WEEK 54: A LITTLE STRANGER CAME INTO MY TENT
Monday 5 to Sunday 11 July 1915
The Battle of Gully Ravine ended on 5 July in a tactical victory for the Allies but was followed by a deadlock of trench warfare which was to last until the end of the Gallipoli campaign. In between bursts of Turkish shellfire, Pat Armstrong and his men made an attempt to establish a degree of normality by taking stock of their surroundings, digging stables and dugouts, and waiting impatiently for letters and parcels from home. Oswin Creighton, a chaplain with the 29th Division, was touched to see ‘how much the mail means to people here’ and considered that ‘getting and writing letters are the greatest relief from war.’ An appreciation of the historical value of such correspondence was also beginning to emerge. In Folkestone, Mrs Armstrong and her three daughters continued their efforts to furnish their new home and to have the place ready for their first guest, Mrs Armstrong’s sister Mary ‘Dot’ Hope-Johnstone, who arrived from Ireland at the end of the week.
Monday 5 July
Muz, Heppie & I did the pictures in the drawing room, & we had to go on changing them. Daphne Johnson came to see Tom, & in the afternoon the Blakes came, but Muz took them to the smoking room. They are staining our rooms again today, so we can’t do anything, as the furniture is all bundled together. We went on doing the pictures again after dinner, & went to bed at about 11-30. Ione went down the town in the morning, & then went & played tennis with Mrs Collins. A lovely washing stand set of glass came for me from Algie, & a big glass bowl for Muz.
Gully Beach. Some shelling about 1 am. Turks got very pestilential about 6 am & shelled the camp. Most of the shells however went into the sea. Turks attacked Gurkhas last night but without success. Gourka Bde now reduced to 4 officers.1 Dug stables all morning.
Tuesday 6 July
Sorted a lot of things in the box room, & tidied a lot of my papers. Muz went to see Viva Brooke, but she was out, so she went & had tea with Mrs Phillips. Ione knitted. After lunch I wrote letters. Got a letter from Algie dated 3rd, & written in the trenches. He had to stop writing as the Germans were dosing them with shell gas, & his eyes were too sore. They are staining the smoking room & drawing room today. We went to bed at about 9-30.
Gully Beach. Gen & Hardress went round the line. Stayed & superintended the digging of stables. Heard from Campbell. Went down to W. Beach to ask about oranges which had not arrived. A few shells came over while I was down there. Rode on to Sedd el Bahr2 & took some photos.
July 6. Hd Qrs 29th Div.
My dear wee Mus.
The mail came in yesterday & I got a long letter from you of the 22nd. That’s not too bad really all things considered. But no parcels have come yet. Some things left London on the 3d of June & haven’t turned up. I wrote & asked the Boss to send me some stores every week biscuits figs etc. I hope they will come along soon as we are very short of that sort of thing. I have just had a case of oranges sent down to me from Madras & hear they are now at “W” Beach. They will be a great luxury. Not much news here since I wrote last. Hope you get all those things I sent you about our show on the 28th.3 Great success that was & what is more we have hung on to all the ground we have gained. We had a great morning of “hate” yesterday.4 They started shelling about 6 am & went on most of the morning. They are supposed to have let off between 3 & 4 thousand rounds but did little or no damage. They put a few close to us. Col Percival had 2 shrapnel bullets through his tent & Hardress also had a couple. A little stranger came into my tent but was polite & came in through the door. We have now all dug our floors down a bit so we ought to be quite out of the way.
