Ione Armstrong continued to harbour a desire to go to France as a volunteer and was encouraged in her plans by Lady Angela Forbes. Daughter of the 4th Earl of Rosslyn, Forbes had been staying in France when the war broke out and was shocked to see wounded soldiers left waiting in the railway station at Boulogne for hours without food or drink. The sight prompted her to start a canteen which was open 24 hours a day to meet every single train of wounded. In 1916, she opened another canteen at Étaples for the workmen building a British army training camp in the town. The profits made by the canteen were used to build 14 recreation huts for soldiers. Unfortunately, Forbes’ abrasive manner, stable-lad vocabulary and contempt for bureaucracy made her unpopular in the Army and, in September 1917, she was ordered to leave France. Back in England, she used her money to help start a training scheme for disabled soldiers.
Monday 25 September
My birthday. Muz & Ione went up to Town by the 8-30 to see Lady Angela Forbes about her canteen. I stayed in bed till about tea, & Tom stayed all morning. Then Colin & I went down the town, & I got some stuff for a dress, & took it to Mrs Philpott’s. Colin went by the three train, then I went to the Dew Drop1, & afterwards went round to ask how Mrs Nuttall was, as she is very ill2. Put Dus to bed, & gave out things etc. Mrs Battiscombe came round. Muz & Ione came back by late train.
Lady Angela Forbes
Tuesday 26 September
Lizzie & May3 worked hard, cleaning the house, all yesterday afternoon & again this morning. I gave out things etc.4 Then the girl from Sherwood’s5 came to see the house, & Muz & I took her round6. Then Mr Mundie came, & he, Ione, Muz & I started for Dover at about 3-30, then went to the Burlington for tea, & Muz & I shopped, & then wrote letters at the Grand, & then met them at the Burlington again. We got back at about 7-30. Heppie & I got dinner ready & Markie came. He has just come to Dover again, after his appendicitis. Then he & Ione went up to dance afterwards. I gave out things etc, & then wrote. Went to bed at about 11-30. Derrick Taylor is mentioned in Despatches today he is in Salonika.
We have just had an unofficial message through that Thiepval has fallen and 2000 prisoners taken7. I send it to you for what it’s worth but we are all feeling very pleased about it. Old Beaucourt must be feeling a bit silly now. It really is great news if it’s true. The General told me this evening that he is going to write in and ask for leave for me, so if I get it I will push off on the 1st. I do hope it will be alright it will be great fun. I thought that there was no chance of it but he is going to ask for me in any case. I’ll try to get a wire through to you if I’m coming. I think it is madness you thinking of coming out here. You’d work yourself to death and spend a small fortune doing it. It is hard to know what to say about Ione going. Of course it would be interesting for her to come out here for a bit if she could get a good job. But whatever happens you mustn’t come out, it’s horrible out here in the winter besides you’d never be able to let the house. I suppose she could get some job at a place like Boulogne.
[…] I hope Irene Wills comes if I do get leave. As soon as things are settled I’ll write to her & try & get her to come down. Get her there anyway on the off chance that I do get leave. I’d like to meet her again & see what she’s like. She has apparently separated from Bunty & is staying on her own up at Grantham, as she says in her last letter that Bunty wrote to her. I will try and answer her letter to-night & then enclose hers in this. You seem to have had a great day at Hythe. It will have done you a world of good to have got clean away for a day. I sent you a little parcel the other day in a cigarette box I hope it arrives safely. Let me know as soon as you get it. Will you send the contents to London for me.
I rode down to see our transport lines yesterday & found them playing polo. Percy gave me a chukker8 on one of the General’s animals, it was great fun. No it wasn’t yesterday it was Sunday. The days go so quick that one almost forgets which day of the week it is. It is rather sad the collar is just a bit too small for “Wipers”. I will have to have a little bit put onto it. She has filled out a lot since I got her & I suppose her neck must have got bigger too. She is awfully fond of me now & never leaves me. She is learning to kill rats pretty well now. She caught two yesterday. There are swarms of them in the grass but a dog has to be awfully quick to catch them. I bought a sort of red setter thing yesterday for the General he is rather a nice animal. Well wee Mus I must stop now & write to Irene Wills. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Wednesday 27 September
Went down the town to do some shopping, & then walked up to Mrs Philpott’s about my skirt & tried it on. Got tea ready etc. Markie, Mr Mundie, Lord Shannon & Mr Warren came to tea with Ione. Muz & I went to tea with Viva, Lady Dorking & Miss Dorking, & Sir Charles & Lady Wyndham (Mary Moore) were there too. He is over 80. Ione dined at the Grand. I gave out things etc, & went to bed at about 11-30.
Sir Charles Wyndham and Mary Moore
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Jess Armstrong
Examined by Base Censor
My dear wee Jess.
I enclose a cheque for the photograph people. Will you see that it is alright and pay them if it is. You worked giving that money to Mus splendidly wee Jess. Just at the right time. I was delighted I had sent it as soon as I heard there was a sale on. There still seems to be a chance of my getting leave on the 1st of next month but I can’t settle anything definitely at present. I hope Mus will get Irene Wills down in any case. Ask her to come on the 1st. Perhaps it would be better to get her for the week end than make her stay on if I get leave. I would like to see her again and see what she really is like. Great news we got last night about Thiepval. We haven’t had any more details of the fighting yet. I must go out for a bit now as I have been in working all afternoon & I feel rather fuzzy. Best love dear wee Jess.
