WEEK 22: WILD WITH GOOD CHEER AT BEING HOME AGAIN
Monday 23 to Sunday 29 November 1914
The last week in November 1914 was one of many happy reunions for the Armstrong family. Gordon Elton, regarded by the Armstrong sisters as a second brother, arrived from India to join the war on the Western Front and invited the family for a visit in Winchester. The exhausted men on General de Lisle’s staff were treated to short leave at home and Pat Armstrong returned to his family’s embrace for the first time since the start of the war, brimming with joy. Eager to share these precious days with his son, Captain Armstrong set off from Moyaliffe and joined the family on Sunday. Only one cloud darkened Pat’s bright horizon: his much-anticipated reunion with Blanche Somerset was not to be. In the meantime, the friendship between Jess Armstrong and Ned Penrose began to deepen.
Monday 23 November
Went down the town with Muz, & took the baby to be photographed, & then took her in, as it was very cold. Then went & did some shopping with Muz. After lunch Molly Muir came in & did some knitting. Then she & Ione went out, & came back for tea, I wrote to Poppy. We got a letter from Pat this morning dated Nov. 20th & a post card Nov. 19th, & tonight a letter dated Nov. 19th. He says he hears Col Barnes & Mr Drake in the Regt have been killed. Capt. Annesley has been killed too. Six dead & five wounded now, in the Regt.
Pat is coming on leave we aren’t to go to him comes next Sunday or Monday. Jess & I took her godchild to be photoed.
Saint Jans Cappel. Breakfast 9 o’c. Rode out to La Clytte about 10 o’c & saw the general. A shell pitched in the village just before we arrived. 5 more had pitched before that. Le Jeune & Steele were both badly wounded. Poor old lady lost her husband & daughter. Cold & dull
Nov 23. Hd Qrs I Cav Div Monday
My dear wee Mus,
I wrote you a long letter last night explaining to you all about this leave. But Mouse is going home to-morrow & will post this in England so you ought to get it Wednesday morning. In fact you’ll probably get both letters by the same post but I’ll tell you all about it in case the other one gets held up. We are all to have 72 hrs in England. Col Home, Hardress & Mouse go off to-morrow morning early. Cross in the morning & ought to be in London about 1 o’c. They go from Calais to Dover. I told you last night that they were going to Folkestone but that is changed now. They come back again on Friday. Then I hope to get away on Sunday. So unless anything unforeseen happens in the mean time you can expect on Sunday. Meet the boat at Dover on Sunday & if I’m not on that I ought to be on the Monday boat. I’ll try & wire to you if possible but there seems to be some doubt about being able to get wires off. I’d rather come on Monday if I can fix it as Sunday is such a bad day to arrive. Anyhow expect me on Sunday unless you hear to the contrary in the meantime. Meet the first boat in the morning from Calais.
Now about seeing Blanchie how can it be fixed. I wrote you a long letter all about it last night. I wonder if you could get her to come & stay. If you can’t put her up perhaps we could arrange to meet her in London on Monday & stay there that night. That would be great fun wouldn’t it. I want to get one or two things in London. I’ll stay at Folkestone the first night then we might go up to London for the 2nd night come down the next day stay Folkestone that night & then go back on Wednesday. I do wish it was to be a week but we are awfully lucky to get three days. Do settle something about B. Write to the Duchess & see what you can settle. I’m sure she’d come up to London for the day. It would be great fun if we could all arrange to stay in the same hotel. I’ll pay the bill as I’ve lots of money now. I’m getting £300 a year by now which is a good egg. That is just about double what I used to get at home. I only used to get £120 at home & even in India I used to get £240. Now I get £300. Splendid isn’t it.
Do you think that the Duchess would let B come up alone & stay with you in London? Anyhow I’ll leave it to you to settle the best plan you can. But whatever is settled must be settled quick. I shan’t believe it’s true till I am actually on the boat, as we’ve had so many disappointments in this war. So you mustn’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t come off. But in any case write & see what you can settle about Blanchie. I feel that unless things are settled carefully I won’t see her.
I haven’t done much to-day. Mouse & I rode out to La Clytte this morning & saw the General. Then we rode back here to lunch & walked into Bailleul this afternoon. The General got back about 6.30. The Div is to be relieved to-night. Then each Div is to be on duty for 48 hrs. The whole Corps is going to be rested but each Div is going to take its time in case it is needed to stop a gap. It was a little warmer to-day I think. It has been dull all day & looked like more snow but beyond a little very fine snow this morning nothing has happened. Home has just come in & says that it is thawing. I hope it does. I don’t like this cold at all.