I think I told you our horses arrived quite safely on the 4th. They were sent off from Lemnos5 about the 29th then went to Imbros then back to Mudros.6 We couldn’t get any news of them for days beyond the fact that they were on the “Achaia” .7 However, they all turned up safely & are all looking very fit & well. I have been awfully busy the last couple of days making a safe place for them to stand. I have got them quite close to my tent. I have got a fatigue party of 10 men & they are doing great work. I had them on for two hours this morning, then from 2 till 4 o’c now they have gone away & will come back again at 6 o’c. Then I’m also building another sort of shelter for all the other horses & mules. I have cut a platform out of the side of the hill & am then making big banks across it to stop the shrapnel. We had two horses killed there yesterday & 3 wounded. Rather a nuisance. They are all awful brutes but one is sorry for the poor things. I am glad “G” is getting better but I don’t want to see him get well too soon. Nice for you seeing Algie again. But I’m sorry he didn’t stay where he was. That saddle I told you I was sending to you, I’ve got out here. I changed my mind about it & now I’m awfully glad I’ve got it. It is invaluable to me. So much nicer than a Regimental saddle. It is splendid you’ve got such a nice sounding case for Percy I’m sure he will like it. I must write to him but letter writing these times seems awfully hard. There is no nice comfy place where one can write unmolested & the flies worry the life out of one. I am looking forward to hearing that you are into the house. Awfully nice it will be. You must get B. to come & stay with you as soon as you are settled in. I am going off now for a bit of a ride everybody is having tea & it’s impossible to write more. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Wednesday 7 July
Helped Heppie to tidy all the boxes out of one servant’s room. Carried up a lot of boxes from downstairs. Then Muz, Heppie & I fixed where all the pictures are to go on the stairs, & put one up, then after dinner we put up the ones on the top landing, & went to bed at about eleven. Buzz & Major Crichton reported getting the D.S.O. & Harry Mansel a Military cross. Reported on 5th.
Gully Beach. Bde of 13th Div arrived. We took Gen up the Gully to see his Regts. Then went on round the line. Down Gourka Bluff then to Gen Cox’s Hd Qrs. Then down J12 to the Gully got back about 12 o’c. Got shots from Peak.
Thursday 8 July
Two letters from Pat, one 21st & one 24th. He was going to arrive next day. Did some sewing in the morning, then they cleaned out my room, & I put the furniture back, & did a lot of cleaning & tidying. Ione knitted. After dinner Muz, Heppie & I put up some of the pictures in the drawing room, they are nearly all up now in that room. We cleaned the drawing room & smoking room, & settled the furniture, so as to have it nice for Dot. We went to bed at about 12-30. I did some washing.
July 8. Hd Qrs 29th Div.
My dear wee Mus.
I got two Grand letters from you yesterday both of June 23rd which came in the General’s letter. We got a few parcels in yesterday, they are really the first we had. I got my shoes from Peal which is a good job but that top that Hawkes sent hasn’t come yet. Awfully slow parcels are. It is wonderful how comfortable we are here. We have got an awfully good dug out & it is great luxury having a tent to sleep in. The flies are the worst pest down here. They really are perfectly awful, they worry the life out of one & crawl all over everything one eats. I am glad you are so nearly settled into the house. I suppose you are in by now. I wish I was going to see it but I’m afraid that will be some time. I think that this will develop into a pretty big show before we are through with it. The more troops we get here now the better as we will then be able to get along a bit. Things have been very quiet here the last few days. The Gen went over to Imbros last night & has just got back, it’s only about 12 miles from here. It will do him good a night’s change of air. I had a good long lie this morning on the strength of it. We usually breakfast at 7 o’c & this morning we put it back an hour. It seems hotter to-day than it has been for some days there is scarcely any wind. I don’t feel a bit energetic. The Gen & I started off at 8 o’c yesterday morning & went all round the left section of the trenches getting back about 12 o’c rather hot & tired. Then at 3 o’c he left here & rode down to W Beach. I went down with him, then I rode down there again in the evening. It is practically the only place one can ride either down to the Beach or up the Gulley. The gulley is awfully hot & there is a lot of traffic in it.
