WEEK 61: LIKE A BADLY WASHED SHIRT HUNG OUT TO DRY ON A DAMP DAY
Monday 23 to Sunday 29 August 1915
By the summer of 1915 it had become evident that the number of men required for the army far exceeded the number of volunteer recruits. On 15 July 1915, as a prelude to conscription, the British Government passed the National Registration Act which led to the compilation of a register of every person in the country between the ages of 15 and 65. The information was collected by local authorities on Registration Day on 15 August 1915, after which the details of males aged between 18 and 41 who were not in occupations deemed as essential were transferred onto pink cards and forwarded to local recruiting committees. Much of this work was carried out by volunteers such as Jess Armstrong whose work however was cut short by a nasty stomach complaint. The same fate befell her brother, Pat Armstrong, who was struck down by another bout of the Gallipoli Gallop and was granted leave to seek a cure in Athens.
Monday 23 August
Was up at 7. After breakfast I washed up, then went out, & talked to Miss Crawford. Muz did a lot of things in the house. Then I went down to see the Stubbses, Mrs Stubbs is going to S. Africa & the 3rd are going to the Curragh. Ione stayed in bed all morning. After lunch Muz & Ione took Beattie in the car to Canterbury. He is in the R.I.F.1 & is here wounded. […]
Suvla. Inside still a bit troublesome. Sat about in the mess all morning feeling very cheap. Rode round the Divisions with the General in the afternoon. Started at 2.30. Went to 11th 53 & 10th Div. Got back about 5 o’c. Inside very bad.
Letter from Blanchie Somerset, Badminton, Gloucestershire, to Pat Armstrong
Thank you ever so much for your two last letters, you know how I love getting them & more than ever now that you are so far away. Think of it, we began cubbing this morning & killed two. I hadn’t been on a horse for ages & it was a jolly fresh one too. But it’s always wonderful to hear & see hounds again after the summer, isn’t it? I go & see Tempe every day, he’s such a darling pony & the other is a dear too. You seem to be having a lot of casualties out there & I hear there’s even worse to come – Oh, how one wishes the whole horrible nightmare was over, & now they say it’ll go on for another 2 years at least. It’s perfectly appalling. I went out to dinner last night & didn’t get to bed till one & then I had to get up at 4.30 this morning, so I’m awfully sleepy & don’t know a bit what I’m writing. Well, I must stop, write to me when you have time, Pat dear. I hear they’re sending you out 4 new generals.
Yr loving Blanchie
Tuesday 24 August
Was up at 6-30, & lit the stove, & swept all the rooms etc. then made the curtains for the servant’s room, & Heppie worked at the linoleum. After lunch I walked down to Sandgate to work at the National Registration. I had to read out a lot of papers first, while Mr Atkinson ticked them off. Then I did a lot of copying, & got back at about six. Muz & Ione had gone off to Dover in the car, about a servant, & took Mme de Marotte & Laure with them. I had diarrhoea so Muz sent me to bed when she came in.
Suvla. Inside very troublesome. Went off with the General & Hardress about 9 o’c & selected a place for Hd Qrs. Gen Byng & Basil turned up about 1 o’c. Rained quite hard in the afternoon. Put up tents at the new Hd Qrs & spent the night there. The General & Hardress dined with Byng. Went to bed early. Had rather a bad night. Got mail.
Wednesday 25 August
Nitter arrives. Stayed in bed all day, as I had kind of dysentery. Muz & Heppie went down to Sandgate to look at the things for the auction tomorrow. After lunch, Muz, Ione & Tom went over to Canterbury to bring the new servant back, then went to meet Nitter by the six train. I was feeling horrid, so didn’t get up at all. Heppie came in to me in the night. Nitter came up to see me, but didn’t stay long.
Suvla. Paid Basil an early visit. Then General told me that I was to go away & get fit & gave me a week’s leave. Caught the 9.30 [—] to Imbros. Arrived in time for lunch. Lay in Val’s tent all afternoon not feeling too well. He arranged that I should go down to Athens on the Imogen. Went to bed early.
