WEEK 35: ALL THE NICE LITTLE SOUVENIRS ARE GONE
Monday 22 to Sunday 28 February 1915
On the last week of February, the 1st Cavalry Division under the command of General de Lisle moved into the trenches near Ypres to take over from Gough’s 2nd Cavalry Division. Taking it upon himself to inspect the whole of the line held by his Division, de Lisle had a near escape from death when a sniper’s bullet missed his head by inches and hit Lieutenant Bell-Irving in the thigh instead. Pat Armstrong arrived in Ypres later in the week and was appalled by the level of destruction in the city. Scrambling over ruined buildings with camera in hand, he made valiant attempts to find a memento or two to send home but with little success. In Folkestone, Mrs Armstrong’s nephew Marcus ‘Markie’ Maude of the 4th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) became a regular visitor to No. 14 Trinity Crescent. Rather more interested in parties than military training, Markie and the Armstrong sisters enjoyed a busy social calendar which included a new form of entertainment: the cinema.
Monday 22 February
Stayed in bed in the morning, & got up for luncheon. Went down the town afterwards. We went to the bandaging class, & then changed & Mr Harvie & Markie came & dined, & we went up to the Grand, as they were having a dance for the soldiers as they all go to Aldershot tomorrow. There was hardly anyone there, so we four just danced together. Ione heard that Harry may be going out soon, he thinks Thursday or Friday. The dance was over at eleven.
Tuesday 23 February
Le Nieppe. Quite a nice morning. The Gen went into St Omer with President. Left here at 11.15 & rode to the other side of Cassel with Hardress. Got back about 1.15. The Gen & Home went off about 2 o’c. Went out to ride about 3 o’c. Went for a chekker round the Pas de Calais & then on to Staple. Stayed there till pretty late came back to find that Ames had been put under arrest for being drunk.
Wednesday 24 February
We heard that a boat had been torpedoed, so we went out on the Front before breakfast to see. There was snow on the Grand. The boat had been torpedoed near Hastings, & was being brought to Dover, & sank here.1 Muz & I went to see Mrs Brooke. Markie came for lunch, then went up to the Grand. After tea we went to the theatre, & came back in Miss Marshall’s taxi. Mr Bald came & called for us, & we went up & dined with him at the Grand. Mr Harter & Markie came there too. Afterwards we went in & danced & Muz played, then we sat in the warm room & talked. Went to bed at about twelve.
Le Nieppe. Froze in the night & started to snow about 9 o’c. Told off Ames. Heard from G. Wrote letters most of the morning & then walked down to echelon B, & saw Davidson. Rode Nutmeg into St Omer in the afternoon. Rained hard & was very cold. Percy & Wilfred got back rather late […]
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
Feb 24. Hd Qrs I Cav Div.
My dear wee Mus.
I got a long letter from you last night of the 20th. It’s funny you’re not getting my letters as I think I have written every day but you mustn’t mid if you don’t hear every day as when we are busy it’s an awful grind writing letters & very often it’s quite impossible. For instance next week at Ypres I won’t promise to write every day. It is horribly cold her to-day. It froze last night & has been snowing it is sort of raining now. The General & all went off to Ypres yesterday. I go up on Sunday & relieve Hardress. Percy & Wilfred are here. We had a very quiet little dinner last night only the three of us. I wonder if you saw the Brocks. You will like Phil & I think his wife. He [Brock] is quite off Nina, he has apparently had an awful row with her. But that is nothing really as he fights with everybody. He is awfully lucky to get home as that is the last lot of leave. Odd lad he is he told me about a week ago that he didn’t want to go home. He was grousing at Pokes going & said that he oughtn’t to go as he hadn’t been up to the trenches. Then I asked him if he wanted to go & he said “No I wouldn’t go if I could”. He just wanted to have a grouse. Poor old Brock. I’m awfully fond of him but he is awfully trying to have any dealings with. I am afraid that he is getting worse now there is nobody in the Regt to keep him in order & he is a perfect pig to all these attached people. I hear they all hate him. He makes awful enemies for himself.
