In the spring of 1915, Folkestone saw the arrival of large contingents of volunteers from Canada who had volunteered to fight in the Great War. The first 8000 arrivals were billeted in Shorncliffe Army Camp while the remainder were housed with local families. By the end of 1915, some 40,000 Canadians had come to the area to receive their military training before sailing for France. They enjoyed great popularity in town and a number of soldiers’ clubs sprung up to offer entertainment for the men. The clubs organised amateur concerts, provided games such as billiards and Ping-Pong, supplied writing paper and envelopes free of charge and sold stamps, postcards, tobacco, cigarettes, chocolates, biscuits, soaps, tea, coffee, cocoa and food at nominal charges. Jess, recovering from an attack of measles, volunteered to assist with the running of one of these clubs. She also had the pleasure to meet the parents of her sweetheart, Ned Penrose. In France, Pat was trying to come up with an excuse which would grant him leave, unaware that the stifling boredom which had resumed was to be the quiet before the storm.
Monday 12 April
Muz and Ione
Stayed in bed again, all day. Tom is up, but still in her room. Poppy sent us a £100 between us, for our rooms. My temperature was 102. After lunch Muz & Ione went out in the car & went to Newington, to give Colonel Pitman’s servant’s wife some money, for him. They took Mrs Freeman for the run. After dinner I had a tummy ache, & felt fainty, so Muz sent for Dr East, at about 11-30. They didn’t get to bed till after twelve. Heppie stayed in bed some of the afternoon, with a horrid cold.
Le Nieppe. Rode in wood with Babe . Then rode into St Omer & had my hair cut. Met Baird & Gen Stopford. Rode with Percy & Mouse in the afternoon. Then motored over to Vieux-Berquin to try & find Wilfred but he’d gone home. Then went home through Sercus & took Maurice for a drive.
Tuesday 13 April
Had to stay in bed all day, again, Dr East came in the morning. Muz & Heppie went round to see the house. Mr Murray-Smith , & Mrs & Miss Thurburn came for tea. Afterwards Muz gave Duskey her supper, & put her to bed. Tom is up today, but still in her room. Mrs Lloyd wants me to help her again, with her soldiers’ club, on Mondays & Fridays. It opens again tomorrow. Miss Keir is going to help there too. We went to bed at about 10-30.
I can’t remember the dates on your letters but I think I have got them all now alright. The posts were altered & I got a lot together. I got 2 on one day & then none for 4 day. It was rather funny. But it is wonderful how few letters get lost. I’m glad you saw the General. I’ll try & get home somehow but can’t think of a good excuse. I thought of teeth but that isn’t good enough. I think financial affairs would be a good idea. I can’t do like some fellow did & ask to go home to find out if he was engaged to be married or not. Try & think of something. If all else fails I’ll say I want to go home & see about investing some money. You’ll probably be able to think of something. If I can get any sort of excuse at all he’ll let me go from what he said to you. He was very firm about my going home with him, wouldn’t hear of it at all. But when he comes back he will probably let me go. I’d like to get home next Monday if I could. But I’ll go as soon as I can. Saturday would do nicely. Then we could dance that night. What fun it would be. But I don’t feel that I can count on it much. I’d like to get home Friday or Saturday & then go down to Badminton on Monday. I’ll try & get a wire through if I can come. I’ll ask on Friday & might get away Saturday. The sooner I go the better I think. But we must invent something good.
