WEEK 25: I DON’T THINK THIS COUNTRY IS ANY PLACE FOR YOU
Monday 14 to Sunday 20 December 1914
On 16 December 1914, Britain suffered its first civilian casualties on home ground as the German Navy attacked the Yorkshire coast and bombarded the coastal towns of Whitby, Hartlepool and Scarborough. The early morning raid, which lasted for approximately one hour and twenty minutes, left 137 dead and 152 wounded. It caused widespread outrage not only against the German army but against the British Royal Navy for failing to prevent the attack, and resulted in a recruitment boom with men flocking to avenge the atrocity under the clarion call ‘Remember Scarborough!” German assaults on the Western Front also intensified, with an attack on Wytchaete on 14 December and bombardment of Armentieres on 17 December. In spite of all this, Mrs Armstrong, disappointed at the prospect of not having her son at home for Christmas, entertained hopes of travelling to France for the holy season.
Monday 14 December
Le Nieppe. Started at 10 o’c with Gen & Home. Went to Corps Hd Qrs at Bailleul. 8th Div had captured Petit Bois near Kemmel & got 60 prisoners. Left about 12.30 & went back to Meteren where Hambro had established Hd Qrs. Waited about all afternoon. Gen went to see Allenby at 5.30. Motored back with Mouse & Wilfred. Got cake from Disi. We had been pushing all along the line but progress slow. Saw Basil in Bailleul.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus,
I have just got in & to two lovely long letters from you one dated 5th & the other 8th. Also a cake & muffins from Disi. I enclose her letter in this & send Sylvia’s back to you. Nice letter isn’t it. Poor girl. Pic’s death must have been an awful shock to her (pen’s dry d—d it) particularly as Winifred says that it wasn’t publicly acknowledged. She is the sort of girl that will never really care for anybody else. In fact I shall be very surprised if I ever see her married. I am so glad you are well again but you really must take care of yourself & not go getting colds. […] We were attacking to-day along the line. The Cavalry is still in reserve but we all went forward. We captured a wood in front of Kemmel this morning & got 60 prisoners but otherwise there doesn’t seem much news. We are all going forward again to-morrow but don’t expect to do anything. […] We used the tea basket for the first time at lunch to-day. It was much admired by everybody. The General is delighted with it. Somebody asked where it came from & he beamed & said it came from you. They all loved the Jam too it is a great change from the everlasting plumb which we always get now & again varied with Damson. Luckily I’m fond of jam & don’t get tired of it. But after this war I don’t think anybody will ever eat Plum or Damson jam again. It is a splendid tea basket that he has just got, everything that one wants.
I have just read an awfully good article by Hilaire Belloc in "Land & Water"1 you ought to take it in if you don’t. He writes in it every week. His articles explain what is happening awfully well & makes it easier to grasp the situation which is very complicated particularly on the Eastern frontier. He explains awfully clearly the significance of Lodz in this week’s article. You ought to read it. I saw Basil to-day for a few minutes in Bailleul. The whole world seemed to be there. They were moving billets. They are going to put all the men into greenhouses. One greenhouse holds 1200 men I believe. It is a great place for grapes. One can buy lovely grapes for about a franc a pound. I shouldn’t worry now about the waistcoat. Welsh & Jefferies2 are sending me out a leather one which I think will be better. Warmer really & won’t tear so easily. Well wee Mus I must be off to bed now as it is nearly 11 o’c. Best love.
Your loving Pat
Tuesday 15 December
Stayed in bed again very dull work but got nice letters & wrote some & read & they were in & out to see me. Pat’s letter took longer to come than usual they had a good shoot got 13 Pheasants 4 Hares 3 rabbits guns were Colonel Colin Campbell, General Lockhart, Gen Mullens & Hamilton Grace & themselves. Pat was inoculated for Typhoid.
Le Nieppe. Staff went forward to Meteren in motors. Left at 9 o’c rode Lady B. took some horses part of way for exercise. Raining hard. Arrived 11.30. Lady B cut her aft hind on bridge. Heard attack of previous day was a failure only close by 2 battalions Gordons3 suffered heavily. They got into German trenches but couldn’t stay there as they were half full of water. Everybody seemed very annoyed. Got back about 3.30 & went for a walk. Had rather a head in evening. Beautiful night.
Wednesday 16 December
Stayed in bed all day & Ione went up to London by the nine. Muz got up after lunch. A telegram came to say that the Germans were shelling Scarborough, Whitby & Hartlepool. They dropped fifty shells. Heppie & I went down to the garage, & got the car filled with petrol. After tea I wrote. In the morning I made a pair of combies for a doll, & tidied some of my drawers. Did some tidying, then Ione came back at about ten. We went to bed at about 10-30.
Le Nieppe. Glorious sunny morning. Photographed horses. Went for a long ride on Melody round forest of Clairmarais. Gen went round the Brigades with Wilfred. After lunch Cecil, Mouse & I went out in car & got 3 pheasants, Hardress rode. B11 got into Dardanelles & torpedoed Turkish ship.4 Rumour that French Cavalry have broken through at Nieuport.