It is snowing hard now a real beastly day. I am sorry for those poor devils in the trenches. This Div seems to be rather unlucky. We had weather like this before when we were up at Ypres. I do hope it doesn’t go on all the time we are there. These last few days have been so nice too. Almost like spring some of them. The 1st Bde went into the trenches last night. Poor devils it’s miserable having a day like this. I’m glad that you have fixed up about the house. He sounds a nice old man. I rather think I know him. He lives just beyond the road where I used to turn to the right to go up to see the ponies. Doesn’t he. In a little house on the right hand side of the road as you go to Hythe. It was a silly business not being able to let you more than 6 months. But now you are well fixed. I’m longing to hear that you are in to it. It seems so long to wait till June but I dare say it’s as well as it gives you plenty of time. How lovely it will be. But I’m awfully afraid that you will have a job to work it with two servants. But I suppose you can always get in another if you want one. My hands are so cold that it is awfully hard to write. The snow is lying now & looks like going on. Damnable it is. I got a long letter from G this morning, which I enclose. He sent it in rather a good envelope an ordinary foreign one but big enough to hold the paper only doubled over once. Could you get me some like that. You know I think that the letter blocks are the best thing we have struck yet. They are so handy to carry about. Much better than big ones really. I like big ones better to write on but these are handier. This is practically a new one so you can send me another when you think this is getting low. I haven’t heard from Bonbon yet about her meeting with Lady Ierne but dare say I will to-morrow. Harry never answered my letter which was rather odd. He is an awful child that. It’s an awful pity that he is so young. He was so pleased at being engaged that he couldn’t keep quiet about it. It was a great pity that his father ever got to know about it.
We are having a great spring clearing of the house. I have got a lot of Mouse’s policemen in to do it & keep on going up & seeing how they are getting on. It had got in an awful dirty state & wanted it badly. I hope to get the first two floors done to-day & the bottom one to-morrow. It is a bad day this though as we can’t get out to beat the carpets. I hope to-morrow will be better & we’ll get them done then. It’s good the Boss giving the £100 isn’t it. What sort of wages do you have to pay servants? That’s what I’m worried about. You would absolutely have to have a cook & a house maid wouldn’t you? Odd the Giblet being married isn't it. It’s a regular epidemic. Yes! I hear it is a cousin. What sort of yearly rent did you pay in the lodgings? I can’t remember. Of course you had coal then so that would be about the same & you’d feed about the same. So over above Rent, taxes & servants you oughtn’t to have much more. Then if only you could have a good let in the summer for 2 or 3 months you might get back about half the rent. I wish you were going in earlier in some ways as then you would have a chance of letting it this year. But anyhow this year I can help you & I think that it would really be best if you stayed there all the time & got comfortably settled into it. Don’t you. I am longing to see it all settled up. Great Scott! There are snow flakes coming down now as big as a 5 shilling bit. Damnable isn’t it. It is nearly 12 o’c & I haven’t been out yet. It’s too beastly. I’m awfully glad old Clem got a D.S.O. You met Wilson that day with me in Sandon's.2 He left us in India. Quite a good fellow in many ways but queer in others. He kept strange company in India. We always used to say that his friends weren’t in the Regts. I believe he did awfully well out here. He is home sick now. Did I tell you that Basil is at home sick with flu. I must go out for a bit of a walk now in spite of this d—d snow. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Thursday 25 February
Stayed in bed for breakfast. Markie came for lunch, & then he & Tom went up to the Grand. Ione stayed in bed all day. After lunch, Helen came round, & we went down the town & then out on the Front. Mrs Hancox came for tea. Markie came for dinner, & he, Ione & I went to the theatre,3 a variety show, but not good. Harry was in a box, with people in his regiment, & he came down & talked for a bit, then afterwards Markie came back, & we waited up for Harry, & he came here at twelve, & went 22-30. I boiled up our hot water bottles, & went to bed at about one. Muz was in bed when we got back, but not asleep.
Le Nieppe. Snowed in the night very cold. Rode Diana & then went out to try & see big guns which were supposed to be coming up from St Omer to Hazebrouck. Started at 1.45 for Allouagne to get Rudolph. Found him out. Had tea there & brought him back.