There is little or no news here at present. I hear they have been shelling Ypres a bit heavier than usual & there is a rumour that the Deutsch made a bit of an attack at Kemmel but there is nothing in official about it. Yesterday was quite a nice warm day. Babe & I rode before breakfast as usual. Then I rode into St Omer & had my hair cut & met Gen Stopford G’s old man. He was sent home sick you remember. Well he is out now & is commanding Hd Qr troops at St Omer a rotten job I should think but he’s hoping for something else. He was awfully pleased when I told him that G had been recommended for a D.S.O. I wish I could see him but I’m afraid he is up in Hooge which is rather unhealthy just at present. If to-morrow is a nice day I might go up. It is drizzling now & rather cold. Babe & I rode this morning & I’m going out again when I have finished this. Well yesterday afternoon I rode with Percy & Mouse & then motored over to Vieux-Berquin to see if I could get Wilfred to come back to dinner but he’d gone home on a week’s sick leave. His knee is rather bad they tell me. Then I came home through Sercus & saw Maurice & took him for a run into Hazebrouck & then got back here about 7 o’c. I got a nice letter from Disi yesterday. I must write to her & will then send it to you. I am sending you a parcel to-day with a woolly waistcoat & a pair of snow boots & galoshes which I don’t want now. It’s no good having a lot of kit here that one doesn’t use. I’ll post it now & get it off in case I don’t get home at the end of the week. I do hope I will be able to make it. Somehow from what the General said to you I think I ought to be able to work it. Has that last lot of films I sent arrived yet? I posted them in their own little box. Let me know as some of them ought to be rather good. […] Well wee Mus I think I have told you all the news & I want to go out for a bit. I think I’ll walk now as it’s rather late. Best love to you all. I do hope I’ll see you all this week end. What fun it would be.
Your loving Pat.
Gordon Elton’s Military Cross
Wednesday 14 April
Stayed in bed all day again. Read some of the time, & finished “A Rose of Yesterday”.1 In the afternoon Muz went round to Madame van Ypersel & brought her & her mother & sister back for tea. She was very depressed, as her husband had gone back to the Front today. Muz came up to bed early, & we went to bed at about ten. Miss Walter came round to ask how I was.
Ever so many thanks for the photos which I shall always keep in remembrance of you. I’m sending you a snapshot of me with my grey-hound at least it’s really a lurcher, but still it’s a dear old dog & goes after anything – I believe Tomorrow is the last day of the hunting season; too depressing for words as I can’t think what we shall do with ourselves all the summer. I almost wish I was going back to Paris, Do you know it’s a year tomorrow since I went to that grey city? I’ve had to have an awful operation done to that good bay horse of mine & they got a thorn out of the knee joint about 2 inches long! But they think he’ll go on alright now – It would be such a pity to have to destroy such a beautiful horse. We got a wonderful vet called Marshall to do it. He’d enlisted in the Belgian artillery & had come back wounded in 4 places! I should think he was an awfully clever vet – Well, my darling write to me soon. Frankie is still here & expected to go out again at the end of this month, when I say here I mean at Tidworth.
Tons of love & kisses
Yr loving Blanchie.
Can you Tell me who it is you photographed with Bobby in that first lot of photos you sent me?
Thursday 15 April
Stayed in bed again all day. Dr East came in the morning. Muz & Ione went in the car to get some primroses near Beachborough. Then went down to the boat to see the General & Captain Lloyd going back, & bring them a parcel for Pat. At 7-30 Muz went down to the club instead of me. I darned stockings nearly all day, & then wrote to Algie. We went to bed at about twelve.
Le Nieppe. Rode with Babe. Then went out on the Palfrey with Mouse. Jumped a bit & then went into the wood. Glorious day. Rode again after lunch with Mouse. Walked down to Ebblinghem & came back with Mouse. The Gen & Hardress got back about 7.30.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
Long letter from you last night of the 12th. I don’t quite know what to do about leave. I think I’ll leave it for a day or two & see if he says anything. I do hope you don’t mention the chance. I don’t think that would be a good plan at all. One thing I’m thinking of saying is that I want to see about buying a couple of 4 year olds. I’ll let you know more to-morrow when I have been able to talk to him. If you have worked him well he may let me go. Splendid the Boss sending that £100. I’ll write to him to-night. This is a glorious day. I rode early with the Babe then after breakfast with Mouse & now I’m going out again. Yesterday was cold & wet. I rode about all day & then went for a long walk with Mouse & Col Home in the evening. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 16 April
Stayed in bed again, all day. Muz & Heppie went round to see the house. Ione went off to Canterbury with Madame de Marotte & her father, they lunched there, & she got back at about 3-30, & then went up to the Tango tea. Muz went down to wards, & was very tired when she got back, & came & lay on my bed, & I creepied her toes, at nine Ione went up to Madame de Marotte & they danced. I had a bath, & then went back to bed again. We went to bed at about 10-30. Darned stockings all day, so I was rather tired.
