WEEK 48: ORDERED TO THE DARDANELLES
Monday 24 to Sunday 30 May 1915
The Second Battle of Ypres ended on 25 May when a final attack by the German troops was repulsed to the east of the city. Although the battle was a tactical victory for the Germans, it failed to break the stalemate on the Western Front. The sacrifices on either side were enormous, with 70,000 Allied and 35,000 Germans dead, wounded or missing. Although condemned as barbaric, the gas warfare introduced by the Germans during this battle was quickly adopted and made extensive use of by the Allies in the years to follow. In Folkestone, perhaps weary of the repeated Zeppelin attacks over Kent, Mrs Armstrong packed her bags and took her daughters to Camberley for a short respite with Mrs Kirwan and her daughter Kathleen. Meanwhile in France, the pressure for Pat Armstrong to re-join his regiment kept daily increasing. An unexpected solution to the problem presented itself when General de Lisle received orders to take command of the 29th Division in the Dardanelles and insisted on taking Pat along.
Monday 24 May
We got a wire in the morning from Mr Murray-Smith to say they were off to the Front, & would we lunch at the Grand. The Stubbses, Noel, us, Ronald, Mr M-S, & Mr Nicholson, & afterwards we went up to the station to see them off. Mr Taylor & Mr Mellor are going too. They cross tomorrow. Then Noel took us up to the 3rd H. sports in his car, & Mr Nicholson & Mr North too. We were going to dine with the three of them at the Grand tonight, so Mr Nicholson kept up the party, & had Mr North too, & Mrs Wyndham . Muz came too. The dance was great fun. We went to bed at about 2-30. We showed the Stubbses the house this morning. […]
My dear wee Mus.
I hope you got the map I sent off to you yesterday. I’m still awfully worried to know what to do about the Rgt. I talked to Percy yesterday & he said that there was no question about it. If the General says I have got to stay that I can’t go. But I feel that there will be an awful outcry in the Regt if I don’t go. I am going to think it over for a few days but will have to definitely decide before we leave Ypres on the 28th. If I go at all I’ll go then. What the General says is true that the Regt can’t be dependent on one subaltern. But I want to do what is right. Brock said to me one day about the 10th I think it was when we first went to Ypres “You stick to your staff job don’t come back whatever you do, I wish I hadn’t. They promised me a squadron which I had for a week then I became 3rd in command of it & now &’m in charge of Echelon A.” So he can’t say anything to me. I really feel that there will be more of an outcry if I don’t go then it is my bounden duty to go. They have got lots of people at home most of them very young but the General has got no way of replacing me. What I feel is that I go back now & am second in command for a bit then other people come out who are senior to me & I become nobody & have given up a real good job. All my best friends are gone so I have really very little wish to go. The Gen says that I could go to command a squadron which is a good job but he won’t let me go for anything else. Mouse is going back to his Rgt to command a squadron. He is very senior, he is senior captain & now that his Colonel George Steele is dead he will be made a Major. I am at present 4th on the roll of subalterns. I don’t want to go back as a subaltern as I feel that anybody can do subalterns work just as well as I can. Of course I know what they feel about it, they know me & don’t know who may be sent out & of course tout for people they know. Well it is a difficult problem & I’m bound to get a good deal of dirty water thrown at me whatever happens. But the question is does it matter. I feel I owe a lot to the General but I suppose one’s first duty is to the Regt, but then I feel I am more valuable here than I would be as a second in command. I don’t know what to do. I will decide definitely by the end of the week & let you know. […] I got two letters from you yesterday of the 20th. I am glad you saw G. You seem to be doing great work with papers etc. But don’t work too hard this hot weather. It is glorious here to-day. The General went off to Ypres yesterday. I go up to-morrow for two days. It is glorious to-day. I have got to go into St Omer to buy stores. Percy is lending me his car. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
My dear wee Mus.
