WEEK 31: A WRONG STANDING IN THE WORLD
Monday 25 to Sunday 31 January 1915
The First World War was the mother of many innovations. In terms of weapons development, tanks and heavy artillery guns were among its most significant legacies. Not all inventions met with lasting success. In January 1915, Pat Armstrong watched with interest the demonstration of a viewfinder developed for machine guns to allow a gunner to take aim while remaining protected against enemy fire. The device failed to catch on, primarily because machine guns were among the deadliest and most effective weapons of the First World War. In Folkestone, Jess and her mother developed an interest in basic nursing and began to take classes to improve their skills. Mrs Armstrong also rekindled her plan to find a permanent home for the family and began to look around for a suitable place. Strongly supportive of his mother’s decision, Pat Armstrong drafted an appeal to his father to finance part of the venture. Blanche Somerset also put pen to paper, to reveal an uncomfortable truth.
Monday 25 January
Florence & Mary came round & we all went down the town. The beagles went back again. after lunch the Stubbses came round, & they, Pat, Ione & Doddie went out. Mrs Thurburn came for tea, & she Muz & I went to a bandaging class, & learnt to make splints. The others met Mr & Miss Castberg in the town, & brought them back for tea. Mr Babington was there for tea too, & the Stubbses. They stayed on later, then after dinner Pat ragged with Doddie, & Muz & I went to bed at about eleven.
Folkestone. Took hounds out with Tom. Lost Gypsy who came back alright. Sent them off at 12 o’c. Went round & collected Mary & Florence & went down the town. Mary & Florence came in after lunch. Castbergs came in for tea. Babington came in walked up to station with him.
Tuesday 26 January
We went round to look at a house in Grimston Gardens, & when we came back the Stubbses came round, & we went round to the garage, the others went back in the car, & Florence & I went to see the babies. Then they came back for lunch. Then Muz, Ione & I went down to the Harbour, to see Pat off. Doddie went for a walk. The General was going back too. They go to Le Nieppe again. One of the Muir boys was going back too, & Mrs, Miss & two Mr Muirs1 came back here afterwards, but didn’t stay for tea. After dinner Doddie showed us some bandaging. Went to bed at about 11. Heard from Ned, he went out again yesterday.
Folkestone. Had wire from B. Saw house with Mus got car & motored round with Mary etc. Quite a nice day. Boat due to leave 2.50 but was a bit late. Lovely passage. Arrived 4.30. No car. Had to wire for one, which got to Boulogne about 9.20. Got back about 11.30 to find Div standing to. Col Home , Percy, Wilfred & Hardress had gone forward to Meteren.
Wednesday 27 January
Went down the town with Doddie. Ione stayed in bed all day. Mrs Thurburn & Miss, came for tea, & then they, Muz & Ione & I went to the Red Cross lecture. Doddie stayed here, as we had asked Mr Bald to come in, but he couldn’t come, the Stubbses came in, but didn’t stay long when we came back. We talked after dinner, then Mary sang. There was a notice today that no lights in the houses are to show outside, so it is frightfully dark, as there are no lights at all. Went to bed at about 11-30.
Le Nieppe. Snowed a bit at night. Very cold. Breakfast 7 o’c. Went forward to Meteren with the General. Horses had gone at 5 o’c. Motored into Bailleul about 10 to II & III Corps. Everything reported quiet. Went round to I Bde Hd Qrs at 12 o’c. Saw periscope for maxim gun. Left Meteren at 1 o’c & rode back. Wrote to the Boss about house. Went for a walk with Mouse. Very cold at night.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
Jan 27. Hd Qrs I Cav Div.
My dear wee Mus.
We had a lovely crossing yesterday the sea was just like oil. But there wasn’t a car to meet us when we arrived. We had to wire up here for one & got it about 9.30. The President had gone to Calais & then like an ass had gone back here. Stupid of him wasn’t it. We had tea & dinner in the hotel & made ourselves quite comfortable. We got back here about 11.30 to find that the Division was standing to. Col Home , Percy, Hardress & Jelf had gone forward to Meteren. We stayed here the night had breakfast at 7 o’c & went out there. They were expecting the Germans to make a push as it was the Kaiser’s birthday.
