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Monday 21 to Sunday 27 December 1914

Monday 21 to Sunday 27 December 1914

WEEK 26: FORGIVE ME FOR HAVING ASKED YOU TO KISS ME

Monday 21 to Sunday 27 December 1914

Christmas 1914 witnessed an unofficial cessation of hostilities along sections of the Western Front in the trenches of Northern France. German and British soldiers emerged from their dugouts to bury their dead and to shake hands with each other in no man’s land. For a few short days enemies chatted and swapped jokes, exchanged gifts and souvenirs, and joined in carol singing to celebrate the holy season. It was to be the only Christmas truce of the First World War: in 1915, explicit orders by Allied commanders, reinforced by the threat of death by shooting, barred all fraternization with the enemy. Pat Armstrong did not witness the Christmas truce, for on 21 December he astonished his mother and sisters by turning up unexpectedly at Folkestone to spend the week with his family. He also found time to travel to Badminton, where his growing infatuation with Blanche Somerset both intensified and met with an unexpected complication.

Monday 21 December

Pat and Dusky

Pat and Dusky

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Helen came round – we were going down the town to shop, & Pat suddenly arrived, he had started at five this morning & is back for a week. Then Helen & I went & sent telegrams & shopped. Mary came for lunch, then she Pat & I went down the town afterwards, & she came back for tea. I wrote letters. Mary stayed for dinner, & we talked afterwards, then Pat & I walked home with her at about ten. We all talked up in Muz’s room, & then Duskey was barking, so I went down & fed her again, she is much better lately, & has eaten for the first time since Saturday. Went to bed at about 11-30.

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Lovely surprise Pat arrived this morning unexpectedly Kate & I were talking & saying he couldn’t come & reading his letter saying it was impossible when we heard his voice on the stairs & up he dashed looking very fit & well. Hateful being in bed but Pat stayed for a long time then they all went off down the town Pat brought me back grapes Kate chocolate & lovely carnations, all sat in my room & ragged & talked all afternoon, after luncheon I went out for ten minutes did me good & Pat has been a great tonic. Heard from G going Havre I think

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Le Nieppe. […] Left about 6.30 & caught the 9.30 boat from Calais. Brock, Chatty & Tommy Bouch on board. Had quite a good crossing. Poor Mouse was rather ill. Got home about 11 o’c & found Mus in bed but she was really nearly well. Kitty Baird was staying there. Mary came round & stayed to lunch & tea. Stayed up talking very late that night.

Tuesday 22 December

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Pat & Nitter went up to London by the 11 train, & Pat goes on to Badminton for hunt tomorrow. We wrote our Christmas cards & letters all morning, I wrote to congratulate Evelyn Wardell on her engagement to Capt. Stokes. After lunch I went down the town & did some shopping for Muz, & then got some of the things for her surprise. After tea I did up some parcels for Muz. We went to bed at about eleven.

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Kate went away this morning & Pat went to Badminton same train going to see them for a night. I’m going to tie up parcels etc. for Xmas tonight feeling very tired.

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Folkestone. Came down to breakfast very late. Went down town with Ione. Bought waistcoat. Caught 11.25 train up to London. Went with Kate but couldn’t lunch with her. Caught 3.35 train from Paddington. Travelled down with Billy Miles who was in great form. Got to Badminton about 5.40. Delighted to see them all again. Talked to Duchess for some time after they had all gone to bed. Went to bed about 11 o’c.

Wednesday 23 December

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Went down the town & did shopping & didn’t get back till three. After lunch I did up some parcels for Muz, & did up my own parcels, & after tea Heppie & I carried parcels down to post, we went down town. I am getting nearly all Muz’s Christmas presents this year. Tom & Ione stayed in bed all day & Muz did till after tea. Did up the parcel with an eiderdown for Maria Maude & wrote to her. I sat up doing things till 1-30, & then went to bed, but didn’t go to sleep, & Pat got back at 2-30 from Badminton, & we stayed & talked till about four. He had great fun with Blanchie!

The Beaufort hounds at Badminton House

The Beaufort hounds at Badminton House

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I stayed up till 1 o’c waiting for Pat then got into bed he came about 3 o’c & sat on my bed & talked for about an hour he hadn’t been able to hunt as they’d had hard frost, they shot instead
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Badminton. Froze hard. Got up soon after 8 o’c & went out with D. & Master. After breakfast helped B. tie up socks etc. Went out shooting about 11 o’c & got back about 1.30. Went out again about 2.15 & had great rabbit hunt. Killed two rabbits & nearly got a third. About 4 o’c we drove Blackbird up & saw the ponies who were looking awfully well. Glorious day haven’t enjoyed myself so much for ages. Left for 6.10 train which was over an hour late. Caught 12 o’c arrived about 2.30.

