WEEK 13: I FAINTED GRACEFULLY IN THE WARD
Monday 21 to Sunday 27 September 1914
At the outbreak of the war, most Irish people regardless of their political affiliation supported the war against Germany. The Home Rule Bill had passed into law on 18 September and even though its operation was suspended for the duration of the war the occasion put pressure on John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, to show support for the British war effort. During 1914, some 44,000 Irishmen enlisted for voluntary service. In County Tipperary, the Richmond Barracks in Templemore were turned into a temporary camp for German military prisoners. The first batch of 400 prisoners arrived on 10 September and caused much interest locally. Curious visitors, Jess Armstrong and her father among them, flocked to the barracks to see the POWs. Jess also followed the progress of war closely through newspaper reports, copying extracts of the unfolding of the Battle of Aisne into her diary. In Quetta, Gordon Elton wrote a letter to Pat Armstrong, longing to be part of the action on the Continent.
Monday 21 September
Wrote letters, then we went in to Thurles. Then >Poppy suddenly thought of going down to Nenagh, so we had a lovely drive down & then went out to Dromineer, & had lunch there. Mr & Mrs Joy were there. The sun was lovely, but it was quite cold some of the time. The lake looked lovely. We got back here at about four. I read for a little while after tea, then went down to the kitchen, to watch them cooking. After dinner I did some knitting, & went to bed at about 10-30. Capt. Fitzgerald in the 4th D.G’s has been killed. Capt Lea1 in the Worcesters, & Mr Tempest-Hicks in the 16th Lancers are wounded. The Germans have burnt Reims cathedral.
Tuesday 22 September
Poppy went off to shoot, up near the creamery, he had heard of some partridges up there, but didn’t get anything. We read in the hall, & played the gramophone. Poppy came back at about two, then we went off in the pony trap, & brought some apples to the McGlinns, then we went round to the left at Johnnie Hayes’ house, & home by the Kennedys. Dusky ran with us. After tea, Poppy Tom & I went for a walk. Then I went down to the kitchen. […] The allied line extends from a point near St. Dié, on the right, to Le Catelet. The left of the English army is at Soissons. On our left the 6th French army.
My dear old Pat –
I wonder if this letter will ever reach you, I can’t help it if it doesn’t. I’ve been wanting to write to you for such ages – I must get if off my chest & hope it will find you. It is just splendid you being on De Lisle’s staff. By Jove I did love hearing that, & I bet he hasn’t got a better man on it. I can’t help being a bit jealous of you being on this show, however I hope we shall be there before the end. I am not really jealous of you, because I am so frightfully keen for you to become the devil of a nut in the soldier world. Funny old Quetta goes along in the same old grooves. We try & keep doing, or we should all go mad. You can’t realize what it’s like sitting out here any way when we meet in Berlin, we’ll have the hell of a night & “Discuss heathers”!! it may strike you as odd, but you don’t know how I long to see your funny old fiz again. That fellow Miller I wrote to Muz about I fancy is with the 18th if you see him give him my love. He’s a real good fellow, & I am sure you would like him. I wanted him to go into your Regt. This afternoon is the first day of the Autumn Races. I have one celebrated Race Horse!! going in the Polo scurry. It’s amusements of this sort that keep us going. Next week we go out to play at what you fellows are doing in earnest. Pat this is a rotten attempt, and nothing like the letter I meant to write to you – anyway if ever you have time to think, remember there’s a funny old thing G. by name sitting cooling his heels in Quetta, who is always thinking of you, & has been doing so for years, wishing you the very best God can give you. Well old man I pray we may meet soon. Keep it up. It’s splendid reading how awfully well you fellows are doing. It really is.
Best love Pat & lots of thoughts left unsaid
Wednesday 23 September
Wrote letters, then Poppy, Tom & I went into Thurles in the car, & then we went on to Nenagh, & we walked about there, while Poppy was getting the speedometer put on. We had lunch in the Hotel there & then went for a lovely run; up by the side of the lake, within about eight miles of Portumna. Then we came back by Borrisokane & Nenagh. It was awfully pretty. After tea, we went for a walk, nearly to McCarthy’s bridge. Then I went down to the kitchen. After dinner I read, & finished “It Was the Time of Roses2.” Went to bed at 10-30. Got a wire from Muz to say she had heard from Pat, dated 12th. The prolonged battle on the Aisne is turning with slow but sure decisiveness in favour of the allies.