We went up & saw the II & III Corps but all was quiet in front of them. It snowed a bit last night & was awfully cold. We went round & saw Gen Briggs & saw some new fixtures they have got for a maxim. They have got a new sort of periscope like they have on a submarine so as you can fire the gun without exposing yourself. Rather ingenious it was. I stayed out there till about 1 o’c & then brought the horses back, & got here about 3.30. Mouse & I went out for a long walk. I hear that we are going into the trenches again on Feb 24. Somewhere north of where G is. I don’t exactly know the spot. But expect we will take a bit of the line due north of him. So I think it’s as well I didn’t bring out the beagles. Romer Williams has to send his lot home. It is an awful pity & such a bore for him as it means quarantine for 6 months. I got my boots from Cording’s. I hear they arrived the day after I left. They are no use & have to go back as they are too small. It doesn’t matter though as I have got those field boots. It is stupid of them though. I got a pile of letters from you, one from Gretta & one from Mary . I am sending you back all the letters you sent me & some others too. I don’t want any of them back. So you can have them. I got a box of chocolate & a box of sweets from the Duchess. Nice of her wasn’t it. I wrote to the Boss to-night & will enclose a copy of the letter in this. I do hope it is successful. I’m longing to know what you do about that house. I do hope you get it. I like it awfully. If only he stumps up it would be splendid. I hope I get him in a good mood. The horses are all well. Melody has a bit of a warble on her back but it’s not much really. It is terribly cold to-night. Freezing pretty hard I’d say. I hate this cold. I’d much rather have the rain. It was grand seeing you all but a week does go so quickly at home. I saw Bretherton to-day & thanked him from Mrs Wakefield. He says that his sister is doing all in her power to find Roger. […] Archie Leven apparently escaped from prison & has made all the restrictions twice as bad. Awful pity he got away. It will do him more harm than good I’d say. Heaven help him if they catch him again. There is no more news. My hands are awfully cold so I’ll go to bed. Best love wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Draft letter from Pat Armstrong to Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong
I have been thinking an awful lot about the way the children live here & wonder if you would mind me suggesting something, that is that if you could possibly afford it you should give them 200 a year towards a house. At present it is quite impossible to them to take a house as they can’t afford it. Of course if they were living in Ireland they would be able to have a house without any great difficulty but living in here is very expensive & I don’t know where they could go in England that would be any cheaper. I have been thinking over this a lot lately & don’t think it is fair on the little girls to spend all the best years of their life in a lodging house. It gives them a wrong standing in the world. No man in a position like you, for instance, would ever think of marrying a girl whose home was a lodging house. And I don’t think it gives the little girls a fair chance of making the marriages which they ought to. Of course we don’t want them to get married but I suppose it will happen one day & one wants them to be meeting the right sort of men. And you can understand that the nice men who meet them once in lodgings & then go away for some time & come back & still find them in lodgings look on them in quite a wrong light & take them to be people of a different standing to what they had at first expected. It wouldn’t matter if they were only here for a month or so in the year but when it comes to 10 months it is so difficult. Of course they have got quite enough to live on & I don’t want you to think that they are dissatisfied but I think that it would be much better for the wee girls if they had a base here which they could make into a home. At present it is quite impossible for them to ask any of their friends there. When my Rgt comes home we couldn’t possibly ask any of them to come & stay in a house like that. They all have a good way of making friends but it is hard to keep them in such surroundings. I suggested to Mus that she ought to get a house & she said that if she took a house it would mean that they would have to stay absolutely quiet & never go anywhere. Of course this would be alright for her but it wouldn’t be fair on the wee girls who are just at an age when they want to go about a bit & enjoy themselves. I do hope you won’t mind my writing like this. I’m sure that you will agree with me that it isn’t fair on them to go on living indefinitely in lodgings the way they are at present. I am sure that if you can possibly afford it you will help them.