I got a parcel of two vests & two drawers from Tyson this morning which the Boss ordered. He also sent me two thick vests for each of my men which will keep the life in them. Tyson sent me a scarf, with a little card “with Tyson’s compliments” on it. Nice of him wasn’t it. I’ll write to the Boss to-night & send it off by the post to-morrow & tell him I am coming. Then as soon as we know for certain that I’m really coming we can wire to him & he can come over to Folkestone. I think that’s the best plan don’t you. It’s no good telling him too long beforehand. Glorious to think that I may be with you all this day week. Dig out any plain clothes I’ve got. I’ve written to Welsh & Jefferies1 to ask them to lend me some evening clothes for the night I’m in London. You might write to them & ask them if they can fix me up. I sent it by the ordinary post which is much slower than this will be. Messrs Welsh-Jefferies Duke St., St. James finds them. It’s just dinner time & there is really no more news. Best love to you all dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Be sure you fix up something so as I can see B.!!
P.S. I hear that the Gen wants to go on Saturday so it’s just possible I may have to go that day. I’d rather leave here Sunday if I can fix it. Expect me Sunday unless you hear to the contrary.
Letter from Leila de Lisle to Mrs Armstrong.
Nov 23. 25 Elvaston Place, Queen’s Gate, S.W.
My dear Mrs Armstrong,
Thank you so much but I am not coming to Folkestone as my Gen never lets me to any station to see him off!! It is nice to have him here & I ken how happy you are also – I hear no end about “Pat” – & my Gen: is so fond of him & says he is invaluable (don’t repeat this!!) & so brave.
Yrs very sincerely Leila de Lisle.
Tuesday 24 November
Went down the town & did some shopping with Muz. Went in to see the baby. After lunch I did some sewing, then Molly Muir came round & went out with Ione, & Muz & I came down the town; we got the photographs of the baby, & I put one in a frame & gave it to the mother, she was awfully pleased. After tea did some knitting. Muz heard from Gordon to say that the telegraph office is so full, at Winchester that it takes five hours to get a telegram through. Got a letter from Pat dated 22nd & three more rolls. Went to bed at about ten.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong.
Nov 24. British Expeditionary Force.
My dear Sir,
Ever so many thanks for some underclothes which arrived yesterday from Tyson for myself & my men. It is awfully nice & just what I wanted & will keep me good & warm. The weather has been better this last week, it snowed about 4 days ago & has been pressing every night since. My servants felt the cold dreadfully & are awfully pleased with the vests, they say that they kept them grand & warm last night. We are all going to get 72 hrs leave in England. I hope to get away at the end of this week & shall probably arrive home either Saturday or Sunday. I can’t decide definitely yet but will wire to you as soon as I know for certain. I hope you will be able to come over to Folkestone & see me, as with only 72 hrs I wouldn’t have time to get over home. I think it’s most likely that I will come on Saturday so unless you hear to the contrary expect to see me that day. I am very busy to-day as Tomkinson went home this morning & I am doing his job. Ever so many thanks again for the vests. Best of luck. Grand it will be seeing you so soon.
Your loving Maurice.
Coming home Saturday next if all goes well.
Letter from Edward ‘Ned’ Penrose to Jess Armstrong
My dear Jess (Is that right2?),
Thank you so much for writing & many apologies for not answering before. I am very fit & well, & my leave being up on Thursday, I shall probably go to our 3d Bn3 at Derry for a bit till they want on officer in Flanders when I shall, I gather be detailed to go. I hear the 89th is nearly home by now. I wonder if [Gordon] Elton has managed to escape his general & come too. Or perhaps they are both coming hand in hand. I am so glad you have good news of Pat. The boy of the people in whose Red Cross hospital I was, was killed while I was there. He had just joined the Royals & been out a week. Their name is Burn – her father is Lord Leith of Fyvie – Fyvie is cursed: Lord Leith’s son was killed in the Boer War & this boy, his grandson had recently been made the heir. It is awful about dear old Roger. I do pray to God he may turn up in the end. Has Mrs Armstrong any ideas on the subject? I mean has she tried to find out in any of her own ways? Do let me know if she has at all, please? Love & respects to all the family.
Yours ever Ned Penrose.
Wednesday 25 November
I went down the town with Muz & took the baby out. We went down to see Mr Franklin about passes for the Harbour. Then Muz & I went by the three train up to London, & then on to Winchester. We got there about eight, & Gordon met us at the station, & we stayed at the God-begot hotel4. I went to bed at about eleven, as I was in another house, & it had to be locked up, but Gordon stayed till about twelve. The whole regiment came back from India about the 15th. Gordon told us that Ned had been over that day, but he hadn’t told him we were coming as he didn’t want him to stay! Ned asked him to wire to him if we came tomorrow. We went round to see the Snows after dinner. Heard from Ned.
