October 1916 began with yet another air raid when 11 German airships attacked London. One of them, L31, was successfully brought down by pilot Wulstan Joseph Tempest of the 39th Home Guard Squadron in his small biplane in the early hours of 2 October. The commander of the airbus, who was killed in the crash, was no lesser person than Heinrich Mathy, who held the record for the highest number of zeppelin raids over Britain during the First World War. Sparks of other kind were also flying in the Armstrong family and circle of friends. Having courted Jess in vain for many years, Algie Neill startled her by announcing his sudden engagement to a girl he barely knew. An even bigger shock was in store for Mrs Armstrong, when Pat and his friend Irene Wills announced their engagement after a whirlwind romance of just one week.
Monday 2 October
Pat went off by the early train, he is going to shop in Town, & then go down to the Beauforts tonight, & hopes to hunt tomorrow. Irene is staying on till Sunday. Ione wasn’t feeling well after lunch, so went to bed, & Muz, Irene & I went to visit Manor Court1 & York House2 hospitals. The poor boy who we saw on Saturday, is dead3. Kitty came down with, (sic) & then went off to shop. We didn’t get back for tea till late, then Irene & I walked down to the post office. Today is Ned’s birthday. Muz gave me a wish after we went up to bed. […] Ione had rather a temperature.
Letter from Pat Armstrong, Great Western Royal Hotel, Paddington, London W, to Mrs Armstrong [undated but written on this day]
My dear wee Mus.
Just a line before I go to the train. I travelled up with a very chatty old dame who would have talked a leg off a donkey. She knew Babe King very well & his poor little wife. I’ve been dashing about buying odds & ends. Rather a successful couple of hours really as I have got all I want. I bought a splendid coat with a sheepskin lining. When I’d done my jobs I came on here left my luggage & had lunch. Now I’m going off to the train in a few minutes. I’ll be back Wednesday night if possible but will let you know definitely later. Make Irene stay on till Sunday. She must stay for the Saturday dance. Tell her that from me. Will you get those last lot of photos printed for me. Tommy has got the whole lot. If she hasn’t they are in the smoking room. Be sure you send the car down to be overhauled & have it right when I come back, as we will want to go joy riding. Great news about the Zepp isn’t it? Well I must pack off now. Give my salaams to Irene & tell her I hope she isn’t disappointed about the change of plans. It will really simplify things for her. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Tuesday 3 October
Muz & I went up to London by the 8-30, & shopped all morning, & I got a brown coat & skirt. Then at 2-30 Muz went to the dentist, & had four teeth stopped. Then we did more shopping, & she got a hat. Then we came down by the seven train, & found Hugh Lewis here, when we got back, he had got away for leave from “The Commonwealth”. Irene was waiting up for us too. Ione in bed all day, with a high temperature. We settled her off for the night, & went to bed at about twelve.
I got home safe, took me about an hour. I sent the Bike back to say many thanks for the loan of it. I know how pleased you all are to get Pat home it did me good to see him. Hope to see him on Saturday.
Wednesday 4 October
Muz & Irene wrote letters all morning, Ione still in bed with a temperature. I went down the town to do the shopping, & then went to Mrs Philpott’s. to try on my dress. Got tea & dinner ready etc, then went up to call for Tom & Hugh at the Grand, but they had gone back to have tea with his people. Sir Charles & Lady Wyndham came here for tea. After dinner we settled Ione off, & then Muz did cards, & we went to bed at about twelve. This morning Muz got a letter from Algie to say that he is engaged, to Kitty Sinclair Thomson. It seems so funny after five years! He must have settled it up very quickly as he was talking to Muz last time she saw him in London. They are going to be married next week. Before dinner, Muz & I went round & told Kitty but we didn’t stay long. Mrs Phillips is back again.
Letter from Leila de Lisle, 5 Queensberry Place, S.W., to Mrs Armstrong
My dear Rosalie
I was so sorry not to see you yesterday. I hope if you are up with Pat you will let me ken. I think I shall be in tea on Friday & Sat: & Sunday! So come any day – I should very much like to see Pat – but I ken his time is short so he must not bother about me – I hear his Brigade has had great praise over these raids & “Creegore” is very pleased – I got a letter this morning & I gather the Div. moved on Monday.
Yrs Ever Leila de L.
Could I meet you anywhere to save time? This is only a suggestion as I should of course love to see you here.
Thursday 5 October
Ione’s birthday. A wire from Pat to say he will be back. Ione in bed again all day, but her temperature is lower. Irene & I went down the town to shop, & after lunch Muz, & I went down, to try & get me a hat, but couldn’t get one. Mrs Cleghorn came for tea, she has just come back for one day. She stayed for dinner, & afterwards Irene & I took her back, & then went to call for Tom, who was dining with the Lewises. Settled Ione off, & then gave out things etc. Put Irene to bed, & tried on her hats. Mrs Cleghorn wants Muz to do searching work4 at the Manor House Hospital5. Algie’s engagement was in the papers this morning. We went to bed at about 12-30.
