WEEK 23: THE KING INSPECTED THE DIVISION
Monday 30 November to Sunday 6 December 1914
After four glorious days at home, Pat Armstrong returned to the divisional headquarters in Nieppe and found himself in the midst of frantic activity. Preparations were under way for a visit by King George V and Edward the Prince of Wales, who had arrived in France for a tour of the British Army Corps. On the afternoon of 3 December, mounted cavalrymen lined both sides of the road between Fletre and Meteren, a distance of some 2¼ miles, and upon its arrival the royal entourage was met by a vista of cheering men, “their waving swords gleaming in the light of the wintry sunset”, as reported in British newspapers. The stalemate on the Western Front continued, and in order to keep fit and stay warm, staff officers busied themselves by jumping fences and going on pheasant shoots. In Folkestone, Mrs Armstrong, exhausted from war work and worried about her son, fell ill and took to her bed.
Monday 30 November
Muz, Pat, Ione & I went up to London by the 9-15. Tom & Poppy stayed here. Pat had to get a lot of things to take out with him, & we shopped hard the whole time. We had lunch at Prince’s, & talked to Mr Smyth-Ryland, & Captain Spencer. It pelted the whole day, but we were in taxies the whole time. We had tea at Slaters, & came back by the 7-15. Muz wired to Gordon, to tell him we were coming up, but we couldn’t get an answer. Poppy was waiting for us when we got back. At about 2 am Muz heard noises outside, & we found it was Gordon. He had been looking for us in London, & then come down here! We only stayed up for about twenty minutes, & then went to bed.
We all went up to London went to Prince’s for luncheon shopped hard. At about 6 we went to Hotel to see if any news of G. none & he hadn’t called for letter so tore it up & went to Charing X & caught 7-15 down had dinner & talked till fairly late not asleep very long when I was roused by G’s voice & a stone at window! Opened window & found G there had arrived about 2 o’c had chased us all about London & got idea of our movements at Berners Hotel. We had a merry time with all & Jess & I led him to a room to sleep.
Tuesday 1 December
At about 11-30, Muz, Pat, Poppy, Ione, Gordon, Tom & I went over to Dover in the car, to see the trenches. We had to walk up the hill, & then we saw Harry, & he showed us the trenches. It was awfully windy walking. Then we walked back, & had lunch at the Burlington. Then Poppy, Ione & Harry went back by train. When we got back, Pat & Gordon went & had their hairs cut, then Mary Stubbs came for tea. I went out for a walk with Poppy, & when we got back Mr & Miss Stubbs were here, & we all danced & sang! Then the two Miss Stubbs came round after dinner & Gordon did tricks for them, & gave them an aeroplane ride! We didn’t go to bed till about two. Poppy went a bit earlier. Harry had to go at 9-30, to catch his train to Dover.
Gave Pat a great surprise to find G, & we were all very bright & gay, all went off to Dover to see trenches there. Marc gave us all lunch at the Burlington, after seeing trenches there Harry & Ione went back by train rest of us in car. G & Pat then went to have their hair cut. We had a very merry evening dancing & singing & G did tricks fortunes etc. We went to bed about 2 o’c.
Wednesday 2 December
We all went down the town, to get things for Pat to take away with him. We went down in the car, then Mr, Mrs & Miss Coleman came, they had motored down from London, they had lunch with us, & were very amusing. Their boat was to go at 2-45, & we all went down to the Harbour to see them off. The General & Major Hambro went with them. It was horrid seeing them all going off. Mrs & Miss Coleman came back here for tea, she told me she was engaged! They went by the five train, & we took them up in the car. When we got back, I went out for a walk with Poppy, on the front & then Muz went over & had a bath at St Clement’s, & I sat with her. After dinner I gave Duskey her supper, & we went to bed at about 9-30. Gordon went away by the 9-15 this morning.
G left by 9-15 train we all shopped with Pat to get things to take back to France found the Colemans here when we got back kept them for luncheon & afterwards we all went to the boat to see Pat off. General de Lisle & Major Hambro came down to the boat by 1 o’c train, I felt rather bad when I got back as if I were side lined had a bath & went to bed sore throat & headache wrote one letter first.