My dear old Jeddy
How goes the world? Wasn’t it wee leg, & the rest of the foot, & huge, swollen – a kit had fallen on it, or something, & I fainted gracefully in the Ward, there were 8 other men there too in bed, & we had a screen put round us then they began – Don’t you want any of the papers kept now? The Times is coming again, just when I wrote they stopped sending it for about 3 days, but now do again – I saw Major Cookson has been killed – that must be Mrs Ber’s [?] daughter’s husband – Do you know for certain, what Regt he was in, I think it’s the same. Be , & write to Harry on the , it makes a difference. No more time just going into B. L. [?] to get letters.funny, me thinking you were a 20th girl, when you really were a 25th!! The first socks are !! & I have begun a 2nd pair – brown, with a dash of blue & red, really rather pretty. I think we leave here now on Monday next to go to the Randalls for about a week then Warings for a night – oh, my dear we went to the Hospital last night to see wounds dressed & the first thing they showed us was like this [right, sketch on letter]. A
Best love to all your loving Ione
Thursday 24 September
Went into Templemore early, & then went on to Thurles. 500 German prisoners left Templemore today, for the I. of Man, 21000 more are expected. After lunch we went up & saw the sheep being dipped, & I took some photographs. Then we drove some of them up on to the hill. After tea we went for a drive in the pony trap, nearly to Gooldescross. We took Duskey & Dash with us. Then I went down to the kitchen. Went out to look at the comet3. Talked after dinner, & went to bed at about ten. On our left wing, on the right bank of the Oise we have made progress in the Lassigny district, where violent fighting has taken place. The situation is unchanged on the left bank of the Oise & the north of the Aisne. In the centre, between Reims & the Meuse there is no notable modification.
Letter from Sybil Dodgson, Handborough, Oxford, to Jess Armstrong, undated but written during Jess’s stay in Ireland
My dear Winona
I was so pleased to hear from you again but my only complaint is that your godfather is further away – & now that you’re in Ireland there’s no hope of our meeting! I’ve had to change my pen I couldn’t stick it any longer. Well my dear – how long are you in Ireland for? As for me I sit here day in & day out & everything gets duller & duller barring a few days hunting (cubbing at present) –. I heard the other day that Lord Leven was a prisoner of War. I can’t vouch for it but I believe it’s true. I don’t believe David Melville has gone abroad yet – but I expect he’ll go sooner or later – your brother seems to be in the very thick of it – how frightfully exciting it must be. I’d give anything to be a man & be out there – wouldn’t you? Though as you say it must be terrifying! I was so sorry to see Lord Hawarden was killed, I didn’t know him myself, but my sister did, so I heard a bit about him from her – an uncle of his lives quite close here a Mr Ogle & also an aunt a Mrs Frank Dillon, so I suppose they’re either relations or connections of yours. I’ve got a twin sister in Berlin you know, (I’ve probably told you this before) forgive me if I have!) anyhow she’s refused to come home being deeply attached to a German Student who, luckily for her is physically unfit for military service – but it beats me how she can! She I believe is working in a hospital – nobody I like very much has appeared in the casualty list yet but I’m dreading it every day. I’m also dreading them coming & taking my own darling horse, they’ve left her up to date, & I hope I shall have for a long yet as they don’t want mares or thoroughbreds both of which she is – I suppose you don’t know anyone whose stud groom has gone to the front & who wants one? (I’m not mad I can assure you but I grant it’s an odd thing to ask anyone at the present state of affairs – but there’s such a good one out of work here the person he was with having gone to the front – but I believe there are some old gentlemen wanting them. I’ve only got a photo of myself that was taken 2 years ago which I don’t think is good – but if you’d really like it I’ll send it you – I am so thankful they can’t take my dog! I don’t know what I’d do without him, he’s a white west Highlander & such a pet!
Lots of love my dear & do write again
apologies for such a boring letter.
Cantreyn, Bridgnorth, Salop.
