When away from the trenches, soldiers had to hone their skills through training and tactical schemes. To stimulate enthusiasm for such activities, competitions between battalions were organised on a regular basis. Popular “sports” in these competitions included bomb-throwing, bayonet-fighting, message carrying, stretcher bearing, digging, wiring, gunnery and drill. One such sports day was organised in early August by Pat Armstrong and to his delight it turned out to be a resounding success. Meanwhile, no amount of sports could improve the mood of Pat’s fellow officer Courtney Brocklehurst who, unable to tolerate the monotony of trench life any longer, decided to apply for the Royal Flying Corps. In Folkestone, Ione Armstrong was busy organising an event of her own, gathering together friends and neighbours for a weekly knitting party to provide woollens for soldiers in active service.
Monday 7 August
Muz & I suddenly settled to go up to London to see Algie. He has been with his sister, & crosses over tonight to Mrs Rattray in Belfast. We only had about ½ hour to dress etc, & went up by the eleven train, we got in at 2-30, & Muz went to his club, & I waited about for a bit, & then went to Selfridges, & found they were waiting for me. Then we went & had tea at the Carlton, & then Algie had to catch the 5-20 train, he goes over by the Belfast boat. Then we went to Evans & shopped, & came down by the seven train. We travelled down with some tommies, & they told us some very amusing stories. Heppie had a lovely bath for us, when we got back, then we had supper in bed, & talked.
I’m sending you two photos which our late landlord took. He was a dear old man. It is a very good one of the boy and quite a fair one of the General. We had some great sports to-day. We had competitions in bombing, digging, rapid wiring, bayonet practice and all sorts of things. We had one very good race. Men had to run a mile in fighting order teams of 10 per Battn. Then we had a relay run, teams of 4 per Battn. Each man had to run 100 yds. I’ll send you a programme sometime. It was great fun arranging it all. And I’m glad to say that everything went off very well. General de Lisle came and saw it and was very pleased. Said it was a very good show & it was a pity that the Corps Commander wasn’t there. It is nice to feel that the thing was a success. We had the Div band which helped greatly. My General was awfully pleased and thoroughly enjoyed himself.
“A very good show”
I don’t know where G is. I wrote to him but haven’t had an answer yet. I hear that Dolly is staying at Cowes with Bunty. I hope you get Bunty & Miss Wills to go & stay with you. I’d like you to know them. I’m looking forward to seeing the photos they haven’t arrived yet but may to-morrow. I’ll send them back when I’ve looked at them. What a pity you didn’t spend that money on the house. I’d much rather you had. I’m getting such good pay these times that I am really well off. I get £500 a year and allowances which come to about £50. I can’t draw more than £15 a month out here so it’s accumulating well. No there is no chance of leave just at present I’m afraid. Perhaps in about a month’s time we might get some. I’m sending that compass back to Harrods as I have just got a Cavalry School compass from Stewart in the Strand. They are set in oil and are awfully good. I forgot to tell you that my General knows Gen Alderson well. He commanded a Welch (sic) Div at home at the beginning of the war & my Gen who was then a Colonel was his G.S.O1. Ask him about him when next you see him. I must be off to bed now. I enclose the girl’s1 letter. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Tuesday 8 August
Tidied & wrote letters etc all morning, Muz wrote too. Did more tidying after lunch, then went to see Mrs Lambert about the Red Cross hut up at the camp, but she was out, then we went & had tea with Mrs Gardiner. Mrs Marriott, Miss Keir & two other people were there. Then we went back to Mrs Lambert, & we are to go up on Thursdays from 2-4. Then we went to see Kitty. Her sister Mrs Odelle & a friend & the Roberts were there, then some of us walked down to the post office. Kitty wants me to go down to Braunstone Hall with her tomorrow, for a couple of nights, Muz says I can go. Then we went to Mrs Battiscombe, & she was out. Put Dus to bed, & then went back to Kitty, to say I could go. Ione went up to the Grand, & after dinner Muz & I went to try & get people for Ione’s knitting party tomorrow morning. We went to Mrs Ross, & several Canadians, & didn’t get back till nearly twelve. Then Muz & I got some flowers, & settled them in the hall etc.