Thursday 24 December

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A day out

A day out

Went down the town & did some shopping, then after lunch went with some notes to Shorncliffe station, & then went down the town again, & got back at about six. Muz was here for tea. Harry came & dined, & we went to the dance at the Grand, Muz didn’t come. Mr Everard came & dined too. After the dance, Mary, Harry & Mr Stubbs & we three, ran round ringing bells, & had rather fun, so we didn’t get back till late. We went to bed at about 2-30.

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Pat & I went down the town to shop got big box chocolates for B. & got rings for children etc. Mary Stubbs came to tea Harry Tufton & a friend of his came to dine & all went to the dance I’m putting things into stockings & fixing Xmas things while they are away at dance. Jess has been doing all my Xmas shopping etc. & I’m afraid is a bit tired & won’t enjoy dance as much but I haven’t been able to do anything of my own this year, a wire came from Algie with Xmas wishes from Fiji Islands I’m going to keep it till tomorrow & put it in stockings or under rug.

Friday 25 December

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Jess and Dusky

Jess and Dusky

We all went to early service, & after breakfast opened our stockings. Then we went out on the Front, & walked about with the Stubbses. After lunch we opened the parcels & letters, & then Harry came in, & then after tea we went up to the Grand, & found that there was a Tango tea, the Stubbses were there. We got back at about seven, & Harry stayed on for dinner & afterwards we had the rag game, & Harry left at about 10-30. But we sat & talked, & didn’t go to bed till nearly three. We all got a lot of presents, Pat gave me Duskey for altogether!

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Went to early service with Pat, Ione & Jess came back & had breakfast then we all looked at our stockings in drawing room it took a long time, then we went out on the front Stubbs joined us after luncheon we opened our letters & parcels. Had people for tea & in the evening played our rug game. I had no end of nice things, pets had given me everything I’d wanted went up to bed very late Pat came & sat on my bed & talked till very late lovely having him like this for Xmas. Algie’s wire gave great pleasure. Bombs are dropping in Dover we can hear them in the distance.

Blanche_cameoLetter from Lady Blanche Somerset to Pat

Friday [25 December 1914]. Badminton, Glos.

Darling Pat

– I forgot to give you the photo before you went away so I’m sending it. It’s a beastly thing but it must do for the moment. I hope this’ll reach you before you leave Folkestone as I want to tell you how happy you made me the other day. I don’t know why but you did, & I’ve dated the photo the 23rd as I shall always remember that day & when things don’t go right at home I shall remember you & perhaps it’ll help. How I long for the day for you to come back – I suppose I oughtn’t talk like this when I’m engaged in the full sense of the word to another, but you must remember I haven’t seen him to speak to for a year & six months one forgets but I can’t say anything definite to any one else till I know for certain how he feels; if he does still want me I feel it right that I should go to him as I’ve given my word but if he doesn’t well – I don’t know quite what I should do. Of course the whole blooming family including Tib are against it, (I’ll tell you for why one day) but as you probably know that would not stop me in the least, if I thought I should be happy. Well this is a long rigmarole, but I want you to understand how I feel about it all; & believe me, Pat, I am fond of you, in fact I love you & you must forgive me for having asked you to kiss me but I simply couldn’t help it when I thought of you going back to that hellish place as I’m sure to those left at home the front is nothing more nor less than that – Funnily enough Mother asked me that very evening if you were at all in love with me & I’m afraid I lied as I do want it so to be our own secret – Good-bye my darling, I hope not for long.

Your loving (I may put that mayn’t I?) Blanchie.

Saturday 26 December

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We all stayed in bed very late, & Harry came in at about eleven. Then we four went round to the Stubbses, but Muz stayed in. It was raining, & they didn’t come out with us, but we went for a walk, & Florence & Mary came for lunch, & we talked afterwards. Florence had to go back for tea, but Mary stayed. We all went to the dance at the Metropole, it wasn’t a bit crowded. Towards the end, we went over to the Grand, & that was very full. When we got back we talked till after two.

