WEEK 120: ALGIE’S WEDDING
Monday 9 to Sunday 15 October 1916
On 11 October, family and friends gathered at All Souls’ Church in London to celebrate Algie Neill’s marriage to Kitty Sinclair Thomson. As both bride and groom originated from New Zealand, news of the wedding was reported in Otago Daily Times, albeit not until 8 January 1917. According to the paper, the bride wore a dress of “soft mole-coloured chiffon, finished with soft fur trimmings” and a pink hat, and her bouquet was “of delicately-tinted pink flowers”. Meanwhile in France the Battle of the Somme continued its bloody progress and entered its third and final phase with the Battle of the Transloy Ridges and the Battle of the Ancre Heights, both of which were fought between 1 October and 11 November. Pat, freshly returned from his leave, hardly noticed his surroundings, his head coursing with images of Irene Wills and the thrill of his sudden engagement.
Monday 9 October
Pat went away by the 10-30 boat. He tried to take General Williams’s dog with him, but they won’t allow them over. Did some shopping on the way back, then Irene did her packing, & we had lunch at 12-30, & then went up to see her off. Ione is up today for the first time, & took us in the car. Irene is an awfully sweet little girl. We met the Blakes, & took them back in the car. In the afternoon Ione went off with Mrs Hemming. Muz wrote letters, & Tom & Hugh went to tea with Miss Peters, & afterwards went to the theatre with her. Ione is going to be away for the night. I went to the Dew Drop1, & we were awfully busy, crowds of people. Took Muz for a walk when I got back. Gave out things2 etc, & then did accounts etc with Muz, then wrote letters, & went to bed at about 11.
Tuesday 10 October
Muz & Heppie dug potatoes, & I went down the town & did the shopping & paid a lot of bills. After lunch Muz & I went to Manor House Hospital3 to do searching work4, for the first time. It takes ages to do, & we were there till after five. Tom had Miss Peters & some children for tea, we came back & had tea quickly, & went off to visit Manor Court Hospital5, & got back at about seven. I gave out things & did some tidying. Ione went to bed early. Muz & I had a bath. I got my clothes ready for tomorrow, & packed our blouses etc to take up with us.
My dear wee Mus
I didn’t get back till late yesterday afternoon. We had quite a good crossing but had four punctures on the way up. Three in one tyre. Rather sickening wasn’t [it]. However I used the Girl’s expression What does it matter & laughed. I got to where the Div are about 5 o’c & then went & saw Percy & got Wipers from him. She was delighted to see me and was looking awfully well. I told him about the great event6. Like all of you he was very amused. It seems to amuse everybody. I got back to Bde Hd Qrs about 7 o’c & we got orders to move soon afterwards. I had a good deal to do & didn’t get definite news from the Div till about 12.20 so didn’t get to bed till about 1.30.
We had a nice quiet little trek to-day. It was a glorious hot day. I had a halt by the road & wrote to the girl. She is a great girl that moll’s dear. Wasn’t she good yesterday. She is as good as all of you are. These partings are always unpleasant things. I will have to write to her mother to-morrow she said she would like me to. I think it is a good thing to do anyway. I am longing to hear from Bunty & Vaughan they will be awfully pleased I’m sure. I hope they will like it. Seriously & not laugh like everybody else does. Very unkind I call it! I hear that Maurice is near Bonnay, that is where the Regt was in July. I met Rattle Barrett & Rex Osborne on the Road to-day. They were both in great heart. Geisha sprained a hind fetlock in the train coming down & is very lame. It was quite a jot getting her along to-day. We are in rather crowded billets here but are really quite moderately comfy. I hope you have arranged for the Girl to go back & stay with you soon. You must all get to know her awfully well. I must end now as I have just got 5 huge fat letters in from the Div which means work for master. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Wednesday 11 October
Algie’s wedding. Muz & I went up to London by the 9-20 train, & had lunch near the station, & changed our blouses & tidied, & then went to Selfridges, & then went to the church for Algie’s wedding. All Souls, at the end of Regent’s Street. We got there rather early, so waited about. It was quite a small wedding. We talked to Dod & Rita, & Captain Wright came & sat with us. Major Meares in the 2nd Batt. was best man as Gordon couldn’t get back. Algie still very lame. Kitty is quite handsome but very big. Afterwards they had the reception at her uncle’s house Sir St Clares. Algie came backwards & forwards to us most of the time, & they left at about 4-30, they are motoring to Devonshire, & coming back along the coast, & if they can, are coming to us on the way back, but he has to be in Town on 23rd for his board [?]. Then we went to see Leila de Lisle & I played with Christian. We stayed there, till we had to go to the train, & she came some of the way with us. Muz wrote letters when we came back, & then had a bath. […] Ione was way, stayed with Mrs Hemming for the night.
My dear wee Mus.
