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Monday 22 to Sunday 28 October 1917

WEEK 174: OUT OF THE GULF OF EMPTINESS

Monday 22 to Sunday 28 October 1917

The last week of October 1917 was an eventful one. On the Western Front, the successful French offensive known as the Battle of Malmaison, fought against Germany on 23-27 October, resulted in the capture the strategically important Chemin des Dames Ridge and heralded the end of the Third Battle of Ypres in early November. The first American soldiers entered combat in the Allied trenches near Nancy although their participation was to remain small in scale until 1918. In Ireland, Éamon de Valera was elected President of Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteers on 25 October which put him on the path to becoming the most significant political figure in 20th-century Ireland. Meanwhile in Folkestone, Ione Armstrong returned to work at Waverley Abbey hospital as a volunteer. Jess and Mrs Armstrong accompanied her to help her settle in and availed of the opportunity to visit Abbot’s Hill, the new school acquired by Mrs Armstrong’s cousins Alice and Katrine Baird in 1916.

Monday 22 October

jess__diary_cameoGave out things1 etc, & did some tidying. Mr Hamilton came for lunch, so I got things ready for him, & Flora Steele came too & then told fortunes afterwards. Then I did some packing, & tidied things. Mr H. came for tea. Then Muz & I pretended to go the club, & Ione & Mr H. had toast & roast potatoes in the dining room! Muz & I had ours in the Kitchen! Then I did papers while we were waiting for the siren, but it didn’t come. Then Noel Wyndham came round, & we all went up to the Grand to hear speeches,2 & got back at about 10-30.

Speeches at the Grand

Tuesday 23 October

jess__diary_cameoWe were up pretty early, & got things tidied away etc, & then left by the nine train. E.3 is going to rooms. We went straight to Fleming’s Hotel, in Half Moon Street, & left Dus: & the luggage, & then went off to shop. We came back late, to meet Cosie4, & we unpacked Ione’s things etc: & then Cosie came in & we went down & talked to her. She is going to look after Ione.

Letter from Lady Margaret Proby, Elton Hall, Peterborough, to Mrs Armstrong

Dearest Rosie.

Lady Margaret Proby

Your letter has been unanswered far too long: – It is not that I have not thought of you, & of the loneliness & longing for your Pat – But I brought my poor Mary home here at the very beginning of the month – and it is not easy to sit down & write as I wished to do to you. When the business letters are done: – she is brave – but I find it difficult sometimes to lift her out of the gulf of emptiness: you do not perhaps know that her 2nd boy Robert – who was such a constant anxiety died just a month ago as she was starting homewards5 : his death was in a way a relief, because she had long felt it impossible to look for redemption in this life – but you can guess how her thoughts go back to the days of his childhood – when all was innocence & hope & promise. As for Joscee – she has just the feeling you have about Pat – that she is close to her & they can feel with each other as in the past – Dear Rosie, what a gift you have had not so much in having a son at all – but in having such an [sic] one as Pat was: so completely yours, and so good & brave & tender: even in the manner of his death with all your grief you could not wish it otherwise: it adds to your peace – but how much better than the passing away of one less worthy. I think you are so wise to go on living amongst his things & in the thought of his presence: we cannot pierce the dark which separates us from his present state: but we cannot err in thinking he shares all still: and that our remembrance reaches him where he lives – “On Christ’s other side”, dear Boy:

– I was glad you saw my little grandchildren & Dick & Monica: Dick has some work now under the Board of Agriculture till he is strong enough to go out again. And the children are here indefinitely – Betty is nursing about 30 miles away – & gets a couple of days off in the month. Jocelyn at Eton: Granville with his regiment in billets in France – near to but not in the firing line – I fear I shall have to go away to some Baths for I am very rheumatic: and must try to get right before the winter. Your account of Moyaliffe is beautiful: & Rebble tells me they all want you to come to settle in Ireland: what do you feel about it dear? It must all be so difficult & painful for you – and yet this great sorrow surely it has done something to soften [?] Mark as well as to you poor heart? You do not mention Jessie or Ione – but I hope they are with you, so that you can speak together of Maurice and help each other. The grief you have – even his sisters cannot understand – but their love must be the only humble [?] support possible. And you know “the fellowship of our Lord’s sufferings” as never before. I would like to see you here in the coming months: it must be when I get back from these Baths: – let me hear your movements: and the children – it must all be so weary & purposeless – your thoughts of the war – & the end of it – “You have not spared your own son” deep – God help and bless you: I think of you often.

