On 7 July 1917, Mrs Armstrong’s friend Leila de Lisle was visiting London when twenty-two Gotha planes appeared in the bright and sunny sky like a graceful flock of birds. Crowds gathered into the streets to watch their progress in admiration, mistaking them for British planes until they opened fire. The raid devastated the East End and the City, leaving 57 dead and 193 injured. This was the second daytime attack on London and the apparent ease with which the city could be attacked enraged the population. The raid was a major cause of embarrassment for the authorities who had underestimated the risk of such attacks and failed to invest in proper warning systems and adequate defences. Meanwhile in East Africa, Captain Courtney Brocklehurst suffered his own personal tragedy when news of Pat’s death finally reached him in the shape of a letter from Ione Armstrong.
Monday 2 July
Muz, Tom & I went down to the meadow, & sat there, & later Poppy came down. After lunch Heppie & Tom went in to Thurles in the pony trap. Muz & I went for a walk. After tea we ate strawberries. Poppy went out to shoot after dinner, & we went to bed at about 10-30.
I am so glad you have all gone to Ireland for a bit, tho’ it is a great disappointment for me not to see you just now. However I am sure it will do you all good to be where so many of your neighbours, & especially the poor people about the place, will be warming your hearts with their love & sympathy. For I am sure they all loved your boy with that warm affection & admiration which Irish people have, and know how to show so much better (in a way) than English people. The sympathy of the poor is the most touching & precious thing possible; don’t you think so? I have found it so. How very kind & thoughtful of you to offer us the use of Clodagh! I am only so sorry we cannot make use of so generous an offer. My wife is bound to stay on here for her treatment till near the end of July. And I am going probably to S. Devon on the 10th for a week or so to some cousins at Salcombe. We have disquieting reports of my dear mother, who is at St. Ann’s, near Blarney. She has for some months been having bad heart attacks, & as she is 89 it makes us anxious. I may have to go over to her any time at a moment’s notice. Fortunately two of my sisters & my eldest brother are within a few hours’ call of her. Your very touching & beautiful letter came on Saturday. What wonderful compensations God gives us even in the heaviest sorrows! It is an inexpressible comfort for you all to have such a beautiful & stainless life to treasure in your memories. And it is a great joy to you to know of the good influence your boy shed all round him, as well as of the love & devotion his fine, generous, happy nature inspired in every one. Can we doubt for a moment that he & others like him are the centres of love & influence now, where their characters are unfolding free from the fetters of mortal imperfections, which hamper the best of us here? And all thro’ the abounding grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please give my love to Jess & your other daughters. I do feel for them so.
Ever, dear Mrs Armstrong
Very sincerely yours
John T. Penrose.
My wife sends her best love & thanks for your letter.
Tuesday 3 July
They were cutting the grass in front of the house, & the other side of the river. Muz & I went out there for a bit, & then picked a lot of flowers, & settled them in the drawing room. After lunch Muz & Tom went for a drive in the pony trap, round Patsy Ryan’s. I cut out a “half-evening” dress, & worked at it all afternoon & nearly got it finished, as I had the machine. Heppie worked, too. After dinner we sat in the smoking room for a bit, as it was raining, then Poppy went out to shoot, & Muz & I had a bath, & went to bed at about 10-30.
Wednesday 4 July
Tom & Poppy went out, & then we all went & ate strawberries. Muz & Tom went in to Thurles in the pony trap. I walked about with Poppy, & we went up to the hay, & walked about till they came back. After tea we ate strawberries. Read for a bit after dinner, & then we went to bed at about ten.
Up to the hay!
Thursday 5 July
Poppy went in to Thurles to meet Ione & Cecil Willis. When they had had breakfast we went & ate strawberries. After lunch Ione, Tom & Cecil lay out on the rug, & Muz & I walked about, & after tea they sat out again, & Muz wrote letters & I read. After dinner Ione, Tom & Cecil went down the woods, & Muz & I read, & went to bed at about 11-30.
I arrived out here yesterday, when I got your letter, I cannot realize it yet, it came as such a terrible shock. I know what he meant to you all, and I can’t tell you how much I feel for you. He was my first real great friend and God alone knows what his loss means to me. I loved him, from the first week we met. I simply worshipped him, I loved him more than any man or woman in the world outside my own family. Do you know Kipling’s “one man in a thousand”?1 well he was my “one man”. His photograph is in my pocket now and though we have seen very little of each other lately, the memory of him has always been as fresh as ever and I can never forget in all my life how sweet and kind he was to me and how often he helped me in many a hard time. I always confided everything everything to him. I can’t write more at present, my heart is too full and I cannot realize it yet. I will write to you again. I am so so sorry for you all.
Yours ever Brock
Friday 6 July
Ione, Tom & Cecil played about, as it was raining, Muz wrote & I read. After lunch Ione, Tom & Cecil drove in to Thurles in the pony trap. Muz & I walked about. After tea we all ate strawberries, & after dinner the others went down the woods, & Muz & I read, & went to bed at about 11-30.
