WEEK 63: LIKE SITTING IN FRONT OF A BEE HIVE
Monday 6 to Sunday 12 September 1915
Having managed to shake off the Gallipoli Gallop, Pat Armstrong returned from Athens to Suvla Bay refreshed and recovered. He was greeted on his arrival with welcome parcels from home along with a letter containing news of his regiment in France. Pat’s workload also increased following his appointment as camp commandant. With a company of cyclists under his charge, Pat at once set out to build stables, kitchens and dugouts in preparation for the approaching winter heralded by a chilly wind and increasingly cold nights. However the weather was not yet cold enough to deter the thick swarms of flies which were driving the men to the brink of madness. In Folkestone, Pat’s sister Jess Armstrong had also recovered from her stomach complaint and returned to her National Registration duties. Meanwhile her mother continued a frantic search for a servant to help out at the family home.
Monday 6 September
I got up at about 8, & after breakfast sat out in the garden & read, it was lovely & hot. After lunch I went down to Sandgate in the bus to work at the National Registration.1 We worked hard till about 6-30, & then I had to walk home, as the buses were full. Then I gave Duskey her dinner & went to bed, as I was rather tired. Muz brought up my dinner. Mrs Brinkley had come to call, & Muz gave her tea. I read for a bit, & then settled off at about 10-30. Muz went then too, as she was tired.
Kifisia. Went for a short walk in the morning round the hotel. Left by 3 o’c train & did some shopping in Athens. Got back about 7 o’c & went to the band.
Letter from Captain Courtney Brocklehurst to Pat Armstrong
My dear old Pat
Ever so many thanks for your letter I was so pleased to get it & to know you are alright I hope your luck will continue & we shall meet again. We have been busy making trenches etc at the firing line three of the men were badly wounded the other day,2 Doig was one of them he has lost his eye [one line removed by the Censor], bad luck isn’t it? We got back last night after a fortnight of it, they shelled the town occasionally & killed three officers last week an RE, an RA4 & an infantryman. Great consternation reigns as to who is commanding the Regiment, Watkin & Giblet are back Bill Stanley who is junior to both of them is nominally commanding. Watkin came & took my squadron last night so I suppose I am considered useless as Bobby is still left commanding C Squadron. I am so sick of it all I shall try & get another job somewhere out of the regiment, however it will end by someone being brought in to command. John Chesham has been married5 & is still at home & Mike has not recovered yet. I was so sorry to see the Snail was killed but what a fitting end for so gallant a man. Well goodbye old boy write again soon.
Yours as ever Brock
Tuesday 7 September
Was up at about 8-30, & after breakfast went out in the garden. I got a lot of flowers & berries, & settled them in the big glass bowl that Algie gave Muz for the table. Then went for a wee walk. Muz & Heppie went down the town. I sat out in the garden & read after lunch. Then I brushed Duskey, & played with her. Mrs Wellesley & a friend of hers came to call. After tea I read out in the garden with Tom, & then put Duskey to bed. […] Finished reading “The Last of the Mohicans”.6
Kifisia. Went out about 10 o’c. Drove a short way & walked up to some marble quarries. Went out in the afternoon at 3 o’c with Lady Elliot & Miss Elliot. Had tea at Tator. Got back about 7 o’c & heard that the messenger had arrived. Dashed off & got on board about 10. Sailed about 11.30. Lowther – Mitchell on board.
Wednesday 8 September
Was up at about 8-30, & after breakfast went out in the garden & wrote letters, & then read for a bit. Heard from Algie, dated 5th, he says it is very cold out there. We are not to put Brigades & Divisions on letters any more only the Regt. & battalion. After lunch Muz & Ione went over to Canterbury in the car. I went down to Sandgate for the Registration, & got back at about 6-30. I went to see Kitty on the way back, but she was out. Went to bed at about 7-30, but didn’t settle till 11-30 & read for a bit. When I was down in Sandgate there was a huge explosion & the whole house shook. They say that it was a German submarine being blown up. I heard afterwards that it was some German mines being blown up.
