WEEK 56: ONE SWALLOWS TOO MUCH DUST
Monday 19 to Sunday 25 July 1915
The hot summer weather in Gallipoli, which Pat had initially enjoyed, soon turned conditions in the trenches and the dugouts unbearable. As the rocky terrain of the area made burials difficult, the exposed bodies of Allied and Turkish soldiers resulted in an explosion of flies and the spread of dangerous diseases. One of the most virulent of these was dysentery or the ‘Gallipoli Gallop’ as it became known among its victims, causing as it did explosive diarrhoea. Some 1,000 soldiers became infected every week and by the middle of July, Pat Armstrong was among them. Having become too weak to see to his duties, Pat was granted permission to take a few days’ leave on the neighbouring island of Imbros in the hopes of ridding himself of the problem. In Folkestone, the happy family reunion continued with the arrival of yet another of Mrs Armstrong’s sisters, ‘Zoo’ Maude, to admire the family’s new home.
Monday 19 July
Cut a piece out of my white dress, & then did some mending, darning & ironing all morning. After lunch I went down the town. Muz got Zooie’s room ready, as she comes from Cantreyn today. Then Muz, Ione, & I went to tea with the Wyndhams & Dot left us there. Eveleen Van de Byll & her baby were there & Mr North. The others went up to the station to meet Zooie by the 8 train, & I fed Duskey & followed them up. After dinner we showed Zooie some of the house & then helped her to unpack. Went to bed at about eleven.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
I got your letter of the 20th last night which was written in continuation of a letter you sent through Mrs de Lisle & which I got a few days ago. I don’t like these long slow posts at all. I used always look forward to my mail every day in France. Here one has nothing to look forward to. I was just feeling rather like that when your letter arrived last night. I had been feeling a bit cheap all day & for the first time since I came out here felt that there was sort of nothing to look forward to. Then I got three letters. One from you one from Sylvia & one from B. I felt very cheerful after that & feel as fit as a flea to-day.
The Gen & Col Percival have gone round the 42d Div1 trenches. The Gen said that I had better stay quiet for a day or two. So I’m having a morning letter writing & am going to get inoculated for cholera at 11 o’c. The General & most of the staff, were done last night but I thought I’d wait till to-day. Hardress & Curling went over to Imbros for a few days last Friday. When they come back the General says that I can go away for a few days. But there is no place near that I fancy much. I shall probably end by going to Mudros2 & living on the Aragon.3 I would rather like to go to Mytilene4 if I could manage it. I’ll see what Hardress thinks of Imbros5 I may go there. I’d like to get away from the Dust & flies for a few days if I could. Anyhow I’ll let you know what I decide to do.
I do wish I could see the house. I will send you a cheque along as soon as I get out a cheque book to finish off the carpets. It is much better to finish it off straight away. So buy the carpets wee Mus & I’ll send you a cheque for £50 as soon as I can. I can easily afford it & I’d like to feel that the house was comfortable & really nice. Just off to be stuck more anon. 10 minutes later. C’est fini. I have to be done again in 10 days’ time & they say that it doesn’t affect one in the slightest. I do wish I could look in at you now & see you all in the house. I wonder if the table has arrived yet from Port Said. I think it ought to make quite a nice tea table. It isn’t a table really just a brass tray on legs. I rather liked the look of it. Funny the Boss writing to ask Jess if it was any good sending me things as I wrote to him from the boat asking him to send me things & telling him what I wanted. Well most of the other letters I wrote at that time have already been answered but devil a line from him. As a matter of fact both B’s & Sylvia’s letters were answers to my letters written on the boat. You’d think he’d send things off like that without first writing to Jess about them. I hope he does send them weekly & that they begin to arrive soon. Hardress is splendid the amount of stuff he gets out. His wife takes a sort of pride in sending him all the latest things. The Gen & most of the staff get stuff out pretty often so we really do pretty well. Otherwise we would have to live on rations as one can’t buy anything out here.