Jess & I took Belgian baby out then back to luncheon & caught 3 o’c train to London & went to Winchester G met us at station & had settled our rooms & had everything nice for us. He dined with us & then we went round to see General & Mrs Snow. G stayed with us till closing hour at God be Got Hotel 12 o’c on going to bed I found G had ordered a stove thing for me & room was lovely & warm awfully thoughtful & nice of him.
Saint Jans Cappel. Rode Ludlow home about 10 o’c. Went round 4th D.G’s & saw the stables which they had built. Went on & saw Gen Briggs . Rode back close to Fletre & round by Thieushouck got back about 1 o’c. […] Rode into Bailleul in the afternoon & paid the Hd Qr staff. Heard that the Russians had won a big victory at Lodz. Thawed a bit, roads were dreadful this morning. Heard that Peto had been killed on Nov 17.
Thursday 26 November
Muz & I shopped all morning & then Gordon came down for lunch. We wired to Ned, but he couldn’t come over, but wanted us to go there, on our way back. After lunch we walked about, & then sat & talked. Gordon had to go to a lecture at five, but when he came back, we went round to see General & Mrs Snow, & he came too. After dinner we talked, then I went & wrote letters, & went to bed at about eleven, but Gordon stayed till about twelve. Captain Mansfield is with the Canadian army as Captain Fitzgerald!
Friday 27 November
Muz & I left by the nine train, & then did shopping in London, & got a hat & some blouses. We went to the station at about twelve, to meet Captain Tomkinson on his way back to the front, but he doesn’t go till tomorrow. We talked to Colonel Home & he told us, he talked to Brock, & he introduced us to Sir Philip. The Duchess was seeing her two off too. We came back by the five train, & then we walked down to Mr Franklin’s office to see about passes. We went to bed at about 10-30.
Saturday 28 November
Muz & I went down early to see Mr Franklin about passes for the Harbour, & found that a boat came in at eleven, & we had been told it didn’t come in till four, so Muz flew on down, & I came back here for Ione & Tom, & Ione went & got the car, we had great difficulty getting in as the passes hadn’t come, but we went & got Mr Franklin, & he let us in. The first boat came in, but Pat wasn’t there, only General Kavanagh. Mrs Luke was down there, & we sat & talked to her. Pat came by the one boat, it was lovely seeing him, & he is looking awfully well. The General, Major Hambro & Mr Coleman (the President) came with him. Mr Stokes & Basil Brooke came too, & we saw Mr Southey. After lunch, we sat here & talked, & Harry came in, then we all went round to the Stubbses & had tea with them, & then flew back & changed, & went to the dance. It was great fun. Pat went in his blue uniform. We sat & talked in his room for ages, & went to bed at about two.
We went down to the Harbour to meet Pat he wasn’t on first boat but crowds we know came over Pat came on the 1 o’c boat saw the General, Major Hambro, Pokes, Basil, Mr Southey & a good many others. We got Mr Coleman’s car off & Pat & we all got in & had a most exciting few minutes racing the trains! They were wild with good cheer & delight at being home again & we all went mad! Raced across the line in front of the train >Mr C. calling out “stop the train I’ve only got a few hours etc.”! Pat opening the gate just in time or car would have smashed it down! We left his car there, quite trim! Got into our own outside the Harbour & came back. Went to dance that night & bed about 2-30.
Sunday 29 November
Muz, Pat, Ione & I went to early service. Then Muz, Pat, Tom & I went to lunch, & went out on the front afterwards, & walked about with the Stubbses. When we got back from church, we found Poppy had arrived. Harry & Mr Ryder came for lunch, & afterwards he took us for a drive in his car, & we went out to Beachborough to see Roger’s ponies. After dinner, we went round to the Stubbses at about nine. Muz went to bed as she was very tired, & Poppy went to bed too. We got back at about eleven, & then sat up & talked for a bit.
- Welsh and Jefferies, Savile Row tailors opened in the early 20th century on Eton High Street and during the First World War built a reputation as a formidable military tailor. They made uniforms for the officers of many regiments, such as the Rifle Brigade and Coldstream Guards.⇑
- It was not customary in the early 1900s for young people of opposite sexes to address each other by their first name. The opening line of Ned’s letter is thus suggestive of a growing intimacy between him and Jess.⇑
- Third Battalion [of the Royal Irish Fusiliers]⇑
- God-begot House, a private hotel on High Street run by Miss Pamplin ⇑