The order for Pat Armstrong to depart for the Dardanelles came so fast that he had no opportunity to travel to England to bid farewell to his family. Aware of the distance that would soon separate her from her son, Mrs Armstrong made the daring decision to get on the first boat to France. Jess, who accompanied her mother on the journey, later recalled: “We had no idea, when we started, where we could find Pat, so had to just take a chance as we could not tell him we were coming. When we got there, we searched every hotel in Marseilles & when we had nearly given up hope: we thought we would just go to the Station on chance of finding out something […]. We walked on to the platform, & the first person we saw, walking towards us, was Pat! […] He was on his way to Gallipoli, so we felt we had to see him, before he left. […] We then had a lovely couple of days with him, & saw him & his horses off at the boat. It was a wonderful experience, & he was so delighted to see us.”
Monday 31 May
Muz thought it was better to go back to Folkestone, as we didn’t know what Pat was going to do. So we left Camberley by the 12 train. When we got up we went to Mrs de Lisle but she wasn’t going to be in till 6-30, so we went to Harrods about beds etc. & then went back to Mrs de Lisle. She didn’t know anything more. The General went out on Saturday. We came back by the seven train […]
Esquelbecq. Rode early & then rode Lady B into St Omer to arrange about journey. Got back about 4 o’c. Then went down to Lestrem to the India Corps to find out when 9th & 125th sailed. Left go about 7 pm & went on to St Omer saw Col Woodroff who told me that I had to start following morning.
Order to depart
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
May 31.Hd Qrs I Cav Div. 11 P.M.
My dear wee Mus.
Orders came about 8 o’c for me to start off to-morrow from St Omer at 8.30. So there is no chance of getting home. I have been awfully busy all day fixing things up. I am sending you back that coat Ward altered for me as it’s too thick for Gallipoli also a very old pair of trousers. Great luck getting all my kit off with Bingham this morning. Best love dear wee Mus. I’ll write again & let you know how the journey is progressing.
Your loving Pat.
Tuesday 1 June
We got a letter from Pat to say that he might get back on a few hour’s leave, so we went down to the boat to meet him, but he couldn’t come. We saw Major Hamilton Grace there. I wrote letters after lunch, & after tea Muz, Heppie & I went round to the house to plant the pines, about sixteen of them. The ground was awfully hard, so we didn’t get back till after nine. We went to bed at about 10-30. We had to water all the plants too.
Esquelbecq. Horses left at 4.30. Started about 7 o’c in Babe’s car. Got horses boxed without difficulty. Left St Omer at 9.15. Arrived Boulogne about 2 o’c. Went to Cox’s & then went & saw 4.30 boat off. Sent letter over to Mus. Had tea with Charles Hunter. Left at 6.30 pm. Had rather uncomfortable night. Slept in a stretcher & was rather cold & dirty.
Wednesday 2 June
Jess and Muz in Marseilles
We got a letter from Pat to say that he couldn’t have got back for leave, & that he had started for the Dardanelles. So we dressed quickly, got our passports visaed, packed & everything in about ½ an hour & Muz & I caught the boat to Boulogne, & had a lovely crossing, then went straight to Paris, & got there at about ten, & went to the Hotel Terminus. We are going on to Marseilles tomorrow, on chance of catching Pat there, as he may be delayed, with horses. He is to follow the General out to the Dardanelles
Train. Arrived Paris about 4.30. Had good wash & breakfast. Train went off at 6.30 instead of 7.15 without us. Had some difficulty in catching it. It went to the Gare de Lyon where we stayed till 12.30. Ran round Paris in a taxi & saw all the sights. Glorious hot day. Travelled all day in the horse box & went into 2nd class carriage next door & had good sleep.
Letter from Neville G. Deed, A Section, no. 4 Motor Ambulance Convoy, B.E.7., to Mrs Armstrong
Dear Mrs Armstrong,
I spoke to a man who came down wounded in my car to-day who had been next to Penrose when he was wounded. He said they were lying down at the time. He did not see Penrose hit but heard him cry out ‘Oh! I am done!’ He therefore had gathered that he was dead. That is however Tommy Atkins’1 way. On questioning him he admitted that he might only have been badly wounded. He said the thought it must have been in the head as that would be the part most exposed. There is however nothing he saw or heard that proves at all he was hit in the head. If he had been shot in the forehead or through the brain anywhere he could not have spoken. This private, whose name is McNally, regimental no. 5412 said that search parties went out to the place Capt. Penrose had been in to look for him, but could not find him. I should think he is probably badly wounded & a prisoner. I expect you have heard all this by this time, but send it to you in case you have not. I don’t suppose McNally will go further than Boulogne. Things have been very quiet here lately.
Yours sincerely Neville G. Deed.
P.S. One mustn’t be too sanguine Penrose may have been very dangerously wounded when taken back by the Germans.
Thursday 3 June
Pat and Muz in Marseilles
We left Paris by the 7-30 train, & travelled all day, but had no changes. It was awfully hot. We travelled with a little French actress, who was going to Leon. We got to Marseilles at 12-15, & asked everywhere about Pat, & then we were in an office & the porter saw an English officer & stopped him, & it was Pat! He had arrived at about 11 P.M. & was settling about the horses. Then we went & saw the horses, he has brought Melody, “The Palfrey,” one of the General’s & one of Capt Lloyd’s. We got to the “Petit Louvre” & then went to bed at about 4 A.M.
