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Monday 15 to Sunday 21 July 1918


Monday 15 to Sunday 21 July 1918

On 15 July 1918, the Germans launched the fourth and final phase of their Spring Offensive code-named Gneisenau, now known as the Second Battle of the Marne. Their plan was to split the French forces by attacking Flanders while first creating a large diversionary offensive along the river Marne. In spite of some initial success the Germans failed to break through, and on 18 July the Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch authorised a counter-offensive by French and American divisions. The Western Front was not the only place in turmoil during the third week of July 1918. In Russia, Czar Nikolai II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks in the early hours of 17 July. Two days later, the British Royal Navy and Royal Air Force attacked the German Navy’s airship base at Tønder, Denmark. Seven Sopwith Camels took off from the flight deck of the HMS Furious in the early hours of the morning and bombed the airship sheds in two waves of attacks, destroying two zeppelins and injuring four men. It was the first bombing raid in history to be launched from an aircraft carrier. Another historic first took place on 21 July, when the German submarine U-156 opened fire on the American town on Orleans in Massachusetts. Some of the shells struck and sank a tugboat but the rest fell harmlessly on surrounding swampy ground and the nearby beach. It was the only time during the First World War that the United States experienced enemy fire.

Monday 15 July

jess__diary_cameoHuff went away by the early train, & we waved to him when he went past. Sorted things to pack, & did some mending. Muz came up & packed the things. After lunch Tom & I went for a wee bike ride, & ten Muz & I went for a walk, up to the mill house & then let the dogs hunt. After tea Muz wrote letters, & I lay down till dinner time, & Ione rode her bike to Tedbury. It rained nearly all afternoon. I helped Mrs Reynolds to cut out a jumper, & helped her to sew a bit of it.

Tuesday 16 July

jess__diary_cameoMuz & I were up at about six, & Baker took us in to the train. We travelled with a girl who had been at St James’s.1 We got in at about twelve, & went straight to Pierrette2 & then to Charmon,3 & then shopped till about six, & then went to see the Probys, & Betty & Granville were there too, & Jocelyn was in bed with flu. Then we went back, & went to bed at about ten. We are staying at the Charing Cross Hotel.

The Russian Imperial Family

Wednesday 17 July

jess__diary_cameoMuz & I shopped all morning, & then met Ione at Charmons at four. She came up this morning, but had to settle about her shoes etc before meeting us. Then she did more of her shopping & then went back to the hotel to meet Mr Hamilton. I’ve finished settling about all her dresses today. We went to bed at about ten.

cameo_geeLetter from Captain Robert Gee, Lamcote Hosp, Radcliffe-on-Trent, to Mrs Armstrong

My Dear Mrs Armstrong.

“I had a tremendous ovation”

At last I am really writing to you but first of all I do hope you got the photo safe, if it is crushed in any way let me know & you shall have another. I intended writing you a long a/c of our doings at Leicester but have decided not to say anything about the presentation to myself as I will send you the paper when it comes out.4 I must however tell you of the best thing of the whole lot, the very last part of the ceremony was grand, the Mayor5 presented Mrs Gee with a gold & platinum brooch, it had a lovely diamond in the centre, wasn’t it thoughtful of them.

Now I must tell you of a grand time I had on Friday night I know you will enjoy it because I know Pat did. I was the principal speaker at a mass meeting6 – several thousand – on France’s day & I got angry because a couple of hundred or so in the audience refused to salute the French flag, I really don’t know what I said but I do know I was out to lash them & I did it too & having started I kept it up for the whole forty minutes & rubbed it in pretty thick about the high wages earned in comfort & the small amount put into the war loan. I had a tremendous ovation when I finished & so I know the majority were with me & the Mayor was delighted for he said no public man living in Leicester dare talk to them as I did, but I am sending you a paper by this post.

I am so glad to know Jess is better please give her my love & I am determined to run down & see you before I return to duty. I shall ask for a Special Board on 1st August & think I can get home service for a few months before going out to France again.