I miss my rides that we used to have in France awfully. A fellow went home from here a few days ago & I sent 5 rolls of films with him. I hope they come out well. Some of them ought to be rather good. Others horribly gruesome. I have only taken a few gruesome ones. I took a few dead Turks in a trench one day but otherwise nothing much. I have taken a couple more rolls since which I will send along sometime. I’ll be wanting some more note paper & envelopes soon. Will you send me another block like this, it just fits into that case affair that you had made at Harrods for me. That is coming in awfully useful out here. I have got plenty for the present but posts are so slow that I will be wanting some in about 6 weeks’ time when it will arrive from you. I hope you are getting word to make those jodhpurs for me. I think they will be far the best things out here. These thick breeches are so awfully hot & fuzzy & shorts aren’t good to ride in. Not that one rides much ‘cos there is no place to ride. I have an idea that we may not be here very long as there is some talk of us being relieved for a bit. Of course they may only relieve a Bde at a time in which case it won’t affect us, but if they relieve the whole Div they will move us from here. I would be awfully sorry to leave here as it is a long way the best place on the peninsula. In your second letter of the 22nd you seem to have got a bit mixed in my movements. However I told you all about them in my letter, so you will know all about it by now. We don’t get much news out here of the doings in Flanders. I asked the Boss to send me the Times weekly which gives me a good bit of news. Bad that what Gen Snow told you about ammunition. But I hope it will improve soon. I’m sorry Basil wasn’t mentioned in despatches I’m afraid he won’t get that D.S.O now. It was in March he did that reconnaissance.
12 o’c. Another mail has just come in bringing two letters from you, one of the 18th and the other of the 20th. Also my top from Hawkes. I’m glad that has arrived as the one I got in Marseilles got a bad bump the other day in the trenches & is a bit dickey. Those photos came out quite well. That house is the Chateau at Esquelbecq. I rather like them done on big paper like that don’t you. You seem to be having trouble with those electric fittings, pity that is. You’d think they would be easy. But it is grand to think that by now you are comfortably settled into the house. My “interior economy” has been a bit troublesome. Everybody who comes here gets the same trouble, it is from the effects of all this sand. Gives one collywobbles.8 Then one is very apt to go to the other extreme & not visit the “summer house”9 for days. However I’m pretty well alright again now. I hope the Boss will send those figs & things along soon. Hardress got a lot of supplies out yesterday so we are pretty well off for the present. Posts out here are awfully uncertain. One sends them to Mudros & then they catch the post back home. Your letters of the June 23rd arrived here July 7 by the K. M. 10[Your] 18 & 20 [arrived here July] 8th. So King’s Messenger does save a few days but nothing much. Yes! I’ll wire anything of great interest that happens. The Gen sent one off on the 28th after the battle. I’m doing Censor now so stamp all these things that go out. What fun you must have had carrying things over in the dark. I’d love to have seen you. But you mustn’t work too hard. I gave the couple of those photos to the General of Esquelbecq. What a job we’ll have putting them all into a book. You must have about 200 or 300 of mine already. And I’ve taken nearly 100 since I left England. I’m enclosing some negatives of the ones I took on the Elephanta. They aren’t very valuable but all go to swell the collection. I hope the Boss put in that £150 alright. I spent rather a lot of money on the journey. It was so expensive staying at all those places like Port Said, Alexandria etc. But I had good value for it & enjoyed myself thoroughly. This is a very cheap existence down here, one absolutely can’t spend money. I wonder if you write to Tony about those horses. I think it would be just as well perhaps if he hung firm for a bit. I expect you have written to him anyhow & have fixed something up. Well wee Mus, I’m bothered with the flies & have no more news for you.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 9 July
Worked hard all morning getting things tidy for Dot. We got the hall & schoolroom tidy, & got more pictures up in the drawing room. But we got it all fairly tidy before she came. We all went up to the station to meet her, by the 1-30 train, then we showed her the house, she loves it. After tea Madame de Marotte & Mr Nicholson came for a little while, then Dot went & lay down. I tidied some papers. Muz washed the white paint in her room. Ione went to the dance. We got a letter from Mr Reed, sending the official report about Ned, but nothing new. I wrote to Mrs Penrose. We sat & talked after dinner, & went to bed at about 11-30.
