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Monday 15 to Sunday 21 January 1917


Monday 15 to Sunday 21 January 1917

On the outbreak of the First World War, the Staff College in Camberley, which specialised in the training of military staff, had temporarily closed its doors. This turned out to be a mistake, resulting as it did in a chronic shortage of trained staff officers. To redress the situation, a staff school for British officers was established in the town of Hesdin in northern France in 1916. The school ran six-week courses for two grades of staff officers. The junior staff school accepted fifty students at a time and prepared them for General Staff Officer Grade 2 appointments, while the senior staff school prepared twenty students at a time for Grade 1, Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General positions. Pat Armstrong, unhappy in his temporary Grade 2 position and eager to improve his career prospects, decided to apply for a place in the school.

Monday 15 January

Sir Philip Sassoon

jess__diary_cameoHelped Heppie to pack the tray we are sending Gordon for a wedding present. Then Muz & I took it down to post, then did some shopping, & got some French money for Ione. After lunch went to the Dew Drop1, & we were awfully busy the whole time. They only give one piece of iced cake now, & it is all going to be stopped soon. When I got back, found that Muz, Ione & Miss Peters were going to the Town Hall, to hear Sir Philip Sassoon speak on the war2, so I went with them, we went in the car. Dusky was shut up all day. A Great Dane had been round all day & was still there, when we got back, so Miss Peters said she would come with me to bring him home he was on Grace Hill. We took him down, & got back at about ten.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Jan 15.

My dear wee Mus.

“He looks on his horses as bicycles”

I got a letter from you to-night. I’m so glad you had a talk to the girl. I’m sure it will do her good. It’s a great pity she has that crab3 but I hope she will get out of it. It’s a great thing we spoke anyway. Dear wee Mus you are simply splendid with her. I wish she wasn’t living with that horrid old woman, she’s a real nasty old beast & doesn’t really give the girl a chance. I wonder when she will go and stay with you. Soon I hope. Don’t ask her, just let her suggest herself. The Gen, Col Fuller & I went to an old artillery demonstration this morning, it was awful rot and devilish cold. After lunch I went for a short ride with the Gen & Bobby. Then the Gen came in & Bobby & I went on. We put up a hare & had a bit of a gallop. The light was very bad & we had an awful job to watch her, we went about a mile and then lost her. However it was good value. We go forward to-morrow. I’m sorry to leave this house as we are so comfy.

Mus dear I don’t care about this job but I suppose it is a good thing to do I’d much rather be back with the Bde. However it’s a good thing to learn the job and I will go back to the Bde when Ovey comes back. I haven’t seen my General yet but hope to soon. You addressed my letter wrong you should address it Gen Staff 29th Div. Don’t put in the Bde as it goes there & so causes delay. I wonder I haven’t heard from the girl as I expect she wrote to me the same night as you did. Melody & Geisha arrived to-day both looking awfully fit. I’m thinking of changing Geisha for a nice big five year old of Fuller’s. He is a great horse after a hare. The best I have been on yet except Melody. He’ll make a real nice hunter. I haven’t done anything yet but am just thinking about it. I expect that Fuller would be quite willing to do it as he looks on his horses as bicycles. Well wee Mus I must go to bed now.

Your loving Pat.

Tuesday 16 January

jess__diary_cameoMuz & Ione went up to London by the 8-20 train, to see Miss Evans about different things about Ione going out to France. I got up rather late, & then did a lot of accounts, as I haven’t done them for some time as we have been so busy. Tom stayed in bed all day with earache. After lunch I sat in the drawing room & darned all afternoon, then I lit the stove, for a hot bath for Muz, & then wrote letters. They came back by the late train, & we had a lovely hot bath, & they had supper in bed, & we went to bed at about 11-30. Ione had got all her passport things signed etc.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Jan 16.

My dear wee Mus.

I got such a nice letter from the little girl to-day. She loved you talking to her. I’ll send you the letter to-morrow, and then you can keep it for me. It froze hard last night and has been freezing all day. The cold is horrible. I motored up this morning & was nearly frozen. We are really quite comfy I have a nice little hut all to myself. We have a nice office too but it’s perishing cold. However I wear my sheepskin coat all the time and keep grand and warm. I’m not caring a whole lot about this job & wish I was back with the Bde. But I suppose it’s a good thing to learn another job. That thing came round to-night about the course at Hesdin4, Col Fuller is going to ask the Gen to send in my name for it. He asked me if I’d like to go and I said yes, so he is going to ask the General to-morrow. I think it starts on the 22nd of February. I’ll be here till about the 10th then do about a fortnight with the Bde & then head off. It will be great fun if G is there too. I went & saw the Bde to-day I only saw the Gen for a few minutes but he seemed to be in great form. Goodliffe in the Royal Fusiliers is doing my job. I’m giving one of the puppies to Quill and the other to the Boy. The poor Boy is very sad at having left the Bde. I must just write a line to G and then go to bed. Best love dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.

