Singing remained an integral part of military life as a means of building camaraderie, alleviating fear and reducing the boredom and monotony of the daily grind in the trenches. However, by 1916, the rousing marching tunes such as It’s a Long Way to Tipperary which had fuelled the optimism of the early stages of the war no longer resonated with people. Instead, what was sought was fun and real sentiment such as was to be found in songs like Oh It’s a Lovely War and Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty. To uphold the morale of the men, groups of performers organised by the YMCA began to tour the Western Front from February 1915 onwards to entertain the troops. Musical instruments were also provided to soldiers, and almost every division had its own entertainment group. Music hall songs on the home front rapidly made their way to the war zones and provided comfort and cheer to tired and disheartened men.
Monday 31 July
Did some mending & tidying in the morning. Muz & Ione started at about 11-30, to motor to Sandwich, to have lunch with Mrs Gordon-Canning. After lunch I darned & tidied, & then went to the Dew Drop1, but we weren’t very busy. Took Dus. out when I got back, then put some stuff on her back, & put her to bed. Tidied all evening. Muz & Ione got back at about 7-30, they had gone to Goodnestone2 for tea. Did more tidying after dinner.
Tuesday 1 August
Did some tidying then cleaned out Duskey’s house, & took her out for a bit. Settled the flowers Muz brought back yesterday. After lunch did more tidying & mended nearly all afternoon. Muz, Ione & Tom went to tea with Mrs Wood at the Tango Tea3, & Mr Arnoldi went too. I went to the club at five till 7-30. Mrs Foster, Miss Dillon & Miss Carleton. Hardly any men in it was frightfully hot all day, but really lovely. Took Dus out when I got back, then put her to bed. Did more tidying, & wrote to Algie. Heard from him dated 31st, he is at a convalescent home at Woodstock4. We all had baths, & went to bed at 11-30. Heppie sewed most of the day, & did some ironing for men.
Wednesday 2 August
Ione went up to London by the 8-30 for the day. Heppie & I went down the town & did shopping. After lunch I did some tidying. Tom went to Miss Keir’s fete5 with Mrs Ross, & I went to the Dew Drop to take Miss Tremaine’s place, but we had hardly anything to do, so I came back at about 5-30. Mrs Wood & her niece, Mrs Arnoldi & General Alderson came to tea with Muz, I just got back before he left, then Lady de Hoghton came, & we sat out in the garden, & then Mrs Ross came back. Gave out things6 etc, & went to bed at about 11.30. Muz & Heppie went for a walk after dinner.
Thursday 3 August
Took Duskey outside the Garage, & rubbed the stuff all over her, that Gillard gave me for her back, then took her for a walk, & then sat out in the garden for a bit, & read, finished “Deborah of Tods”7. Muz, Ione & Tom went down on the shore, & Ione bathed. After lunch I tidied & read for a bit, then two boys came for tea with Tom, & they played tennis. Muz went down to have a Turkish bath, & Heppie went down with her. I wrote letters, then Mrs Battiscombe came round, & I sat in the garden with her for a bit. After dinner Muz & Tom went to the band, & I did more tidying, & went to bed at about 10-30. Casement was hanged today. Heard from Pat this morning, he is resting for the first time for ages, but goes back to the trenches next day.
The execution of Roger Casement
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
I got a long letter from you this morning of the 1st and one yesterday of the 31st. Yes! I think it’s quite alright to send out those photos. I don’t think it matters a bit who you show them to as it was so long ago that they were taken. Will you send them out as soon as you can and I’ll send them back when I have had a good look at them. I am awfully pleased to hear that they are a success. I think it would be a good plan to have some of the French ones done too. There are some that were taken in a town which are well worth doing. I haven’t paid that bill yet but will do so as soon as my new cheque book comes out. I think that it’s money well spent.
The Bing Boys Are Here
The “boy” is doing awfully well and is a topper. Of course he’s an awful child but is so keen. He is a nice cheery lad & is great value. He adds greatly to the gaiety of nations. Will you send me some books of ragtimes8. I’d like the book of “to-night’s the night” “Bricabrak” and the Bing-Boys9. We will have a piano next week. You’d laugh if you knew where it was. But we’ll knock some music out of it. Yes! Ione told me that Irene Wills was at St James but she was there after Ione left. She’s quite a child, only came out last year. She has only been to a very few dances.
This place has altered tremendously since I was here before one would hardly know it was the same place. All the old landmarks that one knew so well are obliterated. But it’s a good deal more pleasant spot than when I last saw it. It certainly couldn’t be worse than it was then. I must go and see poor little Maurice’s grave & write & tell the family about it. I went to a demonstration office yesterday which was rot but it was a glorious day & one saw crowds of people one knew. Gen de Lisle introduced me to Gen Godley. He made tender enquiries after you and sent you all kinds of nice messages. What an awful nice man he is I was awfully struck with him. I saw him in the distance & was awfully taken with his face & was wondering who he was. He has a great face on him.