It is now 8.30 & Percy isn’t back so I’ll write to you as I may not have much time to spare to-morrow. […] The brutes used the gas again this morning at 3 am but didn’t do much damage. It apparently missed the front trenches & only worried the people in the 2d line. It came right into Ypres & the effects of it were felt as far back as Vlamertinge. Percy has a rumour that the Div may come out to-night & be relieved by the II Cav Div. I talked to Percy to-day at lunch about my going back. He was wanted to go & command his Regt last week when Bromwell was wounded but didn’t go as he felt he was more needed here. The 4th D.G.’s wanted Hardress back at Messines when they had all those casualties but he didn’t go. So Percy told me I had better write to the Adjt & lay the case before him. So I wrote to him & enclose a copy of the letter. There is bound to be a lot of talk about it & I’ll probably make myself very unpopular but I don’t see what else I can do. The General won’t let me go & there’s an end of it. One thing I’m glad about is that I have got Brock if he says anything. He is the person I’d be afraid would talk most. He has got a very bitter tongue & people listen to him. It is rather worrying though as it’s bound to be very unpleasant. I enclose a copy of a letter which I wrote to Squeaker. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
After seeing Bill Stanley I went & told the General that the Regt wanted me to go back as 2d in command of A Sqdn. He said that under present circumstances he could not spare my services & that I could not go. So for the time being my hands are tied. If however you again let me know that the Regt has need of me I will approach him on the subject & see what can be done, as I’m only too willing to do anything that is wanted.
Yrs ever Pat.
Will you lay the matter before Bill Stanley as I want him to clearly understand the facts of the case.
Tuesday 25 May
Got a letter from Miss Trench to say she wanted me to telephone to her, as she wanted to ask things about Ned for Mrs Penrose. I am going to write to her instead. […] Maurice de Tuyll & Major Mitford reported killed yesterday. Italy declared war yesterday.1
Esquelbecq. Rode before breakfast. Gloriously hot. Wrote letters & rode again about 11 o’c. Left at 2.15 with Percy & went up to Reninghelst & relieved Hardress. He and Mouse went back about 6. Bdes were resting in huts after having a real bad time. Grenfell & Court in 9th killed. Edwards died of gas. Reynolds wounded. Both Woods killed in 18th. Burnell down with pleurisy from effects of gas. The Gen got orders to take command of the 29th Div in the Dardanelles.
Thursday 27 May
Muz & I went to London by the 9-35, & then took our luggage to Waterloo, & then went & met Gordon, & lunched with him at Jules2, then went & shopped. We saw the Italians marching through. Then we had tea with him at the Carlton, & stayed there till it was time to go for the six train, & then came down to Camberley, to stay with the Kirwans. We sat up & talked till about eleven. Pat is still talking about going back to the Regiment, but Muz wrote to the General on Tuesday & said not to let him go.
Reninghelst. Dull & rather cold. Sat in all morning & kept house. Bertie & Sally went to troops & round Bdes. A working party of 700 required. Went to Corps with Sally in afternoon & then walked up to Scharpenbefg with Bertie & Mac. Pedlar Gen Bingham got command of the Div. Tommy Pitman got II Bde. No news from the General. Afraid my chances of the Dardanelles are hopeless.
Friday 28 May
Walked about with Kathleen, & went down the town. Mrs Kirwan was having a bridge party, so Kathleen took Muz & I for a lovely drive. We went round by Aldershot, & back by Frimley,3 & we saw the German prisoners & the aliens in the wire entanglement camp, in the distance. They have got 3500 there. Wrote letters after tea, & after dinner we sat & talked, & went to bed at about 10-30. Kathleen sent of more pyjamas this morning.
Letter from Violet Trench to Jess Armstrong
Dear Miss Armstrong.