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Stubbs came round in the morning & we kept them for luncheon & tea they all ragged & Pat & Harry destroyed Mary’s hat she left with a useless hat at about 6-30! We all went to the Metropole dance I did feel a fool all wobbly & horrid but nice to be with Pat & I’d have missed three hours with him if I hadn’t gone. They all ran backwards & forwards between Grand & Metropole I’d have loved to too but my legs were wobbly!

Algie_cameoLetter from Algie Neill to Jess Armstrong

Dec 26. Suva, Fiji.

My dear Jess,

Union Line

Union Line

I have your letters 3rd 9th & 15th Oct to acknowledge. You will see from the above pretty picture1 that I am at last on my way back to N.Z. I don’t yet know if I am going to Egypt or France. I expect I shall have to take some N.Z. troops to Egypt first & then go on from there – I understand troops – no I just remember that I’m not allowed to tell you – however I hope to be in England for a few days in a couple of months’ time. We are due to arrive in Suva, Fiji this evening so this will just catch a Frisco or Vancouver mail. I arrive in Auckland on the 4th inst & hope to get a few days to look round Barrosa before leaving again. Yes I expect you are all just frightfully anxious about Pat but he will come back all right – Jess don’t worry. I am sorry I was not able to get to the regiment at the outbreak of war & I hope they understand that I was prevented from doing so by being collared for this rotten job. I certainly never dreamt of being kept in Samoa for over four months however I am lucky in being able to get away from it now as the garrison is still there & I understand are likely to be there for some time. My C. O.2 is on board returning with a broken leg. Pat seems to have been right in the thick of it & doing grand work – Grand to hear he has been mentioned in Despatches. How proud you’ll all be of him. I have a good many young nephews & a cousin or two at the front but so far they remain untouched.

Algie on the move

Algie on the move

I sent you a wireless from Apia three days ago I hope it arrived in time for Xmas. It was sent from the wireless station we captured from the Germans which is a most up to date & very powerful one it was only just finished a day or two before we arrived – most thoughtful of them wasn’t it? They destroyed a portion of the machinery but we were able to fix it up in a few days. I have not got over the slackness of Samoa yet & shall feel like a piece of chewed string but we shall be out of the Tropics in a few days & it will be a great treat to feel cold again. I wonder what happened [to] the skins I sent you I think they must have gone astray as they certainly ought to have reached you before the 15th Oct? Perhaps the Emden3 got them. I had a great long letter from Muz by last mail which I just managed to catch before leaving Apia it was very interesting she gave me all the regiment’s news & a great description of the arrival of refugees and wounded from the front.

[The letter will continue on 30 December]

Sunday 27 December

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Muz, Pat & I went to church, Tom stayed in bed. When we got back, Mary was here talking to Ione & Harry, she stayed for lunch, & went back afterwards. At about 2-30 we went down to the boat, but it didn’t go till nearly four. Captain Tomkinson, Brock, Mr Bouch & Lord C. were back on the boat, with Pat, the Stubbses were down there, seeing a cousin off, & Mrs Stubbs came back here for tea. After tea I went up to the Grand & the Metropole to look for a brooch that I lost last night, but we found it here afterwards. After dinner I wrote letters, & went to bed at about eleven.

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All very late for breakfast. Pat, Jess & I went to Church came back & found Harry & Ione over the fire which Mary Stubbs kept there for luncheon then she went back & rest of us went down in the car to see Pat off but the boat to Calais where he & “Mouse” are to be met by one of the staff cars. The boat was very full of soldiers going back Brock, Mr Bouch, Lord Chesham & some others going back too. Mrs Stubbs had tea with us then I wrote a letter & one to Pat

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Folkestone. Was rather weary so didn’t get up till late. Rainy & windy. Heard from B. Went to church & afterwards came back & found Mary. Packed my clothes & wrote to B. Mary stayed to lunch. Boat due to leave 2.50 but didn’t go till about 4 o’c. Had goodish passage. Talked to Brock all the way. No car to meet us. Dined in St Omer & wired for car. Got back about 11 o’c. Hardress, Hambro & Wilfred had gone that morning.


Footnotes

  1. Union Line letterhead incorporating in its design a picture of a steam ship
  2. Commanding Officer
  3. SMS Emden, a German light cruiser commissioned in 1909, which sank two Allied warships and sank or captured some 30 Allied merchant vessels during the First World War before running to ground off the Cocos Islands on 9 November 1914

 
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