Will you send those pair of old breeches I left in the draw in my room to Sandon & Col Savile Row7. I have told him what I want done with them. The braces should go to James Drew Burlington Arcade8 and those legging things to Messrs Cording & Co. Piccadilly London9. I hope you got the little dog alright it was sickening that I couldn’t take him on board. However the General is quite pleased now that I didn’t bring him. I have just written to Ma-in-law. I am d—d if I know what I said but I said something. I do hope we’ll like her. It would be a horrid affair not to like one’s in-laws wouldn’t it. However there’s no one like the girl & I don’t care a curse what her relations are like. No time for more now wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Thursday 12 October
Gave out things etc, & at about 11-30, Ione took Muz & I up to Moore Barracks to visit the hospital, then took us down to the Rest Room. She took a wounded man down to Folkestone too. I scrubbed the shelves & had a Spring cleaning! Mrs Lambert was up some of the time. Then I wrote a couple of letters. Muz went down in the car with Miss Lambert, & Miss Carleton & I walked back. Tom had had a lot of people for tea, & Captain Wright had been too. Put Dus. to bed, & then wrote & did up parcels etc. Muz wrote letters & did her reports. I sorted papers & tidied etc.
My dear wee Mus.
It is awfully late so only a brief scribe to-night. I’ve had a real rushing day. I saw Percy this morning, his lot went over the bags this afternoon with great success I hear but no detains yet. Report has it they took 73 prisoners. Tommy Pitman came in this evening I was awfully surprised to see him. He is in camp quite close here. Bob Nicholson is his Bde Maj. He has got Nutmeg & loves her. He tells me that he met the fellow who had her, she is a great animal from his account & is a real good hunter.
I have just written to the girl. I haven’t heard from her yet but expect I will to-morrow. I got a long letter from you to-day of the 10th. Awfully quick that was. I’m so awfully glad you all like her. She fits into the family so well. I could never marry anybody who you didn’t like. She’d get between us & that would never do. Nobody could ever get between you & I wee Mus & the girl would have to suffer. But my little girl never will, she’s too much of a darling. She is absolutely devoted to all of you. The more you know her the more you will like her. She is by far far the nicest girl I have ever met in all my life. She is so natural & has such an awfully sweet disposition. Well I mustn’t go on roving about her I feel like writing pages about her. I’m longing to hear how Algie’s wedding went off. I must write to him sometime.
Yes I found my cigarette holder it was stuck away in the corner of a packet. The General is now rather pleased that I didn’t bring “Stiff”. He says he would have been a nuisance. I was delighted with Irene on Monday. It really was wonderful. She is as good as all of you & that’s saying a lot. She’s a wonderful girl that. Oh! Mother dear I’m at it again. My thoughts will not go away from her. I’m so happy about it all & am delighted you all like her so much. You’ll like her 50 times better than you would ever have liked B. The more I see of Irene the more I realise my luck in not having got tied up with B. It would have been misery for a certainty. Well wee Mus I must be off to bed as it’s so late. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 13 October
Gave out things etc, Muz wrote letters. I went down the town to do the shopping, & went to Mrs Philpott’s & didn’t get back till late as I had bills etc to pay. After lunch got tea & dinner things ready etc, & then Muz & I went to Manor House, as a new convoy has come in, we were there till nearly seven, as there were a lot in. Mr Mundie came to dine, & Muz, Heppie & I had dinner afterwards. Hugh was here all day, & Tom had people for tea. We went to bed at about 12.
Saturday 14 October
Sorted some letters, & did tidying etc. After lunch Kitty & Mrs Phillips came round, but couldn’t stay for tea. Tom went to tea with the Lewises. Ione went off with Mrs Hemming for the night. Muz & I went to the club, & Tom dined with the Lewises, & then came & met us at the club. We took Kitty home afterwards. Gave out things etc, & went to bed at about twelve.
My dear wee Mus.
I got three letters from you to-day. What luck it was you opened that letter from Bunty. I think your answer simply splendid. If I get a letter like that & wasn’t so fond of the little girl I’d break off the engagement at once. I hate that sort of thing. I suppose it was a mistake not writing to Mrs Curtis but having wired & written to her mother I thought that that was all that was necessary for the present. I wrote to her mother two nights ago. I am now writing to Mrs Curtis & will send you a copy of the letter. It is rather a difficult letter to write. I heard from Irene to-day. Apparently they have taken it very well but are rather annoyed at my not having written to Mrs Curtis.