Thank you very much for your kind letter – I fear we have ended by only giving you more trouble. Mrs Penrose wanted so much to know who told you about Ned being put into the shelter of a shell hole. Was he conscious or unconscious at the time. Did they think him mortally wounded when they left him. Inevitably so many questions rise to one’s mind in trying to piece the little bits of information together. But if you have only been told by some one who heard from some one else then I fear there is not much to be gained. We are trying to fit the links in with the Seaforth Sergeant’s story that he saw a wounded R.I.F. officer brought into a trench by Germans and taken away out of it by them when they evacuated it. But so you cannot find out if that trench was anywhere near where Capt Maunsell said he’d wounded (he says in the shoulder) and he thinks he was killed at once. But Capt Maunsell’s nerves have broken down completely – and it is possible he was mistaken in his observations during such an appalling time as it must have been – If you know any one who actually saw Ned after he was hit – and that man is in England & you could tell us where, I think Mrs Penrose would go & see him if was possible. I know you will understand and forgive all this.
Saturday 29 May
Wrote letters some of the morning, & wrote to Miss French. General de Lisle wrote to Muz, that he had been ordered to the Dardanelles in command of 29th Division. But he had had to leave Pat behind, but wants to try & get him to follow. We telephoned to Mrs de Lisle, but she didn’t know any more. The General left on Wed. We went down to the town, & looked at a curiosity shop. Kathleen went somewhere for tea, & Di Montgomery came here, & then we left her home afterwards, & then went for a drive, picked K. up, & then went for another. Awfully pretty country. Ione goes to the dance with the Nicholsons tonight. After dinner Kathleen sang & ragged about. We went to bed at about 11-30.
Esquelbecq. Hot sun but a bit cold only hot later on. Went into St Omer about 9.15 with Mouse & Bertie & saw Gen Macready. The Military Sec wired home for permission for me to go to Gallipoli. Rode with Mouse in the afternoon then went down to Broxeele & saw Egerton in the 17th Lancers.
May 29. Esquelbecq.
My dear wee Mus.
I have just got two letters from you of the 26th. I’m sorry you are so worried about my going back. But I felt that I wasn’t pulling my weight here & that as the Regt was so short I ought to be back with them. Yes! Now looking back on it I was silly to go there a second time. But I felt it my duty to go back although I didn’t want to. I would hate people to say that I was needed & wouldn’t go back. Well I told you what I wrote & said to them. I still feel that I ought to be with them. I think I have got out of it now as a matter of fact. I got a letter last night from General to cake4 to General Macready the Adjutant General. Well I went into him with it this morning. He says that I can go as far as he is concerned. Then I went on to the Military Secretary who has wired to the War Office for permission for me to go. He says that he thinks I ought to get it alright. I ought to hear to-night or early to-morrow morning. Then I will take the horses down to Marseilles over to Egypt & then on to Gallipoli. I don’t know much about it yet but will let you know full particulars about it as soon as I hear. If I don’t go I’ll try & fix to stay on here with Gen Bingham. But people at G. H Q. seem to be very confident that I will be able to fix to go with the General. It will mean a lot of hard work but will be interesting, seeing a new country. No comfortable chateaus to live in there. Still it will be more amusing than sitting in a dirty ditch with the Regt. I wish I knew for certain that I was certain that I was going. If possible I will try & get home for a day before I go but don’t really think there is any chance of it. I will probably have to go off from here on Monday. I know nothing definite yet but will write & let you know as soon as I hear. […] I expect you will have seen the General & know as much as I do. I hope you like the idea, it will be a change from the Wipers5 salient. We all got back here last night. Best love dear wee Mus. I am sorry you were so worried about my going back to the Regt.
Your loving Pat.
Letter from “Squeaker” [Major George Edward Gosling] to Pat Armstrong
I have at last discovered that you have refunded to the Polo Club, £24. I therefore am sending you a cheque for that amount. We are all so sorry you are not coming back, as the Regiment badly needs all its own back with it now. The Old Tenth have written many kind letters but this does not fill up the gaps. We hope your General will be able to reconsider his decision. Just off to the trenches.
Letter from Hardress Lloyd to Pat Armstrong [undated but written at around this time]
Well now Pat, here’s the idea.