My dear wee Mus,
Grand getting your letter of the 10th. It is horrid your having that beastly flue. Do take care of yourself. I don’t like you being in bed like that. I wish you had met Cecil. He’s awfully nice. Capt he is not Major. I’m very fond of him. We are awfully lucky & have got a delightful lot on this staff. You couldn’t find a nicer lot anywhere. No. I’m afraid the idea of coming out here isn’t much good. Of course you could do it alright but probably you would arrive at a busy time or just as we had to move or something like that. I don’t think it would be a good plan really. Of course I’d simply love to see you all but at present I don’t think this country is any place for you.
There has been nothing doing to-day. The General went round the Brigades this morning & took Wilfred Jelf with him, he’s the gunner & looks after the two batteries with the Brigade. I went out for a long ride on Melody & got in about 2 o’c. It was a glorious sunny morning so I photographed the horses. I hope they will come out well. I have just packed up four rolls of films & will send them off to-morrow. I didn’t take Diana this morning. I used up the film on the others there & then went back to put another one in but when I got back it had clouded over. I took a couple of photos of this house which I hope will come out well. Will you get them developed & send me out a copy. If the ones of the horses are any good will you send me two copies as the men would like one.
I am sending you a photo of the staff which Col Home took when we were up at Ypres or “Wipers” as the tommys call it. Mouse was short of a block to write on so I gave him one of these. I am just starting the new one now. I don’t think you could get anything better than this. I thought of a broader one but think that this really is as good as anything. If you see a broader one you might send it to me to try & then I’ll let you know what I think about it.Pity the Pt to Pt didn’t come off wasn’t it. It would have been awfully amusing. But it was a good effort of Geoff’s starting it. Mouse, Cecil & I went out in a car this afternoon & got 3 pheasants. You would have laughed to see Mouse legging it down the road to get near a pheasant which was coming over, then he sort of jumped in the air & brought off a great shot. Devilish good it was really. It has been quite a nice day really. It clouded over this morning & looked like rain but nothing happened. Quite a change that.
Yesterday we went forward to Meteren but only stayed there till about 3 o’c. I rode out, it was about 12 miles & got a bit of exercise. Lady B went & dropped her leg over a little bridge when she was standing there & took a bit of skin off about the hock. It looked nasty at the time but she is alright to day & as sound as a bell. She’s an unlucky mare. She always seems in the wars. When I first got her she got fever, then when she’d got over that she got strangles, then ring worm, then a sore back, then this little effort yesterday. She seems to have had her share. So I’m hoping she may be lucky now. She is a good little mare. I’m awfully fond of her. She is such a glorious ride. She is about the best of them I think. I’m very fond of the other two & never know which I like best really. Melody is a little marvel. I wouldn’t ask for three better horses for this job. I am glad the maps are useful. You will be able to see the places easily on them. I wrote to The Graphic5 this morning & told them to send you a copy of French’s dispatches. They have published them in rather nice little books. I must be off to bed now as it’s abt 11 o’c. I started this before dinner & was almost late, & now I’m just going to turn in. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 18 December
Heard that Gordon was galloper6 to a Brigadier. Went down the town with Ione, & we did some Christmas shopping, then we went down again after lunch. After tea wrote to Algie & sent him a lighter for Christmas. Muz got up this morning, but stayed in the house all day. After dinner wrote letters, & went to bed at about eleven. Letter from Pat dated 15th.
Heard from General Snow saying he’d ask G to be ADC if vacancy occurs but a wire later from G saying his Brigadier General is having him as a Galloper. Pat writes no chance of leave at Xmas. I wish I could go out to do necessary things about Belgians etc. but it’s impossible. I suppose it would be silly as really do feel weak & horrid.
My dear wee Mus,
[…] This ought to reach you on Xmas day to wish you all a very happy Xmas & New Year. How I wish I was going to be home but I’m afraid that there is very little chance of it […] the Germans have most elaborate wire entanglements up in front of their trenches. In one part of the line they have first an entanglement 2 ft high & 20 ft broad, then a deep ditch then a single entanglement 6 ft high. Well that little lot takes a bit of getting through. Particularly when you are being shot at at a range of 100 yds. We went into Corps head Qrs this morning but they had no news at all. We are hoping to hear that those soldiers who shelled Scarborough have been rounded up but there is no news of it at present. […] I am going to suggest to the Boss that he should look out for a good 4 year old for me. Then he could be coming on for me when we get done this show. Horses will be awfully dear. The demand will be far greater than the supply & the prices will be awfully high. I’d like to get hold of a nice young horse that might win a point to point. What do you think of the idea […]
To read the entire letter, click here.
Saturday 19 December
Got wire from G to say good bye to us heard from General S saying going very soon wish I could have gone to W. this week but impossible. Kate Baird arrived, she & I had dinner in drawing room then went to bed at 10 o’c. Ione & Jess went to dance with Harry & Mr G went with the Stubbs. Pat says quite impossible to come for Xmas.