Your letter to Bunty is simply splendid. It couldn’t be better. I’m so glad I didn’t get it. Of course I’ll know nothing about it. She’ll never send it on to me now, she’ll write something quite different. I have just read your letter through again. Mother dear it is an absolute masterpiece. How you did it when you were dead beat defeats me. Mus dear it puts me absolutely right without writing atall. However I will write & will enclose a copy of the letter in this for you to see. I have already written it as a matter of fact but don’t like parts of it so will write it after dinner, when people have gone to bed. I had 3 letters from the little girl to-day. She was in great form. She is buying a new dress for herself & told me all about it. Mother dear I’m rather annoyed about this money business. Neither of us would ever worry a damn about it. I shall be awfully angry if they hint that I am marrying the girl for her money, but I suppose it is the odd sort of thing that guardians would say. I can’t tell you wee Mus how glad I am that you answered Bunty’s letter, it has got me out of a very difficult situation. Of course Bunty meant it awfully nicely & thought she was helping me. But it is so much better that I should know about it & yet not have got it.
Percy’s lot did quite well. They took 126 prisoners & one Battn got its first objective, the other couldn’t hold on as the Bde on the left didn’t get on. They killed masses of Huns. Everybody is very pleased about it. I went up & saw old Percy to-day, he was in good form. I also saw Solly-Flood. He was 2nd in command of the 4th D.G’s at the beginning of the war he is now in command of a Bde. He was in great form & gave me a lot of very useful tips. He has been down here some time & what he doesn’t know wouldn’t feed a canary. His Bde Maj is an awfully good fellow & was at Sandhurst with me. We are in quite a comfy camp in tents near a big wood where I went to one day for joy ride in July soon after it was taken. This is an extraordinary show down here. It is awfully like Gallipoli on an enormous scale in many ways. Little camps, tents, dugouts etc everywhere. Of course there isn’t a house standing for miles round. All the villages are just piles of debris. I saw a tank for the first time the day before yesterday. They are great yokes. You gave me a very good description of them. I daren’t describe it as the censor might make bobbery10. There are 4 of them lying derelict near the front line.
It is wonderful here how everybody strolls about in the open within about 500 yds of the front line. I walked up to within 1000 yds of it this morning & wasn’t worried. They were shelling a broken down village on my left pretty heavily. Percy & I sat down about 100 yds off & watched the show but wasn’t worried in the least. Our conversation is always comical. First of all we talk seriously about war, the best means of attack etc, then we talk about the girl, then more war. I got a lot of very useful information from him this morning. The General was rather pleased with the information I brought back, so I felt I had spent a good day. I had lunch up there & got back about 3 P.M. & got masses of letters from you & 3 from the girl, they are the first I had got from her. She writes real good cheery letters. Well wee Mus I must stop now as I want to write to Mrs Curtis & then to the girl. Best love dear wee Mus. Thank you so much for writing such a splendid letter to Bunty.
Your loving Pat.
Dear Mrs Curtis.
I am so sorry not to have written to you before to ask your permission for Irene & I to be engaged. We wired to her mother and I wrote the following day asking for her consent. I thought that having done that it was all I could do till we heard from her. We decided in the meantime that only a few of our very near relatives should be told. Irene arranged to tell you and Bunty. I am afraid that I did not realise that it was as important to ask you as to ask her mother. I am afraid you will think me very rude for not having written before. I do hope that you will not have any objection to our being engaged. I fully realise that we have only known each other for a comparatively short time but it is quite long enough for us both to be absolutely convinced of our affection for each other and that nothing will ever make us change. I fear I am very ignorant of the duties of guardians and put all my trust in you to obtain their consent too. I will come & see you as soon as I get leave again and will talk everything over with you. In the meantime I think that the engagement should be kept as private as possible. I must again apologise for not having written to you before & trust that you will approve of our engagement.
W. M. Armstrong.
Sunday 15 October
Muz, Tom & I went to church & were out on the front afterwards. Did some tidying after lunch. Captain Wright didn’t come over, as he went up to see General Kentish in London. Tom had people for tea. Mrs Phillips came round, & then I went back with her. Kitty had Mrs Neville & Mrs Gavin-Jones for tea, & Mrs Lambert came in later. Gave Dus her supper & gave out things etc. Muz & I went to the club, & Lizzie came down later. We were fairly busy. We walked back with Kitty afterwards. Ione didn’t come back, she is still away with Mrs Hemming.
- 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 ⇑
- Manor House Hospital, where the Armstrongs had volunteered their services ⇑
- Searching for information relating to missing soldiers ⇑
- Manor Court in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War⇑
- Pat’s engagement to Irene Wills ⇑
- Sandon & Co., Savile Row tailors in London ⇑
- James Drew, Hosier, of No. 3 Burlington Arcade, London, inventor of the Piccadilly collar, the Horse Shoe knot-tie and the soft collar; he was the first retailer in the Arcade to receive the Royal Warrant⇑
- John C. Cording & Co. Limited, of Piccadilly and St James’s Street, London, tailors and outfitters particularly known for their waterproofs ⇑
- From the Hindi word bāp, meaning noisy or excitable ⇑