Darling wee Jess
[…] Don’t change Pat’s address till I ask Mrs de Lisle. It might make complications for Pat if you put A.D.C. as the General took a risk taking him & now when 10th H are going out, he might be taken from General de L. […] I’m so glad you are having your hair brushed like that, & glad you are learning to cook. Can’t you learn any bandaging & things like that. We went on Thursday but the Dr didn’t come so a rather wasted afternoon. […] We are I think going to start tomorrow morning [for Folkestone] […] I’ll see about school when I get there & if Folkestone is alright for wee Tom. Lots of schools are being made into hospitals but Miss de La Mare’s evidently isn’t. Ione Janet & I were making great plans about this house being made into a convalescent home all those servants will be doing nothing & Janet could be head of it & the superintendent send up some of those red cross girls to her. Quite a good idea. The only thing is that it’s too far away to be of much use there are so many nearer. […] [At the hospital in Birmingham] The matron was awfully good about saying we might go & see her work & kept dressing cases for us to see. I didn’t want Ione to come as I wasn’t sure of myself what I’d feel like with wounds […] But she insisted on coming & thought she’d be alright, however the sore place barely had its bandages off, when the poor wee thing went swaying about I got her out to the air quickly […] I don’t really see any use Ione trying to look at things like that she hasn’t got to be a nurse. Quite different if she had to be, I wouldn’t be a nurse for anything! Most people can nurse strangers but I can’t. Tying up cuts at home I’ve got an interest in the people & with you all I’d feel I’d do it better than others would so don’t think of myself, & do it but in a hospital I’d never know what I’d do, don’t read all this to Tommy as she’s got so good about seeing blood, & this kind of thing is not to talk about. If you’ve got something to do Jess, you & Ione mustn’t be fools you must do it, but as to seeing cases etc I see no good at all in it…
Friday 25 September
My birthday. Poppy gave me £10, Tom gave me stuff for a dress, Susie 2/6 & Heppie a book. We went into Templemore by car & Mr Diggs-Atkinson & Mr Jackson came to look at “Frank”4. We sat in the car, & they went off & had him vetted, & he bought him. Mr Jackson took Poppy to see the German prisoners, they are soldiers that have come back from the war. After lunch Heppie brushed my hair, & then put tatcho into it. After tea we went for a drive in the pony trap, & took Duskey & Dash. It was a roastingly hot day. […] Mr Worthington in the Oxfords killed. On their left wing, the French have advanced a short way between Lassigny & Roye.
Saturday 26 September
Wrote letters all morning. Poppy got a letter from Pat dated Sept. 17th. He is very well, but has been fighting steadily since the 12th. After lunch we sat out with work, then after tea, we went for a drive in the pony trap. We took Duskey & Dash with us. We went up to Drombane, & sent a telegram to tell Muz we had heard from Pat. Then we went round by the creamery & home by Castle Fogarty. I had to get out at Flemmings to get Dash past the dogs, & Ned Shanahan was asking me about Duskey, & how Pat was, & when I was going away, he kissed my hand! We didn’t get back till nearly seven, then I went down to the kitchen. Knitted after dinner & went to bed at about ten. Our bombs dropped Ostend but didn’t do much harm. On our left wing, a very violent ground action is taking place between our forces operating between the Somme & the Oise & the Army Corps which the enemy have concentrated in the district of Tergnier & St Quentin.
[…] our nice landladies at 14 Trinity Crescent had everything very comfortable for us & I felt a sense of relief at being nearer France & news & settled not to leave Folkestone again till war was over if it were possible.
Sunday 27 September
We went in to Thurles to get a paper, but it didn’t come in till late, but there was a telegram in the P.O to say that all the attacks made against the allies had ben repulsed, with heavy losses. After lunch we sat out with work. Then put the dogs into the river. After tea we went for a drive in the pony trap, & went round by Johnnie Hayes’, & home by Patsy Ryan’s. Then I went down to the kitchen. After dinner I darned, & went to bed at about ten.
- Captain Gerald Ernest Lea (b. 1877) had in fact died on 16 September from wounds received in the battle of the Aisne while commanding D Company of the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment ⇑
- It Was the Time of Roses, a romance by Dolf Wyllarde (1913).⇑
- Comet Delavan was visible in the night sky in September and October 1914. It was also known as the War Comet owing to a popular belief that great wars were always associated with the appearance of a comet.⇑
- A horse given to Pat Armstrong by his father which he decided to sell ⇑