“I wish you could dream the end was near”

“I wish you could dream the end was near”

Read full letter here. Full transcription below.

Nov 19 Hd Qrs I Cav Div British Expeditionary Force

My dear wee Mus,

I didn’t write to you yesterday so just scribbled you a post card this morning. I have just got in & had a good wash & changed into dry clothes & got two grand long letters from you of the 13 & 14, enclosing Blanchie’s letters. Awfully nice letters aren’t they. I think the last one I sent you was the nicest of all. No I never got a letter saying she had asked for a photo of me. In one letter you said which photo shall I send her or something like that & it rather puzzled me. Send her the one in uniform. It is awfully nice of her wanting it. Do you think she likes me? I wonder! I wrote her pages the other day telling her all the news. I do wish Frankie wasn’t out here. It’s not his job. Maurice is a regular soldier & of course he’s got to be out but it must be dreadful for them having both boys out. Frankie I think is standing it the best of the two. Whenever I see them or get news of them I always let the Duchess know as quickly as possible as it’s more difficult for them to write than it is for me, & I don’t think either of them are very good at letter writing. I’m very fond of B. so it’s no trouble to write & I like having good news for her. I don’t think I have told you much news since the 16th so I’ll tell you all my doings since then.

16. We had a late breakfast. The 9th were in a farm next to our chateau & several of them came in & had a wash & cleaned up. They’d had a pretty hard time in the trenches. The weather had been rather bitterly cold & raining. There was a lot of water in the trenches, so they had a pretty rotten time. They were very glad to have a good wash & clean up. About 11 o’c I went out for a ride it was lovely & sunny so I managed to take a few photos. It came on to rain hard about 12 o’c so I got rather wet. I got in again about 1 o’c & had lunch. Then the Gen, Hardress & I rode out & took the gun & looked for partridges in the roots. They were awfully wild but after a bit of manoeuvring Hardress got a brace. We came in about 4 o’c. Oh! Yes I wrote to you that night. A goodish scribe if I remember right.

Nov 17. There had been a good deal of shelling in the night, shells still kept coming close to us but nothing near enough to do any damage. We heard that we were coming back here & that the Cavalry were to be pulled out & put into Reserve for a bit. Poor devils they deserve it. They’ve had an awful hard time. The I Bde came back that night the II Bde is still up there but comes back to-morrow. Poor little “Pic” Annesley was killed that night by a sniper, the only man in the Squadron hit. Rotten isn’t it. I hear now that the Col is dead but whether it’s true or not I can’t say. I’m awfully afraid it is. That’s 5 we’ve had killed if the Col is dead. Willie Cadogan , Pic, Rose & Turnor. Shearman I hear has been wounded. So now we have Shearman, Clem, Mark Fielden & Billy Palmes wounded. Dreadful casualties isn’t it. That night we came back here & got in about 7 o’c. We had a baddish ride. The whole road was blocked with French transport & the sides of the road was about a foot of mud. Dreadful it was. It is awfully nice to be back here. I like this house, it’s more like an English house than anything we’ve struck yet. It’ great luxury living in a house like this.

18. I went for a ride with the Gen & Home. I saw Tommy Pitman who is quite alright again. He came & dined with us last night & was in great heart. I rode into the town I sent you a photo (p.c) of it’s about 2 miles off. Good idea that wasn’t it. I heard that the Russians would be held up a bit near Thom. But it’s a big fortress & it’s only natural that they couldn’t walk through it. I do hope they’re doing well further south as so much depends on it. I’d give everything for this d—d show to be over. It’s dreadful losing all one’s friends like this. In the afternoon I went off to try & find the 3rd Bde & see Brock. The Gen & Hardress went off to shoot. I met him in — & rode back with him it’s about 6 miles outside the town. He’s going back to the Regt. I do wish he wouldn’t but it’s no good trying to persuade him. He’s decided to go & go he will. I saw J. V. he’s been a bit seedy with a cold. But he was quite cheery. I got back here about 7 o’c & got two letters from you, dated Oct 30 & Nov 11th. Splendid you are about writing. I seem to get a letter from you every day. (They came night before. Last night’s letter was Nov 12.) Such crowds I get them all mixed up. I’ll answer them all now as I have plenty of time. The only thing is it’s rather cold up here. But I’ll go on till I’m cold & then go downstairs to a fire. I can’t write when there’s a crowd about, they annoy me & distract my attention. Yesterday was a lovely day. It froze in the night & then we had bright sunshine pretty well all day. Glorious it was.