P.S. Will you get some camphor balls and some sulphur & put it in my clothes. I’m afraid of the moths getting at them.

Thursday 18 January


Gordon’s wedding

Gordon’s wedding. Muz & I went up to London by the 9-20, & went straight to Selfridges to do some shopping & then tidied, & met Doddie there, & we went together to the wedding at St James’s Piccadilly, & the reception was at the St James’s Palace Hotel. Algie & Kitty came & sat with us. Gordon & Dolly didn’t go till quite late. Her sister5 & Mabel Kerrick’s girl were bridesmaids, & Colonel Meares was best man. Afterwards Muz & Doddie went off to see about passports, & Reenie & I went to her club to have tea & Muz met us there later & we came down by the seven train. They go to some place in Worcestershire first, & then to Bath, then to her home & London for the last, & he has got a month’s leave, & arrived over last night. We had a lovely hot bath, & supper in bed.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Jan 18.

My dear wee Mus.

It all went off alright about my leave, there were no questions asked. I ought really to have applied to the War Office for it on medical grounds, in fact the people out here thought I had as my Gen didn’t ask officially for it. However it’s all fixed up now alright. I got your letter to-day of the 12th. I don’t care much about this job and am wishing I was with the Bde. I believe my name is going to be sent in for this course at Hesdin on the 17th of Feb but nothing has been definitely decided yet. Going to the course out here isn’t the same as the Staff College at home but it might help to get on a “Q.S.”6 which would let one into the home one without an exam. I’d rather like to go to that course as G will be there. Fancy old G. married to-day. I do hope he will be happy. Rene wrote and said that the “old Hag” (that’s my name for Mrs C.) was going to ask you all to lunch to-day. I’m so glad you aren’t going. I felt pretty certain you wouldn’t. I’m glad you are having tea with the girl. She’ll love you doing that. I wonder when she’ll go and stay with you soon I hope. I’m longing to hear all about the wedding and how it all went off. I’ll like to hear how Rene entertained you all at tea. I’m sure she’ll do it very nicely. No I don’t want that parcel from Thompson. Will you keep it for me. It’s great Rene is doing those photos for me. It will give her something to do now that she’s staying in the house with her cold. Be sure you get the books back from her when they are done as they belong to you. I have no intention of letting her keep them. If she wants them I’ll get more done for her. It was great her getting all her luggage off wasn’t it. I had a long walk to-day. Left here about 10 and got back about 4.30. The snow is about 4 inches deep and it’s very cold. It looks like continuing for a bit. Best love dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.

P.S. Will you send me out a brown vest I left behind to be washed. It is one of the sort I wear every day.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Jess Armstrong

Dear wee Jess.

Ever so many thanks wee girl for your long letter. I wish you would try to persuade Mus to go away to Cantreyn for a bit of a change. It would do her a world of good. There is nothing doing out here now things very quiet & I’ll try & drop her a line every day if I possibly can. I’d like her to get a complete change of air for about a fortnight or so. Get her to go away for a bit when Bonny7 goes to France. The town will be lonely & it would be good for her to be away for a bit. No I won’t give Rene the photos they belong to Mus. She has taken such an interest in them that I wouldn’t give them away to anybody. If Rene wants them I’ll get some more photos for her. I won’t be able to go and see Bonny for three weeks or so. I don’t think it would have done any good Mus coming out, the work would have been much too hard for her & she’s overworked as it is. Jess you simply must get her away somewhere for a bit. If she won’t go to Cantreyn take her to Kitty. I’ll pay the expenses but you needn’t tell her that. The light will go out in a minute or two so I must off to bed. Best love dear wee Jess.

Your loving Pat.

Cantreyn House

Friday 19 January

jess__diary_cameoIone was to have crossed to France today, but “jimmying”8 so isn’t going till Monday. After tea Muz & I went down the town & on the way met Florence Stubbs, she is just down for a few days, they are working at a hospital in Park Lane now. She came down the town with us, & we shopped, & then left her home. Did some tidying etc, & then went up & talked to Ione.

Letter from Jess Armstrong, Clodagh, Folkestone, to Pat Armstrong.

My dearest old Pat.

“I don’t like her at all”

Muz & I went up to Gordon’s wedding yesterday, & then went off & had tea with Reenie at her club, afterwards. She was awfully sweet, & we stayed till about six. She was telling us that she had been seeing about work, & she is settling to pack parcels for prisoners every morning, but she is going away soon, so we advised her not to begin the packing, until she gets back, & gets rid of her cold, & then she will begin much better, don’t you think? She was awfully sweet about it, & wanted to know what we thought, & wanted us to tell you all about it. She was looking very well, but her cold not quite gone. Pat darling, we were thankful yesterday, that you hadn’t chosen Dolly! I think we would have had fits if you had. I don’t know what it is about her, but I don’t like her at all, & I am sure we will never like her, even when we know her better. She is very pretty, & you would think that would make her attractive, but she hasn’t got a nice expression, & an awfully hard mouth. I am sure you won’t like her either, as I am sure you wouldn’t have a taste in common. We were awfully disappointed yesterday, as we thought when we saw her again, we would like her better, & instead of that it is the reverse. I am awfully sorry, as it would have been so nice to be fond of Gordon’s wife, but I am afraid we are not going to be. She is so different to Algie’s Kitty, who was there yesterday too, & is an awfully nice girl, I am sure you would love her, & I wish Gordon had got somebody like her, but our little girl is the best of them all! Doddie liked her very much & said she had an awfully sweet expression.

