WEEK 156: SOMETIMES I ONLY LIE AND THINK AND ACHE
Monday 18 to Sunday 24 June 1917
On the night of 16-17 June 1917, six German Zeppelins made their way to Britain on yet another bombing mission. Owing to engine trouble and heavy crosswinds, only two of them, the L42 and the L48, which was on its maiden mission, made it to the British coast. Unable to reach London, the L42 nevertheless successfully bombed a naval ammunition store in Ramsgate before returning to Germany. The L 48 was not so lucky. Struggling with engine trouble, it turned for home but was caught in searchlights and attacked by Flight Commander Henry Saundby, Second Lieutenant Frank Holder, Sergeant Sydney Ashby and Second Lieutenant Loudon Pierce ‘Don’ Watkins of the Royal Flying Corps. Within ten minutes, the Zeppelin was plummeting down in a trail of fire and smoke and crashed on the outskirts of the village of Theberton, Suffolk. Of the 19 crew, three survived although one of them later died from his injuries.
Monday 18 June
Stayed in bed all day, & read for a bit, & copied letters. Muz wrote letters Tom went out with Huff. They took Muz to the hospitals in the car, after lunch, & then took two men for a run. They had dinner early, & then went for a run in the car. Mr Ectors & Huff went with them. They went to Ramsgate, to see where the Zepp raid was, on Sunday, they say it was an awful sight, but they didn’t see where the Zepp was brought down. They got back at about one o’clock. Susie died tonight, but we are not telling Tom till the morning.
Letter from Algy Neill to Mrs Armstrong
My dear Mrs Armie.
Very many thanks for your letter of 14th inst. I am so awfully glad that you would like to be our first child’s godmother we both wanted you to be so much & I [have] written to tell Kitty about it & I know she will be most awfully pleased. I am sure your feelings about Pat being surrounded by love were perfectly correct. That’s what struck me when I went to see his grave – those little bunches of white flowers told me how loved he was by his men too. I heard great praise of him from one officer who had been in the K.O.S.Bs in 29th Division only yesterday. I Hope you will find that Captain Armstrong’s attack has passed off for good.1 I have been commanding the Battn for the past ten days as Col W. has been answering for the General. No news of any permanent appointment yet. There is no news to give you dear Mrs A but I send love all heaps of love.
Yours affect Algy.
My dear Jess
Many thanks for your letter of 12th Inst. We have moved out of A2 now but are not far away from there so if there is anything you want done I will try to do it. Nothing is a trouble concerning Pat but it gives me great pleasure to do any little thing I can. Things here are pretty quiet just now I think the Hun has moved most of his guns north but he still has a 15” on this front. I will be rather glad when I hear you are out of Folkestone for more reasons than one. I am rather inclined to think raids may become more frequent for a while & then die down again. There is no news to give you Jess, but I send lots of love.
Tuesday 19 June
Muz, Ione, Tom, Huff & I went down the town, & then Muz & I went to shop, & have her dress tried on. After lunch we went down in the car to take the dressmaker girl for a run, but she had started, so I did my shopping, & they waited, & then we went for a run, & home by Hythe. Tom went to tea with the Lewis’s, as Huff goes away this afternoon. Ione took us down the town again, & after tea we took Miss Lewis up to Dibgate. Then I changed ribbon[s] on my hats & Muz wrote letters, & then she, Heppie & I went down to Pat’s room, till dinner. Afterwards we wrote letters, & went to bed at about 12. Ione was out all evening with Mrs Hemming & Mr Ectors.
Letter from Leila de Lisle, Quar Wood, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, to Mrs Armstrong
My dear Rosalie,
I am so glad to hear from Beau today that you & he did meet on Thursday at Folkestone. He was so pleased to see you. I am here for a week (till 25) with my mother, helping her with a G.F.S.3 sale of work tomorrow, & with everyone’s households short handed it is very strenuous! But I hope it will all go off well. I wonder if there is any chance of seeing you in London – do let me ken if you are likely to be up but I ken you will be still working hard & are so plucky & brave. Tell me about Pat’s fiancée have you seen her? Poor girl! You have been in the midst of raids [?] & I wonder if you saw anything of the last one! I do think of you so often, when I get no letters & know what the blank must be for you dear.
Best love yr affe[ctionate]ly
Is Ione home again?
