promise you a letter once a week & will write post cards when I can. I think Layard will do well. No it would be no help to me his knowing more about the trenches. I’ve forgotten more than most of the present regimental officers ever knew. I am going to try to go over and see Pokes as soon as we come out for a bit. I don’t care for the idea of Bonham11 driving a car in this country but don’t really know much about it. I have never yet seen a girl driving an ambulance, but I dare say they do down at the base. If she got with nice people it might be fun. Well wee Mus you really mustn’t worry if I don’t write, it was different when I was an A.D.C12 & had nothing to do & all day to do it in. I’ll do my best wee Mus but it’s awfully difficult. Best love to you.

Your loving Pat.

Friday 21 July

jess__diary_cameoWent down the town to do some shopping. Then gave out things & settled all the food etc. Then after lunch Muz & I went down the town, & did more shopping, then I got tea ready etc, & was awfully busy. Muz went to a lecture at five, & Algie turned up at 5-30. We didn’t expect him till six, as there was a mistake in his wire. He is looking awfully sick, & has got his arm in a sling, & one crutch, both on the right side. Then we took him round to the hospital, & Sister D’Armes dressed them for him, she says he oughtn’t to be walking yet as they are both discharging […]

Saturday 22 July

jess__diary_cameoAlgie stayed in bed for breakfast, & so did we. Then I got things ready for lunch & dinner & tea etc. Then we all walked round to Kitty & she walked back with us, but didn’t stay. After lunch Muz, Algie & I went out on the Front, & we left him sitting there, & we went up to visit the Hospital […] Mrs Ross & Lord Shannon came for tea. Afterwards I walked round to the hospital with Algie, & sister D’Armes did his leg & while it was being done, I went down the town to get him things to do it himself tomorrow. Then Muz, Ione, Tom, Joan & Kitty & I went to the club. Capt. Wright turned up, & Algie dined with him at the Grand. Ione went to the dance later. After the club we wall went up & met them there, & Mr Arnoldi was there, we all sat round & talked, & came back at about 11-30. I had to give out things etc so didn’t go to bed till about 12-30.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

July 22.

My dear wee Mus.

I enclose a letter from Irene Wills. I have just written to her telling her where old Pokes is for Bunty’s information. He is at a place called Bonnay on the Ancre about 10 miles from Amiens. The Hun has been shelling the trenches a good deal to-night so I had to wait up till things quietened down. It’s now 2 am and I think his little evening’s fire works are over. We got our guns on him and gave him a bit more than he gave us. We thought he was trying a raid on but as far as I know at present nothing of the sort has happened. It is impossible to know at present as some of the company wires were cut. I had a great night in the trenches last night. Young Layard came round with me. The chief item of interest was the slaying of a large rat. The place is alive with them but they are hard to kill. However I smote him beautifully.

A man and a motorbike

A man and a motorbike

I wish I knew where G. was & I’d go and see him. Now I’ve got the side car I would like to make good use of it. I’ll try to go and see him as soon as we come into reserve. Things won’t be so strenuous then. As a matter of fact this has been quite an easy day. I wrote enough yesterday to last me a life time. Gen Cayley & Percy came round our lines this morning. They are coming to dine with us to-night. I’m getting mixed it was yesterday morning. Well things seem quiet now so I think I will go to bed. Best love dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.

P.S. Will you send me some purple leads for one of those ordinary screw pencils. I think you buy them in boxes of 6.

Sunday 23 July

jess__diary_cameoAlgie stayed in bed for breakfast. Capt Wright came round early, & we went out on the front, Tom’s boys too. Then Joan & Capt Wright came for lunch, & Capt. W. had to go, & we all went in the car to Sibton13. Miss Jervis, Joan, Ione & I walked about the garden & ate raspberries. It was rather fun, & a lot of people there. Tom went to the band with Kitty & the boys. Ione dined at the Grand, & Muz stayed here with Algie, & Tom, Kitty & I went to the club, then Kitty came back here, & we talked for a bit.


Footnotes

  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. Domestic servants in the Armstrong household.
  4. A stray dog rescued by the family in January 1916.
  5. A village close to the front line which had been captured by the British in the first two days of the Battle of the Somme.
  6. Montauban-de-Picardie, a village close behind the German frontline which had been seized by the British on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
  7. The village of Pozieres and the ridge on which it stands was captured by the British but not until a two-week battle between 23 July and 7 August 1916 which completely destroyed the village and caused some 23,000 mainly Australian casualties.
  8. The village of Martinpuich was captured by the British on 15-16 September 1916.
  9. This “scrap” was part of the Battle of Bazentin Ridge fought on 14-15 July 1916 as part of the Battle of the Somme.
  10. This was a collision between two cars and a motorbike in Sandgate Road near Grimston Avenue.
  11. Pat’s nickname for his sister Ione Armstrong.
  12. Aide-de-camp.
  13. Sibton Park House in Suffolk, which had been purchased in 1897 by Captain John Howard (1963-1911), MP and owner of Chartham Paper Mills.

 
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