WEEK 55: PROBABLY BURIED BY THE GERMANS
Monday 12 to Sunday 18 July 1915
On 12 July, Pat Armstrong watched as the Allied forces made their sixth and final attempt to capture Achi Baba. This hill feature dominating the Gallipoli peninsula was the main position of the Turkish defences and its capture had been the stated priority of the Allies from the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign. After two days of pointless slaughter – 14,000 casualties on both sides combined – barely 350 yards of ground had been gained by the Allies and the attempt was called off. Achi Baba was to remain firmly in Turkish hands for the remainder of the Gallipoli campaign. On the Western Front, Algie Neill had finally attained his goal, having rejoined the 1st Battalion of his regiment in Ypres. Amidst heavy fighting he somehow managed to make enquiries concerning the events surrounding the disappearance of his friend and fellow officer, Ned Penrose. Unfortunately, the closer to the truth he got the more unpalatable it seemed to grow.
Monday 12 July
Dot, Ione & I went down the town & did some shopping, & then Dot, Tom & I went down after lunch & came back late for tea. Afterwards we fixed the smoking room, & I did some of the pictures in my room, & settled where they were to go. After dinner Muz, Heppie & I cleared the landing for the men in the morning, & then I swept it. I went in & talked to Dot when I was undressed, & put Muz to bed. I went to bed at about twelve. We got five letters from Pat, dated June 30th.
July 12. Hd Qrs 29th Div.
My dear wee Mus.
I scribbled you a few lines this morning on a letter card & will now write you a bit better letter. I’ve been so busy all this last week that I never seem to have a second to write to you. We breakfast at 7 o’c then usually walk most of the morning. Then we lunch at 1 o’c & after that I usually lie low for a bit. I was feeling a bit cheap last week & found it was a good plan to lie low for a bit in the afternoon. I usually censor all the letters after lunch. That bores me so much that I want to sleep after it. Then in the evening one works away again at something. […] I have got 88 men 36 horses & 9 mules to look after. So I find I’m always pretty busy. I am feeling a bit more energetic this afternoon so have seized the opportunity to scribe to you. I got a big mosquito net a couple of days ago from Carter which is an absolute God send to me. I am sitting on my bed under it now & am not pestered with the flies. You can’t think what a relief it is to get away from the brutes. I wish you could see my tent. My bed is a stretcher on two ammunition boxes & I have biscuit boxes & ammunition boxes to put all my kit in. I am really awfully comfy. General Shaw arrived this morning. James Harter Angela’s brother is his A.D.C. Good little fellow he is. I met him last September in France. They are at present living with us but we are building Hd Qrs for them up the Gully & are going to push them off up there in a day or two. I think they are going to pull our Bdes out & send them away for a bit to rest. Probably to where I left my horses.3 The Gen won’t shift from here. He says he won’t leave here till he can put his Hd Qrs on Achi Baba. I do wish he could get that. If only Greece & Romania would come in all would be well I think. I haven’t seen a paper for days & don’t know any of the news of the outside world. I hope the Boss sends my Times weekly along soon. I got a thin pair of breeches out from Reid last night. An awful God send they are. You can’t think what a comfort they are. Well wee Mus I have no more news & I must be off soon to the observation post. Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat.
Tuesday 13 July
Heard from Algie dated 10th they have just gone in to reserve after ten days of awfully hard fighting. Another letter from Pat dated 24th. His letter yesterday says they had an awful time on 28th, but everything was very successful. Did some tidying in the morning, & cleaned all Muz’s frames. Ione heard from Harry. She went to play tennis with the Garretts, after tea Dot & I went for a lovely walk past the golf links, & up near the hills, & got some plants to send to Sonny. We got back at about 7-30. Then I washed Duskey, & took her for a run before her supper.
Gully Beach. Left here at 8.30 went round the right section with the Gen. Col Gilman GSO4 of the XIII Div came with us. French & 52nd Div had lost some trenches. Counter attack started at 1.30 in the afternoon. The Gen & I watched it from an observation trench. The attack was very thin & seemed to lose its way a bit & went too far. The men showed marvellous bravery. Walking along slowly under fire. Attack we saw was done by the Naval Div
Letter from Algie Neill, In the Field, to Jess Armstrong
My dear Jess
I got your note of 10th inst. this morning. My postcard was only a leg pull for the censor who does not permit any message beyond those printed on the form. Of course I should like to go to the base for a long time but unfortunately I look too beastly well to permit of that in fact I’m rolling in fat. We are having a nice easy time of it here. I presume we are being kept in the “fattening pen” for something later on. The Colonel OD & Capt Hill are the only others here whom I think you would remember the latter has greatly improved & is quite a different fellow to what he used to be. The Colonel is leaving shortly to go on some job we don’t know what job yet. Houterque is about 16 miles from the firing line & is delightfully quiet & peaceful we can’t even hear a gun very different to the dear old salient where there is never a moment’s peace.