Wednesday 20 June
I sorted some of my things to pack, Muz sorted too & wrote letters. She & Heppie worked in the garden for a bit. Then I packed after dinner, & we did a lot of tidying etc. Ione went off with Mrs Hemming & Mr Ectors in the car, & we waited up for ages for them. Then I went to bed, & Muz & Heppie waited up till about 4 A.M. but she didn’t get back till after seven, as they had broken down on the road, so couldn’t get back, till another car came.
Letter from Irene Wills, The Grange, Barrowby, Grantham, to Mrs Armstrong
Many thanks for your letter. I’m sorry Bee saw the raid and I didn’t, it should have been just the other way on. How very sweet of Baie to suggest my staying with her, perhaps I might later if I had a few odd days to fit in. I am so glad you saw General de Lisle, and only wish I had been there too to hear him speak about Pat, it really is wonderful how everyone from quite elderly men to young boys all worshipped our wonderful Pat. How awfully nice of General Jelf to send the drawing, but then everyone has been so kind. I am glad Percy is to have Geisha, and Standen too, it couldn’t be nicer, could it? It’s bound to get harder, I think, as it goes on, one recovers a bit from being dazed and has moments of realising quite clearly, and then it’s awful. The only thing is I can usually store up everything during the day, and when the night comes sometimes I can let it all go and go to sleep exhausted but less suppressed and sometimes I only lie and think and ache. It is awful to see husbands and wives together and babies, quite little things are the ones that hurt so, aren’t they. I get help from Gil and Queen they are both dear understanding souls and I love them. There, darling, why should I write you yards of my feelings, but you asked me to tell you. Much love Motherbird darling to you and the sisters.
Ever your little fourth daughter
Thursday 21 June
We were to have started today, but Ione would have been so tired, & hadn’t got her packing done. She stayed in bed in the morning, & then went down the town. Muz wrote letters. I did some tidying. Ione went with Mrs Hemming & Mr Ectors in the car. After tea Muz & I went out & worked in the garden, & got a lot done. Half of the potatoes are done, & the other half, we pulled out all the coalsfoot [sic, coltsfoot] & thistles, & didn’t get done till after nine, Muz was very tired. We did more tidying, & went to bed at about 11-30.
Letter from Colonel Eusty Maude, Antrim, to Mrs Armstrong
My dearest Rosie.
I have been on the point of writing to you several times since I got your sad but true little letter, but I have given it up every time as I didn’t seem to have anything to say to bring you any comfort or help & nothing else seemed much good. I was wrong though I think perhaps, as a letter of any kind shows sympathy & sympathy from those you love must help a little. Why should such things happen? God knows, but it has always seemed necessary that the best of the nation should be sacrificed in order that the rest of it may be saved – It has always been so, the most perfect man who ever lived was sacrificed in the prime of life, Jesus, when the ordinary person would think that it would have been of much more use to the world if he had lived. And so on through all the ages to this dreadful time.
I think it must be some comfort to you Rosie dear even now to think what a fine man he was & how keen & how cheerfully he did his duty. Think if he had been otherwise, if he had shirked & stayed at home or gone reluctantly. Given the choice of the two I don’t think you would change even now. Some people feel their loved ones who have passed are always near them. I don’t think I should feel like that but I thought you might, it is a great faith & must be a great comfort & I believe they are right though my faith isn’t strong enough I don’t think – yet. I wish I could see you, you would be able to talk to me I think. Don’t write until you feel inclined. I know exactly what you mean. You are quite right to work away it is the best thing but don’t overdo it remember you have got to think of Jess & the others. I am more or less tied up with lumbago but it is better.
God bless & comfort you Rosie dear.
Friday 22 June
We left by the 9-20 train, & had rather a rush, so as to shut up the house, & Elizabeth4 had to get her things out too. Dusky was allowed on the train the whole way. Bee met us at the station. We got rather a fright that Dus: wouldn’t be allowed to come over to Ireland, so we went to Cox & they sent us to the Board of Agriculture, & it was alright. At Cox, we asked about “Wipers” & they are going to get her & the three pups over, as soon as they can. Ione, Heppie & Tom had lunch with Bee, & Heppie went off to shop, & Muz & I met the others, & they went off to see Kicks in Hospital, then had tea with T. at the Berkeley, & then shopped. I got buns, & then wrote letters in the Charing X Hotel & Bee came back at about five, & we had tea, & then I helped her to pack, & Jim came back. Bee goes to stay with Miss Simpson tonight. The others came back & met me at the Hotel & we went over to Euston, & met Heppie there. Jim is coming over with us too. We had a carriage to ourselves. We smuggled Dus: into the cabin, & she was awfully good. Ione & Tom were sick, but it was quite smooth.