My dear wee Mus.
A grand long letter from you of the 21st. You are splendid about writing. No news here at all. It snowed hard again last night & the whole place is covered with snow. Perfectly horrible. But there is a glorious sun which makes up for a lot. I am going out to ride in a few minutes but just want to drop you a line before I go. This letter will be rather slower than the one I posted to you yesterday. I posted it in St Omer myself & it goes quicker like that this goes by ordinary post. I had such a nice letter from Mrs Howard yesterday. I’ll answer it & send it to you. But I haven’t time now so it will have to wait till to-morrow. I enclose 4 negatives. Will you give them to Jess. I’d like a copy of each made & sent to me. They develop alright out here but print them awfully badly. I hope to get my photo from you to-day. Well wee Mus this is a rotten letter but I must get out for a bit. Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 26 February
Went down the town. After lunch I did some tidying. Ione & Markie went up to the Tango Tea. After dinner Markie, Ione & I went to the electric theatre, it was quite good. We went to be at about twelve.
Le Nieppe. Froze hard but nice sunny morning. Rudolph went off about 9 o’c. Went out for a ride. Left here about 10.30 with Percy for Ypres arrived bout 12.30. Called at Poperinge on the way. The Gen & Hardress had just got back from their rounds. Both very wet & muddy. Had lunch with them. Took some photos & left about 3.30. Things very quiet. Maurice & Sea Lad came to dinner.
Feb 26 Hd Qrs I Cav Div.
My dear wee Mus.
A grand long letter from you last night of the 23rd also a box of biscuits which you said in your letter you were sending. So they came as quick as a letter. Good that wasn’t it. Bee sent me a lot of bulls eyes & chocolate & a cake so I had a great mail. We had quite an interesting day yesterday. I went for a ride about 9 o’c & left here in the car with Percy about 10.30 getting to Ypres soon after 12 o’c. We went & saw the Gen & had lunch with him at least I did. Percy was too busy. Then I left him about 2 o’c & wandered all over the place taking photos & looking at everything. It is simply dreadful the state the whole place is in. They have absolutely knocked the Cloth Hall & Cathedral to bits. The Cathedral is boarded up so I couldn’t go in there. But it was all very interesting. I took a lot of photos of it. I hope that they will be good. But the camera is rather too small to take good ones of a place like that. You can’t get enough in. I bought a lot of picture post cards which I will send you. I have got a bit of glass out of the window of the Cloth Hall & a bit of marble off one of the bust things. All the nice little souvenirs are gone. I’ll try & get some more when I am up there.
The General seems pretty comfortable. He has quite a nice house he goes to at night. It has hardly been hit at all. Just a few marks of shrapnel on it. But nothing much. Then he has another house on the ramparts which he goes to in the day time. That isn’t much knocked about either. It was quite a nice sunny day yesterday bright & cold. To-day is a brute. It froze last night & is horribly dark & cold & windy to-day. Looks like more snow than anything else. Sickening it is having this rotten weather just when we are in the dykes. Hear that we may have to do a second time. As there doesn’t seem anybody wanting to take on that bit of the line. I thought that the French were going to but apparently they won’t. Did I tell you that Bell-Irving was hit in the thigh by a sniper a few days ago. Wednesday I think it was. Cecil Howard come round this morning & told me that 6 of his Rgt were killed & 5 wounded in that show last week. They were apparently all killed or wounded in the counter attack after the trenches were blown up. Dreadful isn’t it. The 2nd Bde go in to-night & relieve the 1st Bde. It’s dreadful weather for them. Yes, that was a queer letter of the Boss’s. He sort of answers your letter as if I had written it. I wonder if he will ever give the other £100. Would just make all the difference. I’m sorry that Bonbon is worrying about Harry. It makes it so much worse than not being allowed to see each other. It is dreadfully cold so I’m going off for a ride. I’ll write again to-morrow either before or after I get to Ypres. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
P.S. I saw G. yesterday on the road for about a minute. Can you get me some envelopes like this.
