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Monday 5 to Sunday 11 February 1917


Monday 5 to Sunday 11 February 1917

In July 1916, a Special Commissions Act had established the so-called Dardanelles Commission to inquire into the conduct of operations of war in Gallipoli to explain the failure of the expedition. Between late August 1916 and early September 1917, the Commission heard evidence from 168 witnesses. Although the Commission’s final report, issued in 1919, inevitably concluded that the undertaking was poorly planned and badly executed, its findings had no measurable impact on any of the individuals investigated. Among the men to give evidence was Major General Sir Henry de Beauvoir de Lisle, who travelled to England for the purpose in early February 1917. The month also saw the introduction of a scheme of voluntary food rationing in England, when individuals were asked to limit their weekly consumption of bread (including cake) to 4 lbs (1.8 kg); meat to 2½ lbs (1.1 kg); and sugar to ¾ lb (340 grams).

Monday 5 February

jess__diary_cameoMuz & I went round to see Kitty, but she is still in bed, but her head is better. We went up & talked to her in her room for a bit. Algie went off by the 8-20, & goes over by Southampton. After lunch I got tea ready etc, then Miss Peters came in, & Muz, Tom, she & I went to see the tank films, at the Central, they were very good.1 Muz & I went in to see Kitty again on the way back, so didn’t get back till late. Sampson2 went away this afternoon, so we have got nobody.

Tanks! Tanks! Tanks!

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Jan 5.3

My dear wee Mus.

I’m afraid I have been awfully bad about writing lately. I’m not so keen now on the school for a certain reason. I can’t explain. I’d like to do the course but well there is something else I want to do. However there’s nothing for it now, if I’m told to go & that ends it. Dear wee Mus it was splendid of you writing to Archie about it, but now I almost wish you hadn’t. It’s a good course to do though & may get me a Q.S.4 after the war. The vest arrived quite safely but the breeches haven’t come yet they may roll up to-morrow. However I don’t want them badly for a few days. Some of my old ones are too disreputable to wear except in the trenches. I [am] sorry you don’t care for Dolly as you say nobody seems to have a good word for her. Bunty likes her but it’s hard to tell how much, & I don’t know that Bunty’s tastes & ours are quite alike. Bunty has gone down in my estimation since I met her mother. I don’t think she’s half the girl Evelyn is. She seems so fond of sitting in the house. However she & Pokes are awfully happy. But I’d be sorry to marry her. Rene is worth 50 of her.

Angela’s efforts to keep Ione are very funny. However I’ve got a promise out of her that she can go to Boulogne in a fortnight’s time, which is what Bonny5 wants. I’m glad I went down as it cheered her up. I hope to go down again on the 11th for the night. I sent her down a Bosch helmet to-day which she’ll like. One of their tin ones. I had a very cold day yesterday. I motored to the back area with Quill. He has just come to the Div to the “Q” office & Major has gone away as a Bde Major. John Cowan [?] has gone to my Bde, he is a good fellow but not a patch on old Quill. By the way Quill goes home on the 7th. I told him to bring his wife down & stay a night with you on his way back. You could put them up couldn’t you. I’ll send you her address. She sounds awfully nice. Shoots, rides & fishes. She sounds a real good country girl. She’s a very good golfer too. I’d like you to meet them. I’m sure you will like him.

The French practice an attack

It is still beastly cold here. I had a great tramp round the line the night before last. Started from here about 9 pm & got back about [—]6 AM. Went all over the ground we’d just taken. It is quite a nice little bit. It was a real god little show. I hope they do as well in the way of medals. I’m going off in the morning with the Gen & two of our Battn Commanders to see the French practice an attack. It ought to be rather interesting. I’ll be glad to see the thaw set in this cold weather perishes one & makes one not worth a damn. Office work is a misery. However it’s good for the men in the line. They like it much better than the wet & mud, of course the thaw will be dreadful as all the trenches will fall in. I enclose a letter from the Boss, which I am just going to answer. Best love dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.

Please send me another block.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong

My dear Sir.