Thursday 28 January
We went round to see the Mullenders. Went down the town with Doddie, & did some shopping. We went down again after lunch, & I got an apron. Then the little French woman & Mrs Hancocks & Capt. Robinson came for tea, & Mr Bald came in later. At five I went down to help Miss Walter at the Soldier’s Club, till 7-15. There weren’t many people there. Duskey is sleeping in her shed tonight, for the first time since she has been sick, she has been sleeping in the dining room. We went to bed at about 10-30. I saw in the paper, that Ned had been made a Captain!
Le Nieppe. The Gen motored into Corps. Hardress & I went for a ride. Froze hard but roads were good. Strong wind but sunny. Motored into Cassel with Percy, Wilfred & Mouse & walked back. Mouse went on & got Walter Hodson. Left about 6.30 & went to La Motte au Bois to see Regt but they had moved. Had regimental dinner at the hotel du Nord in Hazebrouck.
Friday 29 January
Muz, Doddie & I went to look at the house in Grimston Gardens. Then we went down the town, after lunch Doddie & I walked to the laundry, & home by Sandgate Road. Then we went down the town again. Doddie & I went up to the Tango Tea & had tea there, & Ione came up later. Muz went to tea with Mrs Dean, Dickie Holland was there, then she came on to us later. We didn’t dance, we just watched. […]
Le Nieppe. Froze hard. Went for a ride with the General & Percy. My snow boots were scorned. Gloriously sunny. Went out again with the General & rode through the forest. Left here about 6.30 & brought Maurice back to dinner. Tried to snow. 3 Cav Div go into the trenches on Feb 3d.
Saturday 30 January
Doddie & I cleaned out the drawing room! Then I settled the flowers, the others went out. Colonel & Mrs Hancock, Mrs Collins, Madame von Ypersele, Major Ward, & Captain Spooner came for tea. Then Captain Robinson & Captain Chadwyck-Healey came & dined, & they went with Ione & Doddie to the dance. Mrs Thurburn chaperoned them. Muz & I went to bed at about 10-30.
Le Nieppe. Snowed in the night. Cold but sunny. Started for a ride with the General but met Gen Allenby who said that there was a concentration of 3 Corps at Courtrai & that we might be called out. Gen went back to the Chateau. Wrote letters. Went out for a ride in the afternoon & for a walk in the evening.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
Jan 30. Hd Qrs I Cav Div.
My dear wee Mus.
I am enclosing some extracts from some letters written by Bretherton’s sister to his mother. Will you send them on to Mrs Wakefield with the note I have put inside. I think you may like to read them first as they are rather interesting. I got a letter from you this morning. It’s splendid that he will come down to £200. Now if the Boss only stumps up all will be well. If not I’ll give you £100 toward the first year’s rent. But it’s such a nice house that it would be a pity to let it go. I am hoping to hear to-morrow that you have decided to take it. I’m sure it is the best thing to do. I think it’s a bad plan to go on living indefinitely in lodgings. I wonder when you will take it from if you do decide to take it. Don’t forget that I have got a lot of pictures & things packed away at Moyaliffe. There are enough pictures there to do several rooms. And there are some cushions & things in an ottoman which I had at Eton. They would all be useful. What fun you will have furnishing it. I wish I was home to help you.
We have been standing to all to day as the Germans were massing at — & an attack was expected. But it’s now nearly 6 P.M. so I don’t suppose anything will happen to-day. It has been pouring hard every day since I got back. It snowed a bit last night so the roads were awful this morning. The Gen & I started out for a ride but met Gen Allenby who told us that we might be wanted so we came back again. I went out for a ride this afternoon but otherwise have just been messing about here. Maurice dined with me last night. It was nice seeing him. There are now 60 people at Tidworth waiting to come to us & the 18th. And he would have to go there & take his turn with them as he doesn’t really belong to the Rgt. I shouldn’t be surprised if he went as an observer to the Flying Corps. Rather a good job that would be. He has flown a lot with Hammond & knows quite a bit about it. I am hoping to get Pokes over here for a night. He is going to be left behind when the Rgt goes up to Ypres. They go next Wednesday & stay there for 10 days. And are then relieved by the II Cav Div who are relieved by us on Feb 24.