There is some talk of starting a sort of field canteen down on the beach but I don’t think much has come of it yet. I believe Dickson has got the contract. We heard that it had arrived the other day but I went down & found that it was a false alarm. […] The climate here is really lovely. Of course it is rather uncomfortably hot in the middle of the day but it’s not bad really & the nights are perfectly glorious. The only trouble is the dust & flies. I think it would be a good plan if you sent me some fly papers. Send a good big parcel of them. […] The old Russians seem to have taken the knock rather badly.6 I wish Romania & Bulgaria would come in now. It looks like being a long show otherwise. I hope we will get this business here cleared up in the next couple of months. What fun it would be if Zoo & Gretta came over to you. I think you ought to go over there for a bit. It would do you good to have a change for a month or so. Get the house settled then you could either shut it up or perhaps let it for a month or so. But I really think that you ought to go away for a bit of a change. […] Mails seem rather odd here. Sometimes there seems to be two in in the week. I just write whenever I can & when the flies aren’t worrying me too much. I splash creosol all about my tent which seems to keep them away a good bit.
[…] Well wee Mus I think I have told you all the news. Best love to you all dear wee Mus. Now be sure to get those carpets & things that you want as I can easily afford it.
Tuesday 20 July
Dot & I went up to London by the 8-30. We travelled up with two Canadians who had just come back on seven days leave from the Front. They asked us to write to them. We shopped all morning, & I got a lot of patterns for Muz for the drawing room. Then we went & lunched with Miss Simpson, then did more shopping. Had tea at Evans, & then came down by the seven train. Muz & Zooie were up, & we talked for a bit, then they went to bed, & I talked to Dot, & went to bed at 1-30.
My dear wee Mus.
I wrote you a long letter yesterday telling you all the news. I spent a quiet day just messing about here. The Gen & Col Percival went round the Naval Division & came back very favourably impressed with them. They have gone off to see the French to-day. I am staying quiet as I’m feeling a bit slack. I think I shall go to Imbros for a few days when Hardress comes back. The real object of this letter is to ask you to start a savings bank account for Ames. He has got no family to send his money to so I told him that I’d get you to start a post office savings bank account for him. He has at present got £3-10 which I have taken from him. So will you start an account for him with that. I’ll send you the cheque for it as soon as my cheque book arrives. But I’d like to get the account opened for him as soon as I can. Will you write to him & let him know that you have started it. He’d like having a letter from you. The shell is being packed up & will go off with this I hope it fetches up alright. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Wednesday 21 July
Ione & I went down to Mrs Collins, & then took her & Dolly Garrett to the tennis grounds to stork the raspberries for this afternoon.7 We had to do an awful lot, & didn’t get back till after one. Then I trimmed my hat & we went down again at three. We all had to wear white. Ione & I & Dolly & Miss Hind were helping Mrs Collins at the fruit stall, & we ran about giving them all plates of raspberries. Ione & I made most. Muz, Dot, Tom & Madame de Marotte came too. Then we helped to clear up, & got back at about 7-30. We talked after dinner, then I put Muz to bed, & went to bed at about 12-30.
Gully Beach. Rode down on the Palfrey & bought eggs at the new store on W Beach. Still a bit queer. The General & Col Percival went to Corps. Read all afternoon. Got a letter from Mus of the 8th. The Gen & Col Percival went up to tea with the XIII Div. 86 & 87 Bdes arrived back from Mudros.
Thursday 22 July
Did some washing & tidied my room. Showed Zooie more of the house. After lunch I played about with Duskey, Dot went & lay down & had tea in bed. After tea, Muz, Heppie & I went down the town to do more shopping. It rained nearly all day. After dinner I did some ironing, then Heppie came in, & measured my windows & bed for curtains, as we are going to get them tomorrow.
Gully Beach. Met working party of 200 of 5 H L I 157 Bde8 in central mule track at 5 am. Gen sent me back to Hd Qrs 52 Div to try & get more spades. Inside rather troublesome. Doddington arrived to do GSO2.9
Friday 23 July
Dot & I went up to London by the 8-30. It rained some of the time. We did shopping, & got more patterns. Then we met Mrs Masters at the Stores, & lunched with her, & then she came & shopped with us. We had tea at Selfridges & then caught the five train down. Ione went to the dance. We talked after dinner, & we went to bed at about twelve.
