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Monday 26 March to Sunday 1 April 1917

WEEK 144: A GREAT NIGHT PAYING BILLS

Monday 26 March to Sunday 1 April 1917

Pat Armstrong had entertained hopes of home leave following the conclusion of the six-week course at the Staff College in Hesdin. This however was not to be as the Second Battle of Arras, also known as the Arras Offensive, was about to commence. The offensive was yet another attempt by the Allied forces to break the ongoing stalemate on the Western Front. One of its first objectives was the capture of Vimy Ridge, a strategic observation point which had remained under German control since October 1914. The preliminary artillery bombardment of Vimy Ridge commenced on 20 March and over the next three weeks pounded more than 2.5 million shells into the German trenches. In the hopes of seeing Pat, his mother and sister Jess broke their holiday in Shropshire and returned to Folkestone to await his arrival from France, but days passed with no sign of him.

Monday 26 March

jess__diary_cameoTom, Jimmy & I walked in to the town, he was going to the dentist. Tom drove out in the carriage & I walked back with Dus. Mr Hodson came for tea, & then Tom & I walked in to the town, & went to see Rosie for a few minutes, & didn’t get back till rather late. Zooie & Jimmy went out to shoot pigeons.

Tuesday 27 March

jess__diary_cameoWe all went to the meet in the waggonette1. We walked up a big hill, & then Mrs Morgan, Tom, Zooie, Jimmy & I went across the fields, it was pretty hilly & rather hot, but we saw quite a lot, of the hounds, then they went off to another covert, & we joined Muz & Heppie & sat on a tree, & watched them in the distance, it was too far to walk, but they weren’t doing much, & were to go home early. About 14 people out. Mrs Morgan came back in the waggonette with us. Mr Hamilton-Russel is the master. We got back at about tea time, & Zooie & Jimmy went somewhere for tea.

The Cantreyn Waggonette

Wednesday 28 March

jess__diary_cameoMuz, Zooie, Tom, Dus & I walked in to the town, & met Jimmy coming from the dentist, then we met Mrs Welch & Rosie, & we went to look at hats with them. Mr & Mrs Baker, Mrs Welch, & Rosie came here for tea, afterwards Zooie & Jimmy went out to try for a pigeon. I sewed all afternoon.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

March 28.

My dear wee Mus.

No chance of leave & [sic] wrote and asked for it but it’s been refused. I had a wire yesterday about it. We had a very long scheme yesterday. We wrote orders for the attack on Morval. I went out for a ride in the afternoon & then had to work till 3 am this morning to get it done. It was a very interesting one. We do the last scheme to-morrow. We have done six of this continuous scheme so far. I have got 3 V.G’s and one V.F in the last four. I hope I get a G for the attack orders but I’m afraid they aren’t good. We get them back to-morrow morning, & the essays back on Saturday. I’m afraid mine wasn’t very good. I’m only expecting V.F’s for both.

To-day has been a real wet day. We did an outdoor scheme started at 10 in busses & walked miles over ploughed fields. It was rather fun. We ended up about 5 miles out so I walked home. I got gloriously wet & it made me feel awfully well. I don’t fancy we’ll go north I don’t know where the Div are at present. It is rather hard to find out. We had a great hunt after a pig on Tuesday. We were all out doing a reconnaissance & Bresling [?] spotted an old pig so off we all went & had a great hunt but he lost him in a wood. It played the devil with Geisha & she has been off her feed ever since. She is looking awfully bad to which is rather sickening. I wish I had had Melody, she would have gone splendidly. I go back to the Bde on Sunday. I’m not really keen on going away as a G.S.O22 but suppose it is a good thing if I get it. I read your letter at 3 am this morning about the rabbit hunt & it gave me a good laugh.

“The biggest street in the town”

That place Bonny3 is in is quite alright. It is in the biggest street in the town but hasn’t a very imposing entrance but her room is quite nice. That other just sounds a brute but she’s gone now so she ought to have quite a good time but I must say I’ll be glad when she’s home again. It is hardish work for her. Don’t hurry back from Cantreyn it does you good being up there. I have just sent you a budget of Rene’s letters to read. She wrote again about publishing our engagement. I haven’t answered it & can’t find the letter so haven’t answered it. I won’t answer her mother’s letter atall, it can have been lost in the post. It is too late now anyway. The less interest I take in things now the better is what I feel. I will have a search for that letter from Rene to-morrow or the next day & send it to you. I’m not sure if I have sent it to you already.

I went over & saw the Regt on Sunday. I saw them all at a football match. I saw Pokes in the distance but didn’t worry about him. Talked to Billy, Squeaker & Mustard & then went & had tea at C. Squadron with Squeaker & Billy came along too. There were a lot of young lads there who I didn’t know, then about 530 I went over & saw Pokes & stayed & dined with him getting back here about 11 o’c. It was a pitch dark night. I took Bresling [?] over with me he’s a great pal of Lockett’s. Things went very well and everybody was awfully nice. I asked Pokes about it & he said that now everybody realised that I had done the right thing but that the mistake was in originally saying that Gen de L. wouldn’t let me go back unless I got a squadron. Pokes hardly knows Rene but seems to like her very much. I must write up some notes now & then turn in. Best love dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.

Thursday 29 March

jess__diary_cameoIn the morning the man came to put up the clock, then we went to the drawing room, & settled about the mirror, & got that up, it looks awfully nice. Jimmy went to the dentist. In the afternoon we all went in the waggonette to Mr Meridith’s farm, as Jimmy wanted to talk to him. We had tea there, & had a lovely drive back, awfully pretty country. We didn’t go to bed till rather late, but we went up early, to back [sic, pack], but we are only taking a tiny hat box, with our things.