I very much wanted to have you, my old comrade at the landing, to dine with me here, but my Aide-de-Camp tells me that you were on leave. I am very sorry that you were unable to come.
Best of good luck to you.
Friday 6 October
Muz, Irene & I went down the town & shopped. After lunch we sat in the music room & talked & played the gramophone. We went up to meet Pat by the five train, but missed him but he was here when we got back. He had had a lovely time at the Beauforts, coursing hunting & shooting. After tea we all went down the town. Ione is still in bed, but her temperature gone down a lot. Muz went up to Ione after dinner, & Pat, Irene, Tom & I sat & talked in the morning room. Went to bed at about eleven. When Muz & I were in bed, Pat came up & talked till after one.
A lovely time hunting
Saturday 7 October
Ione still in bed, but much better. Pat, Muz, Irene, Tom & I went down the town & shopped, & I tried on the hat I am having made. After lunch we went down again. We met Capt. & Mrs Gee & brought them back for tea, & Kitty came round too. Then the others took the Gees back to Dover, & I went back with Kitty. We had dinner late, & then went to the dance. (Irene & Pat.)6 We talked when we got back, then Muz & I had a bath, & Pat & Irene talked, then Pat came up to us at about 3-30, we talked till after four!
Letter from Blanchie Somerset, Badminton, Gloucester, to Pat Armstrong [undated but almost certainly written on this day].
Pat my darling
It was too, too sweet of you & very naughty to send me that darling little bracelet watch which I got this morning & which I simply love, for many reasons. The first because you have given it me as you know I’m very fond of you & the second because I think you’ve been happier lately & will now be happier still – in the future – I know & am so thankful you came & we had it out & now understand each other perfectly.
“I can’t help it if I look sad”
To tell you the truth I rather dreaded you coming this time as I didn’t think I could bear another visit like the last but am now very glad you did come as I know now you have got over it & like me in quite a different way & we’re both as happy as can be expected. I think I know you better now Pat than I did & in some ways am a little disappointed in you but am not going to explain as it would be quite impossible to write & if I told you in words you’d probably think me very odd & not understand a bit what I meant. But anyway it doesn’t matter now & am only glad that I didn’t say “yes” as I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a success in the long run. I suppose my ideal is too ideal, we’ll both be the best friends always & as such have the greatest fun together.
I wish you’d been out hunting yesterday as we had a nice little dart over the grass & very blind fences. Also you’ll be glad to hear I wasn’t a bit frightened so hope my nerve is going to be alright this winter. But shall stop off the smoking at once if there’s any sign of it getting bad. Seriously though, Pat, I hope to God it’s going to be alright as you don’t know what a night-mare I’ve been through never knowing from one day to another if I shall be able to jump the fences or not & I do so love it still when I feel alright I can go a bit. I’m sorry the photo doesn’t please you! but I can’t help it if I look sad. All the others are the same so you’ll have to put up with it dear, & who knows, you may have had something to do with the expression of my eyes?
All my love.
Yours as ever Blanchie
Sunday 8 October
Ione still in bed. Muz, Pat, Irene & I went to early service, then went out on the front. After breakfast Pat & Irene went out, & then when they came back, we all went out on the front. Pat met Colonel Hall, & brought him back for lunch. Afterwards Pat & Irene went for a run in the car. I changed & put on my brown clothes for the first time, & so did Muz & then we went over to Sibton7 for tea, & brought Col Hall too, he goes over tonight, to France. Mrs Parsons was there. I got things ready for dinner, & afterwards I wrote, & Pat & Irene wrote letters, to Vaughan & Bunty. Algie wrote to Muz today, to say that he only knew himself that he liked Kitty, a fortnight before he told us, but he didn’t even tell her then. He said the last time he saw Muz he had no idea of it. Pat came up & sat with us after he left Irene, & then Muz went down & helped him to pack.
Manor Court in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War. ⇑
York House in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War. ⇑
Jess is referring to a young male patient who had had his leg amputated and whom she had seen on Saturday 30 September. ⇑
Searching for information relating to missing soldiers .⇑
Manor House Hospital, where the Armstrongs had volunteered their services. ⇑
Jess’s guarded way of noting Pat and Irene’s engagement ⇑
Sibton Park House in Suffolk, which had been purchased in 1897 by Captain John Howard (1963-1911), MP and owner of Chartham Paper Mills. In his will he expressed a desire for his wife “to enjoy every luxury and comfort during her widowhood that my estate can afford” and instructed his trustees “to study her interests and comfort in preference to those of my son should a question arise as to their respective interests, as I think my son would be better fitted to endure any hardships that might arise”.⇑