Le Nieppe. Rode with Bob towards Hondeghem. Rode in the woods with the Gen at 10.15. Went out again with Hardress & got back about 1 o’c. Rode Nutmeg with the Gen at 2.30 looked for place to knock about in. Motored into St Omer & then went for a walk. Heard from B. Harry Dalmeny dined here. Wilfred arrived about 9 o’c & stayed the night.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
General de Lisle at his desk
My dear wee Mus.
Nothing doing yet about leave. I’ve just come in from riding with the General. He said that my excuse wasn’t good enough, but if I get a good one he will let me go. But he doesn’t want me to go till after the 20th of this month. I dare say it is just as well as then Jess will be over the measles. I’ll try & get home before the end of this month. Try & think of some real good excuse for me. I could say Private affairs but I think we can get something better than that. This is a glorious day. I rode at 10.15 with the General & got in about 11.30 then took Melody out & rode round with Hardress. Now I’m just writing this in Percy’s office. He has worked awfully hard for me about my leave. It is after 1 o’c so we are going up to lunch in a few minutes. It is glorious having a day like this. I am sending you a parcel to-day with a woolly waistcoat & a pair of galoshes & snow boots. I don’t want them now so will you keep them for me. I’ll soon be wanting thin clothes if this weather goes on. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Saturday 17 April
Had breakfast in bed, & mended my stays, & then got up. Muz wouldn’t let me go out. We got a letter from Mrs Penrose to ask if she & her husband could come over & see us this afternoon. They are staying at Dover. Tidied my room. Mr & Mrs Penrose came at about four, then at about five Miss Timmins came. Mr Penrose had to leave early, as he had to go & see the Fitzgeralds. Then Miss Walter came. Muz took Mrs P. over to the Fitzgeralds. They are both awfully nice, & so like Ned. Muz went round to the house to plant shrubs, & Ione went to the dance. I went to bed at about ten.
Le Nieppe. Woke rather late Babe went on. Rode through Renescure & into wood. Left here about 11 o’c & rode over to Vieux-Berquin & lunched with Wilfred & went to horse show given by II Cav Div. Heard that the Midland Div were going to blow up some bricks. Left about 6.20 got back at 8 o’c.
Sunday 18 April
We went over to Dover in the car, & brought Mr & Mrs P. over here, & then they, Muz & I went to church, Mr P. stayed for second service, & we went out on the front. Ione & Tom went out with Mr Ross & Mr Hoskyn. Then we met Mr M.S. & Mr Nicholson on the front, & they all four came back for lunch. Afterwards Muz & I took Mr & Mrs P to see the house, & came back here for tea. Then Mr R. & Mr H. went back to Sheerness, & Ione took Mr & Mrs P. back to Dover. Muz & I had to go to Mrs Muir, to help to entertain Canadians. Muz went down to the club at seven, & Tom & I played soldiers. Muz came up to bed at about 11. Ione went up to the Grand & danced. The Penroses are awfully nice, I like them both awfully. They want us to go & stay with them.
Tommy Fairfax Ross
Le Nieppe. Glorious morning. Went to church with the General at 9.15 at Staple. Alister came over to see Fitz. Rode from 11 to 1 o’c. Motored down to Gravelines with the Gen & Col Home. Rather cold wind but nice hot sun. Severe fighting on Hill 60 near Zwarteleen
A Rose of Yesterday (1897) was a novel by Francis Marion Crawford (1854-1909). ⇑