Thursday 26 August
Stayed in bed again, all day. Muz, & Nitter went down to the auction in Sandgate, in the morning, & stayed there all day. They got the furniture for Heppie’s room & a lot of things. When they got back, Muz went down for the doctor, as she thought it was going on for too long. He came up at about eight. It is a nuisance being in bed as I wanted to go down to Sandgate, to work at the Registration. Muz & Heppie came in at different times in the night. Tom sat with me some of the day, & we played “Halma” .2
Imbros. Breakfast about 8 o’c. Felt a bit better but still awfully weak. Went & saw the Doctor who told me to diet myself carefully. Gen Braithwaite & Val went off to Suvla. Went on board the Imogen about 2.30. Had to send Ames back. Downey, Keeling & Lloyd came on board about 11 o’c. Rained hard in afternoon & again in the evening. Spent a glorious night on the poop.3
Aug 26. “Imogene”
My dear wee Mus.
[…] before I start answering your letters I think I had better tell you my news. I told you I joined the General on the 20th we had a big battle on the 21st4 which I told you about. A catastrophe I’m sorry to say. Our Division alone had 2200 casualties. Dreadful waste of life. Terrible casualties & no gains. It was one of those fights that if it had been successful would have been one of the biggest victories of the war but it will now go down as an unrecorded incident of the war. Stopford spoilt the whole thing by not pushing at first. When they landed they had little or no opposition. They reasoned at G. H. Q.5 that it could easily be done with 2 Divisions & they sent 4 to do it. However the Generals wouldn’t push & allowed the Turks time to bring up reinforcements. Which they did to some tune & immediately started to entrench themselves. The 29th Div was then brought up from Helles & the 2d Mounted Div from Egypt & stepped in on the 21st but all to no avail. The opportunity was lost the first two days & now it’s a case of sitting down to trench warfare for the winter. It really is frightfully sickening when it all might have been a great success. Our men attacked gallantly on the 21st but our artillery preparation had been too short & hadn’t broken their trenches up a bit. We had too long a line & not enough guns to do it thoroughly. Altogether it wasn’t very successful.
On the 22d Sunday. I felt awfully cheap. I hadn’t recovered from that head & fever I had on the 17th & my inside was very shaky. I sat about quietly all day & went for a short walk with the General in the evening which only seemed to make me worse.Aug 25 The General told me that I was to go away to Imbros & try to get right. He has given me a week’s leave to do it in & if I’m not right by then he says that I am to go sick & clear off altogether. It was getting almost chronic. 8 times a day on an average since the 17th. I felt fairly well but am so awfully weak. It’s an awful effort to do anything. Well I left yesterday by the 9.30 trawler & came over here. Val Braithwaite put me up last night & got his father to ask Sir Ian if I could come on board the Imogene. I am going for a trip on her & hope it will put me right. The General says that if I’m not right in a week that I am to go sick & clear off. Well! I don’t want to do that if possible. But it’s no good going on fighting this any longer. I’ll tell you where I’m going some other time. I will write to you again in a day or two & let you know where I am & how things are going. I am going to put myself on a diet & see if that will do the trick. I don’t quite know what would happen to me if I went sick, I should probably get sent to either Alexandria or Malta. I’m awfully afraid that it will take more than a week to get me right & that if I go back too soon again that it will come on again. I don’t know what to do. I feel convinced that to get really right again I will have to go right away for about a month. Well I can’t do that without going on the sick list. This has been going so long & I’m awfully afraid of it turning to dysentery. There is no sign at present. It doesn’t worry me much in fact but I just can’t get right. I feel quite well in myself so don’t worry about me. If this trip doesn’t put me right I’m quite prepared to chuck it & go away. The flies are worrying me so I’m going on deck & will write more some other time. Best love to you all dear wee Mus.
Aug 23 Had fair night but still troubled. Sat about all morning. Left at 2.30 with the General & went round the Hd Qrs of the Division. Had a bad afternoon. We had a gallop home in the evening which seemed to do a lot of damage.
Aug 24 Still troubled. Selected a place for Hd Qrs with the Gen. Gen Byng & Basil arrived about 1 o’c & took over command of the Corps. It rained quite heavily in the afternoon, that is the first rain we have had since I have been down here. That night we moved over to our new Hd Qrs, & put up small tents. The Gen & Hardress dined with Byng. I was feeling seedy & went to bed. I got scores of letters that evening. 3 from you & 1 from Jess. The first parcel from Harrods. It was very knocked about but quite alright otherwise. A parcel with two old pairs of overalls arrived from you & some mosquito netting. The overalls aren’t much good I’m afraid. They are old things we used to go to stable in in India. They are light & uncomfortable. Still they are of no value so I will give them away. I have really got all the kit now I want for the present. Will you send me out that thick serge that I had made for the winter in France. You might send it off as soon as you can. It will take six or seven weeks to arrive & by then it will be cold out here.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 27 August
Stayed in bed all day. The doctor came in the morning. Muz & Nitter went down to the auction again, all day, & then went & had something to eat in the town. I read nearly all day, & finished “The Heir of Redclyffe” .6 Tom came up & was with me, & in the evening we played “Halma”. I didn’t settle off to sleep, till very late. Heppie came in to me in the night.