Train. Arrived Lyons about 9 o’c & had good wash & breakfast. Started again at 10.15. Had dinner at Avignon where a red cross nurse was very kind to us. Arrived Marseilles 11 pm. Had some difficulty getting the horses unloaded. Found Mus & Jess to my surprise about 1 am. We put the horses into a stable & went back to the Petit Louvre.
Friday 4 June
We got up at eight, & then we went to see the horses, & then down to the Harbour to find out about the boats. He has to go tomorrow at 12 A.M. Then after lunch we walked about & did some shopping, it was terribly hot. After tea we drove about & saw some of the town. It was lovely & cool. We saw a lot of Indians this morning, & some German prisoners! We had dinner in the hotel & then sat talking, then Pat did his packing, then came in & talked to us, we went to bed at about twelve.
Marseilles. Perfectly glorious day. Had rather late breakfast then went down to the harbour & saw the Marine Transport Officer & found that I was to sail by the Elephanta2 the following day. Went & saw boat & made arrangements. Got job finished about 1 o’c & went & had lunch. Went to Cox’s in afternoon, then walked about a bit. Went for a drive round the town in the evening. Spent evening packing.
Saturday 5 June
We were up at 5-30, & then we went down to the boat, to get the horses boxed, & everything fixed. We got back to the Hotel at about 9-30 & had breakfast, then we took our luggage to the station, & then on to the boat, to see Pat off. He went at about twelve on the “Elephanta”. Two Indian regiments go with him. I took a lot of photographs. It was horrid seeing him go, but a good thing to get him out of the gases. He goes via Egypt. We walked about the town all day & then left by the 6-30 train for Paris. It was an awful journey, as the carriage was packed, & it was very hot, so we couldn’t sleep at all. We got in at 3-30 A.M.
Marseilles. Glorious day. Left hotel about 6 am & collected horses boxed them about 7.15. Things all went very satisfactorily. Went back to breakfast about 9. Left again at 10.45 took Mus’s luggage to the station & then went on to the boat. Sailed at 12 o’c. Saw the Erinpura3 in the harbour. Got into Toulouse about 6 o’c where we stayed the night to put up life boats. Very comfortable boat had big 3 berth cabin to myself.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong [British India Steam Navigation Company Limited, S. S. Elephanta]
June 5 191.
My dear wee Mus.
Pat on board SS Elephanta
We stop at Toulon to-night to get on rafts & go on again. We won’t be able to go ashore as we aren’t going into harbour. Pity as I’d like to see the place. This is a very comfortable boat & quite a nice lot on board. I tried to make signals to Jess as I was going out to take a photo of the Erinpura, she was the boat I went down to Burma on. I was very surprised to see her as I went out. I was difficult to make it plain to you what I wanted. I have taken quite a lot of photos since I came on & I’ll get some more in Alexandria when we arrive. The horses didn’t care for their midday feed. Melody fed alright but the others didn’t, they are eating hay now alright. I have got a glorious big three birth cabin to myself. Awfully comfortable I am. I’d like to stay here for a month. They say it will take about 5 days to Alexandria then it takes about 3 or 4 days on from there. I expect I will probably be there for a few days. I hope so any way. I hope you will see Charles Hunter on your way home. Great effort it was your coming over & did make such a difference. It was lovely seeing you but horrid seeing you left behind to-day. Still it was wonderful luck the way we met. You might be looking for me yet if I hadn’t just seen across you when I did. What fun it all was but I wish I had had a few more days Dear wee Mus it was so nice seeing you. You & wee Jess were really wonderful as I know how hard it is for you. Far worse for you than for me. I do hope that you will have a good journey back. Well I have no news for you wee Mus. Best love.
Your loving Pat.
4. P.M. Just got to Toulon. Awfully pretty it is. I think you had better send me off some more films as soon as possible as I’m taking mounds of photos.
It was a shock to hear you were going off to Gallipoli – I hate to think of you being so far away & somehow I thought you’d go back to the regiment. But still I suppose one mustn’t grumble, only when one’s friends get fewer & fewer every day one gets so depressed. We’ve just heard from Frankie that he’s gone out of the trenches for a bit which has cheered Mother up a lot. I’m very upset because I’ve had to shoot my bay horse you know the one you rode as the vet said he would be no more use to hunt & he was suffering such awful pain. But it does seem a shame, a beautiful young horse like that to be killed practically by one little thorn. I’m going away for a fortnight next week but if you write to me they’ll forward my letters, but I suppose your letters will take much longer now. Well, my darling write to me as often as you can & don’t forget me.
Your loving Blanchie
Sunday 6 June
Bon Voyage Pat
We got into Paris at 8-30, & went to the Hotel & washed & had breakfast, & lay down till about ten, then we went out, & looked at the shops, as most of them are open. I got an awfully nice little apron for the club. We walked about all day, it was rather hot. Then we wrote to Pat, he is going to the 29th Division now. General Ian Hamilton is the Corps Commander, General Hunter-Weston, & General de Lisle are the English Generals out there. We went to bed at about 10-30.
S.S. Elephanta. Sailed about 9 a.m. Rather hot. Sat about all day & read. Walked in the evening & ran a bit. They all seem a very nice lot. Martin knows Mouse & Ginger.
Tommy Atkins = Slang for a common soldier in the British Army, usually abbreviated to ‘Tommy’⇑
British transport ship HM Elephanta, which served as an Indian Expeditionary Force transport vessel during the First World War ⇑
SS Erinpura was a passenger liner built for the British-India Steam Navigation Company in 1911. She was the first British India ship built for Eastern service to be fitted with radio.⇑