Saturday 23 June
The boat got in at about six. Jim went off from Amien Street. He hadn’t travelled with us, only come in to see us. We got to Thurles at about ten. Poppy was there to meet us, & we all came out in the car. We had a puncture on the way, but didn’t take long doing it. Ione went to bed, when we had had breakfast, as she was feeling sick. We unpacked & Muz wrote letters. We had lunch at one, & then I lay down for a bit. Tom & Heppie lay down too, & they had tea up. After tea Muz, Poppy, Tom & I went up to the yard, & then out to see the bullocks. Poppy is going to give us each one, it will be great fun, & they are all to be different colours. After dinner Muz went up & creepied [?] Ione’s head, & I put away my things. Then we went straight to bed, about ten.
Sunday 24 June
We went out to see the bullocks, & we chose our own. I chose the white one, Ione the black, & Tom the red & white. We are going to call them “Red, White & Blue”. We went for a walk round the walks, & down by the glasshouse. There is a man, Bryan, living in Hogan’s house, & the new walk there is awfully nice. We wrote letters in the morning. I lay down for a bit before tea, as I was rather sleepy & cold, Muz wrote letters. Muz & I had a bath after dinner, & went to bed at about ten.
My dear Mrs Armstrong.
I was glad to get your two letters and to read the interesting enclosure in the last. It was brave of you to get our first meeting over & in future we shall not be afraid of each other. This may be expressing it crudely but you will know what I mean. Tomorrow we commence to leave this peaceful area & we rejoin the corps we belonged to last winter, much to everyone’s satisfaction. It has been very pleasant here and I think we are all sorry to leave it: Hardress Lloyd came to lunch yesterday but I missed him as I was lunching with one of the Battalions prior to their sports. The Boche [sic] is now getting very anxious & this is seriously affecting his morale. If our next big offensive is a success we may expect to gain the fruits of this year’s operations. Up to date we have gained a little ground, a few prisoners, & a few guns. These do not affect the result; but another success may, if successful, produce a further withdrawal on a big scale, and this will be of considerable strategical advantage. The Boche hopes to maintain his present defensive position, and will strive to the utmost to remain where he is. The next will therefore be the great test: If forced to evacuate Lille he will be defeated for the first time since the Marne in 1914. All good wishes.
Beau de Lisle.
I shall simply adore having the precious Boy’s watch, and will be sure and let you know when it arrives, it shall be quite safe registered. Queen and I were nurse and nursery maid this afternoon while Nannie went into Grantham. I pushed the pram and Queen walked beside it and entertained Anthony. Last night I went to the kitchen for Tommy’s cocoa last thing, and all the washing was airing, I know what you mean by feeling sick with pain, darling, I did then when I saw Anthony’s little garments there, and it was awful. Darling, I doubt if you ever knew what I felt about that, I would have gladly given my soul or anything for a child, mine and Pat’s, think of it, or rather don’t. It only adds needlessly to the heart-break. I have started to learn Braille, so as to be able to translate ordinary printed books into that raised type the blind use. Poor dears they never have enough books, and it’s a wonderful thing for them to be able to read to themselves. It is very interesting but quite fairly difficult. Queen has asked Peter up here later on, isn’t it sweet of her? Some people have come over for tennis, and one of them is a girl who works at Thurloe Place. Queen and I discussed if it was better for me to see people or keep away, and came to the conclusion that as I shall have to one day I had better begin, so I do, but of course it’s an effort isn’t it? To talk to strangers and laugh when you ache to run away and scream or just sit quiet and think. Darling, I know it’s cowardly to talk like this, please forget it. Very much love to you all.
Ever your loving wee girl
- Captain Armstrong suffered an attack of appendicitis in June 1917⇑
- Arras ⇑
- Girls’ Friendly Society, founded in London in 1875 by Irishwoman Elizabeth Townsend to provide support and skills training for girls who came from the country to work in the city ⇑
- A domestic servant in the Armstrong household ⇑