H.M.S. Imogen. We expected to have sailed at 12 midnight. There was a lot of fuss about the mails. Eventually Lloyd went off in a destroyer & we sailed about 1.30. Rather rough in the harbour but simply glorious outside. An extremely comfortable yacht. Wrote letters in afternoon. Glorious fine night. Felt awfully weary.
Aug 27 H. M. S. “Imogene” at Sea.
My dear wee Mus.
Here I am en route for Athens in this delightful little yacht. She used to belong to the Embassy at Constantinople before the war & is now used to take the mails down to Athens each week. We were supposed to have sailed about 12 o’c last night but the admiral was away & we didn’t get going till 1 o’c to-day. In fact at one moment we thought we wouldn’t get away as they have sent the mails on a torpedo boat. I had packed up all my kit & decided to go on the torpedo boat too when a message came saying that we were to proceed to Athens. I think I shall probably stay there a week & come back on her next trip. The General gave me a week’s leave & told me not to spoil a good trip for the matter of a few days, that I was to get right & if I wasn’t right when I came back that I was to go sick. So I think it will be alright to stay there a week. It is awfully good of him to let me go.
We have got two other awfully good fellows on board. Keeling is going down to Servia & Downey is troubled with the same complaint & is just going for the trip. It is perfectly delightful. The water is quite glorious not too hot or cold & we are living in the greatest comfort & luxury. It is hard to think of anything much nicer than cruising leisurely along in the Mediterranean on a charming little yacht, with a few nice fellows on board. The Captain is an awfully good sort. Real nice cheery fellow. The interior economy is much better to-day & has behaved much better to-day. I hope that this will put me quite alright again. I tell you exactly as I am in my letters as I feel it is better to let you know just what I’m like & then you won’t worry. I’m neither better nor worse than I say. I was bad all last week but it has quite stopped to-day. […] It is a horrid complaint this. Makes one feel so awfully weak & depressed. Things in general were rather bleak last week & it made them seem worse the way I was feeling. I’m afraid I wrote you a very pessimistic letter about the 23d. It was the bold facts written in a very pessimistic mood. One takes a much more optimistic view of things cruising on the yacht to when one is sprawled on a chair feeling like a badly washed shirt hung out to dry on a damp day. I am glad you found out where Anzac is & I expect by now that you have found where Suvla Bay is too. Not nearly so nice as our little home on Gully Beach but they were hard at work making a new Hd Qrs when I left & I expect things will be pretty comfortable when I get back. The General has a good knack of making a place comfortable. He is very particular about his personal comforts & his food. You wouldn’t think he was but he is.