H.M.S. Imogen. Very rough. Felt seedy. Put into a bay at Trebouki Bay & had lunch about 12.30 & went out again about 6 o’c. Sea had gone down a bit & we had quite a good passage. Got a signal from the Forette saying that an enemy submarine had been sighted.
Thursday 9 September
Ione went up to London by the 8-30, to go to the dentist. After breakfast I went out in the garden & read. After lunch I lay down, & read. Letter from Pat dated Aug 30th written from Athens. He had evidently gone there on leave, but as a letter is missing, we don’t know. His tummy isn’t very well & he is living on milk, but says he was due back to Suvla Bay on Sept 7th but if he wasn’t feeling well enough he would take a few more days. I went to bed at about 7-30. Ione came back by the late train.
H.M.S. Imogen. Arrived at Kephalos7 at 9 o’c. Lowther & I went on shore at once. Got General’s letter. Sat about all morning. Lunched in the Mess with Mitchell. Left at 4 o’c to catch boat but didn’t get away till 6.30 arriving at Suvla at 9.30 & getting up to Hd Qrs at 10.30. Had some difficulty with Luggage.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
G.H.Q. Sept 9.
My dear wee Mus.
I got back here this morning at 10 o’c & catch the 5 o’c sweeper on to Suvla. I feel awfully fit now quite different to what I did when I left. I ought to have left Athens on Sunday but the King’s messenger was late & we didn’t leave till Tuesday night. Lancelot Lowther Lord Lonsdale’s brother is doing messenger this week. He came on with us on the Imogene & will take this back for me. He’s a cheery soul. I like him. His son has just joined the Regt. He is great value. Knows all sorts of people I know. He is a great friend of the Beauforts. We had a baddish journey up here. Got a real good tossing. It was so bad yesterday morning that we had to put in to a small bay in one of the islands & stay there for 3 or 4 hrs. The sea went down a bit towards evening & we were able to push on again but there was a good steady roll, all the time. There is no news here at all. I am looking forward to getting back as I’ll get a lot of letters from you when I arrive. You see I haven’t had any letters for over a fortnight. Curling is going down to Athens this trip on the Imogene. It is a great way of getting a rest. I wrote you a long letter from the Elliots which is going in the messengers bag too but this is a bit later & will let you know that I am feeling awfully fit again. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 10 September
Was up at 8, & went out in the garden before breakfast, & again afterwards, & read. Finished “David Copperfield vol I.” Muz went to meet Nell Forde at the boat, but she wasn’t there. After lunch, Muz, Ione & Heppie went in to Hythe in the car, about a servant. Connie Penn & Amy Maude came. They told Tom that Betty Maude married Capt Harker (in the 60th) yesterday. Went up to bed at about eight, but didn’t settle till ten.
Suvla. Moved out of Curling’s dug out & got my own fixed up. Went up to 11th Div with the Gen. Cold wind. Worked on dug out all afternoon. Then went & fished in the evening with Hardress. He caught 3 fish. Turned very chilly in the evening.
Saturday 11 September
Was up at about 8-30, & went out in the garden after breakfast, & sat & read. Muz wrote letters all morning, & Ione stayed in bed with toothache. Mme de Marotte sat & talked to me in the garden. Then Mrs Wyndham & Evelyn, Mr Lyng & Major Lushington came for tea, & Mme de Marotte came afterwards. Gave Duskey her supper, & came up to bed at about 8, & read till about 11. Ione went to the theatre with Mme de Marotte & Mr Lyng. Letter from Pat dated Aug 29th, from Athens. He says the General sent him there, as we wasn’t very fit, & was going to stay till the following Sunday.
Suvla. Breakfast 8 am. Very cold night. Weather has quite changed. Started making stables & a cook house. Got in big mail in the afternoon. Left at 3.30 with the Gen & Col Fuller. Laid out where 2nd Line was to go then went on round S.W.B.’s line getting back about 7 o’c. Heard from Mus that my photos had been held up at G.H.Q. Heard that Tony had bought some horses for me.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
Sept 11 Sat night
My dear wee Mus.