Thank you so much for your letter. What a funny scheme that is a solicitor having to write to the court. The joys of marrying a ward in chancery! Thank you so much for fixing it all up for me. I’m so glad you like Rene. I felt sure you would, I’ve never met anybody like her. I’ll bring her over to see you next time I get leave, we will have great fun. I’m sure she will love Ireland, she’s never been there. She tells me that she is getting on awfully well with her riding. It’s splendid of her riding in London isn’t it. Her riding master was awfully surprised when she went back to the school when he found how much she’d improved. What a nuisance having to plough up more land. It will mean getting more men won’t it? What a brute Ione’s dog sounds. I think you were very kind hearted not to have shot the brute. I stayed a night with her at Etaples last week. The Gen was going home for the Dardanelles Commission & took me down with him. She seems very happy but is working very hard. However, as she says herself it’s a great experience for her. We had a very successful little show here on the 27th of Jan. The Inniskilling Fusiliers & Border Regt attacked about 1100 yds of the Bosch trenches and took all they were told to do also 7 officers and 392 men. The commander-in-chief said it was the best little show that there had been [since] the Somme fighting. Our [cas]ualties were small & we got all the ground we wanted. Hardress has gone to the “Tanks”. I’m sure he was disappointed not to have been there. I had a letter from him last week, he seems to be enjoying himself. Well! it’s very late so I must go to bed as I’m very short of sleep these times, it has been rather strenuous. The cold here is dreadful. Best of luck to you and thank you again so much for fixing things with the court for me.


Tuesday 6 February

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Feb 6.

My dear wee Mus.

I’m hating this weather, the cold is awful. The Gen, Col Stevens, & Maj Clark & I went to see the practice French attack. We started about 9.30 motored about 50 miles had lunch then went on to the show. It was a real good show & was very interesting one learnt a lot. We left about 3.15 and got back in time for dinner. It was rather spoilt by the cold but I enjoyed it. I hope to be in a house before many days are out. Bussy-les-Dours7 on the 9th, it’s quite near Corbie. This lot go to Heilly but I go to my own little show on the 11th. I’ve heard nothing about the school yet. I’m not so fearfully keen on it now. Rene sent me a lovely pair of mittens which arrived to-night, they are an absolute god send. One can write in them which is such a blessing. I hope you have sent of [sic] my breeches for me. Quill goes home in the morning & will take this. I wrote to the Boss last night.

De Lisle and his staff

I haven’t written to Rene’s mother yet. It’s so hard to write anything in this cold. I loathe the office. I’m simply longing for the thaw. I’ve never hated anything quite so much as this cold. One thing I’ll never do is Arctic exploration. I’ll enclose some of Rene’s letters in this. She is awfully good about writing. The General is in great heat these days. He told me some time ago that his wife was doing a rest cure. I wonder if you will see anything of de Lisle when he’s at home. He comes back again on the 12th. Couldn’t you get Leila to come & stay the night with you. Well wee Mus I must just write Rene a line & then go to bed. Best love dear wee Mus. I do hope [paper damage has erased the rest of the line] are you going to Abbott’s Hill8 ?

Your loving Pat.

Wednesday 7 February

jess__diary_cameoMuz, Tom & I went down the town, & went to Mrs Harrison after lunch. Got tea ready etc. Tom went to tea with Diana Daly, & Kitty came here, & Mary Stubbs came in later, she is down for a few days. Heppie did the calling both yesterday & today. Several letters from Ione this morning, & yesterday, she is awfully comfy now at Etaples, but moves to Boulogne later. I went to bed at about 10-30, but Muz was working at a mat so didn’t come up till later.

Letter from Anthony Maude to Mrs Armstrong

“A serious question may arise”

I have just received your letter. Mark has sent me £60 to make up your instalments, so all is well for the present, but a serious question may arise. According to law, he can deduct income tax, if he wishes to do so. He arranged to give £1000 a year, but to meet this, handed over to Trustees certain securities, which at the time brought in a good deal over £1000; & the balance after paying you, was to go to him. What happened was this, the income tax has risen enormously, & 5s/- in the £, or one quarter is deducted from the Dividends. If this in tax is increased any more the funds belonging to the Trustees, will not pay £1000 a year. Up to last year he got a balance, but now this has disappeared. However we can only hope that Mark will not raise any questions, but pay up any balance that is required to make up the ¼s instalments for you if required. We are carrying out Lord Devonport’s order9 & I don’t think there is any hardship in it, but things will be worse very soon. We are breaking up all the land we can, but have great difficulties. I haven’t seen Markie in the Gazette, but he wrote that he had got the ribbon.10 I don’t know who put the age in I.T,11 but it was not quite right.12 Col Webb says he is wonderful, & his gallantry could not be suppressed. The General is coming over for a few days next week & is bringing Markie to see us. He then returns to the trenches, as no able bodied regular can be taken on the Staff now. What is Maurice doing? I should like to see the photo of his fiancée, although it may not be a good one. It is a great thing that you like her, & she must have plenty of money I should think. Can’t write more now. Best love to you all.

