WEEK 125: AN UNPLEASANT AFTERNOON’S ENTERTAINMENT
Monday 13 to Sunday 19 November 1916
In November 1916, Pat Armstrong’s right hand, which he had injured in Gallipoli, began to trouble him again and led him to seek medical assistance in the nearby Casualty Clearing Station. Manned by Royal Army Medical Corps, these stations were usually tented camps located as close to the front line as possible but just beyond artillery range. A typical unit could hold up to one thousand casualties at a time. They were not intended for long-term stay but, like modern accident and emergency departments, provided sufficient treatment to enable a soldier to return to his duty or to be evacuated to a Base Hospital. To facilitate the rapid movement of patients, Casualty Clearing Stations were often built in close proximity to railway lines. In addition to treating battle wounds, the Clearing Stations also catered for sick men such as those suffering from infectious diseases or shell shock.
Monday 13 November
Muz, Zooie, Tom & I went to the service at 111-30, Canon White-Thompson preached again. Then we went down the town, & Kitty came too. Hugh came for lunch, then I went to the Dew Drop1, & were quite busy. Muz, Zooie & Ione went to a meeting of the National Mission2 at the Grand. Lady Henry Somerset was to have spoken, but she didn’t come. Muz & Zooie went to another service at 3-30 too. A lot of Pat’s luggage arrived from Tidworth. After dinner wrote letters etc.
Tuesday 14 November
Muz, Zooie, Ione, Tom & I went to the 11-30 service, an awfully nice sermon, I liked this one & the one on Sunday evening best. He spoke about “Prayer” this morning. After lunch Kitty came round & I took her up to the attic to get a box. Then Muz, Zooie, Ione & I went to another meeting at the Leas Hotel. Lady Dudley was hostess & Mrs Cust spoke. I didn’t like it nearly as much as the others. Then we went to the 5-30 service, it was “Prayer”, not this morning’s. But I liked this morning’s, third best. We talked in the morning room, & then Tom played the gramophone to us, & we went to bed at about twelve.
Blanchie Somerset, Badminton, Gloucestershire, to Pat Armstrong
I know it was my turn to write to you – & am very sorry I didn’t but seem to have had a lot to think about lately & as you say when one gets in from hunting in the evening bed is the only place, but this is no excuse really as I ought to have found time. Of course I’ll tell you who I’m engaged to if you want to know, his name is James Baird & he lives at Oakham. You needn’t tell any one else though I expect it will be out very soon as I can’t see any good in keeping it dark all this time – but I’d rather you didn’t say anything till I told you it was announced. We’ve been hunting hard & having very good fun. Master came back for long leave on Sat – & I think is going to stay at home for a bit & they think his heart is not behaving very well, but he’s gone to London today to see a doctor so we shall know tonight if it’s really bad or not. Di wrote to you a day or two ago but think from what she said that she put the wrong address so don’t know if you’ll ever get it. You might send me your proper address sometime as I’ve lost it & don’t know if this one is right.
I’m afraid I shall never be allowed to fly now as last Saturday a poor man came down & was killed about a mile from here. It was rather awful as he fell from a terrific height with everyone watching. Thank goodness we were out. But you know I had rather a row with Daddy one day when I thought my friend was coming from London to take me up & Dad absolutely forbade me to go so now of course this has happened & he’ll have such a tremendous argument against me, won’t he? So I think I may as well give up the idea all together. Well, Patrick I don’t think I’ve any more news for you. We heard from Frankie yesterday who says he’s very bored which I think is silly of him as I don’t know any one who has a better & safer job in the whole war & I think it’s very ungrateful of him as he ought to be thankful he’s not sitting up to his middle in water in some horrible trench in France – Dolly Miles has had a bad go of fever here but is going back to Salonika tomorrow I believe. Love from us all & write again soon. Suppose there is no chance of any more leave coming your way? Good-bye Pat dear
Your ever Blanchie
Wednesday 15 November
Muz, Zooie, Ione, Tom & I went to early service. Canon White-Thompson goes after this service. Kitty was there too, & we talked to her for a few minutes afterwards. Then I gave out things etc3, & changed & went to the Dew Drop. The first time I have gone in the morning. We were quite busy. Muz, Zooie & Tom were down & had coffee etc. After lunch got tea ready & gave out things etc, & did some tidying. Then Mr & Mrs Lucas, Sir Arthur & Miss Marshall & Mrs [blank] came for tea. Ione & Tom went to bed. Yesterday all the people in the top part of Earles Avenue, all Clifton Crescent, & Trinity Crescent have to move out, at a fortnight’s warning & have to have their house empty. It is all going to be made into a rest camp, & a lot of the grass on the Leas is taken too. Sorted papers etc. Wrote letters, & went to bed at about 11-30.