Do you think Lady de Lisle would like a photo if you think she would please send me her address & I will forward one. Mrs G has been for a week & the girls7 arrive tomorrow so I am looking forward to a really nice time with them. I was pleased to know Wipers was with you what memories her name conjures up. I have been doing quite a lot of talking to the boys of various grammar schools & I love to tell them of Pat they know him as “The whitest man I ever met”. I am really much better & feel that I ought to be away from this place but shall stay until the end of July, my board is really not until 20th August. I forgot to tell you I have earned 30/- as a farm hand 5/- a day of 7 hours so I am really trying to get fit again. How is Tomy [sic] & Ione we have two of her boys [sic] friends in this Hosp[ital] ie George Fillingham & Blew-Jones both of the Life Guards.

Yrs affectionately

Robt Gee

Thursday 18 July

jess__diary_cameoWe had breakfast in bed, & then we all went out to shop, & went to Pierrette, & then helped Ione to do her shopping. After lunch I was “Jimmying”8 so I went back to the hotel, & went to bed, as I had a nasty tummy ache. Muz & Ione shopped all afternoon, & didn’t get in till after eight. A wire came from Heppie to say that she must go home as soon as we get back, as her mother is very ill, so I put my skirt etc over my nightie, & went out to wire, that we were coming tomorrow. Talked to Mr Hamilton in the hall for a bit till Ione came in. While they were having dinner, Muz talked to a soldier, & told him if he went out to France again, he wouldn’t come back, & he needn’t go as he is in the Y.M.C.A. The raid Siren went at about six & all clear at about eleven, but I didn’t hear either, but Muz did. The firing was very faint as they only got to the coast. Muz packed, & we went to bed at about eleven.

Friday 19 July

jess__diary_cameoMuz & Ione went out to shop early, & I stayed in bed for a bit, & then met them at Charmons, & we tried on the dresses. We left it rather late, to catch the train, & it was raining hard, so we couldn’t get a taxi, so Muz & Ione went off to shop again, & I went back to the hotel in a bus, & looked at papers etc, & then took the luggage to Paddington, & waited there for the others, & we went by the five train. The train was awfully crowded, & people standing in the first class carriages! Tom & Heppie came in to meet us with Baker. We went to bed at about eleven. Dus was out when we got back, & was awfully pleased to see me. All the black caterpillars have turned & six of them come out, they are peacocks. Huff sent us two lovely moth books & a butterfly mat.

The Tøndern Raid

Saturday 20 July

jess__diary_cameoI stayed in bed late. Muz wrote letters, & Heppie worked at the mat. Tom wrote letters, & Ione stayed in bed till lunch time. After tea Heppie got a wire to say it was only a temporary improvement with her mother, so she left by the eight train, & Tom rode up to Bakers to order the trap. Muz cut sandwiches, & I got up & helped her to pack. Afterwards Muz & I took the dogs for a walk, & let them hunt.

The Second Battle of the Marne


  1. St James’s was an all girls’ boarding school founded by Mrs Armstrong’s cousins Alice and Katrine Baird in 1896; it was moved to the large mansion of Lady Howard de Walden in West Malvern in 1902. Ione Armstrong had been a pupil at St James’s
  2. Pierrette Modes Ltd., 120 New Bond Street, London
  3. Court Dressmaker Miss Nesta Charmon of 4 Manchester Street, London W; court dressmakers specialised in supplying presentation gowns, coronation robes, court dresses and bridal trousseaux
  4. The town of Leicester gave a public reception to Captain Robert Gee on 11 July 1918 to honour his Victoria Cross, during which the Mayor presented him with a gold watch and chain and his wife with a gold brooch.
  5. Alderman Jonathan North (1855-1939), Lord Mayor of Leicester during the war years; he was knighted King George V in 1919 for his outstanding service during the First World War
  6. This meeting was called to honour the French National Day of 14 July, also known as Bastille Day
  7. Captain Gee’s daughter’s Edith Tan-Y-Castell Gee and Amy Tan-Y-Castell Gee
  8. Menstruating

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