WEEK 112: WHAT A QUEER PLACE THE WORLD WILL SEEM AFTERWARDS
Monday 14 to Sunday 20 August 1916
The enormous loss of life during the First World War led to an outpouring of grief which found expression in a growing interest in spiritualism. The brutality of the conflict caused many to lose their religious faith and to find consolation instead by turning to mediums in a desperate attempt to make contact with their fallen sons, brothers and husbands. The Ouija Board, which had originated in 1890 as a harmless parlour game, was popularized as a divining tool by the American spiritualist Pearl Curran, and the number of spiritualist societies in England almost doubled between 1916 and 1919. One of the most famous proponents of spiritualism was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who lost his son near the end of the war. Pat Armstrong’s friend Basil Brooke had experimented with the Ouija Board in the summer of 1916 in an attempt to make contact with his father, an evening which had profoundly affected his sister Sylvia.
Monday 14 August
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Doddie came round early, so I talked to her for a bit, then went & got things ready for lunch. Doddie stayed for lunch. I went to the Dew Drop1, & were only fairly busy. One woman gave me 10/- as a tip. Tom had a lot of children for tea, so I got tea ready before I started. Some of the Maudes & Lysters came to see Muz, but I didn’t see them. When I came back sat in the conservatory with Ione & Doddie. Muz & Tom went to the theatre, & Ione & Doddie went to the Grand. I gave out things2 etc, & went to bed at about 12. Wrote to Algie. I hardly slept at all last night, as I had such awful ear ache, tooth ache & headache. I had to come in to my own bed as I was afraid of keeping Muz awake, but I walked about most of the night, then at about four Muz came in for me, & gave me an aspirin, & I went back with her, & went to sleep.
Tuesday 15 August
Stayed in bed a bit late. […] Then Doddie came round, & I talked to her, then gave out things etc & got things ready for lunch, & made the pudding. After lunch I did some tidying, & got tea ready. Mr Arnoldi came round for a bit. Doddie & Ione went up to the Tango tea. Tom had a lot of children for tea. Afterwards Muz & I went down to the post, & talked to people on the way, & then went round to Kitty. After dinner Ione & Dorothy went up to the Grand, & Muz & Tom went to the band. I tidied etc, & went to bed at about 12-30.
Wednesday 16 August
Got luncheon ready etc. The people came for the knitting party at about 10-30. Muz went down the town & then came back to work. Mrs Thurburn & her sister, Miss Crawford, Mrs Ross & Lady Wallis came, & Mme Jean3 came & sang for a bit. Later Kitty, Mrs Odelle & her friend & Capt Ogilvy came. Kitty goes off tomorrow to stay in Oxford, & is taking Pam too. Doddie came for lunch, & we sat & talked afterwards, & she stayed for tea. She & Ione went to bed early & Muz, Heppie & I went to the club. Muz is taking Mrs Lambert’s4 shift for three weeks . We weren’t very busy. I sat at the desk all the time. We got back at about 10-30, & then got some flowers. Tom went to dine with Mrs Ross, & Lady Wallis’s boy is there. Went to bed at about 11-30.
Letter from Sylvia Brooke, Powerscourt, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, to Pat Armstrong [c. 14-16 August 1916.]
My dear Pat.
A letter from and Sylvia
It’s all very well to curse me for not writing, & politely indicate that my mind has turned into a jam-pot – but what do you expect as you have never given me your address? “Pat. B. E. F. France” seems rather inadequate tho’ “Pat, B.F.” (toute simple) might find you? I did write once, about the time of the “Pips” nuptials – to the Cavalry Club – it followed you out to France, & then came back to me. So I gave you up, I will now try Lenaghan5, & if that does not find you, I shall sulk with you for the rest of our lives! I am glad you thought Basil in good form. He really was very seedy, poor old rat. Yes – wasn’t it odd all the things the “Glass” told us – I have tried it with several other people – some quite psychic – but never got it to work the way it did for us four – it was very thrilling, & comforting, & gave one a great certainty about things which one had felt must be, but could not prove before – It was impossible to believe that the whole mechanism of the universe, & all the ideals which are to be found even in the lowest human natures, were to no purpose – tho’ I suppose the finest characters were those who, seeing no purpose in it all, still fought on, & fought their best. Yes – March seems a long way off, but it looks as if it might be true; how terribly, terribly weary one is of the whole thing, & what a queer place the world will seem afterwards. I have not been in Fermanagh since June. I was there all the winter & loved it – Basil seems to have given you terrible accounts of the sort of old frump I have grown in to, judging by your scurrilous remarks “re:” jam! Well. Write to me here, & tell me how things are going – & don’t be rude to me again till you have found out whether it is your own fault or not!!