Your loving Pat.
Thursday 28 September
Gave out things etc, & got tea ready. At about 12, Ione took us up to Moore Barracks in the car, to go & visit the ward, & then took us down to the Rest Room, & they took a wounded man down to Folkestone. Suddenly they arrived back, with Pat! He had suddenly got back on ten day’s leave. So we left & all came back! Then went down the town in the car, & did the shopping, & Pat had his hair cut. After tea we talked, then I got things ready for dinner & breakfast etc. After dinner we settled the morning room, & sat up there. We went to bed at about 11. Pat has come from Ypres, but the Division9 is moving down to the Somme in a few days. It was in yesterday’s paper that Thiepval & Combles have fallen, & we have taken a lot of prisoners.
Herewith I enclose a note which may I hope get you an aeroplane trip back here & not break your precious neck. Send it or give it to Brig Genl. W. S. Brancker, Director Flying Corps? War Office. Better send it as early as possible. Sorry I let you go! I’m missing you badly as now I have to turn to & do a job of work for a change. G.O.C.10 has thrown a raid at my head so I’m busy – if Censor sees this he’ll probably kick, being thick headed, however as it will be over, for better for worse, by time this reaches you, I’ll chance it, especially as this comes from nowhere. Le Roi des Belges11 was most enthusiastic about all he saw to-day. He did a good round. MOD LANE, front line, SUNKEN ROAD, S. 23, CAMBRIDGE road, PICCADILLY, front line, HAYMARKET, ‘OME. I expect the order of the Golden Fleece12 at least. Hope you enjoy yrself.
W. L. Williams.
28 Sept 16. Corps Commander just sent to say that he had never before seen a line in such soldierlike order as ours this morning & that he was xceedingly pleased with all he saw.
Friday 29 September
The others went down the town, & I got lunch ready etc, & dinner & got most of the things ordered till Monday. Afterwards Muz & Pat took me down in the car, & left me to do my shopping, & they went to meet Irene Wills, she is a cousin of Bunty’s. I did all my shopping & waited for about 1½ hours for them to call for me, but they never came! So I had to carry most of the things back. Mr Arnoldi & some of the boys had been here for tea. Irene is quite pretty. Mr Lawrence came to dine, & we all went up to the Grand afterwards. I danced with Tom some of the time. We went to bed at about twelve.
Saturday 30 September
We all stayed in bed rather late, then I got lunch ready etc. Then Kitty came round, but it was raining so we didn’t go out. Kitty stayed for lunch, & afterwards Pat took us down the town, & then Muz, Kitty & I went to visit Manor Court13 & York House14 hospitals. One man had had his leg off, & was in most awful pain. Pat & Irene went for a joy ride, then we all met at the Tango tea. Markie came in too, then we went for a drive afterwards, & Markie came back for dinner, & we went up & danced afterwards. Kitty came up after the club.
Sunday 1 October
Muz, Pat, Ione, Tom, Irene & I went to early service, & then went out on the Front. Went out again, later. Capt. Wright came over. After lunch we were to have motored over to Dover for Pat to have a fly but the car punctured just as we were starting, so we went out to the band instead, & sat on the steps of the Metropole Hotel. Capt. Gee, who used to be a staff Captain with Pat, came for tea & he, Button, Mr Terry, & Mr Mundy came for dinner, & then we went up & danced afterwards […] They were all warned of an air raid so they weren’t allowed to drive back to Dover, & all had to walk. We borrowed Thomas Knox’s bicycle for Capt. Gee to go back on, as he is still lame with his wound in his leg.
Thanks very much for your letter which was be-yeatifully written! I’m so awfully glad to hear about Maurice they always give me news of him from home – I hear he had the M.C.15 and I know he well earned it. How’s he getting on now? Is he in France? I suppose Tomtit has her hair up by now? Give her my love. I am afraid I have quite lost touch with all racing now & I expect you have too. When, oh when dear Muz shall I see you again? Have you any feelings about this yourself? I know you are generally right in your second sight. Do let me know when you next write.
It’s turned very cold here now, & it’s a job to keep warm. I would give a lot to throw a leg across a horse again as you can well imagine. What is Gordon Elton doing now-a-days. I hear that Stanley Wootton, Frank’s brother has got the M.C. Frank is now enormous & weighs about 13 stone. How is dear Ione – give her my love & say I hope to savage an orange with her again. Mr. Cartwright is here now, I believe you know him, but I know you wouldn’t recognize him now. He’s quite changed & really pretty bad. Nerves I think myself. It’s an awful strain. And we’ve had over two years of it. I expect you are exactly the same, and I don’t believe you will ever look any different. Well goodbye dear Muz love to you, Jess, Ione & Tommy. I suppose we shall all meet again.
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.⇑
Ada Nuttall died the day after Jess Armstrong’s visit, on 26 September 1916.⇑
An order of chivalry founded in 1430 by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy, to celebrate his marriage to Princess Infanta Isabella, daughter of King John I of Portugal. It was exclusively reserved to members of the highest nobility.⇑
Manor House Hospital, where the Armstrongs had volunteered their services.⇑
York House in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War.⇑