Expressions of sympathy kept pouring into Grimston Gardens where Mrs Armstrong and her three daughters struggled to come to terms with Pat’s death. Among those shocked by the news of the tragedy that had struck the family was Pat’s former schoolmaster Edward Haggarty Parry of Stokes School, which prepared students for Eton College. The public school ethos which emphasised duty, physical courage and self-denial predisposed young men to military service and many of them found themselves as lieutenants and captains in the trenches of the First World War. These stoic young men paid a heavy price for their fortitude: Eton College alone lost 1,157 former pupils between 1914 and 1918. On average, it has been estimated that 18 per cent of soldiers with a public school background died in the Great War against 11 per cent of those overall who served.
Monday 4 June
Muz, Tom, Ione & I walked down to the Harbour, to meet Algie, going back from leave. We were down at ten, but just missed him, but sat on waiting for him to come by another train, then telephoned up, & found he was up here, so he & Reenie came down to meet us. Muz showed him some of the letters about Pat. We had lunch early, & his boat went at 1-45. The morning boat was cancelled. It was awfully nice seeing him. He had come down early, on purpose to see us. Ione & Reenie went down the town, Muz wrote letters, & I copied letters for Muz. Heppie shopped & Tom did cigarette cards, & then they sat out in the garden till dinner. Afterwards we went for a stroll, then Heppie worked in the garden, Ione & Tom went to bed, Muz wrote letters, & Reenie lay on my bed & read, while I wrote letters & copied some for Muz. Brought Reenie up some tea, & sat with her for a bit.
Tuesday 5 June
Muz wrote letters in the morning, & Ione knitted, & Reenie wrote. Heppie worked in the garden, & Tom & I went down the town, & then went to the Harbour to see if there was any chance of seeing General de Lisle this afternoon. Pat was to have come over on leave with him, today. After lunch Reenie & Tom went out to the garden to read, I got tea ready, & then went out to them. Ione went down the town. Mrs Lucas came out & talked to us, then Muz came out for a bit, & Mrs Foster & Miss Steele came & talked. At about 6-30, one of the military police came up to Reenie & me, & said that Major Wills had sent us a message that we were to go in to the house, so we went & looked for the others, & sat in the hall for a bit, & then went out to try & see something but only saw our aeroplanes going towards Dover. They had got a warning that they were coming, but they must have gone over. We waited about till eight, talking to people, but we saw nothing. After dinner Muz, Heppie & I worked in the garden, then had a bath, & went to bed at about 10-30.
Letter from General Sir Henry de Beauvoir de Lisle, 5 Queensberry Place, [London] SW, to Mrs Armstrong
“The grave is marked X”
Dear Mrs Armstrong.
On leaving Arras I visited Pat’s grave & made a sketch of it which I enclose. The oak cross was made by General Sir Thomas Snow. My drawing is bad & out of perspective, being intended only to show you what was on the cross.
The position of the cemetery is at the entrance of the Town from the S.W South of the Doullens Road. The position of the grave is marked X.
Beau de Lisle.
Letter from General Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow to Mrs Armstrong
My dear Rosalie,
De Lisle will have told you all about the cross. I think you would like it. It was not made of such seasoned oak as I should have liked but I think it will stand all weathers. I had visions of you replacing it after the war by a marble one and taking it back to Ireland: that is why I wanted it to be solid. Yes, from what De Lisle told me, Pat was a very unusually brave boy and that is a thing for you to be proud of. You will always also have to think of how he enjoyed his life. Even out here he always seemed to be brim full of happiness. How many other mothers, I wonder, can say that their sons had never given them one moment of anxiety? What a perfect memory you will always have of him. How I have thought of you. But do you know I have been dreading this for months, and so did you in your own mind. You will feel it more, I know, as time goes on but you will still be brave, this I know.