He has been a bit seedy lately somebody has got to be left to look after the bad horses so they are leaving him. They go up to the trenches in motor busses. I hope that the frost will have gone when we go up there. It is so terribly cold standing about when it’s freezing. I’d much rather have the rain. I sent Cording’s boots back to him as they were much too small in the feet. Stupid of him wasn’t it. However I’m well off for boots now. No hews from B yet. But I don’t expect to hear for some days yet. I expect she will write on Sunday. I don’t know if I told you that I got a parcel of chocolate & sweets from the Duchess when I got back here. Nice of her wasn’t it. Well wee Mus I’m just going out for a bit of a walk. I’m hoping to hear to-morrow that you have taken that house. I mean that about the £100 & will send you a cheque as soon as I hear that you have decided to take it. I’m well off now & when I am you may as well benefit by it. There will be lots of times when I may come to you for a bit. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Sunday 31 January
Letter from Pat dated 28th. Ione, Doddie, Tom & I went to church, then we went out on the front, but Doddie & I came in earlier. After lunch Ione & Capt. Robinson went in a taxi with Florence to Westenhanger, & met Mr Stubbs, who rode over from Wye, & Mary, Miss Marlowe, Mr Harvie & Mr Dalrymple rode out. I went out on the front with Muz, & talked to Mr Johnston. Madame Mullenders came to say good-bye to us. Doddie stayed here for Mr Bald, but he didn’t come. The others got back at about six. […]
Le Nieppe. Left for church at 9.15 but it snowed hard. Went to I Bde Hd Qrs then on to II Bde. Then went into Bailleul to II Corps Hd Qrs. All quiet in front of II & III Corps. Got back in time for lunch. Very cold & dull snowed hard all the time. Walked on to Sercus. Percy & Mouse came a bit of the way. Quite nice & sunny. Saw Pokes. Stayed there till about 6 o’c & walked back. Col Ludlow picked me up in his car near home.
Letter from Blanchie Somerset, Badminton, Gloucestershire, to Pat Armstrong
I know you’ll be furious at me not answering your letter before, but honestly I didn’t know what to say to it – I don’t know my own mind I suppose that’s what it is – I’m going to write perfectly openly to you when I say that there’s only you & the one I’m engaged to in the world that I’m fond of & the thing is that I don’t know which I love best – I hate writing like this as I’d like to be able to say definitely something, but I can’t. I’ve been thinking & thinking ever since I got your letter. I saw the one I’m engaged to the other day & I’m afraid Pat, I’m afraid you’ll have to forgive & forget me, I was impulsive the other day & I bitterly regret it, although I was happy for the moment till I realised what I’d done. You’d told me in a thousand ways, although you’d never spoken a word, that you loved me, therefore knowing it, it was very wrong of me to let you tell me & to encourage you as I did – I’m sorry & it hurts me to write like this, I only hope that it won’t make you as miserable & that you’ll very soon forget me – How I wish I could talk to you, it would make it so much easier. No, I don’t think the boys have any idea of it, about Mother I’m not sure. Pat, forgive me, but you must remember I’m not very old & so can hardly be expected to know my own mind (or heart) yet, can I? Don’t you think yourself that it would be much better for us both if we settle nothing finally for a bit? Anyway till we meet again & can talk it over? I think it would. Write as coldly as you like, I think it is much best, in fact I should have out the “Blanchie dear” at the end, as I shall always understand & as you say you can always write a private bit when you want to say anything important which is quite safe – Well I must stop & let’s always be friends whatever happens – please
- The Muir family were living at No. 11 Grimston Avenue, Folkestone, and consisted of Frances Emma Muir, a widow, and her children Archibald, Frances, Charles, William and Helen ⇑