Yr loving

Maggy P.

Wednesday 24 October

jess__diary_cameoWe got up rather late, so had a bit of a rush, as Ione had to be at the Hospital6 at ten – 17 Park Lane – She works from ten till 12-30. We took her round there, & Cosie too, & we saw where she was going to work etc: then we went off & shopped, & met Ione again, & then shopped again, we met Mrs Kirwan as we were going out, & Ione stayed to talk to Mr Hamilton, & Muz took Mrs K. to the occulist [sic], & I talked to Susie Anderson. It rained a bit. We caught the 4 train down to Abbots Hill.7 Muz met a man in 29th Div: at the station, & he said awfully nice things about Pat, without knowing who Muz was. Muz & I are sleeping in the Sanatorium, Nitter came over with us. We went into Kathleen’s room to say good-night. Nitter came over with us, & we went to bed at about 10-30.

Abbot’s Hill

Thursday 25 October

jess__diary_cameoMuz & I had breakfast in bed & then came over & wrote letters etc: We walked about with Kathleen & Sheila for a bit. In the afternoon we went & watched Miss Price’s dancing classes, & they went on till late, after supper we had K. & S. up to the drawing room & talked. In the morning Muz & I went for a walk. We went to K’s room, to say good-night.

Friday 26 October

jess__diary_cameoWe had breakfast in bed, & then came over, & wrote letters, & crocheted. Then Major & Mrs Maude came for lunch, he is Nitter’s uncle, & has been out in Serbia. We took them round the garden & house. After they went, Muz & I took Kathleen & Sheila for a walk, & got them sweets. After tea I worked for a bit, then Muz, Nitter, Mary & I went for a walk. After dinner I worked, & then we went to Sheila’s room, & then went in to Kathleen’s for a minute. Nitter came over with us, & we had our bath, & went to bed at about eleven.

Saturday 27 October

jess__diary_cameoMuz & I had breakfast in bed, then I worked & then we wrote letters. In the afternoon, we took Kathleen for a walk, Sheila was playing games. We got sweets. Then some other girl guides came here for tea, & afterwards played games, it was rather fun watching them. After supper we danced, then we went to see Kathleen & Sheila, & we went to bed at about eleven.

Abbot’s hill pupils

Sunday 28 October

jess__diary_cameoMuz & I had breakfast in bed. The others all went to church, & Muz & I went for a walk. Wrote letters afterwards, & then Muz & I went for another walk. All the girls came up to the drawing room after supper, & we all talked. Nitter came over & put us to bed.

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Footnotes

  1. The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone
  2. On 22 October 1917, the Canadian Club held a dinner at the Grand Hotel, Folkestone with Major-General Sir Newton James Moore (1870-1936) as the guest of honour. Moore had served as Premier of Western Australia from 1906 until 1910 and in 1915 was appointed General Officer Commanding Australian Imperial Forces in the United Kingdom which position he held until 1917
  3. Elizabeth, a domestic servant in the Armstrong household
  4. Possibly a nickname for Kathleen Kirwan who worked in the same hospital where Ione was starting as a volunteer
  5. Lady Mary had been in France to deal with the affairs of her only daughter who had died there on 30 June
  6. Waverley Abbey House in Farnham, Surrey, was the first country house to be converted into a military hospital during the First World War. Ione Armstrong had also worked in the hospital as a volunteer in May 1916
  7. A school founded in 1912 at Hemel Hempstead by Alice and Katrine Maclean Baird and of which Katrine acted as Principal

 
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