T. d’O S.
Letter from E. H. Parry, Stoke House, Seaford, to Mrs Armstrong
Dear Mrs Armstrong,
It was most kind of you to write and tell me all about Maurice, and what his friends say of him. It must be a great comfort to you to know how every body loved him, and to get such heartfelt tributes to his extraordinarily attractive qualities. The manner of his death shows his character, nothing could have been finer. Another Maurice, Maurice Peel, who was also with us, fell in the same self sacrificing way some weeks ago, and it almost makes me ashamed of living quietly at home, when these glorious deeds are being done.
“Tremendous fun together”
All that his friends say of Maurice is exactly what we expected to hear of him, and I can well imagine what a loss he is to all of them. I have so many recollections of him, first when at Stoke, then when he used to come over & see us from Eton, & stay for the Eton & Harrow match, or one delightful day when he & Everard [?] Dale came with me to Worcester, & Maurice charmed the people we lunched with as he was certain to. I remember his coming over from Sandhurst to play cricket, just the same as ever, and staying with us later on for one or two dances, when he & Ramsden had tremendous fun together. I never saw two boys more attracted to one another. It seems impossible to realise that he has gone, but he leaves us an example of cheerfulness and self sacrifice that is worth anything. I am sending your messages to Eton, which I know is fond of him, as the Pat of all Pats. It is a great thing to know that he had no suffering, & to feel that you know where he lies now. If ever there was a Happy Warrior he was one, and I feel quite sure he is happy now and forever.
With our very kindest regards
E H Parry
Wednesday 6 June
Muz heard from General de Lisle this morning, sending her a wee drawing of the grave & cross. General Snow made the oak cross himself he says. There were some Bosch aeroplanes over yesterday, but they must have gone straight on, as it is in the paper today that they dropped bombs on Kent & Essex, but we got two down. Muz wrote letters in the morning, & we all wrote for a bit too. A gardener came to mould the potatoes but only did six drills. After lunch I wrote again, & so did Muz, & Tom & Reenie sat in the garden. Ione wrote. We had tea early, & Muz & I went to both hospitals, & didn’t get back till nearly eight. There was a big thunderstorm, but we got back before the worst. While we were away, Reenie weed[ed] some of the front garden, she did good work. After dinner Muz wrote, Ione worked, Tom went to bed, & Reenie lay on my bed & worked & read, & I wrote letters. We went to bed at about 12-30 after watching the thunder.
Letter from Algy Neill to Mrs Armstrong
My dear Mrs Arnie.
I only had a very short time in Boulogne but I went to Cox & Co, who referred me to Cox’s shipping agents where they informed me that they had applied through the home branch for permission to land Pat’s Dog & that they would inform you where she would be sent for her period of quarantine which they thought would be 4 months. They say she is being well looked after & I would have gone to see her but time would not permit. I expect to being going in the direction of A. shortly & will if possible visit Pat’s resting place & do a small honour to it. I was so pleased to have been able to spend a few hours with you before leaving England though those hours were sad for us both. I felt that sadness had some joy for us both. For me to see all those fine tributes [?] written of a very gallant officer whom I only wish I could have met oftener & whom I learned to love & respect in a very short time. I hope you are all well & not doing too much work. I would sooner you were away from Folkestone. Let me know what your movements are. With all my love to the “dear wee people”.
Yours affectly Algy.
Thursday 7 June
Reenie worked at the front garden, doing weeding. I copied letters for Muz, & then worked in the garden, for a bit. After lunch I got tea ready, & got Standen’s tea ready, & did the flowers etc. Viva came for tea, & Muz showed her some of the letters. Standen arrived at about six, he came a night earlier, so as to see us. We worked in the garden again, & Ione came out & worked too, till dinner time. After dinner they worked for a bit, & I copied letters for Muz while she wrote letters. Went to bed at about eleven after a lovely bath.
Thank you so much for your dear wee letter, after I had written Aunty Bee came & said she was going to see you all, & I intended to tell her, to tell you not to bother writing, as I would hear all from her but later on quite [?] forgot. She was tired on Monday, rather, but it was a great comfort to her to see your dear Mum, & be able to talk to her. Of course London air after Kinlough would tire her, if she had nothing to do, she goes up & down twice a day to Kicks, & it’s very trying for her in the heat as she goes inside a Tram, & they are very hot. Kathleen was so grateful that Aunty Rosie1 wrote to her herself, it was indeed too sweet of her & to write to us too. But that’s just her, always thinking of others. Best love to you all dear wee Jess.
