In October 1916, the French launched the First Offensive Battle of Verdun in order to recapture Fort Douaumont, a large and well protected stronghold in the city of Verdun which had fallen into German hands in February 1915. The offensive began under a cover of fog in the early hours of 24 October. By the end of the day, the French has successfully stormed the fort and taken some 4,500 German soldiers prisoner. The success of the offensive heralded the end of the Battle of Verdun, the longest single battle of the First World War, which lasted from 21 February to 18 December 1916. The Battle of the Somme was also entering its final phase, partly because of worsening weather and appalling battlefield conditions. The remarkable success of the French did not elicit a comment from Pat Armstrong, who was battling with a sudden crisis of his own.
Monday 23 October
Gave out things etc1, then Muz wrote letters, & Zooie,Tom & I went down the town, to do the shopping. On our way back, we met Muz, with Uncle Jimmy, he had just arrived back on leave, after we left; Zooie wasn’t really expecting him till tomorrow. Ione came back after lunch. Zooie packed, as they go to London this afternoon. I changed & went to the Dew Drop2. They left by the four train. Muz & Heppie went to visit Manor Court3, but it was in quarantine, they came & called for me. Captain Allen turned up unexpectedly, he is at Hythe for a few days. He stayed for dinner, & we had a fire, & sat up in the morning room. He is a Major now, & is a Squadron Commander, near Edinburgh, in the R. F. C. Muz & I had a hot bath afterwards, & went to bed at about 12-30, & Ione didn’t come in till later.
Per Ardua ad Astra
Tuesday 24 October
Went down to the Dew Drop at ten, for a meeting, as they are going to open a new place on Saturday, over Heron’s Stores, near the Town Hall. I am keeping on my same day. Came back here & changed, as it was raining & then went down the town to shop, & went to Mrs Philpott’s to get my coat. It rained all day. After lunch I wrote letters, & tidied. We had a fire in the morning room after tea, & sat there for a bit. At about 7-30 Mr Mundie came, I didn’t go down. He & Markie & some others go off to France tomorrow. Ione went to dine with him.
Wednesday 25 October
Heppie went to look at the things, for the auction tomorrow. Muz couldn’t come, as Ione was away, & there was no one to take her knitting party, but she came on later, & we didn’t get back till 3-30, then Muz & I went off to visit York House4, & then went round to Kitty on our way back. Mrs Yates was there. A thunderstorm started just before we got there, but we got dry before we left. Kitty thinks she may be going to London tomorrow, as Dick arrived in Dover today, & is going to hospital with sciatica. Went to bed at about 10-30, & Muz didn’t come till later. Ione is away with Mrs Hemming.
Thursday 26 October
Muz, Heppie & I went to the auction at 10-30, at 57 Earl’s Avenue. We got chairs near the table, so sat there all the time. Mrs Callaghan, Mrs Hill, Mrs Dobie, Mrs B-W. & Mrs Blake & Mrs Hare were there too. We bought some very nice fenders, chairs for drawing rooms, & some lovely linen, & awfully cheap. At one, I went to see Mrs Gavin-Jones about going up to the camp for us, & then went back to auction again. Had biscuits there, & didn’t get back till five. Kitty went to London today, as Dick is back in hospital with sciatica. He got back yesterday. Went to bed at about 12-30. Mr Mundie went to France this morning, & Ione got back tonight at about 11-30.
Kitty and Dick
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
“I’m not in love with her”
I have just got your long letter about Irene. It’s odd you’re being worried about her because to tell you the honest truth I am too. I can’t quite describe what I feel. At the time I thought I was in love with her as much as I should ever be with anybody. I felt so queer about Blanchie that I thought I was in love with Irene but do you know the more I think of it the more I realise I’m not. I felt that she was right into the family & that you all loved her & that she was the nicest girl I had ever met but now I’m beginning to wonder. It’s awfully hard to describe. I am most awfully fond of her. But sometimes since I’ve been out here I’ve said to myself now who would you rather see canter over that hill and I’m afraid the answer is always Blanchie. I’d never marry Blanchie now as I know it would never be a success she’d lead me an awful dance. I sort of felt that Irene would fill the gap and that I would be really happy with her. I wish I had taken your advice & hadn’t been in such a hurry.
I was sort of carried away that night but now I’m beginning to wonder if I was right. I ought to have waited till I know her better. When I know her better she may be right and again she mayn’t. She is an extraordinarily nice girl but as you say there is a want somewhere. I felt that she fitted into the family so well that she must be right but we have got so awfully little in common when one comes down to hard facts. Her not knowing one end of a horse from the other is an awful gap. At the time I didn’t think that that would matter but the more I think of it the more I think it does. A horse is such a tremendous big thing in my life. This is really the secret of the whole thing. If she rode & was keen on horses I would be madly in love with her but this makes an awful gap. It’s rather odd (or not as you think) that I have never really been very great friends with anybody who doesn’t ride and ride well too. I always feel that Gordon’s riding is a bit of a gap, it’s nothing to speak of but it’s just there. If the little girl would learn to ride & got good it would make all the difference.
Mus dear this is all absolutely private. It is awfully hard to express myself. I can’t quite get the idea on paper that I feel. I am awfully fond of the girl but I feel that there is a gap somewhere. She seemed so keen and interested in all the things I do that I felt she would soon learn to ride. If she doesn’t I’m afraid there will be a gap. Then her not going to stay with you is rather a blow too. She seemed so awfully fond of you all. Mus dear I don’t know what to think. My mind is just like a pair of scales wobbling from one side to the other. Anyhow I am going to take your advice and go awfully slow. I’ve said a good deal already, too much perhaps under the circumstances. My remark to Mrs Curtis “that the first day I met her I realised that there would never be anybody else” may not have been wise. Then I told the girl that I would wait for her for years. I realise now that I did things far too quickly, that was my mistake. When I see more of her I may find that I really am desperately in love with her or again I may find that she is only a friend. It’s rather serious & I’m a bit worried about it. I’m an odd bird Mus and never worry much about anything except about you if you’re sick, perhaps it would be better if I did.