I’ve just returned from a visit to “C” Coy (Penrose’s old coy) I made every endeavour to find out all I could with little result. I saw Sgt Lennon, Lte Cpl Adamson & Ned’s late servant. Adamson was the only man who knew anything definitely. He says N was hit by a bullet through the forehead & fell at once mortally wounded. He was quite close to N at the time. N fell a few yards from the German Parapet. The following day WADDEN an officer of ours at present home wounded saw a body lying a few yards away from the German parapet clad in a waterproof it looked very like N’s figure in the distance (through glasses) & N was the only officer who was wearing a WP.5 They all came to the conclusion that it was N’s body & men volunteered to try & recover it. They made their attempts on three successive nights but failed as it was so close to the parapet that they could not possibly recover it. The day after the last attempt the body had been removed. Probably buried by the Germans. I’m afraid this is all old information but it’s all I can get as the only other men who were present at the time have since gone home sick or wounded. From all I can hear there is not the slightest chance of N every turning up again. I should say that from the position the bullet entered the head & the close range that N must have died almost instantaneously, I should not think he could live more than two minutes. The Major Pat saw when he came over must have been “Shuter” as he was the only Major with the regiment at the time. Shuter is at present home wounded. C/o Cox & Co. would find him. Sgt Lennon is writing Mrs Penrose. General Plumer addressed our brigade today he was very complementary. We are leaving the second army and are being transferred to the seventh corps of the third army & I fancy we shall go to some fancy quiet spot in the line. I hope you did not take my postcard seriously. I am beginning to think it was foolish of me to have sent it but I thought at the time that you would be sure to see through it. There’s no news to give you.
Best love from yours affectionately Algie.
Wednesday 14 July
Wrote letters & tidied all morning. Four more boxes came from Kilboy,6 so after lunch Muz, Dot & I unpacked them, & then Ione, Heppie & Tom came & helped. There were a lot of moths, but not as bad as the last ones. We finished them just before dinner, & then went & got tidy. Algie wrote & asked me to send him some books out of one of his boxes. Another letter from Pat begun on 26th & ended on 27th June. Ironed a blouse after dinner, & then sat in Dot’s room & talked. Then put Muz to bed.
Gully Beach. The Gen & Hardress went round the left section at 5.30. Levelled ground in front of the dug out & then rode down to W Beach. Read till about 5 o’c then tried to put up shelter in front of dug out. Situation in front of the 48-52 N.D. reported quiet.
My dear wee Mus
[…] I enclose an account of the Turkish counter attack to try & regain the ground taken by us on the 28th. The 52 Div assisted by the Naval Division made an attack at 7.35 on the morning of the 12th. The French also attacked on their right. We couldn’t see much of the morning attack as it was on the other side of a ridge. They got on pretty well from all accounts. The French as usual went too far & had to come back. I saw about 500 of them come running back about 10 o’c that morning. One couldn’t see quite why they had come back. The Dublins7 made a bit of a diversion that morning by attacking H12. They got to it at one end but couldn’t get in the other & then the party who were successful had to come back as they were badly enfiladed .8 I went up again at 4 pm to my look out post & watched the bombardment. The 155 Bde were going to attack along the western side of the ridge, the morning’s attack having been on the eastern side. Well! the guns fairly pelted the trenches. A great show it was. At one time one couldn’t see the Turkish trenches at all as the dust & smoke were so thick. Then the naval guns shelled Krithia9 & Achi Baba. I should think that the residents there had a most unpleasant time.
At 4.50 the guns lengthened their range & the men jumped out of the trenches & dashed forward. Simply wonderful the way they went. They rushed straight over the first line of trenches & then seemed to check a bit at the 2d line. It looked as if they were held up by wire, then on they went again. One party in the left went down into a nullah10 & a few minutes afterwards we saw them scrambling up the other side. There was a trench at the top & as soon as they got to it they all lay down on the near side of it & started shooting like mad. The people on the right in the meantime had also got on & were lying in the near side of the trench shooting away hard. The Turkish artillery was very active but all the shells were wild & the shrapnel was badly burst. From what I could see I should say that the casualties from shellfire were very slight. We could see a good many prisoners coming in. I saw one party of about 30 come out of a trench & come forward with a white flag. I hear they took about 170. It really was a wonderful advance & the bravery of the men is simply magnificent. That was the Bde I saw going off from Alexandria about the 20th of last month. It is awfully fine to note that Territorials can make a fine advance like that. The sad fact of it was that they got driven back that night by a counter attack. They made another attack yesterday afternoon at 4.50 & retook the trenches. Awfully fine that was too but done with about half the number of men they had the day before. The General said that they were far too few to hold the ground they had gained. It is now 11 o’c & we’ve had no news of them being driven out so I hope they have been able to hold on alright. Nobody seems to know quite what has happened on the night. […] Hardress & the General have both got a lot of stores sent out from home so our feeding has improved a lot. I hope the Boss sends my things along soon. I asked him to send me a weekly supply. Of course what I long for most is fruit. Campbell said he would send me a box of oranges from Mudros11 but they haven’t arrived yet. I think on the whole I like this better than France. Of course one isn’t so comfortable but it’s a much better show. One is busy all day & the days simply fly. […]
Your loving Pat.