My dear wee Mus.
The old hand is annoying me so I’ll write with my left. I got a prod of a thorn or something and the thing has got poisoned. It isn’t bad but I have a bread poultice on it and a sock on it to keep it warm so it’s hard to write with it. We had a great hunt yesterday. I saw a buck in the morning so we took out some beaters in the afternoon and tried to — her out. We drew the wood blank and then the General went home but I made them beat at another spinney close by and out she came. I took a toss at the start over a trench and some wire how it happened I don’t know but neither of us were hurt she caught her hind legs & came down. I got up to the buck who was hiding in some bushes & away we went Quill on my right & the boy on his right. She was going splendidly till some of the others came up & started yelling & turned her to the right. She then went off down a big nullah4 which she crossed I followed her & she at once crossed back again. She then ran in and out of a lot of little spinneys. Neither Bobby or Percy were out & nobody knew what to do. They all rode wild & of course she beat them at every spinney. I was delayed a lot crossing and recrossing the nullah & lost some ground. We hunted her up & down in and out for over an hour. At the end I got quite close to her & had a shot with my revolver but it misfired. She eventually took us back to where we had started. It was a great hunt. It was getting dark & our horses were beat so we went home. Melody has a nasty cut on her off hind fetlock and is a bit lame. I hope she won’t be bad.
I went over & saw Archie to-day & had lunch with him. He was in great form & was awfully nice. What a dear he is. He says that Bee wrote to him about Kickie but he doesn’t know from the letter what he is doing or what he wants. Tell Bee to let him know & he’ll do all he can. I stayed there till about 3 o’c & then came back. I enclose two letters from Irene & one from Di. I won’t write again to Irene till I get an answer to the letter you wrote for me. I must get out of it somehow it’s a bad show. The last letter is the devil isn’t it. It is all really very difficult. I must be off to bed. Little Welch comes in here to-morrow. Best love wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Thursday 16 November
Gave out things etc, & washed my hat. We waited about all morning, for the ambulance to come for us, but in the end it couldn’t come. Col. Thurburn came to see Muz about the Lord Roberts Memorial. We had lunch early, & then went in the bus to the Rest Room. Zooie came with us, & at about four, Muz & I went up to visit Moore Barracks, & left Zooie with Miss Carleton, we got it all done, & came down again, & did some spring cleaning, & then we all came back in an ambulance. It was very cold. After dinner I worked at curtains for a bit. Then we had a bath, & went to bed at about 11-30. Ione stayed in bed all day. We got a letter from Algie, to say he had had the operation, & that they wanted to come down to us on Saturday, before he takes on his job next week.
My dear wee Mus.
I got a letter this morning of the 14th & one from Irene in answer to my letter. I’ll enclose it in this. I won’t answer it yet till I hear from you. I’ll just write & thank her for her photo which I haven’t done yet also for a pair of gloves she sent me. Her letter is rather difficult to answer. Let me know what you think I ought to say. It’s awfully hard to write now. My right hand isn’t much good to me, I have it all bandaged up. I’m interested to know what you really think of Irene. I don’t quite understand by your saying “in some ways it’s better and some worse”. Why? Do let me know. I think it would be a good thing to unpack my luggage if you have time as I’m afraid a lot of things will have got awfully spoilt. The coats & things will want hanging up. I afraid my field dress kit will be in an awful mess. Couldn’t you put it all I the little room next the kitchen or in one of the empty servants rooms. Curse my old hand. I wish I could write decently this takes so long. I’m now going to write a brief note to Irene. I’ll just thank her for the photo and gloves & say I have a bad hand & can write no more. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 17 November
Gave out things etc, Muz wrote letters, & Zooie collected envelopes for Ione, for the comforts fund5. Went down the town to shop, & brought back bundles of things. After lunch Muz & I went to Manor House6 to do searching work, & then on to visit Manor Court7 & York House8, & got them all done, which is luck. Then we went to see Mrs Arnoldi to see if she would be one of Muz’s ten ladies for the Roberts Memorial, but she wasn’t feeling well enough. We stayed there for tea. Miss Arnoldi & the youngest brothers9 were there, we stayed rather late. Ione stayed in bed all day, & Tom had people for tea. Muz wrote out reports when we got back, & I did accounts etc.