Gully Beach. Left with Gen at 8 am went to Corps Hd Qrs then on to 86 Bde .11 Saw Gen Wolley Dod who took us up to the trenches. Went all round the right section. Lost a bit of one periscope & so got back about 2.30. Broke up the boat in the evening to make stables, then went & dined with Colin [?] at Corps Hd Qrs.
Saturday 10 July
Dot did some painting, & Muz tidied, & I did some sewing & tidying. Mr Nicholson came in to say good bye to us as he is off to the Front this afternoon, he was only told this morning. After lunch we went in the car to Sandling, to the Canadians sports,12 & Mr Black looked after us, then we stayed for the concert, & got back at about eight, & Ione went to the dance, & Muz, Dot & I went in our outdoor things, to look in, & when we got there, we went in & sat & watched. I talked to Violet & Florence most of the time, it was great fun. Went to bed at about two.
Gully Beach. Left here at 7.30 & met a fatigue party of the 7th South Lanc’s Regt at the Eski line13 at 9 o’c. Worked on the mule track all morning. Got back about 1.30. Col Milne had come down from “Anzac” to see the General. Left here at 4 o’c & went round the left section J11-12-13 getting back about 7.30. Called at 88 Bde Hd Qrs on the way back. Saw Col Cayley.
Letter from Alfred F. Buxton, Fairhill, Tonbridge, to Pat Armstrong14
May I thank you, as shortly as possible, with a comment? Notice has, it appears, been given that long letters will be destroyed! Such letters are not only extremely interesting to the receiver, but will be quite invaluable as journals to the writer and to their descendants (consider the present value of a letter written by one’s greatgrandfather about his share in the Waterloo campaign!). Granted that they may be too long for Censor’s examination. That is clear. But in such a case would it not be possible to delay delivery say for a month, or 3 mts or even the end of the war – any term you like – To destroy them is, it seems to me unnecessarily ruthless if you will pardon my saying so.
I remain Sir Yours faithfully
Alfred F. Buxton.
[Written in the top left hand corner of the first page in Pat’s hand are the words “This is comic isn’t it?”]
Sunday 11 July
Tom & I went round to Mrs Boddam-Whetham’s to explain about me not going to the club last night. Then we went to church, & afterwards went back & called for Muz & went out on the Front. After lunch I took Tom to Madame de Marotte’s children’s party. Then wrote letters in the Grand, & came back for tea, & afterwards went to call for Tom, & played with the children for about an hour. Helped to do the pictures in the drawing room, they are all up, there now. Muz had a horrid headache, so went to bed early. Dot & I helped Ione to tidy her room.
- The 2nd Battalion of Royal Gurkha Rifles suffered particularly heavy casualties during the Gallipoli campaign ⇑
- Village on the eastern side of Cape Helles and the site of the landing zone of V Beach ⇑
- The first day of the Battle of Gully Ravine ⇑
- Military slang for bombardment ⇑
- An island of Greece in the northern part of the Aegean Sea⇑
- A town on the island of Lemnos, Greece ⇑
- Transport vessel which had carried the Australian and New Zealand division to Gallipoli in April 1915 ⇑
- Intestinal cramps ⇑
- Euphemism for toilet ⇑
- King’s Messenger ⇑
- 86th Brigade of the 29th Division ⇑
- This was an event organized by the 4th Brigade Canadian Expeditionary Force in West Sandling on Saturday afternoon. Competitions included running high jump, one mile walk, throwing baseball, half-mile run, 220 yards dash, 100 yards dash, running broad jump, 440 yards dash, tug of war, 100 yards dash (officers) and one mile run. The event culminated in an open air concert, the proceeds of which were donated to the Canadian Field Comforts Commission. ⇑
- A continuous trench running across the Peninsula which had been dug out in the early stages of the Gallipoli campaign ⇑
- In early July 1915, newspapers reported that soldiers in Gallipoli were warned to keep their letters short. This news prompted Buxton to write to Pat Armstrong as censor to express his concerns over the issue.⇑