WEEK 115: COMING DOWN IN FLAMES
Monday 4 to Sunday 10 September 1916
On the night of 3 September 1916, the German airship SL 11 was on a bombing raid over London when it was attacked by 2nd Lieutenant William Leefe Robinson of the 39th Home Guard Squadron. Robinson’s small bi-plane had been fitted with a new type of incendiary ammunition which ignited the airship. The enormous quantity of hydrogen which she carried lit the entire night-sky and thousands of Londoners witnessed the spectacle, cheering and singing the national anthem as the airship descended in flames. SL 11 was the first airship shot down on British soil, an event which had enormous propaganda value to the British Government as it proved that the German airship threat was conquerable. Robinson was awarded a Victoria Cross for his gallantry, the first one ever to be awarded for action in the UK.
Monday 4 September
Muz, Tom, Hugh & I went round to see May Peto, who is staying with cousin Edith, as she goes away today; then Tom, Hugh & I went down the town, & did some shopping. Ione came back, but went away at about 1-30, & then came back, & then went to the theatre. After lunch Muz, Tom & Hugh went to the Electric Theatre, & came back here for tea. I went to the Dew Drop1, & were fairly busy, then went down the town, before I came back. The policeman came in at about 8 & stayed till 9-30. Gave out things2 after dinner, & went to bed at about 11.
Tuesday 5 September
Heard from Algie, he saw the Zepp coming down in flames on Sunday, in the distance, from his club in London. Gave out things & cut sandwiches etc. in the morning, then had luncheon early, & Muz, Ione, Tom, Heppie & I motored over to St Margaret’s Bay, & had sandwiches, in a wood, & then went to see Miss Field (General William’s sister-in-law) she lives in a little farm. We had rather difficulty getting in without a pass, although we had our registration cards. Ione, Heppie & Tom stayed in the car, & Muz & I went down & had tea with her, there were two other women there too, & a Mr Frith in the Royal Fusiliers, who was doing outlook duty. Got back at about 7-30, it was a lovely drive. On our way out, we went to see Mr Mundie, to see “Laddie”3, then called for Mr Mundie on our way back, & brought him back, & Ione went up to the Grand afterwards. Muz, Tom & I went to the Band. Hugh came out, it is his last night, as he has been given a ship “The Commonwealth”. He came back here with us. Went to bed at about 12, after giving out things etc.
Wednesday 6 September
Went down the town, & did the shopping. About six people came to Ione’s working party. We had lunch early, & Muz went down to the Connaught Club4 to take Miss Lambert’s shift, & Colonel Battiscombe took me up in the car to the Rest Room, we were only fairly busy, & Miss Carleton & I walked home & got back at about seven. Then gave Dus her supper & then Muz, Tom, Heppie & I went down to the club at 7-30, & got back at about 10-30. Ione dined at the Grand with Lord Shannon. We went to bed at about 12-30.
My dear wee Mus.
I got a long letter from you this morning of the 4th & one from Irene Wills. She is a great girl to write but writes dull letters as you say. I wish you could get them to go and stay with you. She tells me that they are leaving the Isle of Wight almost at once and going on a tour of visits. She gave me her permanent address which I thought rather tactful. She says “It is no good giving you my address as I shall be moving round but 9 Southwell Gardens London S W will always find me.” In other words write again!! She seems a nice child but I’d like to know her better. There isn’t the slightest chance of my getting any leave till October. I’m going to take a lease of Brand’s house for 10 days they are the people that T was staying with. The manager of that establishment lunched with you that day that Fuller was there.
There is very little news here these times, we seem to have been turned out of Ginchy5 which is rather bad luck, but it was a great day’s work getting Guillemont6. Apparently the attack on the north of the Ancre wasn’t a success they got as far as Station Road but were then cut off by the Huns who bobbed up out of their dugouts. That is the story I heard but it’s only gup7 so you can take it for what it’s worth. They only took on the bit about 300 yds north of the river not our old friend B. H.8 It is a pretty tough nut that bit of the line.