Gully Beach. Turkish attack expected. Called at 4 am all quiet. Took Doddington up central mile track & home by pink farm.10 Still a bit wobbly. Turks attacked in front of the North Staffords11 about 2.15. Small attack which was easily driven off. Got mail. Rode Curling’s pony down to W. Beach.
My dear wee Mus.
I got a letter from you last night of the 5th July & one the day before by King’s messenger of the 8th. So King’s messenger really is a good deal the quickest. I wrote you a short scribble yesterday to go in his bag but hadn’t time to write a long one. Col Fuller only gave me about 10 minutes to write it in. We have heard that the Turks have got up a lot of reinforcements & expected them to attack to-day but up to the present things are very quiet. I hope they come on to-night. They will get more than they want and a bit besides. There is quite a nice little scheme made for their reception. However I’m afraid they won’t come on.
[…] There was no fighting on the 27th at all. The battle of Gully Ravine was on the 21st. Those accounts in the papers were pretty good. Mrs de Lisle sent them all out to the General, also Ian Hamilton’s dispatches. Gen Snow was one out but two more are on the way. Yes! If anything the papers minimise the wonderful dash & bravery of our men on the 28th. No words can describe it. It was wonderful. Most of the accounts are accurate & give a very good idea of what happened without being too flowery as is the way in so many cases. No they didn’t stand on planks. They stood in the trenches & had a certain number of short scaling ladders which they utilised for getting out of the trenches but in most cases the men just scrambled out. No I don’t agree about the first over the parapet was the safest. In fact I should say it was rather the other way if anything. But with Turks shooting at you at about 100 or 200 yards’ range the whole thing is a matter of luck. Kismet one might call it. The General sent off a cable that night to his wife saying something like this “Had big fight to-day, great success, all well.” Something like that. I don’t remember the actual words he used. I censored it & his servant posted it, so I’m afraid she never got it or she would surely have wired on to you. That is the only fight we have had since I have been here (this Div I mean). The Turks counter attacked the next couple of nights but I’ve already told you all about that. No things have really been extraordinarily quiet all this month. I suppose things will liven up again soon. I wish we could get Achi.12 I will send you a new trench map soon but there is a dreadful shortage at present. However we will be getting some more in now in a day or two. They are practically the same, as the one I sent you only show our front line more clearly. The one I sent you wasn’t very accurate.
[…] We have just got a new G.S.O 3, one Major Doddington of the Oxford Light Infantry.13 Quite a nice little man he seems but not the sort I’d go wildly enthusiastic over. Hardress & Curling got back yesterday having had 5 days leave over at Imbros. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves. It is great to have Hardress back. It was very dull when he was away. I’m awfully fond of him. I hope to go off in a day or so. I’d like to get away for a day or two, the old interior economy isn’t too good. I think one swallows too much dust. However I am feeling better to day than I have for days. I was out on the mule trench at 5 am yesterday morning with a working party of 200 men from the 52nd Div. & didn’t feel too well. I left here about 6.45 this morning & took Doddington up the mule trench & back by Pink farm getting back about 8.30 & felt quite alright. One feels a bit limp & lazy. A few days change would put me right. Feeding is rather a trouble. It is hard to get plain things. Hardress brought back a box of petit brun biscuits last night which are a great God send to me. I think that native biscuits are rather too coarse when one isn’t too good inside. More anon. I’m going to make a fly wisp. The fly wisp is finished & I think my news is almost the same way. A French battle ship appeared off here a couple of hours ago & has been very busy pooping14 off. Rather a good looker she is. She has got an escort of six torpedo boats, little grey clops [?] a good bit smaller & lower in the water than our destroyers.