The General may be allowed to bring out 2 horses to the Dardanelles. So when the order comes you are to bring out “Streetthorpe” and my horse “Blackneck”, as the General thinks “Blackneck” would be better than his other chestnut horse.
This show ought to be good fun & I hope you will be out soon as I know you are not fit to be left alone in France now that Mouse & I will not be there to keep you out of mischief. How is himself the “Grand Calot”6 – just stand to attention & salute him from me.
Love to Sally and Bertie Fisher, & to you boy why I hope it’s au revoir.
Sunday 30 May
Esquelbecq. Nice sunny morning, rode with Babe. Rode with Mouse about 11 o’c. Went round by Socx & got back about 1 o’c. Drove Mac into St Omer in the afternoon in one of the little cars. Heard that I would go to Gallipoli. Basil & Gen Byng came over in the afternoon to see Gen Bingham.
Sunday night. May 30.
My dear wee Mus.
[…] The morning before last (Friday) Col Home got a letter from the General enclosing a letter to the Adjutant General which I was to take to him & asking for me to be allowed to follow him. Well! Yesterday morning I went into G.H.Q & saw him & he said he had no objection as far as he was concerned. Then he sent me on to the Military Secretary who also had no objection & who wired home to the W.O. to know if the objected. Then I went to the Qr Master General (a dear old man) & discussed with him about taking horses. The General is really only allowed one & asked as a great favour to be allowed to take two. But I wheedled him a bit & have fixed up to take four. I am going to take “Streetthorpe” of the General’s “Blackneck” of Hardress’s & Melody & the Palfrey. Good work that isn’t it. They told me that they expected to hear from the W.O last night & as I had heard nothing by lunch time to-day & got Mac to come in with me & let me drive one of his little cars in. We started off at 3.30 & I went to the Military Secretary’s office & to my delight I found that a wire had come in about an hour before saying “No objection”. So now I’m for it for better or for worse. I am going in again in the morning to see the A.G & Q.M.G & see what I can fix up. The Q.M.G. wired down to Marseille to-day to find out about boats for me. He wired yesterday too. There was a boat that goes on June the 3rd which would take horses but not us. So I won’t go till after that for certain.
[…] Later 11. pm. I have just packed up that green canvas gab & will get Bingham to dump it at the cloak room at the harbour for me to-morrow. I enclose the key in this. Will you unpack it when you get it as otherwise my coats will get destroyed. There are all my thick winter things in it which I won’t want in Gallipoli. The bit of marble & glass are out of the cloth hall at Ypres. There are three maps in the pocket which may interest you. It is rather late so I think I will turn in for a bit. It is such a relief to me to know that you aren’t worried about me going to Gallipoli. I hated feeling that you were worried at my going back to the Regt. I asked you for films in one of my letters, don’t worry about them, I now find on going through my kit that I still have four boxes. I think in future your best plan would be when you have got a parcel of films developed to keep them in separate envelopes & number them such & such a series. I will send you a parcel of 3 rolls in a day or so. You had better make up some number for them then any I send you from Gallipoli you can number them “Series G 1 etc”. That will make it easier. The way we have them at present they are bound to have got in an awful muddle. Good night dear wee Mus. I hope you are feeling better for your change. I hope to see you on Tuesday but don’t hold out much hope of it. I will get you a wire off it I can if I’m coming. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
I am just going to sample my silk pyjamas. Awful luxury & I’ve got sheets too!!
- Italy entered the First World War by declaring war on Austria-Hungary on 23 May 1915⇑
- Hotel Jules at 85-86 Jermyn Street, London ⇑
- Frimley was the location of Frith Hill Detention Camp where German prisoners were interned during the First World War ⇑
- To cake = to fraternize, to ‘sweet talk’⇑
- Ypres ⇑
- (Fr.) Grand calot = lit. ‘large cap’, synonym for General, referring in this case to General de Lisle ⇑