Ever your affect[ionat]e bro[ther] A.

I think the easiest way to carry out Lord D’s order, is to see that only a certain amount of meat, bread & sugar is bought each week for the house, & have 1 or 2 meatless days.

Thursday 8 February

jess__diary_cameo Muz & Tom went out with Kitty, I stayed to answer bells, & get lunch. Heppie did the calling this morning. After lunch cut wool for the mats, then Muz & Tom went down the town to have Tom’s coat & skirt tried on, then Muz went to tea with Kitty. I took Dus for a run, & then went round to Kitty too, & we talked in her room. After dinner I tidied the store cupboard, & put a lot of new stores in, Muz worked at the mat, & Heppie did the washing up etc.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Feb 8.

My dear wee Mus.

I’ve just been going through all my old letters and things and have filled a big envelope with all sorts of odds and ends for you. Tear up anything that doesn’t interest you. I’ve just been reading your letter about Buz. What rot he talks. I’ve never quite got to the bottom of the first business. He must have wounded on Aug 26 and apparently held forth to some time & was put under arrest. However he managed to clear himself somehow. He eventually was recommended for his D.S.O for good work on the 12th & 24th of May 1915.13 He did awfully well & the General recommended him. I remember his name being sent in. His story is an absolute lie. He was made Staff Captain to one of the Cavalry Bdes for a bit but I hear he was so bad that they pushed him out. This is only hear say so may not be true. But anyhow he wasn’t there long. Walter Long was in the Greys, he is the eldest son of the man in Ireland. He was hunting down in the Dukes country the first year I was down there. He was an absolute marvel to hounds. Quite the best in England. Some people said he was even better than Teddy Brookes or Pat Nickalls. He & Dolly Miles used to cut each other down. It was a sight for the blind to see those two going.

It’s quite hard to write to-night as the ink keeps freezing in this pen. I’ve had to stop several times and each time the old ink freezes up. I wanted to put some ink from one pot into another a few minutes ago & found it was frozen solid so I had to melt it. A house to-morrow night is a good thought isn’t it? I’m hoping to go & see Bonny on the 11th but don’t know if I can manage it yet. I saw Jimmy yesterday his lot go in to-morrow night. I saw him again for a few minutes this afternoon. He is in great heat & very fit. He is awfully keen you should go to Cantreyn. Mus dear you really must go away for a change. I had three letters from my child to-day. I haven’t answered them yet. She is doing a lot of riding & is awfully keen. Seems to be getting on well too. I’m sure she will as she made wonderful strides at Folkestone. The people on our right perished a bit of trench this morning & caught 2 officers & 72 men. Quite a good little show. Not many details in yet. I’m afraid they got a badish shelling this morning. It sounds pretty noisy up that way now. Percy & Teddy Kerans have gone off to Paris to see their wives who have just come over for a few days. Well wee Mus I must end now as it’s perishing cold & rather late. There is little or no news here really. Ovey is due back on the 10th, so I shall go back on the 11th. No news of the school yet. I don’t care if I go or not. I’ll just do whatever I’m bid & be quite [—] about it. Best love dear wee Mus. Tell Jess I have her several letters & will write soon.

Your loving Pat.

Friday 9 February

jess__diary_cameoWent down the town to shop, & get in stores, as we are on our honour to only use a certain amount of food, so we are getting in things, in case we have food tickets. After lunch Muz, Tom & I went round to see Kitty, who is in bed today, but we didn’t stay long, then Tom went back, & we went to Manor House,14 but we couldn’t go in, as the men were having their tea, then we went to tea with Viva at the Burlington, & stayed very late.

Save the wheat and save the fleet

Saturday 10 February

jess__diary_cameoMuz & I got up to do the calling & light the fires etc, then I did the hall & the smoking room, & got breakfast, & afterwards I did out Ione’s room & fixed the carpet, & then cleaned out Muz’s & mine, & lit the fires. Then got tidy, & got tea ready, & Kitty came for tea, & then came up to look at the house afterwards, to settle their rooms, as she & her father & mother are going to come & live in the house, rent free, & do the garden for us. Then we took her back, & went to call for Tom at Viva’s, & stayed there talking. Then brought Tom back, & we went to see Mrs Arnoldi, who is in bed. After dinner wrote letters etc, & Muz worked at the mat.

Sunday 11 February

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

Feb 11.

Markie Maude

My dear wee Mus.