[…] Yes! I have got all the clothes I want. In fact I often think that I have too many clothes. I am going to send those boot I got from Cording15 in the winter back sometime, they are too hot & heavy for out here. Then when the snow comes you will be able to send them out again. I have ordered some rather good sort of boots from Salter. They are buckskin with thick rubber soles. Like tennis boots only stronger. I think they will be very good out here. It is hard to get anything more comfortable than my field boots. I had a letter from Sher Khan my bearer last night. Nice of him to write. I will write him a line & then send it to you. Good old fellow he was. Ames is awfully pleased at the idea of you starting a savings bank account for him. Be sure to write to him & tell him what you have done. Send him some papers & books & things at the same time. They don’t get much out here & appreciate that sort of thing enormously. Did I tell you that I wrote to Mrs de Lisle the other day & asked her to send the General a tonic. I told her he was quite fit but that I thought that a tonic later on might be good. He does a terrible amount of work in the day. I enclose a couple of things from Cox that you sent me. I don’t know if they are any use or not. Well wee Mus I think I have told you all the news.
Your loving Pat.
Saturday 24 July
Zooie & I went down the town. At six Zooie walked down to the club with me, & came in to see it. I stayed on till 9-30. It was quite full, but not as full as last week. We went to bed at about eleven. Ione went to the dance. In the night a policeman rang us up to say that we had a light in one of the windows, it was the servants. Then Heppie & I thought we saw a zeppelin!
Gully Beach. The Gen said I could go on leave. Col Percival arranged to go too. Watched stables being made most of the morning. Left camp about 3.15 & caught trawler 92 to Imbros. Delightful journey. Val Braithwaite was awfully good to me. Had a disturbed night owing to mobility [?].
Sunday 25 July
Muz, Zooie & I went to early service & thought they were praying for Annie Penrose, but I think it must have been admiral Penrose-Fitzgerald. Zooie & I went & sat out on the Front, & before lunch we went down & sat on the sands, it was lovely & warm. After lunch Muz, Zooie & I went to a Canadian concert at the theatre. Ione was selling the tickets. Dot lay down afterwards Zooie & I took Duskey for a walk.
Imbros. Breakfast at 7.30. Got 2 donkeys & started about 8.15. However we met the ponies at K beach & sent away the Donkeys. Came along quietly riding & walking & had an excellent lunch with Thompson at Panaghoa16 left again about 3 o’c getting to Castro about 4 o’c. Lazarus Magnus did us very well. Went for a quick sail in the evening hardly any wind. Rather a hot night slept very badly.
- 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, a formation of the Territorial Force ⇑
- A town on the island of Lemnos, Greece ⇑
- HMT Aragon, built in Ireland in 1905, was a transatlantic vessel and the first of the Royal Mail Ship fleet to work a regular route between Southampton and South American ports. It was converted into a troopship during the First World War and took part in the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915. It was torpedoed in the Mediterranean by a German submarine in 1917, with 610 lives lost. ⇑
- Capital of the island of Lesbos, Greece ⇑
- An island in the Aegean Sea which in 1915 was under Greek administration. It was used as a staging post by the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force during the Gallipoli campaign. It is now part of Turkey.⇑
- Russia had suffered a series of setbacks on the Eastern Front between April and June 1915; in early July, Russian troops were forced to retreat from Poland which, along with Lithuania, fell under German occupation ⇑
- Jess is describing a fete organized by Miss Bridget Keir at the Pleasure Gardens in Folkestone in aid of the local hospitals for the wounded ⇑
- The 5th Highland Light Infantry of the 157th Brigade [of the 52nd Lowland Division].⇑
- Second General Staff Officer.⇑
- A ruined farm house so named because of the colour of its roof, located between the headquarters of the 86th and 87th Brigades ⇑
- The North Staffordshire regiment, whose 7th (Service) Battalion took part in the Gallipoli campaign between July 1915 and January 1916.⇑
- Achi Baba, a hill feature dominating the Gallipoli peninsula and the main position of the Turkish defences the capture of which was the stated priority of the Allies ⇑
- The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Regiment, also known as the ‘Ox and Bucks’⇑
- Poop = the stern or aftermost part of a ship; pooping = of waves breaking over the poop of the ship ⇑
- John C. Cording & Co. Limited, of Piccadilly and St James’s Street, London, tailors and outfitters particularly known for their waterproofs ⇑
- Panagia, a village on the island of Lemnos ⇑