Letter from Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong to Pat Armstrong
My dear Maurice.
I am afraid I’ve been very bad about writing all the same you don’t seem to have got a letter that I sent you from Urra Lodge – we had very bad weather there north & east wind the whole time, the fish never really came up to the fly, my bag for the time was 45 fish, the best 5 lbs, but with decent weather the fish would have risen much better. A man named Kemp who was staying with me for ten days got seven fish, Maguire got one 5½ lbs – When you come home we ought to build a little house near Dromineer, it would be nice to have it to go down for a week or so at any time, there is very good duck shooting & pike fishing, any way it would be a change – at last I have got the Ram12 in the river up, you can’t think what a help it is about the place, there is a big tank in the avenue field, near the gate into the church Park. Now we can keep the two places separate. We have water too to both cisterns on the house & a tap in the grass garden near the big drawing room window. The supply tank is at the back of the old castle, you can’t see it from any where, it holds 1000 gals – the ram is so far going every May & fills all ten tanks etc & when the supply tank is full the ram is stopped. The ram could put up about 2000 gals in 24 hours, after a bit I’ll have a hose to wash motors at but I want to see how it would work before doing that. Harrods are going to send you a weekly supply of butter & things you said you would like, if they don’t come will you let me now. I have also included the weekly Times to be sent to you – M’Mullen will go on sending you saddle soap & [—] oil as usual. We have a good bit of hay cut & the men are putting up frames today, making the drains for the Ram pipes made us late starting at the hay but if the weather keeps fine we will catch our work. Cattle are a huge price just now where we are to get them for next year I don’t know as the people about are selling their cows they get so much for them and they are all killed for troops – now I think I’ve told you all my news. The best of luck to you dear old man.
Yr loving Sir.
Thursday 15 July
Settled the pictures for the dining room & dusted some books, then Muz, Dot & I went down the town, & took some pictures to be framed. Ione played tennis. I sorted a lot of letters, & did some tidying. After tea two more boxes came from Kilboy & Muz, Ione, Tom & I unpacked them. They were all books, I carried them up. After dinner Muz, Heppie & I put up some of the pictures on the top landing, & then Heppie & I made tea, & we went to bed at about two.
My dear Sir.
I don’t seem to have had a moment to write to you for ages. I’m on the go from morning till night & never seem to be quiet for a moment. One gets through a tremendous lot in the day. We had a big fight on the 28th of last month & advanced about a mile on the left on about a mile front. The advance was like the 3rd side of a right angled triangle two sides of which were a mile. Our infantry were absolutely marvellous. I have never seen anything so fine in all my life. The horrible part of that day was walking about in the trenches full of your own dead & wounded as well as stacks of dead and wounded Turks. The Turks left masses of stuff in their trenches, but everything was so filthy that it really was horrible. The troops on our right & the French made a bit of an advance two days ago getting forward about 500 yards on about a mile front. Quite a good show it was. I quite like this show, it is much more interesting than Flanders. It is very hot but I don’t mind that the worst part of the whole thing are the flies. They are simply awful & drive one nearly mad. This I think is going to develop into a much bigger show than people at first imagined. At least I’ll be very much mistaken if it doesn’t. I can’t tell you very much news at present. The horses arrived here looking awfully fit. I must say I enjoyed that journey enormously. It was so nice seeing Mus & Jess at Marseilles. It was splendid of them coming over wasn’t it? The worst of this place is it is so awfully hard to get supplies of any sort. Up till a few days ago we were living on rations then Hardress got a parcel of things out from home which were greatly appreciated. I am looking forward to getting those stores I asked you to send out, they will just make all the difference. This really is an extraordinary place when one thinks that the whole thing is under shell fire. Hardress got two shrapnel bullets through his tent one day last week & one came in through the door of my tenth & stuck in the floor. Well I must stop now as the flies are worrying the life out of me besides I’m rather weary as we had rather a long morning going round the trenches. It is rather hot & takes it out of one. Best of good luck.