Ione goes over on Monday, & Doddie is following a couple of days later. I hope you will be able to go & have a look at her fairly soon. We haven’t heard from you for ages, not since the one written from the boat, but I suppose there must be something wrong with the post, or we would have got more than that, perhaps the boats going from Calais make a difference. We had quite a lot of snow here the day before yesterday, but it wasn’t thick, so didn’t lie long. Muz has just got an awfully nice golf coat from Reenie, wasn’t it awfully sweet of her to think of it. It is a very pretty kind of red. She was awfully fond of Muz yesterday. Muz wants to go out, & I want to write to Reenie before we go. Heaps of love Pat darling.

Your loving Jess.

Saturday 20 January

jess__diary_cameoTom stayed in bed all day. Ione stayed in bed in the morning, & then went to the dance with Mr Hamilton. I did some tidying & mending. After tea Muz & I went down the town. I wrote letters. We went down to Mrs Harrison with Ione, to have her dresses altered, & one has to be sent after her. We went to bed at about eleven.

Sunday 21 January

jess__diary_cameoWe were up rather late, so didn’t go to church, Tom stayed in bed all day. I darned in the morning, after lunch Ione went up to the Grand with Mr Hamilton. Buzz Porter came in for tea, he is at Hythe for a week, then Mrs & Miss Muir came in for a few minutes. Ione & Mr Hamilton came back here, & stayed till late, & then went up to the Grand. We had dinner in the smoking room, late, then I darned, & we went to bed at about eleven. Muz & I went for a walk in the morning, up towards Caesar’s Camp.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

I’m sending you back Rene’s letter. Awful nice letter it is. I will send you the ones she has written to me in another envelope. This one won’t hold them all. So old G is married. Rene says it was a very quiet little affair & that G looked very happy. I’m longing to hear your account of it all. I do hope the old man will be happy. I’m so delighted you didn’t lunch with the old Hag before the wedding. I’d hate you to go there unless you absolutely had to. I heard from Rene to-day that the wedding was a quiet affair. I’m longing to hear how the little tea party went off. I’m sure Rene did it very well. I shouldn’t bother yet about enlarging those French photos they want to be gone through rather carefully as there really aren’t a great many that are worth doing. There is no hurry about them anyway.

I have been in the office all day writing a defence scheme and am now waiting for Carden Roe to come back. He has been away all day & it’s now nearly 4 o’c & I’m dying for a walk. Fuller is out so I can’t go out till somebody comes in. G. has done well over leave. I hope I can fix that course. It would be great fun to go there with him. Besides it would be a great change. I don’t care much about this Divisional Office. One has to write too much & there are too many people all doing the same job. Ovey is due back on the 6th, then I go back to the Bde. Then if I go to Hesdin on the 17th it will be very nice. Goodliffe can do my job while I’m away. I am feeling awfully fit now & I don’t think there is any likelihood of any more spots appearing. I’m glad that Bonny is going to be at Etaples as well as Boulogne, as the Regt is quite close there. I’ll write to Pokes and get him to go and look her up. I won’t be able to go down there for about a fortnight to see her but will go the first opportunity I get. I saw Zoo’s Jimmy yesterday for a few minutes. I met him on the road. He is now commanding his Battn while the C. O is at home. He goes into the trenches to-night. He is in a very nice quiet part of the line. I am so glad you are going to take wee Jess away for a bit. You both want it badly. It will do you a power of good. This is queer coloured ink isn’t it, but it’s the only good ink I can get for my pen.

Harry and Ione playing pranks

Ione will have no difficulty getting from Calais to Boulogne. It’s only about 30 miles and the trains run straight from one place to the other. I wrote to Harry the other day and told him he was to look after her & see she had all she wanted and that he was to take care she didn’t go playing any wild pranks. I think it may help to steady him. Well wee Mus I must cease now & got out for a bit as it’s after 4 o’c & I have a good deal of work to do this evening. The cold here is awful. I do wish it would thaw. Best love dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.


  1. 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.
  2. Sir Philip Sassoon, who had just returned from active service in France, delivered an address entitled The Present Situation at the Front. His arrival in Folkestone caused a sensation and Sassoon was met with an enormous audience
  3. Fault
  4. A commune in the Pas-de-Calais department of Northern France
  5. Probably Doris Miller’s youngest sister, Honoria Emily Bridget Miller (1899-1964)
  6. Qualified for Staff
  7. Pat Armstrong’s nickname for his sister Ione Armstrong
  8. Menstruating

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