Thursday 3 December
Feeling rather ill temperature of 102. Horrible night cold & hot alternatingly throat headache & feeling very old fashioned about the joints. Wrote a letter with difficulty & stayed in bed all day.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
Dec 3. Chateau le Nieppe, France
My dear wee Mus,
I sent you a hurried post card this morning just to tell you that we arrived alright. There was a bit of a sea but nothing bad. The decks got so washed that we couldn’t stay on deck so I went down after about half an hour & went to sleep. We arrived soon after 5 & then took Mrs Dillon to her house which we had rather difficulty in finding, then we had tea & then motored on & got here about 7.30 just in time for dinner. It was a glorious warm night & we had a lovely drive back. The General went with the President & I went with Hambro. It was horrid going back but it was so lovely having got away for a few days & it was splendid being able to get an extra day. You all really were splendid when I was going off as I know how horrid it was for you. But with any luck they may let us go home again in a month or so. Things are very quiet here. Just the same as they were when we left. There is no further news about those 120,000 Germans that the paper said were going to attack Ypres. I hope they leave us alone for a bit.
[…] The King inspected the Div this afternoon. I started off at 11 o’c this morning with the horses & rode 14 miles to the road between Fletre and Meteren & then waited for the others who came on in motors. I got there about 1.30 & we waited about till 3.15 when the King & Prince of Wales came along. The King talked to the General & then walked down the Line. They were all formed up on each side of the road. They gave him a really good cheer the best I have heard for some time. They all appreciate him coming enormously. It is splendid him coming out. It was a bit cold waiting about there and there was a cold wind. We then rode back & got back here about 6 o’c. So I’ve had quite a good day. It was nice seeing the King so close.
I wrote to Sandon1 this morning & told him to get my clothes to 14 Trinity then I’ll get you to give them to Howard when he comes over. He goes next week. It will be much quicker & more certain than sending things by post. Those snow boots haven’t arrived yet. I think it’s a mistake to put the Rgt on: just put A.D.C I Cav Div etc. I got a whole sheaf of letters from you last night when I arrived, it was awfully nice getting them. What a splendid letter that was you wrote to the Duchess, couldn’t have been better. I am sure if she could possibly have managed it she would have come up. But I expect that they were either away or busy. I got a letter from B. which had been wandering about for some time. I’ll enclose it in this. I expect I’ll hear from her to-morrow or the next day. I wore my 10’s today, they are a great success. Hardress says that he has often had the same sort of boots to shoot in & that they are awfully good & absolutely waterproof. I had 2 pairs of socks on to-day & my feet were beautifully warm. I’ll keep the footlets for when the snow comes on. I am sending the Boss’s Norwegian boots back again as they are too small to be of much use. The horses are all looking awfully well. Melody cast a shoe to-night & went lame but I don’t think she’s bad, so I rode back on the General’s horse. What fun it was those three days. You know the thing I enjoyed most was going to Church with you all. You can’t think how nice it was after not having been for so long. Well wee Mus there is no more news. I am sending this with Lang so you will get it on Friday. Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat
Friday 4 December
Went round to the Stubbses, but they were up in London, Mrs Marlow was there, & she told me what stuff to get for the babies’ hood. It was too cold to take the babies out. I went down the town, & Helen Walter came & did my shopping with me. Muz stayed in bed all day. After lunch Ione & I went down to the Harbour, to see Captain Gibbs on his way back from leave, to the Front, Capt. Dale was there too, & we saw Mr Ramsden. It pelted when we got down there, & we were soaked, we changed when we got back, & then I went round to the Stubbses, for tea, & Miss Marlow helped me with the babies’ hood.
Saturday 5 December
Muz stayed in bed all day as she was still very stiff. Took my baby out, & Mary Stubbs came & took one out too. After lunch I went down the town on the bicycle, & did some shopping, & then went & had my hair waved, the Stubbses came in while I was there & then I went down the town with Miss Stubbs to get a baby’s bonnet. Harry came in, in the afternoon, & the two Stubbses came here for tea. Then we went to the dance, & Mrs Stubbs chaperoned us. There was hardly anyone there we knew, but Ione danced the whole time with Harry, he is going to stay the week end with us. Got a letter from Pat, dated 3rd.