Saturday 18 November
Gave out things etc, & then worked hard in the house all morning & got Pat’s boxes out of the hall & all kinds of things. It rained hard all day. After lunch I went down the town to do some shopping & brought my coat back, with the fur collar. There were heaps more things to do, when I got back, then changed. Algie & Kitty arrived at about 5-30, they had been up to the Grand Hotel. She looked quite handsome but is enormous! Algie looks dreadfully sick, & has just come out of hospital. Ione & Tom went to bed at about ten, & Algie stayed a bit longer. We went to bed at about 12, as we sat up & talked for a bit.
Sunday 19 November
Gave out things, & got things ready for the day etc. Ione stayed in bed all day, & so did Zooie with a cold. Muz, Algie, Kitty & I went out on the front, but it was too cold for many —. Later in the afternoon Kitty W. came round, & then Kitty, Algie & I went out for a walk in the rain, & Kitty wanted to come in, but it was lovely. Kitty W. went to tea with Viva & to get servants. I talked to Algie & Kitty all afternoon, as Muz was writing letters. Florence & Mary Stubbs came in to see us, they are down for about a fortnight. Heppie & I went to the club, but we weren’t very busy. It is Kittie’s last night there, as she goes on Friday. The others had gone to bed when we got back. Gave out things etc, & then talked to Muz, & went to bed at about twelve.
My dear wee Mus.
I have just come back here again. My hand got troublesome and my General said I’d better come back here for a few days till I got it right. So I rode back yesterday and sent my kit along in an ambulance. I went to a casualty clearing station on the way and had it dressed and then came on here. I have a very comfy billet and am really very comfy. I went and saw a doctor here to-day and he ripped it open for me. An unpleasant afternoon’s entertainment. They wanted to give me gas but I flatly refused, then they suggested freezing but I didn’t fancy that either. I told him to carry on, which he did. It was an uncomfortable performance. He ripped it open and then pulled out the stuffing with a pair of forceps. That was the worst part. I got through it without any dope of any sort which rather pleased me. I was nearly beat for a few seconds but I was determined not to be beat and after it was all over I felt quite alright and walked home. Gas would have made me feel an awful worm for hours afterwards as it is I feel quite well. I wish I could write properly. This is such a slow business, and when it’s done it’s almost illegible. The Dr says that it will take about a week for it to get right.
I enclose a letter from B. So for once you’re wrong Mother dear she really is engaged. He is in the 12 Lancers I think. I hope she’ll be happy but she’ll lead a man an awful dance. But she’s a d—d good girl in spite of that. I’m on a very good footing with her & we’ll always be the best of friends. I don’t know how to answer that letter of Irene’s. It’s rather difficult I’m longing to hear from you what your think about it. I wrote her a few lines a few days ago & just said I had a bad hand. I feel I am doing her rather badly I like her awfully but I’m not in love with her but I don’t see how I am going to get out of it without a lot of difficulty. She is bound to be very angry & quite rightly too, so I want to do it as tactfully as possible. Poor little girl I feel it’s awfully hard on her but I feel that at present we are too much opposite for it to be a success. I am awfully disappointed at her making rotten excuses not to go and see you. They were so very lame, & she never even told me you had asked her. I thought she was well into the family but now feel that she isn’t. I am afraid her family will be annoyed and say I have played with her. Of course it looks as if I had but I really thought I was fond of her at the time. I’ll have to be very careful when I come home & make quite certain of what to do, but I feel pretty sure that it’s a mistake. It’s rather difficult to know how to answer that last letter I sent you. I can’t very well tell her that I think it’s a mistake can I. Yes I’ll write to G. but of course Dolly knows. Apparently both Irene & G told her. I’ll enclose a copy of what I write in this. I won’t write to him now it takes so long. This has taken me nearly two hours. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Gordon Elton
Dear old G.
Just a line to tell you my news. I got engaged to Irene when I was last at home. But I have been thinking over it a lot and don’t think it is fair on her to be engaged to me when she has only known me for such a short time so I think it best to undo any engagement and get to know one another better. I tell you this G old lad as I have no secrets from you but I want it kept absolutely private so please don’t say a word to a soul about it. Now the engagement is quite off, so I am particularly anxious that there should be no talk. I have blood poisoning in my right hand & have had it cut open to day hence this odd scrawl. Have you decided the date of your wedding yet? I wish I could get home for it but am afraid that it will be quite impossible for me to get leave this side of Xmas. Drop me a line sometime. Best of luck old man.
Yrs ever Pat.
- 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 launch of the National Mission was marked in Folkestone with a series of meetings and church services between 11 and 14 November 1916⇑
- The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone ⇑
- (Hindi) nullah = watercourse, river bed or ravine.⇑
- The Canadian Field Comforts Fund ⇑
- 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 ⇑
- York House in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War ⇑
- Frank and Percy Arnoldi ⇑