Letter from Blanche Somerset, Badminton, Gloucestershire, to Pat Armstrong
Thank you awfully for your last letter. I do love getting the enclosed little ones! I show Mother solemnly all the others! I’ve no news at all for you, my darling. Di & I feel quite lost without the beagles, it was hard luck having to sell them. So now we’ve taken to coursing & we collect all the most awful poaching dogs from all over the country. It’s great fun, but we don’t seem to kill very many hares! All this evening I’ve been shooting starlings up in the Verge you know, the place you shot in when you were last here. It reminded me so of that day but all the time I felt that some one was missing! & did so long for you to be there. Darling, I feel in the end I shall have to come to you, but I’m such a dreadful flirt I never know my own heart or what it’ll do next – I’m not nearly good enough for you & I’m afraid I shall probably make the man I marry frightfully unhappy as he’ll never know what I shall do next! Well, Pat darling, I must dress for dinner.
Much love yr loving Blanchie
Saturday 27 February
Went down the town & did the housekeeping shopping, then met Muz & Heppie at the auction rooms, & waited & brought the “out porter” up here, with the sofa, & dinner service. We brought it in, & then I flew off to Miss Duff & Captain Stokes'4 wedding, & had lunch when I came back. Markie was here for lunch, but went to the Grand afterwards. Ione went to the Soldier’s club. I went round to see Mrs Stubbs, & then the Walters, but Helen was out. Markie came for dinner, & he, Ione & I went to the dance. Harry was there. We danced in the supper room afterwards, & then came back in Mr Harvie’s taxi, Markie came back for a bit. Went to bed at about 1-30, Ione came up & talked. We met a lot of new people, mostly Dover people, it was great fun.
Le Nieppe. Percy & Wilfred went to Ypres. Rode Lady B out Towards Staple – got back about 12.30. Very cold wind but quite fine. Cecil came over & stayed for a short time. Rode over to see the Royals saw Philip & Bosun. Col Home’s car went to be mended. Rained in the evening.
Sunday 28 February
Muz, Tom & Ione & I went to church. Markie came round, & he, Ione & Tom went out on the Front. I tidied the dining room. Mr Stubbs & Mr Harvie came for lunch, & Helen came in afterwards. They left at about three, & were going to ride to Wye. Helen stayed & talked for a bit, & then I walked home with her, she & her mother are going to India on Thursday. Muz went down to help Mrs Lucas at the soldier’s club after tea. Markie, Tom & Ione went to tea at the Grand, I wrote letters, then went down to the club till nine. Mr Bald came for dinner, & went to bed at about 11-30. They came back at about eleven. They danced some of the time. Harry was there. Afterwards they went up to the Grand.
Le Nieppe. Left at 8.30 & rode Melody up to Ypres. Glorious sunny day. Arrived about 12.30. Took a good many photos. Walked round the ramparts with the Gen & then round the town with Fitz. 2d Bde relieved the 1st Bde in the trenches. Hardress went back with Percy. Went back about 7 o’c to our night house.
Feb 29 Hd Qrs I Cav Div.
My dear wee Mus.
A grand long letter from you last night enclosing one of Eusty’s which was rather difficult to read but interesting when one had deciphered it. I am leaving here about 8.30 this morning for “Wipers”5 but will just scribble you a few lines before I go. It is an awfully nice day which is good luck. It’s windy but nice & sunny so I’m going to get off nice & early while it’s fine. I wrote you an odd scribble yesterday but I found the post just going out so I thought that I would just scratch you a line & send the other letter which I had half written later. I must be off now. I’ll try & write more to-morrow. Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat.
- The British steamer SS Oakby was torpedoed by a German submarine in the English Channel on its way from London to Cardiff on 23 February 1915. The damaged vessel sank off the coast of Folkestone whilst in tow for Dover. All passengers and crew were saved.⇑
- Sandon & Co., Savile Row tailors in London ⇑
- Electric Theatres (1908) Ltd. was a pioneering cinema company with 16 cinemas in the Greater London area alone. The popularity of the company was so great that ‘electric theatre’ became fixed as a generic term for cinema in the early years of this art form ⇑
- The marriage of Marjorie Duff and Captain Hubert Francis Stokes ⇑
- Ypres ⇑