[…] I took the dog out for a long walk this morning & she followed me beautifully. I walked down the road among a lot of traffic & men & whenever she lost me she ran about sniffing people like Dusky does & then eventually found me. I took her within about 500 yds of her home & she never made any attempt to leave me. I took her round all the Battns & when I was talking to the C.O’s9 she just galloped about and always came back to me. She is getting to know me awfully well. I got onto a horse for a few minutes this morning to see what she’d do, she couldn’t find me at first but then as soon as she spotted what was up she followed splendidly. I was away all afternoon running a signalling show with a contact aeroplane. The fellow up didn’t read very well so our messages got a bit queered, but it was rather interesting. When I got back she heard me talking to Standen and at once popped out of her kennel & started making a great tamasha10. I think she is getting to be very quick at learning things. At present whenever she comes in here she pops up onto my bed with her muddy feet which I don’t fancy. I’ll soon teach her she mustn’t do that. I pulled her off three or four times to-night & then she went & lay down quite happily in the corner. I have got a kennel made out of a band just outside my house, & have had it paved with brick all round. She is really awfully comfy. It will be rather fun taking her round the trenches. I hope she won’t go over the top & get shot by the dirty Hun.
Yes I remember Chris Peto quite well, he seemed an awfully nice lad but looked so delicate & fragile. I expect by now that he has filled out quite a lot. The 9th are away down South somewhere, so there is no chance of seeing them just at present. I don’t think that the Cavalry will ever get a show in this war. They may of course be used again in the trenches but I very much doubt if they will ever get any open fighting. Personally I think that the Hun will freeze onto this line till all’s blue. He won’t want to give up Belgium as it will be such an enormous asset to him when there is any talk of peace. I bought this pen in Boulogne the day before yesterday, it is a great improvement on the other one I had which was a horrible fine scratchy thing. I can go a great pace with this one. It makes all the difference letter writing if one has a pen that lies over the paper like this one does.
G’s General is General Hill, a delightful little man. I don’t know what Regts are in it. I will try & find out and let you know sometime. There is rather a nice lad just come to the Div in my old job. A boy called Carden Roe in the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was at Shorncliffe with Little Rodger & Ned & says he knows all of you quite well. He looks awfully young but I’m sure is nice. I remember meeting him one night that I was dining with them. Little O.’ D. is now second in command of his Regt. He is a lucky little devil to have got so far. Poor little Rodger I wonder if we will ever hear any news of him. T. tells me that his name has been put on the list as a Staff Capt, so he must have got a good chit but that isn’t the story I heard. I like him very much but I’d be sorry to have as a Staff Capt. Quill is a charming fellow & is doing quite well. He needs a little more push but will get that when he gets into things. He has had very little war service.
[…] I bought a great supply of writing paper to-day so it won’t be for the want of it that I won’t write to you! It’s the time that’s the difficulty. It is quite easy now that I’m living the life of a perfect gentleman. It is a very different affair though when one works up till about midnight at all sorts of papers & things. I have had hardly any papers these last few days. I always forget to tell you about the photos. I think they are awfully good. Do get all the others done. They are real good value. Most of the best ones you haven’t had done yet. I’d like to see how the ones of the trenches come out. I do wish we could take photos now. It does seem such a shame. Nothing one could take that would be of any value to the Hun. But still people did take silly things & then went & published them in the papers. So now everybody else has to suffer. You all seem to be working very hard. Don’t go and overdo it will you wee Mus. I don’t fancy that driving job that Ione wants to do. Nobody seems to know anything about it. I think that there are a few people down at Boulogne doing it but I didn’t see any the other day. It would be much better for her to go out and nurse in one of the hospitals. Why doesn’t she do that if she really wants to get out to this country. I’d rather like her to get out here for a short time on some good job. It would be nice for her afterwards to have been out here while the war was on. I’m glad she gave Laddie away he sounds a destructive brute. He was as bad as those old rabbits or even worse from all accounts.
Mr Parry sent me a copy of Stoke House Annals the day before yesterday, so I wrote and thanked him for it last night. I’ll send it to you when I have read it. It was awfully nice of him to have remembered me. He is a really nice man that & a real good friend. One does appreciate being remembered by a man like that after all these years. No Bonham11 hasn’t written a word about Harry. He’s a queer weak lad that. But I’ll take my hat off to him if he really sticks to her. She seems to be having a great time. I wish she could get a good job out here it would be much better for her than dashing about round Dover dancing & such like. Poor wee Tom seems to have been having a lot of visits to the dentist. She will be like me soon & have every back tooth in her head stopped. Do you know I haven’t got a single back tooth in my head that isn’t stopped. Rather pathetic isn’t it.