I wrote you a note on Thursday to go by Lowther. I got away that evening & eventually got here about 10-30. The trawler was very late starting & then I couldn’t get off for over an hour after I arrived here. I got a whole pile of letters from you when I arrived. Simply lovely. There were so many I can’t tell you the dates of them all. I got a mass of parcels too. A mosquito net, shortbread which was excellent, everybody loved it, 2 parcels from Harrods, some boots from Sadler, a parcel of sweets from the wee girls, some biscuits from Disi, a cake from Bee, some fly paper from Disi & some from you. In fact it was just like Xmas. Then this afternoon I got 6 letters from you & later one in the General’s of the 25th. I have so many of yours now to answer I don’t know where to begin. The flies here are simply awful.
It’s quite impossible to sit in one’s dug out & write in the day time. I have just had dinner now & will tell you my news & then get all your letters answered gradually. Lovely it is getting so many. It was the only thing I looked forward to getting back here was to get all your letters. When I got back here on Thursday night, Hardress had got my things settled in Curling’s dug out. He has gone (Curling I mean) down to Athens for a rest. My own was built but hadn’t a roof on. So on Friday I spent most of the morning fixing up my dug out. I have put a bit on the top for a roof which will do temporarily till I can get some tin. But it’s run out & I don’t know when I will be able to get any more. If I can’t get tin I will try & get a tarpaulin & cover it with that. The tent is very thin & doesn’t keep the sun out well & as it is wouldn’t keep the rain out. Then yesterday afternoon & a bit of this morning I spent building up the front with sand bags. Now it is quite comfy. I’ve got an opening for a door which I am going to cover to-morrow with a waterproof sheet & a little window. I am going to make a cover for that with a sack. So it will really be very nice as soon as I get a good roof on it. Hardress has paved his floor with big stones I am going to do mine the same as soon as I have time. I am going to try & make it really nice & cosy for the winter. There is a tremendous change in the weather since I left. It’s very hot in the day but a cold wind blowing. So it’s quite chilly on the tops of the hills & very hot in the hollows. This is a nice shady little hollow & we ought to be well clear of the winter winds. Then it’s awfully cold at night. I had two thicknesses of [—] on last night & when I woke up this morning it was so cold I had to put a British warm8 on on top. It is going to be hellish cold here in the winter. But by then I hope to have made this dug out pretty well air tight.
Yesterday about 11 o’c I went for a walk round with the General. Shaw has gone sick & Maude is commanding the 13th Div. I suppose that is Stanley. I must go & make his acquaintance. I worked hard all yesterday with Ames filling sand bags to build up the front of my dug out. Bye the Bye his name is Arthur. I’ll get that paper signed & send it along as soon as I can. I’m desperately busy these times. I have got temporary command of the cyclist company which at present is 86 strong as well as Camp Commandant. So in one way or another there is a good deal to be done. We are getting the horses down as soon as the sea is calm enough. I was very busy, making a stable for them this morning & I had some more men on making a kitchen for our mess. I had a peaceful afternoon till 3.30. I got your letter after lunch also one from B & had lots of time to read them. Lovely it was. You really are good the way you write. It does make such a difference. Then at 3.30 I went out with the Gen & Col Fuller who is now G.S.O 1 instead of Perceval who has got command of the 86 Bde. We went & saw where they are making the 2nd line & then went on up into the trenches. It is the first time I have been up in the trenches here. […] This wouldn’t be so bad if it all didn’t look so hopeless & there were no flies. For some reason or other they are far worse than they have ever been. We got them well in hand at Gully Beach by the time we left but here they are just like a swarm of bees. They were so bad in here this afternoon that it really was like sitting in front of a bee hive. Horrible brutes they drive me mad. However I got inside my mosquito net & thoroughly enjoyed myself reading your letters.