Your loving Janie
Aunty Rosie’s niece
Friday 8 June
Reenie & I worked in the front garden all morning, & got it finished. Standen came round, he is going over today, & is taking some flowers. I packed them while he was here, & he talked most awfully nicely about Pat, & said he would follow him anywhere. He stayed till nearly three, & then Major Macgregor came, so we didn’t have lunch till awfully late. Afterwards Muz & I walked down to Sandgate, to see about saddles, it was very hot. Reenie sat out in the garden. Tom played tennis with the Crofts. Mr Hamilton & Huff came for dinner & afterwards Mr Rothwell came, & Heppie, Ione & Tom & the three men, went to the theatre. Muz, Reenie & I sat out in the garden till late, & then I tidied the lace for them, & we went to bed at about twelve.
Saturday 9 June
Reenie & I worked in the garden all morning, & then had lunch early, & Muz, Tom & Reenie went on the Hythe canal, with the Leweses, & got back at about seven. Ione went with Mr Hamilton in Mrs Hemming’s car for a run, & called for them on the way back. I went up to Mrs Philpott’s to have my skirt tried on, & did a lot of shopping, & walked miles, & got back at about five. Then I did papers for a bit, & then Reenie & I worked in the garden again, & again after dinner, & Heppie worked at the potatoes, & Muz wrote letters. Ione dined with Mrs Hemming & Mr Hamilton at the Burlington, & Tom went to the Leas Pavilion with the Leweses. When it got dark, Reenie came up to my room & read, while I wrote. Then we had biscuits in her room, & went to bed at about 1-30.
Sunday 10 June
We had breakfast rather late. Tom went to church, & went out on the Front afterwards. I laid luncheon etc, & then we went up to meet Bee at the station. She read a few letters, after lunch, & then Muz, Bee, Ione, Mrs Hemming & Mr Hamilton went for a drive in our car, & Muz & Bee came back here for tea. Reenie & I sat out in the garden, & copied letters. We went up to see Bee off at the station, & then went down to the club. Ione didn’t come. Tom sat at the desk, & Muz, Reenie & I inside & Miss Green. We got back just after tea. Ione & Mr Hamilton were here when we got back. Brought tea & biscuits up to Reenie’s room.
Letter from Algy Neill to Mrs Armstrong
My dear Mrs Armie.
Words of comfort from Algie
So many thanks for your letter received today it gave me no end of joy to think my visit had given you some pleasure for it is in sorrow that real friendship is proved – Mrs Arnie dear I feel so much for you for I know so well what Pat was to you & you to him – Love of mother for son I always knew was great but yours was something rather above even that but even this great sorrow & bereavement must not make you wish to leave us you have yet big things to do three darling children to love & care for & their lives will bring you joy for you will share this with “him who is not lost but gone before”. Good words Mrs Arnie & True so sorrow must not blight your life. I go to near his resting place in two days time & I hope to be able to pay it a small piece of homage from one who loved you both & I’ll write & tell you if I have been able to do it. K., Dad & Rita all write & say how much they feel for you – you know they know quite a lot about you all & might have known you for years. I am commanding the battn temporarily while [—] Co’s does same at Brigade – Gen on leave. I ought to write to Jess too tonight but it is so late & this is really my thoughts for her too so give her my love & tell her I’ll write her to include you tomorrow. Best love to you all.
Yours affectly Algy.
Mrs Arnie I have wanted for some time to ask you if you would be Godmother to our first child – I would love you to be – but want you just to say exactly what you would like – you won’t offend me in the least if you say no but you will give me great joy if you say yes. I never suggested this to K but she has several times asked me to ask & writes again today asking me to write to you about it. Our child is expected about 25th July.