I saw Basil & his General. Both were in great form. Poor old Basil has had a bad time but says that he’s quite fit again now. He told me rather an extraordinary thing. He said that a couple of months ago that he went to one of these queer people I forgot who it was & she told him that he would communicate with his father, but she couldn’t quite tell him how. He was very anxious to know if his father approved of what he was doing on the farm. Well about 6 weeks or a month after that, he, Sylvia, Sheelah & Allan were playing that old game with a wire, glass & letters. When suddenly a person started to write & said she was Ivy from Glamis Castle10 and that his father was very pleased with all that they were doing. Then they asked her several other questions & finally asked her when the war would end. She said that we would never make any appreciable advance on this front but that the Russians would penetrate into the enemy’s country and that the first signs of peace would appear in December. There would be some very hard fighting in January in February the Austrians would make peace & Germany would make peace in March & that there would be an army of occupation in this country for two years after that. Odd isn’t it. When she told them that they asked her why it was that they could talk to her & she said “Because you aren’t such idiots, as most people.” They then told them that they would all come safely through the war & that if ever they were in danger that they were to think of her. After that they said Good night to her & she said I’ve got no nights.
Pat, Basil and Sylvia
The next night they did it again & she told them that they could only call her when they were all four together. Then she said somebody has a message for you then she said “tell Helen that I’m quite happy”. They asked who it was & it spelt out “man of wrath”. They asked several times & it was repeated then they realised that that is what Sylvia used to call them. I have often heard her calling him that. After that a very snappy old gentleman turned up. Basil told me who he was but I forget now. Anyhow they asked him several questions & they were all answered very shortly. Eventually they asked him when the war would end & he said “Idiots you’ve already been told”. Awfully odd isn’t it. I’m writing you this fully now as it will be interesting to see how much of it comes true. He told me a lot more but I can’t remember it now. Anyhow I have told you the salient parts. It’s time for bed now wee Mus. Best love to you dear wee Mus. Don’t forget to send those music books. I’d like Kentucky Home11 too.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 4 August
Did some tidying, then went down the town. Then took Duskey out. After lunch went down the town again, with Muz. At three I went to church – the second anniversary of the war, Muz was there too, & we went down afterwards. All the shops were shut from 2 till 4. Did a lot of shopping & had tea late. Tom went to tea with the de Marottes afterwards. I mended all evening. Ione went to the theatre alone, & Muz & Tom went out to the band. Heppie worked in the garden for a bit. Kitty came round before dinner, I didn’t see her, but Muz did.
Saturday 5 August
Shopped in the morning, did some tidying etc. After lunch Muz & I walked up to the hospital. Then on our way back, I went to see Kitty & the children on the beach, & Mrs & Mr Roberts were there too, Muz went to see Mrs Arnoldi, & I went back there to her, when Kitty went home, & we stayed for tea, there were some other Canadians there too. Muz, Kitty, Ione, Tom & I went to the club & Ione left early, to go to the dance. Walked about the gardens with Kitty afterwards, & saw two shooting stars.
Sunday 6 August
Did some tidying, then Muz, Tom & I went to church. Freddie walked in, in the middle! Went out on the front afterwards, it was very hot. After lunch settled flowers & got tea ready, until tea time, then a lot of people came for tea Mrs & Mr Arnoldi, Major & Mrs Ross – Canadians – & another Canadian woman, Mrs Ross & her son, Colonel & Mrs Thurburn & Mrs Wood & her niece. Afterwards we changed & went to the club, Muz, Kitty, Miss Walters & I & we were fairly busy.
The 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.⇑
Goodnestone Park in Dover, Kent, was the seat of the Plumptre family.⇑
An early evening dance usually held between the hours of 4 and 7 pm.⇑
Military Convalescent Home, Woodstock Road, Golders Green, London NW.⇑
Miss Keir gave a fete in the Pleasure Gardens, Folkestone, in aid of St Dunstan’s Home for the Blind, prisoners of war in Germany and the Canadian Open Air Hospital in Shorncliffe.⇑
The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone.⇑
A novel by Elisabeth Bonham De La Pasture, published in 1907.⇑
To-Night’s the Night was a musical comedy which opened in New York on Christmas Eve 1914 and at the Gaiety Theatre in London on 18 April 1915; Bric-a-Brac was a revue produced by Alfred Butt which played at the Palace Theatre, London, in 1915; The Bing-Boys Are Here was the first of a series of reviews which played in the Alhambra Theatre, London during the last two years of World War I. The revue first opened on 19 April 1916 and included the now famous song If You Were the Only Girl (in the World) .⇑
Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland, best known as the childhood home of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.⇑
My Old Kentucky Home, a minstrel song composed by Stephen Foster c. 1852.⇑