Standen heard from Ames yesterday. He is still bad with his innards. He says that he is very likely going to be invalided out. I’d like to send him to Moyaliffe if he does. He’s such a good fellow I wouldn’t like to lose sight of him. I’ll write to the Boss about him. I expect that the Boss could find some nice soft job for him. He’d clean the boots or do something useful about the place. Did you see that thing in the papers about giving a silver rose as a bar for the D.S.O & M.C.12 It was in the Times of Aug 30 or 31 I forget which. I’m wondering how it is going to be worked. As I got mine on the first recommendation & the mentions for my last recommendation at Suvla only came out a short time ago. Can you remember the dates of my mentions. I forget now if I have been mentioned three or four times. I remember the first one for the first Aug. Then I got one just before I got the M.C. & then there was the last one. I forget if I had another or not. I seem to remember one but can’t remember the date of it. I don’t approve of medal hunting but I’d like to get that bar. Well it’s after 12 so I must turn in. Will you thank wee Jess & Tom for all their letters. I have answered all yours now so will try & write to them as soon as I can. We have a Bde concert on to-morrow night. I hope it will be a success. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Thursday 7 September
Muz & I went up to Shorncliffe at 9-30, to the Rest Room. An ambulance was to have called for us at 9, but didn’t come, so I went in to Miss Peters, to telephone; but then we started, & luckily caught one going up. We were there till about six & then Mrs Lambert came, & Muz & I went up to visit the hospital. We talked to two awfully nice men, for a long time, & didn’t leave till nearly eight, then walked home, as it was too late for an ambulance. Went in to Kitty on the way home, but she isn’t back till tomorrow. Ione & Tom were in bed when we got back. Gave out things, etc, & went to bed at about 11-30. I made a lot of lavender bags while I was up at the Rest room.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong
My dear Sir.
I have just heard rather bad news of poor Ames. He has still got that dysentery and will probably be discharged as medically unfit. If he has to go I wonder if you could find him some nice quiet little job on the place. He is such a good fellow & did me so well all the time that he was with me that I’d like to look after him if I could now that he is sick. We have little or no news here. We have been leading a very strenuous life lately but we are now having a few days rest. There is no chance of leave till October I’m afraid, as there is far too much work to be done. News in general seems good. It is great work getting Guillemont. We have now got a footing in Ginchy. I have just got a most delightful Belgian hound. She is the sort of thing they breed for pulling their carts. I must end now as I have go to off out and go round the Battalions. Let me know if you can do anything about Ames?
Your loving Maurice.
Friday 8 September
Went to the dentist, at 10, Muz & Tom came down after me. I had the nerve killed in a wisdom tooth, & have to go back again. Muz & Tom went back & I went & did the hopping. Got back fairly early & left out things etc, then lay down for about ½ hour, as my tooth was hurting. We had lunch early, & then the ambulance called for us, & Muz & I went up to the Rest Room, & stayed there till about 6-30, then shopped in Sandgate, & walked home with Miss Carleton. Muz & I went in to see Kittie on our way back, she got back this afternoon. Then Muz & Tom went to the band, & I gave out things & did accounts etc. Ione went off in the car with Mrs Hemming.
My dear wee Mus.
We had a great concert last night. T came and dined with me and thoroughly enjoyed himself. I’ll enclose a programme for you to see. I had great fun to-day and played three chukkas13 of polo. Geisha was quite good but of course awfully green. She got a badish smack on the fetlock which I’m afraid will lame her but I won’t be able to ride much now for the rest three weeks or so.
I went down & saw the General last night & had a chat with him, he was in great form. I am going to call the tyke “Miss Wipers”. I think it is a good name for her. She is getting awfully fund of me & will hardly look at anybody else she is rather like Dusky in that way. You’d love her she has such a nice face. She is awfully quick to learn. I have taught her that she mustn’t get onto my bed & make her go & sit underneath it which she does without any trouble. It is great value having her. I hope she will behave in the line & not go dancing over the top. I will have to be very careful the first few days but after that I expect that she will be alright. I wrote to the Boss last night and asked him if he would give Ames some nice little job if they invalid him out of the eservice as I’m rather afraid they may do. I hear that old Hardress is absolutely worshipped by all the Officers & men in his Battn. He is a great fellow. I met another of the Locketts to-day. He is in the Lancashire Hussars (Yeomanry). He is a brother of Vivian and Geoffrey. He seems an awfully nice fellow. He is only a Lieutenant.