“A horse is such a tremendous big thing in my life”
The affair with Blanchie never really worried me but I don’t feel that I have come out of that very well either. I ought to have taken your advice & been extra nice to Di instead of going on the way I did. Somehow when one comes home on leave like that for a short time one sort of loses the balance of one’s mind. A queer balance it is at present. I never realised she was like that when I was at Badminton I thought she was so awfully happy doing just what you did, it was really on account of that that I spoke atall. I felt that she was right into the family & quite happy to do any little thing that you did. I’m so glad you wrote me that letter wee Mus. I’ve been feeling that you weren’t altogether satisfied about it all and wanted to know just what you thought and as a matter of fact I agree with every word you say. It’s lovely to be able to write to you like this & tell you the absolute secrets of my heart. Dear wee Mus there is nobody in the world like you. It’s hard to tell you really what I feel, on reading this through I may have expressed myself too strongly. I’m most awfully fond of the little girl but I’m not in love with her. Chiefly I think because she doesn’t ride. I’m sending you a lot of her letters to see, as you say they all just lack something. They are awfully sweet but very dull. But of course she has been leading a dull life. B’s letters always had so much more in them.
Write to me again wee Mus & tell me exactly what you think but don’t worry about it all because I don’t. I’ll go very slow as you say & then when the time comes I’ll get out of it or not as I like. When I know her better I might love her tremendously at present I’m only really fond of her & there’s a deal of difference. I wish I knew my own mind on the matter, but I can’t fathom what I feel atall. Well wee Mus this has all been very hard to write. I wish I could talk to you about it. I want to know exactly what you think about it all, your advice is always right. Best love darling wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
I have just read through your letter for about the 20th time. It is a wonderful letter Mus. I only wish you had given me some little inkling about that feeling before. I’m sure you did but that I was too blind to realise it. Unless you really like the girl nothing in the world will induce me to marry her. I know now that you will always tell me exactly what you feel about it.
Friday 27 October
Gave out things etc, then Muz & I went to the auction at 10-30, & Heppie came later, we got chairs, & sat there all the time. We bought more chairs, & two very nice ones for smoking room & two moving electric lamps. We got back at 5-30. There was a wire from Algie, to ask if he & Kitty could come down tomorrow, for the week-end but we wired to say we were busy so could they come next week instead. We carried back some of our things. Went to bed at about twelve. Ione stayed in bed all day, & Tom all morning.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
A long letter from you to-day of the 25th. Very quick that. It’s now really the 28th but I must write you a line before I go to bed. I wrote you pages last night & told you what I thought about everything. You’re wrong in the locality try a village 5000 yds S. E and see where it brings you. Well not far from that near a wood. I quite agree with you about its being too swift. I realise that myself now. I don’t know her well enough. We aren’t enough in touch so to speak. I’ll only write once a week but I’ll have to write nice letters & gradually cool off. It’s a difficult business but I must be able to get out of it if I want to. Not that I do absolutely at the moment but I may. I wish I had waited as I feel sure it would then have worked out alright as it is it’s been far too swift. If I do want to get out of it it must be done tactfully as she is very fond of me but at present it’s rather one sided.
It’s going to be a horrid job for you wee Mus if I do want to step out. I haven’t quite made up my mind yet. But I wish I wasn’t engaged. I know it’s a funny thing to say but I really don’t know her well enough. You can rub this in but do it tactfully. I’ve been too hot headed over it all. I’m longing to hear what you think. Of course I know it can be done & done early too if I really want to but I don’t yet quite know what I feel. It’s the wrong way to feel I know but it is much better that you should know all about it. What a queer being one is when one comes to analyse oneself. If I hadn’t got her I’d want her & now I have got her I’m not sure. What do you think is the best thing to do. Shall I have it off for the present and say we’ll decide nothing till we know each other better. Tell me what you think. No news here atall. […] Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Saturday 28 October
Muz & I went round to collect our things, & get them moved round here. There were heavy showers all day. The things look awfully nice. […] After lunch Muz wrote letters, & I went & lay down. Muz & Tom went to tea with Viva, & took Colin with them. He turned up unexpectedly, & came for lunch. Tom went to dine with the Lewises, as Hugh came back last night. Ione went to the club instead of Kitty & Heppie went for me, & I went to bed at about 9, after giving out things etc. Got a wire form Algie before lunch, to say they were sorry but he expected to be at work next week, luck they are not coming today!
“I am a British born subject”
Sunday 29 October
Muz went to early service. I stayed in bed rather late, & then went down in my dressingown (sic), & gave out things etc, & then Muz, Heppie & May5 put up the two new beds, in Pat’s room, & the green room, & I sat there, then they sorted blankets etc. Ione & Tom went to church, & Tom went to lunch with the Lewises, & Ione & Colin went to the Grand. Tom had a lot of people for tea, & Muz & Ione went to the Blakes. I sorted papers, & tidied, & Heppie sewed in my room. Muz, Heppie & Ione went to the club, & I went to bed at about nine. Tom had supper in bed too. It rained hard nearly all day.
The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone ⇑
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.⇑
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 ⇑
One of the domestic servants in the Armstrong household ⇑