I am so glad the house is such a success & that everybody likes it. I feel awfully happy about it. It’s so much nicer your being there than where you were before. I always hated you living like that & now is such a good time to have made the move, when you can spend all your time getting settled in & haven’t got the temptation of running up to London for polo & that sort of thing. […] What a nuisance about the servants. Yes! that’s the worst of a Garrison town. But I hope that by now you will have got some others to suit you. I gave Ames that blue paper yesterday & will get it fitted in & sent off when I go back. I only got your letter when I was actually on board. I brought Ames on but found I couldn’t take him & so have left him at G. H. Q. The letter came in a parcel of clothes from Hardress. He got an old silk suit out the day before I left, which he said was no good to him, so as soon as I knew I was coming on this trip I wired to him for it. It will do splendidly for Athens one has to wear plain clothes there. It will be awfully interesting seeing the place & such a lovely comfortable way of doing it. You can’t think how one appreciates this comfort. Things like a table cloth & shades on the candles & that sort of thing are such a luxury. It is lovely getting away from the dust & dirt & knowing that everything one eats isn’t full of sand & hasn’t been crawled over by thousands of flies. If soldiering does nothing else it makes one appreciate the comforts of life when one gets them. A third class London doss house would be a palace after Suvla. Hardress & I are going to build ourselves a regular little stone house & put a wall down the middle so as we each have a little room. It will be nice & warm & cosy for the winter. We are going to try & get a tin roof on it if possible. It will be horribly cold here in the winter. […] The Russian news doesn’t look good7 but I think they are alright really, they are short of ammunition & have to go back, but with winter coming on the Germans are getting further & further away from their bases & the Russians nearer to theirs. I shouldn’t be surprised that when the country gets bad that a good many of those German troops don’t get cut off from supplies & have a job to get away. But we know so little about it out here that it’s hard to say what will happen.8
No! I don’t agree that carpets can wait. It is much better to have everything now. I am well off now & can easily afford it. I will send you a cheque as soon as I get my cheque book & you’ve just got to get all the carpets & things that you want. You must have everything properly settled to start with. Later on you will find that you will want lots of other small things & you will go on putting off getting the carpets. It’s no good spoiling the ship for a penn’orth of tar. So buy the carpets & I’ll send the cheque along. It is most essential that the drawing room has a good carpet. Rugs are horrid in a drawing room. You could probably get a good second hand one at some of those big firms in London & it would wear for ages & there would be very little deterioration in it. You must have one for the morning room too. I will send you £25 to start with & if you want more you can always have it. I think that ought to do those two rooms. You seem to have done all the other rooms. Then when I get spliced9 I shall claim my furniture & you’ll have to walk about on the bare floor but you’ll have had a good wear out of them by then!!! […] Well wee Mus it’s getting dark so this will have to do for to-day. I haven’t nearly answered all your letters yet. I am going to have a blow on deck before dinner. Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat.
Saturday 28 August
Stayed in bed. The doctor came in the morning, & said I could get up for a bit, if I stayed quiet. Muz & Ione brought things up from the auction, in the car, all morning. I got up after lunch, & watched Muz settling plates in the hall etc. Went to bed again at about 6-30, but gave Duskey her dinner first. Then read for a bit. Heppie came & gave me toast & milk in the night. But it was very hot, so I didn’t sleep very much. Florence brought Mr Stubbs & Mr Harvie round to say goodbye as they go off tonight. Muz & Ione saw them for a few minutes.
H.M.S. Imogen. Rather rough about 7 o’c made two efforts to dress. Didn’t feel too well. Eventually had breakfast about 10. Arrived in Phalerum Bay about 1 o’c. Had lunch went on shore about 2 o’c. Went to the Hotel Grande Bretagne. Motored out after tea & saw the Temple of Daphne then saw the Acropolis. Felt a bit seedy & went to bed about 8 o’c.
Sunday 29 August
Muz, Tom & Nitter went to church. I got up at about 11-30, & sat in the smoking room. After lunch Ione & Tom went down to the theatre to sell programmes at the Canadian concert. Mrs Blake wanted me to go too, & sell, & Kitty took a ticket for me to go with her, but I couldn’t go. Mr Egerton came for tea, he had just flown home this morning, & his Machine had broken down. I got awfully cold after tea, so went to bed again, & read for a bit. It rained nearly all day. Muz came in to see me three or four times in the night, & brought me toast & milk.
Athens. Left here about 10 o’c picked up Keeling at the English School. Then went & saw Compton MacKenzie. Had lunch here with Potts. Slept in the afternoon. Then went out to Kifisia10 by the 5.30 rain to call on the Elliots got back about 8 o’c. Had some food at the [blank gap in text] & got back about 9 o’c. Inside rather wrong again.
- Royal Irish Fusiliers ⇑
- A strategy board game invented in the early 1880s by George Howard Monks ⇑
- The stern or aftermost part of a ship ⇑
- The Battle of Scimitar Hill and the Battle of Hill 60⇑
- General Headquarters⇑
- The first of Charlotte M. Younge’s bestselling romantic novels, published in 1853.⇑
- German and Austro-Hungarian offensives along the Eastern Front in the summer of 1915 had forced the Imperial Russian Army to a strategic withdrawal from the Galicia-Poland salient ⇑
- Pat’s prediction proved right: a series of counter-attacks by Russia in September halted the advance of the under-strength and starving German troops ⇑
- Spliced = married ⇑
- Pat spells this ‘Kaphissia’⇑