Yrs ever Sylvia
Pat and Sylvia
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
I got a grand long letter from you this morning of the 14th. You are right about the Corps. The lot that Archie used to be with are on our left. Things are very quiet here now not like old times. The whole country is awfully changed. The old Russians seem to be doing great things6. I’m afraid it’s the old story of dead lock on this front. Yes T. is doing understudy Staff Capt with — . Same as the Boy is doing here. I got such a nice letter from the Duchess yesterday. I’ll send it to you. I wrote and told her about Maurice’s grave. I’ll also send you a letter I got from old Brock. These are pretty strenuous times. I’m out most mornings at 5 am and don’t get to bed till about 12. I was out till 2 AM this morning so had a good long lie. I’m off out early to-morrow. There is a lot of work to be done but it’s all awfully interesting. I don’t mind how much I have to do out of doors as long as I don’t have to fug in the office. I hope Bunty & Irene Wills will go & stay with you. I’d like you to know them better. I must be off to bed now wee Mus as it’s so late. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Thursday 17 August
We heard from Pat dated 15th, he is awfully busy so we haven’t heard for several days. Got luncheon & tea things ready, then went round to Mrs Odelle. Then settled all the flowers in the smoking room etc. Muz took Tom down to the dentist. At one, I went up to Shorncliffe, to work at the new Rest Room. I walked the whole way, then sewed when I got up as we weren’t very busy. Then cleared up & left at about six. Only Miss Carleton & I there. We came back in the bus. Ione went to the theatre with Mrs Barsdorf, & Muz & Tom went to the band. […]
Friday 18 August
Got luncheon ready etc, then went down the town. Doddie came for lunch, & afterwards I did her cards for her, then Muz & Tom went to tea with Mrs Ross, at the Tango tea, & Doddie came some of the way down the town with me, & I went on & did the shopping. Then got tea ready, & Doddie stayed, & we sat out in the garden afterwards. I brought Dus. & Laddie7 out too. Ione & Doddie went up to the Grand after dinner, & Muz & Tom went to the band. I gave out things, & then wrote letters. Heard from Algie, he left Ireland yesterday, & went to Scotland. Went to bed at about 11-30. Got flowers before I went to bed, Muz came out with me.
Saturday 19 August
Hugh ‘Huff’ Lewes
Got the luncheon things ready, then went down the town, then went down again, & did a lot more of the shopping & met Doddie in the town, then met Ione & Mr Arnoldi on the way back. He & Doddie & Hugh Lewis came for lunch. Afterwards we talked, then I got tea ready & changed, & Miss Walter & her sister, Mrs Ross & Lady Wallis came for tea. Ione lay down & Doddie went to tea with her aunt, Dus. came out with me this morning for the first time for a long time. Muz, Ione, Tom & I went to the club, & Heppie came down later. We were fairly busy. Went to bed at about 12, after giving out things etc.
Sunday 20 August
Got luncheon ready etc, then Muz, Tom, Doddie & I went to church, & afterwards out on the front. Dus. came too. Captain Wright didn’t come over, as he went up to his people, as they were over for his brother’s wedding8. After lunch got tea ready etc, & did some tidying. Muz, Ione, Tom, Heppie & I went to the club & were quite busy. Ione left early, & she & Doddie went up to the Grand. We went to bed at about 11-30. Mrs Ross, Lady Wallis, Mrs Wood & her niece, Mrs & Miss Campbell, Colonel & Mrs Battiscombe & Sammie, two boys, Mrs & Miss Codville, Roddie, Mrs Roberts, Gerald and & Mrs Maude & a friend, came for tea.
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.⇑
The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone.⇑
Mademoiselle Jean was a singer employed by the Grand Hotel.⇑
Mrs Lambert ran a Red Cross hut for soldiers in Folkestone.⇑
Lenaghan Park, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, home of the Maude family.⇑
Russia had defeated Turkish forces on the Caucasian front between June and August 1916 and had almost knocked Austria-Hungary out of the war during the Brusilov Offensive between June and September 1916.⇑
A stray dog rescued by the family in January 1916.⇑
Captain Henry Thomas Richard Somerset Wright married Edith May Hansard on 17 August 1916⇑