My dear wee Mus,
I have just got yours of the 13th. Pity about the Pt to Pt wasn’t it. But I dare say it is just as well as we would probably have broken up a good many horses & it is quite impossible to replace a good horse at present. I wouldn’t have run any of my good ones & Diana is too bad a jumper. Hardess has just got a dear little horse that used to belong to Victor Brooke called Jorrocks. I rode him this morning he’s a little fizzer but awfully small. Smaller than Melody even. But he’s a great jumper. If the pt to pt does come off Hardress is going to give me a ride on him. I wish I could get him for myself but he really belongs to Col Strong [?] at GHQ, so I don’t suppose I shall. Not much news to-day. The Gen went forward this morning with Col Home & Hardress & inspected the Division. I rode Jorrocks with Percy Hambro & then came in & took Melody out till lunch time. This afternoon I rode Lady B into G.H.Q. about 8 miles off with Mouse to see if we could get any news. It poured the whole time a real rotten day but it was better than sitting in the house. I got such a nice letter from Blanchie which I enclose in this. Send it back when you’ve read it.
The Russian news doesn’t look too good does it? I hear that they took 5 Corps from this side & took them over against Russia. I hear that the Russians are now back to within 30 miles of Warsaw but as long as they can hold that I don’t think it really matters much, but I’d like to see them getting on into Silesia. It all bids to prolong to war. I do wish Italy would come in. We heard yesterday that she would come in in February but whether it’s true or not I couldn’t say. I don’t think that there is much chance of getting on just here at present. Of course the French may push on further South. It’s hard to know what is happening down there. We seem to be gradually gaining ground but it’s awfully slow work. The country is in a dreadful state & it is awfully hard for the Infantry to get across it. I think that it really is as well that they aren’t having that armistice at Xmas, of course it would be awfully nice, but you couldn’t trust what the Germans would do. I am writing in pencil to night as I can write faster than with a pen. What fun Tommy’s tea party must have been I wish I had been there for it. I got a lovely cake from Disi last week. We finished it to-night but the plumb pudding hasn’t arrived yet. No sign of my clothes yet. But it doesn’t really matter as the weather is warm & I don’t want them. I had to go & leave this as Lady B had a go of colic. It is now 11.30 so I’m going to turn in. Best love to you all dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Sunday 20 December
Stayed in bed for breakfast then Kate, Tommy & I went for a run in the car with Ione for about an hour. Car going at all fast made my head feel light feel so silly at minding anything like this. G wires from Southampton sent 11 o’c last night. Harry Tufton came to tea & stayed on for dinner. Kate & I had ours in drawing room.
Dec 20. Sunday.
My dear wee Mus
[…] I got an extraordinary little bag from Mary this morning with a powder puff in it. With “an aid to beauty” written on it. It made me laugh. I am going to send it to Gen Mullens for Xmas. I am always ragging with him so we’ll have a good laugh at that. She is a comic lass that Mary. I must write to her again now I suppose. But I wrote her a nice letter!! The General was telling me to-day that Italy asked for a loan of £9 million & England refused it but said that she would give her 20 million pounds under certain conditions. Well we now hear that Italy has taken the 20 million & spent it on munitions of war. We also hear that she is going to come in at the beginning of February. She will be a great help if she does. The Russians look as if they were having a pretty hard time of it. As long as the Germans don’t get into Warsaw it is alright. But it’s bad the Russians having to go back as it puts great heart into the Germans. There seems very little news in the papers. We are awfully lucky now about papers. We always get the paper of the day before, just like we used to do at home. It is awfully nice getting them as they really give quite a bit of news & it’s about all we get. We really know very little more about her than you do at home. As a matter of fact there isn’t much news anywhere, things seem pretty quiet all along the line.
I am so glad that you are better but you must take great care of yourself. It must have been a horrible thing that you had. I never realised that it was flu. I thought you said that it was Rheumatism. It is awfully hard at present to get bits of shell etc. for you as I am glad to say I haven’t been near a shell since I saw you last. But when we go forward I’ll try & get you odds & ends. When one is being shelled you try to keep as far away as possible from where they are bursting & don’t feel much like going raking up bits of shell. One has such a lot of it round you that one doesn’t worry about it. But I’ll do what I can when we go forward again. I hear that the Germans have given up their helmets so I’m afraid I won’t be able to get one of them. At present really all their cavalry are on the other frontier. There is one Corps this side but it’s not doing anything. So Lancers are 1000 to 3. Wasn’t that a nice letter from B. I sent you yesterday. I wrote her a long letter last night. I want to write & rag Mary now & it’s nearly time for church. Best love to you all dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
- This was a British weekly journal published from 1914 to 1920 and devoted to the progress of the First World War and the events in its immediate aftermath. It was edited by the well-known Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc⇑
- 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.⇑
- The Gordon Highlanders, a British Army infantry regiment⇑
- HMS B11 was a British submarine. On 13 December 1914 it entered the Dardanelles and torpedoed the Ottoman battleship Mesûdiye, an action for which the captain, Norman Douglas Holbrook, received the Victoria Cross.⇑
- A British weekly illustrated newspaper published between 1869 and 1932⇑
- An aide-de-camp, or orderly officer ⇑