Nov 19. It froze hard last night & was very dark & cold this morning. The Gen & I went for a ride & rode down to B— where we had a couple of cars to meet us. Sent our horses back & went off to a wood about 8 miles off. Horne & the Gen went in one car & Romer Baggallay Allenby’s A.D.C. took me in his. It started to snow on the way & then turned to rain & was awfully cold. We had quite fun & beat about in the woods. We had about 8 beaters. But there were very few pheasants. The Gen got a pheasant, a rabbit & a hare which was the total bag. I had a shot at a pheasant a long way off but it sailed away merrily. It started to snow hard about 2 o’c. So about 2.30 we went back to the farm & had some sandwiches & then came back. By then it was snowing hard & the ground is all white now a good bit of snow on the ground. Dreadful for the poor devils in the trenches isn’t it. It’s dreadfully cold. I’ve got a British warm on & still I’m quite cold up here.

Mouse has just come in & says that we will have to move from here in a day or two as this area has been given to the II Corps. A bore isn’t it. But better news still. He says that there is a rumour that officers are going to be given 4 days leave & be allowed to go home. I’m afraid it’s too good to be true so don’t bank on it. If it is true I ought to be able to get away without any difficulty. I’ll get a wire through to you if I can manage it & will come straight to Folkestone. If I get home I must see Blanchie somehow. Do you think she would be let come & stay. If not we could motor there one day. Wouldn’t it be lovely seeing you all again but I’m afraid it’s like our promised rest which has been going since Sept & hasn’t come off yet. I mustn’t think much about it. But don’t be surprised if I hop up suddenly one day. It makes me quite excited to think about. I heard a fortnight yesterday but of course that is quite impossible. However, how I wish this show was all over & that we were all coming home. Mus dear, I wish you could dream the end was near. I hope Italy comes in now, it would help things well. Russia is pretty busy now with Germany, Austria & Turkey to deal with. Italy could do a lot of good work & has about a million or so men, who could nibble at somebody & make herself unpleasant. How absurd Dicky whoever she is saying she is going into the trenches. It’s bad enough for the men but would kill a woman. You’ve only got to see some of the 1st Corps & you’d realise what the trenches are. Hell on earth. They look more like animals than anything else. Old, haggard, gaunt, & dirty with weeks & weeks of beard. The only redeeming feature is that they have had tons of food. The A.S.C. really has been wonderful & had done its job in the most marvellous way. But the idea of any woman going into trenches is perfectly absurd & you can tell the good lady so from me. It’s not about them making some places targets for their guns. The Germans are d—d good. They shell towns so as troops can’t billet in them. They aim at churches etc. as they are good targets to lay on & may be used for observation posts. It seems an awful shame to break up lovely old places like Ypres but just look at the inconvenience it causes. If they hadn’t shelled Ypres we could have billeted a Corps comfortably in it. Had Hd Qrs & everything there. Now there isn’t a soul in it. Of course it seems dreadful to break a place like that up. But they make war well & know how to make the best use of their guns. You’d only have to try & get through Ypres & you’d realise that. Now all transport has to go round & it means a lot longer journeys. You see all the roads converge into Ypres & only small roads connect the big conveying roads, consequently all the small roads are blocked with transport etc. I’ll send you a map of this part of the world so as you can see for yourself the lie of the country.

Tom Bridges was in 4th D.G’s. He’s one of the biggest men I’ve met for a very long time. As cool as a cucumber. One day when he was looking through his glasses at some Germans a shell pitched quite close to him & he never even put down his glasses, just went on as if nothing had happened. I got such a nice letter from Mr Parry to night. I’ll answer it & send it to you, but it’s too cold up here to write to him now. You are doing far too much with those old refugees. That was some place for you on that boat. Do take care of yourself we Mus & don’t work too hard. Let Emmie have a photo if she wants it. It may amuse them to put it in. What ever you do don’t let them write a lot of rot about me. It was simply like an old Col of the 10th Hussars said when he refused to mention anybody in particular for gallantry “No 10th Hussar can exceed his duty”. All I did was what I was told to do. It was certainly unpleasant but was my duty. If they want a photo let them have it but make them promise no high flown language or a biography or any nonsense like that. That sort of rot does one more harm than good. Films arrived to-night. Ever so many thanks for them. I’ll send you 2 new rolls to have developed as soon as I am energetic enough to pack them up. Probably to-morrow morning. Too cold now. Will you thank wee Jess for her letter which I got last night. Tell her I’ll write soon but have told you all my news. She can read this which ought to keep her busy for a bit. I’m so cold I think I’ll stop & go down & get warm. Best love to you all dear wee Mus.

Your loving Pat

P.S. This block is nearly finished. I still have about half of the other one left.

Nov 20 P.S. Have just heard that Bob Drake in the Rgt has been killed. Buz Porter is wounded again in the leg. Baddish I hear.

Description: Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong.
Date: 19 November 1914
Source: Armstrong Collection
Identifier: P6/1209 (38)