During the third week of October 1916, the British forces gained hold of the Schwaben Redoubt, a German strong point near the village of Thiepwal which had been viciously fought over since the start of the Battle of the Somme. The British troops had captured the Redoubt on 1 July but had been repulsed by German forces two months later. Attack followed counter-attack until the 39th Division of the British Army gained a foothold in the Redoubt on 14 October. The last German counterattacks were repulsed between 15 and 21 October, leaving the strong point in the hands of the Allied Forces. A similar victory was achieved in the nearby Stuff Redoubt where a limited British footing had been established at the end of September. On 9 October, the 10th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment successfully stormed the stronghold and took prisoner 4 German officers and 123 other ranks.
Monday 16 October
Muz got a wire to say Gordon is back on leave, & one from Zooie to say she arrives tomorrow, as Jimmy’s coming back. Went down the town & did the shopping & went to the Manor House1 on the way back, but there isn’t a convoy in yet, since we were there last. Muz & Heppie worked in the garden, in the morning, & after lunch they went to Manor Court2 , & didn’t get back till late. I went to the Dew Drop3, & were very busy. Ione came back at about lunch time. Tom had people for tea. Wrote letters etc, when I got back, & got one from Irene. She says Bunty heard today, that Mrs Stokes died yesterday, it will be a most awful blow to Vaughan.
That letter from Mrs Curtis doesn’t worry me a bit. What a splendid letter you wrote back to her, you really are a natural. Their not acknowledging our engagement4 doesn’t matter a d— to us. We’ve done it & what does it matter what the world says. She can’t stop us caring for each other & there is lots of time so we can wait. Of course I did rush things a bit, but when you come to think of it have I ever done anything else. I saw no good in waiting. The only thing I’m sorry about is that I didn’t talk it all over to you seriously first but we were all in such a mad mood that night that I didn’t feel like talking seriously about it. I had made up my mind to find out how the land lay. Well we found out that we both did love each other, so what more was there to be done. It is only natural that the guardians should kick, we wouldn’t think much of them if they didn’t. I suppose to the eyes of the world it is extraordinary but we know each other now as well as if we had met years ago. She is the nicest girl I have ever met in my life & I’ve never met another like her. But it’s a great thing to know that she really does care for me. Of course the fact of her having money makes it rather more difficult but we will get round all that by not being in too much of a hurry. I don’t want people to say that I’m after her money or any d—d rot like that.
Ione milking a cow
Your letters to Bunty and her mother were both just splendid. I’m sending you back Mrs C’s letter and the copy of the letter you wrote to her. I am also sending you two of Irene’s. I don’t feel I ought to send you all her letters or she wouldn’t like it but I want you to see what her uncle says which is really awfully good advice. I do hope you are pleased about it. You must let me know at once if you have any uncanny feeling about it. As you know I have absolute trust in you wee Mus and want you to be really pleased about it. If you feel that you are the tinyest bit in the world not pleased about it you must let me know. You will wee Mus won’t you. She is such a dear little girl that she will never get between you & I wee Mus. She will grow to be a tremendous pal of all the family. Will you send me out those photos that you had printed. I hope you have got those ones done that were on the window in my room. They were of the children milking & some of the hounds. Will you send them along when they are done. […] I hope Bunty & Irene go & stay with you. Geisha has only got a bruised heel so she ought to be right fairly soon. To work now wee Mus. Best love dear wee Mus.
Only time for the most hurried lines to say how awfully glad I am to hear your news. I’m on a digging party but am starting back for the regiment at once hence the hurry. Dear old Lad this is great and you know I wish you all the good luck and happiness in the world; all that I could wish for myself and God knows I couldn’t wish you more. No time for more now, will write again later.
Yrs ever Pokes
Tuesday 17 October
Gave out things etc5 , & got thing ready for lunch & dinner etc. Then Zooie arrived at about 11-30, we hadn’t expected her till a bit later. We left her to have a bath, & Ione took Muz & I down to the Harbour to see Gordon, but we had a lot of time, so Ione took me up the town to shop, then she went up to see Mrs Hemming, & we met her just as we were coming away, from seeing Gordon. He has been back since Friday. We only saw him for about twenty minutes. After lunch we sat & talked, then Mr Arnoldi came in & he & Ione went off. I gave out things etc, & Muz wrote letters. Zooie went to bed before dinner as she had neuralgia & Muz went up with her, then we sat up there afterwards.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
I got a letter from you to-day. Yes it was good work taking the Schwaben & Stuff Redoubt. I have been thinking over your letters to Mrs Curtis & Bunty, they really were splendid. It is a great thing to let them know that I will have two halfpennys to knock together one day. You seem to be working very hard at those old potatoes. I’m feeling very guilty that I didn’t do it for you. I meant to do it that day then old Gee came in. I hope you have sent the little dog6 back by now. It was stupid of me not leaving an address but I never thought I wouldn’t be able to get him on board. I’ve had a real peaceful day to-day. I rode into the Div for lunch they are about 8 miles away then T rode back a bit of the way with me. Then I went & called on Tommy Pitman, he isn’t very far away. I chatted to him for about ½ hr & then came on home.