I have just sent you a pile of letters from Rene. I enclose Tony’s in this. It’s bad that about the money but I do hope the Boss plays up about it. I feel sure he will. He’d never let you down like that. Any way wee Mus there is no need to worry as I have that £400 invested in Cox & that will always see us out of a hole. Tony’s remark about any able bodied regular is all rot, & you can tell him so. No regular who is fit for the trenches can be an A.D.C.15 but that’s all. Marky’s M.C. sounds an odd affair. That slip of paper means absolutely nothing but his general would never let him put up the ribbon if he hadn’t got it. So he must have it really. Your guess about the school is right but it only affects this Bde. So it’s only natural what I want to do. I feel it’s missing a chance. However it’s out of my hands altogether now. From what Archie says I expect I’ll go. Ovey came back last night so I came back here. He enjoyed the course but says it’s awful hard work. They work from 9 till 1 and then are given a scheme which has to be shown up either that night or the following morning. So it doesn’t give one much time for oneself. But I’m sure one would learn a lot. It’s a good thing to do anyway. I shall be awfully disappointed if G doesn’t go. Of course there is no certainty of his going anymore than there is me. No I’ll never breathe a word to a soul about you writing to Archie. Mother dear I don’t atall want to leave this Div. It wouldn’t pay me atall. If I got a G.S.O216 I’d like to have it here. But I’m quite content here for the present. I came back here last night. We are very comfy. It’s glorious to be in a house again instead of freezing in a canvas hut. I’ve been able to shed one of my waistcoats since I came here.

Somehow I don’t think Rene has as much as you think. She said once that she thought she had about £1500 but didn’t know & I expect that that is about right. Adams didn’t talk as if she had a lot, when I saw him. He said she’d have enough to be married on. The only thing I know is that she can’t help her mother financially without consulting her lawyers.17 The breeches & boots arrived yesterday. Thank you so much for sending them wee Mus. I’m sending the trousers back to you, will you put them away for me. Kitty sounds a topper. I wish I knew her. She sounds so unlike G’s Dolly. I can’t fancy her somehow. I wish I could. I’m afraid we’ll have to do as you say & never really know her. What a pity isn’t it. I do hope you go to Cantreyn, that is a splendid plan if you can get Kitty’s people to keep the house warm & sow the spuds. That would be a great bargain. The new door sounds a great improvement, it will make the house much warmer. Well wee Mus it’s very late so I must go to bed. It has taken longer than I thought to write to you & Rene. Best love dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.


  1. The Battle of the Ancre and Advance of the Tanks (1917) documented the winter stages of the Battle of the Somme. It formed a sequel to Battle of the Somme (1916) but was cinematically more impressive and allowed the public the first views of Britain’s secret weapons, the tanks.
  2. A domestic servant in the Armstrong household
  3. The date is a mistake on Pat’s part and should read ‘Feb 5’.
  4. Qualified for Staff
  5. Pat Armstrong’s nickname for his sister Ione Armstrong
  6. A hole in the letter has obliterated the number.
  7. Bussy-lès-Daours.
  8. Abbot’s Hill was a school at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, founded by Mrs Armstrong’s cousins Alice, Katrine and Mary Baird
  9. Hudson Ewbanke Kearley, first Viscount Devonport (1856-1934) was a British grocer and politician who served as Minister of Food Control in 1916-1917 and submitted a proposal for compulsory rationing in May 1917
  10. Anthony Maude’s eldest son, Lieutenant Marcus ‘Markie’ Maude of the Royal Fusiliers, had just been awarded a Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry in action” by leading “a successful bombing attack, at the outset of which he lost his boots in the heavy mud, and although barefooted he continued to cheer on his men”, as reported in the Irish Times on 24 January 1917.
  11. Irish Times
  12. Anthony’s comment is curious as Markie was born on 21 March 1896 and the newspaper gave Markie’s age correctly as 20; he was 2 months short of his 21st birthday.
  13. “Buzz” Porter had been awarded a Distinguished Service Order for retrieving under heavy fire valuable information regarding the enemy situation on 10 and 13 May 1915. In doing so, he “set an example of coolness and total disregard of danger that was beyond all praise”.
  14. Manor House Hospital, where the Armstrongs had volunteered their services
  15. Aide de Camp
  16. General Staff Officer (Grade 2)
  17. Arthur James Hamilton Wills’ estate was valued at £305,271 at the time of his death in 1905. Irene was his only child and the money was controlled by trustees while she was a minor.

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