Your loving Maurice.
Friday 16 July
My dear wee Mus.
[…] I enclose a copy of the Peninsula Press. Quite a fair account of the attack on the 12 & 13. But it would read much better if they kept their cheap wit for the waste paper basket. […] It was really rather tragic about those two battalions. They made gallant attacks & went off into the blue absolutely unsupported. Gen Egerton was very fussed about it. I don’t know how many got back but from all the accounts I get not many. Then these stupid asses who edit the paper go & try & be funny about it. But the rest of the account is pretty good & is probably more than will come out in the English papers. As a matter of fact I think that you will find that all the fights out here will be fully & accurately described in the papers as Ian Hamilton is very keen on it. The General is very keen on the mention of Bdes, Regts & Individuals who do well. Very sound too! Not much news here to-day. The XIII Div has just taken over from us & all our Div are out except two Regts who come out this afternoon. The others have all gone off to rest. A much needed rest too. The General refuses to shift from here. I’m very glad. We’re awfully comfy here, the shell fire is negligible so there is no reason to go. We trotted Gen Shaw round yesterday & in the evening I started putting up tarpaulin on poles so as we can sit outside in the afternoon in the shade & get the breeze. I got it finished this morning. It is quite good now. It will be a great blessing to us. Personally I like spending my afternoon in my tent & getting away from everybody. It is a relief to be alone at times. The flies aren’t so bad to-day. I haven’t had to take cover under my mosquito net. It is rather hot & airless to-day. I don’t mind that a bit as long as the flies leave me alone. […] I am longing to hear that you are comfortably settled into the house. There is rather a nice mat in one of those boxes of mine that came back from Africa with the Rgt, which you can have. There are several things at Moyaliffe which I had at Eton, which might be useful. Pictures, cushions etc. You ought to have a look through them. It was about this time last year we were going to London wasn’t it? What fun that was. I’m glad I haven’t got to wear a Top hat & patent leather boots out here. My new thin breeches are a great success. Well wee Mus I think I have told you all the news such as it is. Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat.
Letter from Blanchie Somerset, Badminton, Gloucestershire, to Pat Armstrong
Have just got your letter dated June 27th, funnily enough I got the one written July the 3rd a day or two ago, so the first one must have taken an awful age coming. You said something about George Cholmondeley in one of your letters. Of course I know him, he’s such a dear & a cousin of ours but what an awful wife he’s got. So think well before you marry! Thank goodness, Frankie is home for a few days looking very well. He’s had great difficulty to get on to a boat as it seems they only take 50 soldiers at a time & those must have been something to do with a staff. But he lied hard & got here! You must be having an awful time with heat & flies. It must be ghastly. We wondered if you’d mind Pa using the two ponies as cub-hunters or for exercising, as we’re rather short. They’re both looking so well & fat. I went to look at them last night. The most awful weather here, raining all day long & all the hay spoilt. I must stop as I have no more news Pat darling & have got to get ready to go to Cheltenham with Mother. We all send our very best love. I send more than all the rest & kiss you.
Yr loving Blanchie
Saturday 17 July
Went down the town with Muz, & did some shopping, & then went to the Belgian Red Cross Committee meeting. Muz & I are on the committee. After lunch Muz & Heppie settled pictures & I wrote letters. Ione played tennis with Mrs Collins. I got a letter from Algie dated 13th & telling me everything he could find out about Ned. Dot got a letter from Mr Irvine giving us three addresses, so I wrote to one. Went down to the club at six, Miss Walter came at half time, & stayed on with her till the end. […]
- The letters J and H followed by a number indicate trench positions ⇑
- High explosives.⇑
- The island of Lemnos ⇑
- General Staff Officer. ⇑
- Waterproof ⇑
- Kilboy, near Nenagh, County Tipperary, was the seat of the Barons Dunalley. At the time of the First World War it was occupied by Henry O’Callaghan Prittie, 4th Baron (1851-1927) and his wife Mary Frances née Farmer (1857-1929) who were close friends of the Armstrong family. Their son Reginald had been killed in action in December 1914⇑
- 1st Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers ⇑
- Gunfire directed from a flanking position along the length of an enemy battle line ⇑
- A small village in the Gallipoli Peninsula ⇑
- Hindi) nullah = watercourse, riverbed or ravine ⇑
- A town on the island of Lemnos, Greece ⇑
- A hydraulic ram or a cyclic water pump which forces running water to a higher level than that of the source by utilizing the kinetic energy of the flow ⇑