Saturday 7 July
Ione, Tom & Cecil went down to Morgan’s Hole, & Muz wrote letters, & after lunch the others went for a drive, & Muz & I went up to see the Herd’s wife, & when we were coming back, the Morgans arrived for tea, Muz, Mrs Morgan & I went up the woods, & the others ate strawberries. When the Morgans left, the others went up on the hill, & after dinner they played the gramophone, & Muz & I went to bed early. Muz & I settled the flowers in the drawing room.
Letter from Ada Peters, YMCA, BGPO1, BEF, July 7th 1917
Dear Mrs Armstrong
It is with the deepest sympathy for you & all your family, that I write to try & express how sorry I am to hear of the sad news of your great loss, which I only heard through Mother a short time ago. I hope to return to England about September for a holiday only, as it seems compulsory to have regular work, & I like the life really better here, & I am very well. We have a holiday once a week till 6 o’clock & last week I had my first bathe this year. The water was rather cool & it was cloudy, & the tide was going out, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. My companion was another Y.M.C.A. worker, & we had to walk to get warm & we then had lunch on the edge of a cliff not unlike the Warren.2 I am still living with a French family who look after me very well, where I hope to remain till I leave my present work. I still like it, but not during the heat, the weather has been simply perfect, & it does not last really hot for long, & there is always a shady side to the streets. Saturdays & Sundays are our busiest days & it will feel queer to have peaceful Sundays again! I must now finish, as if I want any tea I must be back by 3.30
Adieu, with sympathy from
Ada J. Peters
Sunday 8 July
We all motored down to Lough Derg & started at about 11, we brought lunch with us, & had it when we arrived, then Poppy stayed in, to air the house, & we all went out in the boat to fish, Cecil caught two fish. It was lovely out there, but it rained a bit, I had a good sleep before we came in! Then we went & had tea at the hotel, & had a lovely drive back & got back at about seven. After dinner we looked at maps & talked, & went to bed at about 11.
I am sending you a photograph of Pat’s grave. It’s quite good & I thought you might like to get it enlarged. If so write to the Kodak people in Oxford Street & tell them to enlarge it. They have the negative. It is one of Mr Boult’s in my regt. Mention his name & tell them he has given permission to use it. I have asked him about it. I was sending home a saddle of Pat’s but Capt Gee tells me you have lent it to him. It’s very hot here. I have not been able to find out anything more than I told you when I was at Folkestone. It was awfully nice of you to take the girl when I left. I’m sure it’s a good thing for her to be with people on these occasions. It prevents her weeping! She tells me she told you all about young Tom! We are both simply delighted.3 There is not much news here. The Bosch put a lot of gas shell into us last night otherwise things are fairly quiet. I only hope to goodness the war is going to finish this year & let us all get home. I can’t tell you how we all miss Pat in the division. He was always so cheery & always exactly the same, & it always did one good & one felt better for having met him, especially when you were fairly depressed. He seemed to buck you up & make you realize it was still possible to laugh. Tommy wrote to me but I have lost the letter so am sending this to Folkestone.
Letter from Leila de Lisle, Burnham Grove, Burnham, Buckinghamshire, to Mrs Armstrong
“Then I saw the shrapnel”
My dear Rosalie.
I got your letter today. Many thanks. I am only here for the weekend & came down yesterday, in the middle of the raid & had an awful time, as I got to Paddington in the middle of it & the noise of the guns was awful, & shrapnel fell on the Booking Office. I saw the Squadron as I drove across the park & they looked so graceful & I thought at first they were English – & then I saw the shrapnel bursting below them – It was an experience I am glad I have had – no special news of the Div: they are about a mile from where they were in Aug: Set: last year – near Ypres I think & at present in the line & very busy waiting – I gather – but am not told.4 I can’t realize that Pat is no longer there he is so much still one of them & in my mind always will be as I look on him now with my babies as guardian-angels to his friends there – & very dear then & as always – How long do you intend to be in Ireland? & have you given up your home in Folkestone? I go back to London tomorrow. Christian is now at Littlehampton.
Bless you your loving
Leila de L
Letter from Florence Adam, Philbeach Gardens Hotel, London SW, July 8 1917
Dear Mrs Armstrong
I feel I must write & tell you how very, very deeply I sympathise with you in your terrible loss – I know how your whole life was wrapped up in your darling boy, just as I am, in my son – and I can’t bear to think of what you are suffering now, & what the awful grief & blank must be – I think of him as I last saw him – that evening I spent with you, when we all sat round the fire, – he on the floor, leaning against your knee, so full of life, & happiness. – My heart went out to you & the boy, he seemed so like my own Norman – and I thought with you, that he had escaped so many dangers, he would surely come through safely – I do believe there is some happier world for all these splendid young lives that have been laid down. – it is we, who are left behind who suffer – Please don’t trouble to answer this, I only write to tell you how much I am thinking of you & grieving with you –
A chalk cliff feature in Folkestone characterised by grassy meadows with a sandy beach at its foot. A popular picnic area in the early 20th century, it is now a country park and one of Britain’s most important nature reserves ⇑
The Wilsons were expecting the birth of their first child ⇑
This is a nebulous reference to the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, which was to begin on the last day of July 1917.⇑