Dec 5. Hd Qrs I Cav Div. Nieppe
My dear wee Mus,
I am enclosing some photos which Geoff took also a map which may interest you. It shows the whole country pretty well. Cecil Howard is going home to-morrow & will take this. He will most probably be coming by the afternoon boat on Thursday. I wonder if you could catch him at the Harbour with my clothes & he’d bring them across for me. Parcels seem to take such ages otherwise. My snow shoes arrived to-day, they are awfully nice & just what I want. They had been wandering all over the place. If things once go to the wrong address they take ages to turn up. I think you ought to put on my letters and parcels just A.D.C. Ist Cav Div etc. and not put the Rgt as if you do it goes to them. We didn’t do much yesterday. The General, Home & I went off & saw the 1st Bde then we went on to look for Gen Mullens who was out & then on to the 4th & 9th Lancers Head Quarter. They were arranging about DSOs2 & things. It was very windy & rather cold. The General & I went out for a ride in the afternoon. This morning we had arranged to have a shoot but it poured till about 11 o’c, sleet, hail, rain & every sort of thing. It cleared up about 11 o’c so the Gen & some of the others went out to shoot.
I went off for a ride on Nutmeg & amused myself by cutting the wire out of the fences & then jumping them. I have got some quite good jumps ready now. Every fence is so wired so it takes some time to cut the wire & make them jumpable. Nutmeg is a grand wee lepper but a bit nappy3 at times. Will you see Godden [?] sometime & ask about David tell him I’ll buy him back if he’s still for sale. You could sell him to the Govt & then send him out to me, but I’m afraid he’s sold already. Will you sometime send me one of those bottles to carry fountain pen ink in. The bottle is screwed up in a thing that looks like a red sausage. I have got a fountain pen but no ink & now we are living more or less comfortably it’s much nicer to be able to write in ink. This afternoon Hambro & I went out for a long walk with a gun & managed to bag a pheasant each which was rather fun. We got back about 4 o’c & now I’ve just got my wet boots off and am waiting for Ames to bring me some hot water to wash in. It has been quite nice & warm but has raining off & on all day. I’ll be well prepared for the snow when it comes again when I get my new clothes out. I have solved the feet problem which is a relief to me. I don’t know how much longer they are going to have us here. I hope for some time. I like this place. I think it’s nicer than our Chateau at Saint James Cappel. The only trouble is that it’s so far away from the Brigades. It will be an awful nuisance if we have to move off in a hurry which will probably happen one of these days. I wish I was back with you all & that we were going to dance at the Grand again. What fun it was. But this is a very nice peaceful life & one isn’t worried by shells. I wonder if you were sent those cushions to Basil & Pokes. They’d love them so don’t forget to send them. What about sending the air cushion to Brock for Xmas. Tell Basil & Pokes that theirs are for Xmas. Will you let me know full particulars about Roger. His name battalion etc. & where & when he was last seen. I know a fellow who has got a sister in Germany who has found a lot of people. He says that people are often in Germany only are too sick to write & so they go on for ages being lost. Several cases like that have happened. It’s most important to find out where he was captured. It will take some time to hear I’m afraid but it’s a chance. Well there’s no news & I must have a wash while the water is warm. Best love to you all wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
P.S. Can you send me another block like this. Howard comes back on Thursday meet him & give him my clothes on the boat if possible.
Sunday 6 December
Ione, Tom & Harry went to church. I went round to the Stubbses, & they helped me to start an eiderdown for the baby. I stayed there till lunch, then afterwards, Muz, Ione, Mrs Stubbs & Harry went in to Ashford in the car, & I went to call for the Stubbses, & we went down to the baby home. It is their Christmas – St Nicholas – I gave my baby the cape & hood that I finished making today, & a wee pair of boots, & I gave the mother a box of handkerchiefs & the father a tie, and another wee girl a box of soldiers. I held my baby the whole time. The Stubbses went at about five but I didn’t come back till after six. They had a Christmas tree, & all the people in the fair houses came up. The Stubbses came round before dinner, I worked at the eiderdown afterwards & went to bed at about eleven. Harry didn’t go till 1-30, as he couldn’t get a taxi.
Stayed in bed late feel old fashioned but got up & went to Hothfield in the car taking Mrs Stubbs & Harry who wanted to get a dig there when we got back it was too wet for me to take toys to a Xmas tree for Belgian children which I wanted to do so sent them.
Le Nieppe. Gen, Hambro & Jeff went to church. Went for a long ride on Lady B jumped some nice little fences. Got back about 1.30. Went off about 2.30 with the Gen & Mouse to Chateau La malle. Went & saw the Regt but they were all out. Went on into Merville where we met Ted Miller & Pat Nicolls went back & had tea at Estaires with him with the Northampton Yeomanry. Started to rain on the way back, rather cold. Rained hard at night. No news. Tommy Pitman stayed the night.
- Sandon & Co., Savile Row tailors in London ⇑
- DSO = Distinguished Service Order ⇑
- Nappy = an awkward or disobedient horse ⇑