Irene Wills and a friend
[…] It is raining hard to-night, it isn’t very nice in a tent. However it is much warmer than it was last night. I’m so sorry for the poor devils in the trenches on a night like this. I wonder when Bunty & Irene will go & stay with you. I’ll be interested to know which girl you like the best. Be sure you let me know. Take them both as if you had just met them & see which you like the best. Personally I think Irene is the nicest girl I have ever met. The only thing I’m worried about is that she doesn’t ride as it’s bound to make a sort of gap between us. I wouldn’t mind her not hunting but I must get her to ride well enough to be able to take her out riding with me. Impress this on her as it really will make an awful difference. She is quite a good shape to ride. She is no way as big as B. You talk to her about it & get her keen. I expect her nerve is alright but she has just never come in the way of riding.
You must let me know all about her when she comes to stay with you. You will get to know her better really when I’m not there. I haven’t heard from Pokes yet I expect I will in a day or two. Well wee Mus I’ll stop now as I really have very little news. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Letter from James Drew, Burlington Arcade, W, to [Pat Armstrong]
We beg to acknowledge the receipt of a pair of silk braces, and herewith beg to enclose a pair which we have made in exchange.
We remain Yours Respectfully
“A pair of silk braces”
Wednesday 18 October
Mr Arnoldi came round, & took Muz & I down to visit York House7 – in his side-car – & then went to Manor House to get an address. Ione was having her working party, when we got back. Zooie stayed in bed nearly all morning. Kitty, Mrs Phillips & Mr Arnoldi came for lunch, & Captain Wright came over afterwards, to say good-bye, as he is going to hunt & then going over to Ireland, to another battalion. Kitty & Mrs P. stayed till tea time, & afterwards Muz, Zooie, Captain W. Tom & I went out on the front for a walk, to get warm, & then went up to leave him at the station for the 6-30 train. Gave out things etc. After dinner Muz wrote letters, & we sat & talked & Muz [sic?] came down later. Then Muz & I had a bath, & went to bed at about eleven.
A party of friends
Thursday 19 October
Muz & I stayed in bed rather late, & Zooie came & sat & talked to us. Gave out things etc. Then Ione took Muz, Zooie & I in the car, up to Moore Barracks. Muz & I went in, & they sat in the car, then they took us down to the Rest Room, & took Kitty back. We weren’t very busy. Miss Carleton went back early & we stayed on till after six, then came down in an ambulance. It rained some of the afternoon, & was pretty cold. Put Dus to bed, she is looking much better, & her back is better too. Zooie went to tea with the Hensons. Tom had people here for tea, & Ione went with Mrs Hemming. Heppie worked in the garden, & worked there all yesterday too. Zooie & I took Diana home, it was frightfully dark, we had to feel our way along! We sewed after dinner, & went to bed at about 11-30.
Friday 20 October
Gave out things etc, & then I went down the town to do the shopping, & then went to Mrs Philpott’s about my coat. After lunch Ione took Muz & I up in the car to the Rest Room, Miss Carleton went back, & we were there alone. We had one very bad man in, he had come from Ramsgate, so we made them take him back on a stretcher, as it was his spine & eyes. We came back in an ambulance, & got back at about 6-30. Gave out things etc. & Muz wrote letters. Ione went with Mrs Hemming, & Heppie worked in the garden all day. […]
Saturday 21 October
Gave out things etc, & put stuff on Duskey’s back. After tea Zooie & I went out for a walk, & went on the front. Then Muz, Zooie & I went to the club, & they sat at the desk all the time, we were awfully busy some of the time. Got back at about 10-30. Gave out things etc. & went to bed at about 11-30.
Sunday 22 October
Muz went to early service. Then Muz, Zooie, Tom & I went to church, & went out on the front afterwards, but didn’t stay long, as Muz was cold, we went for a walk out another way instead. After lunch we had a fire for the first time, & Muz sat in all afternoon. Zooie & I went out with Kitty & the children, & I wheeled Presh. We had great fun. Kitty gave me a photograph of Presh, a lovely one. Tom had people for tea. Hugh left today, he was down for the week-end. Heppie & I went to the club, & Muz & Zooie sat over the fire. I sat at the desk, we weren’t very busy. Had a bath when I got back, & they had had one too.
Manor House Hospital, where the Armstrongs had volunteered their services ⇑
Manor Court in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War ⇑
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 ⇑
Pat Armstrong and Irene Wills had become engaged on 7 October having only known each other for a week ⇑
The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone ⇑
General Williams’ dog which Pat had been forbidden from taking on board when returning to France from leave ⇑
York House in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War ⇑