[…] No chance of Greece coming in I’m afraid but I told you what little I know in my letter from Athens. Lowther had some gup9 about Italy sending a force down here somewhere. But I won’t believe it till I see it. I hope they do but I must say I wish we could finish this business without their help. It is a pity that we should want somebody like that to come & pull us out of the mud. But unless they send more troops out here we’ll just have to sit tight as we are for the winter. Of course that show on the 21st10 which was such a failure may be a blessing in disguise as it will make people realise what we are up against & the need for a larger force out here. At present the Turks are estimated at being about 3 to our 2. So that doesn’t look very hopeful for an advance does it. I do wish we could get on & get this business finished up. I’m not looking forward to the winter here a bit. It is alright when it’s dry & sunny but it will be hell when it’s wet & cold. I don’t know how we will get stores landed or anything & as for letters I’m afraid we will never get any at all. The General’s wound was nothing only a shrapnel which just bruised him. He was very amused about it. I am so glad you have got a cook, & I hope the other servant is alright too. It was a bad job being without servants. You must have had great fun with the Irishmen & Canadians. It’s an awful nuisance about those films isn’t it but I’ll write to Maxwell about it there & try & get them back. I gave them to Curling when he went on leave that time & asked him to try & get them home by King’s Messenger. I thought he would take them & post them in England & so didn’t censor them. But I’ll try & get them. I gave another lot of 5 to Parton in July, he was by way of going home but got hung up in Egypt so I’m afraid they must be lost too. They were a lot of good ones. The lot you have got are all rubbish. Sickening isn’t it. However I’ll take some more out here but I got some lovely ones of that fight on the 28th of June which I could never get again. I will write to Parton & see what can be done about it.
[…] I had a nice wee letter from B to-day. She is awfully fond of Tempe. She says “I go & see Tempe every day, he’s such a darling pony & the other is a dear too”. Like everybody else she’s depressed about the war, but she’s wonderfully brave. She wrote on the 23rd. They had been out cubbing that morning for the first time. That was a lovely long letter you wrote to me on the 20th. I have just read it all through again. It’s nearly 11 o’c so I will turn in as I’m sleepy. Will you thank the wee girls for their nice box of sweets which I love & tell them I will write when I can but it’s so hard with these d—d flies. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Sunday 12 September
A letter came last night, from Mrs de Lisle, saying the General had written & said that “A.D.C’s like Hardress & Pat are invaluable to me”. Muz & Tom went to church, & I sat out in the garden & read, finished “David Copperfield Vol II”. Read after lunch. Kathleen came over & she & Ione went over to the band. Then Kitty & her sister, Mr Lynd, Major Lushington, Mr Fripp, & Mr Arnold came for tea. I went to bed at about 8, & settled at about 11. Two letters from Pat, dated Aug. 26th & 27th. The 26th written on board the “Imogene”, as he was going on a week’s leave as he wasn’t right in his inside. He says they had a big battle on the 21st which wasn’t successful, as the generals wouldn’t push, & gave time for the Turks to get reinforcements. The 29th Div had 2200 casualties alone. Dreadful loss of life. 27th written from the “Imogene” too on his way to Athens. It is a yacht that goes to Athens every week, with the mails. Pat hasn’t been feeling well since the 22nd.
Suvla. Church parade 9 am. Left here at 3 pm with Pte Sayers of the Cyclist Corps & walked round the right side section of the trenches. Got back about 7 o’c. Inside rather troublesome.
- 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.⇑
- Privates R. Doig, A. Bird and G. Summers were wounded by a shell when walking in the town on Armentieres on 15 August 1915 ⇑
- Royal Engineers ⇑
- Royal Artillery ⇑
- He had married as his first wife Margot Hilda Layton Mills (1895-1985) on 17 August 1915; the marriage ended in divorce in 1937⇑
- The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper (1826)⇑
- Kefalos, a town on the Greek island of Kos ⇑
- Heavy double breasted overcoat.⇑
- Gossip ⇑
- The Battle of Scimitar Hill ⇑