How awfully sweet of you to give me the little Kosh, thank you so much old boy I simply love it and more than ever since it comes from you. I wonder if you have been home since I saw you last. I have applied to go to the Flying Corps but have not heard any more about it yet, I couldn’t stand this any longer, Squeaker is impossible & poses as the little girl teacher in a Kindergarten school. He is always talking about what he did at the beginning of the war & tries to damn me for being late for dinner, it’s intolerable & here we are going further & further away & doing nothing. I don’t know how I shall like it as I am a fearful coward as you know. How are you old thing? do take care of yourself & when you go home have a little sympathy for all the poor little girls whose hearts are so easily broken – (by you) goodbye old man & ever so many thanks for the topping little Kosh.
Yours Ever Brock
Wednesday 9 August
Settled some flowers etc. Ione’s working people began to come at about 10-30, but not many. I went up to Town by the 12 train, & did some shopping etc. It was awfully hot. Kitty & the children went up by the 3-30 & spent the day at [—], & they came back, & I met Kitty at St Pancras at six, & we went down to Leicester by the 6-30 train. We had a carriage to ourselves, so got fairly cool. We had a wash & then dinner when we got out to Braunstone Hall, & afterwards strolled about the place & Kitty showed me the house, some lovely old furniture. Then we had baths, & felt lovely & fresh. I slept in Dick’s dressing room, & there is a bath room in both rooms. I didn’t sleep much, as I had such horrid toothache. We went to bed at about 11-30. Kitty came down for an old schoolmistress’s funeral, but she had to be buried today instead of tomorrow.
Thursday 10 August
After breakfast we strolled about the garden etc, it is all awfully pretty, then we went to see some old people in the village. After lunch we sat out on the lawn, & then slept! Then we wrote letters before tea. Afterwards we walked across the fields to see a little wood. I lost my heel getting over a fence! We walked home by the road, & sat in the fields. After dinner we sat in the hall, & went up to bed at about 10-30. It was awfully hot all day. It is an old Queen Anne house.
Friday 11 August
We walked about after breakfast, & picked some lovely rose buds, to bring back with us, then we lay out on the grass in the sun, it was lovely & hot. We went in to Leicester in the bus, & caught the two train to London, then we went across in a bus & caught the four train down to Folkestone, they were awfully good trains, & we got in at about 6-30. I was feeling very dirty, so had a bath. After dinner Muz & Tom went to the band2, & Ione & Dorothy went to the theatre. Dorothy is staying at 14 Trinity Crescent. I went to bed at about nine, & read for a bit. I had horrid tooth ache in the night – so Muz got me brandy to put in it, but I didn’t sleep much.
Saturday 12 August
Tidied & gave out things etc. Then Muz & I went round to Kitty for a few minutes, then down the town, & did the shopping, then I went to Ellis to have my tooth done. He put something in, & I am to go back on Friday. After lunch got tea ready etc, then wrote letters. Two boys & a girl came to play tennis with Tom, & Doddie, a Canadian, & Mr Arnoldi came for tea. Afterwards they went up to the Grand, & I wrote more letters, & tidied. Muz, Ione, Tom, Kitty & I went to the club, we weren’t very busy. Ione went early, & went to the dance. I did some tidying when I got back, & we went to bed at 12-30.
Tennis with Tom
Sunday 13 August
Capt. Wright came over for the day, Doddie came round, & they all went to church. I got the luncheon ready & did the flowers etc. Mr Arnoldi & Hugh Bryan came for lunch too. Afterwards Muz, Doddie, Capt. W. & Mr A. went to the band, & then went to tea with the Arnoldies & bathing. I sat out in the garden with Kitty & Presh; & her sister & friend came round later. Tom & I had tea together, then the others came back, & Mrs Battiscombe & a friend, & Kittie’s sister & her friend came round. Then Kitty came, & we went to the club, Ione & Tom came too. Capt. W. & Doddie came to the club for a bit, & then he caught the train back. Ione & Doddie went out to the Grand to dance. Went to bed at about 11-30.