Friday 30 March

jess__diary_cameoTo Folkestone. Let Dus: out before we went, then Feutril drove Muz & I to the station, in the carriage, & we left by the nine train. Rosie came to see us off. We had to change at Birmingham, & wait for about an hour, & had lunch, then left our box at Charing Cross & went & looked at shops, then went to see Lady de Lisle at 5-30, & stayed with her, till we went to catch the seven train down to Folkestone. We had got in to London at about three. Heppie had wired for rooms at Miss Aldridge’s (44 Castle Hill Avenue) but when we got there she was full up, but had one sitting room, so she put in a camp bed for Muz & I slept on the sofa! Quite like old times seeing all the old furniture again! We got to bed at about 11-30 after having supper.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong

March 30.

My dear wee Mus.

“I’m sorry it’s over”

This course finished to-day & I go off back to the Brigade to-morrow. It has been a real good show & I’m sorry it’s over. I saw Corry yesterday he’s the commandant, he saw us all separately in his room & was very nice. Said he’d do all he could to help me to get on. He was really awfully nice. Then he made a sort of farewell speach [sic] to-day & said we’d all worked very hard & that he was very pleased with us. One of the instructors told Dent that this was a better class than the last one. We got the last scheme of the continuous series back this morning. We had 6 schemes this week. Moved the 5th Div all over the place, put them into the line, attacked Morval, brought them back into the rest area. It has really been very interesting. I got a “G” for my attack on Morval. It [sic] this series I got two V.G’s three “G”’s and one V.F. Not too bad really. I got the essay on “Principles of Command” back this morning and got a “G” for it which rather pleased me. I thought I’d only get a V.F. I have only had four V.F’s in the whole course. The first scheme at the beginning of the course wasn’t marked. The rest have all been G’s and a few V.G.’s about 6 I think, so I hope to get a fairly good chit. It has been a real good course an awfully interesting. Dent who is about the best fellow here got two V.F’s. So I don’t feel I have done so badly all things considered. He was at Sandhurst with me & has got a D.S.O & M.C. & a Brevet. He has done himself pretty well.4

I have just been having a great night paying bills, & have cleared the lot. I go back to-morrow night & should arrive at the early hours next morning. The Bde is in rest where it was at Xmas. It is a real good spot I believe. I don’t know how long we stay there. I will be glad of a few days peace & quiet. This has been a very strenuous show but has done one a lot of good. I enclose that letter from Rene which I haven’t answered. Shall I say “I don’t see any use in publishing our engagement now. It makes no difference to you & I & I don’t want to do anything till I get your mother’s consent.” Something like that I think. Let me know anyway what you think. I’m sure Mrs C is at the back of it & I won’t be run by her. I won’t have it put in till I want it. But I’ve got to impress that on them.

I don’t know the Regts in G’s Bde but will try & find them out for you. I am sending you a photo of this course. Quite a good one. Also two parcels of clothes, which I wouldn’t open if I were you as they are mostly rubbish but I want to get shot of them. My poor old field boots hurt my feet so I’m sending them home & will get them altered sometime. I got your wire about 4 days before the letter. So they do come quicker. I wish I was coming home but it is quite impossible. I’m wanted as the Bde is training. Well wee Mus it’s 2 am so I must turn in but I wanted to clear off all my letters before I turn in. Best love dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat.

Saturday 31 March

jess__diary_cameoIn the morning we went round to Clodagh, & went in to the Peters to see if there was any news from Pat or Ione, but there was none. Pat ends his staff course at Hesdin today, & he thought he would get leave for the week end, to go to Ione at Boulogne, so we thought he might be able to get over here, so we came down on chance, but I am afraid we won’t see him, when there is no news now. Mr Arnoldi came round, as his mother wanted us to go to tea, as she sails for Canada tomorrow. It was luck meeting him. Then we went to see Jenner, then had lunch in the town, & walked down to the Harbour to find out about the boats, then bought some beans etc, & came back some of the way in the bus. Then went to Manor Court5 & York House,6 then went to tea with Mrs Arnoldi, then back to Clodagh, & Muz wrote letters, & I got out things to take back with us etc. & went in to the Peters for a bit, & got all the March papers. We stayed at Clodagh till about eight, then came back to Miss Aldridge, & had supper, & went to bed at about ten. Muz was rather tired. Yesterday at Birmingham, we wired to Reenie to meet us at Paddington, but she wasn’t there, so can’t have got the wire in time. Still no news of Pat.

Sunday 1 April

jess__diary_cameoI stayed in bed all morning, & Muz wrote her reports etc, & we had lunch there, & afterwards Muz went to see Viva, & had tea with her, then went to see Mrs Ritchie, but she was in bed. I went round to Clodagh, & waited there for Muz. We left out Summer hats, to be sent to Ione, if she wants them. We got back at about eight, & had supper, & went to bed at about 9-30. It rained & snowed a bit, nearly all day. Still no news from Pat.


Footnotes

  1. A meet of the Wheatland Hunt prominent in the Bridgend area of Shropshire
  2. General Staff Officer (Grade 2)
  3. Pat Armstrong’s nickname for his sister Ione Armstrong
  4. Captain (Brevet Major) Joseph Leslie Dent (1889-1917) of the South Staffordshire Regiment was killed in action on 11 April, just 12 days after completing the course
  5. Manor Court in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War
  6. York House in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War

 
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