That coat of mine hasn’t arrived yet, but I expect it will in a few days. We have had glorious weather the last few days. It does make such a difference when the place is dry. Will you send me out a collar & chain for “Wipers”. I want a nice light leading chain. She is about 16 inches round the neck. Will you have it marked, “Capt W. M. Armstrong Bde Maj 86 Bde.” Then if she strays I will have a better chance of getting her back. But she is awfully faithful & hardly ever leaves me. I will drop a line to Miss Wills to-night & enclose her letter to you. Don’t mind if you don’t hear from me for the next few days as I shall probably be very busy, late nights and early rises. Well wee Mus I think I have told you all the news such as it is. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Saturday 9 September
Muz & I went up to the Rest Room at 9, Miss Carleton is away so we are looking after things for her. We were rather late starting so we stopped an ambulance, but found it was a private one! He took us right down to Seabrook, & then had a puncture, so we walked the rest of the way. We got all the kettles & things boiling & then about 60 men came in. Later Mrs Lowers came up, & stayed till 12-30. Then Mrs Morrow came up at 2, & we went back in her car. I brought Dus up with me for the first time. There were four funerals up there today, & two were boys who were suffocated in their bath14. One boy’s people were there, & Muz brought them in to have some tea, before the funeral. Left things out for tomorrow, & did accounts & wrote letters. Then went to the club at 7. Mrs Boddam-Whetham is back again. Kitty came down too. Went to bed at about 11-30.
My dear wee Mus.
We had great fun to-day. The General, Col Nelson, Col Magniac & I went down to Boulogne on business. We got there about 2 o’c had a great lunch, did our business and came back again. We left about 4.30 and got back here about 7 o’c. It was very nice getting away like that for a whole day. I don’t know the Regts in G’s Bde but will try to find out for you and let you know. It is splendid our getting Guillemont and part of Ginchy, they seem to be doing great things down there. I do wish our part of the show had been a success. But old Beaumont Hamel will be a real hard nut to crack. I see in the paper that there has been fighting on both sides of the Ancre but there is no news of any advance to the north of it. I don’t think that they will get B. H till they get Beaucourt from the South. I don’t think that the General can have written to you, he said he was going to one morning & asked for your address but I don’t think he can have written. I got two grand books of music from you yesterday. Thank you so much for them dear wee Mus. Percy is in my house if that helps you. I must go to bed now as it’s very late. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Sunday 10 September
Muz & I went to early service, then went down the town to get some Canadian papers. Then got luncheon ready etc, & Capt. Wright came at about one, as he came down from town. After lunch we did lavender, then Kitty brought Presh round, & she played with the things in my room, then we all went to the band. Mr & Mrs Duke & Mrs Mackenzie & Kitty came for tea, afterwards we did lavender again, & at seven went down to the club, Muz, Tom, Kitty, Capt. Wright & I, & he went back by the eight train. Kitty went home early, as she was very tired. We went to bed at about twelve.
- 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.
- A stray dog rescued by the family in January 1916.⇑
- A club in Folkestone run by Canadian women and “the only place around here where you can get Canadian cooking”, as Gordon Stepler wrote to his mother on 1 October 1916.⇑
- The 7th Division of the British Army had captured the village of Ginchy on 3 September 1916 but had been forced out by a German counter-attack.⇑
- The battle for the village of Guillemont fought on 3-6 September 1916 had ended in British victory.⇑
- Beaumont-Hamel, a commune close to the front lines of the conflict which saw heavy fighting during the Battle of the Somme.⇑
- Commanding Officers.⇑
- (Urdu) Fuss, commotion, display.⇑
- Pat’s nickname for his sister Ione Armstrong.⇑
- Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross.⇑
- Chukka, chukker = each of the six playing periods into which the game of polo is divided. From the Hindi word chakar, meaning wheel.
- On Tuesday 5 September 1916, two young Canadian soldiers, Private William Everett aged 27 and Corporal George Edward Phillips aged 30 were found dead from asphyxiation at the Shorncliffe Military Hospital, each in a separate bathroom. The deaths were caused by a faulty gas burner which had begun to leak.⇑