WEEK 68: IF I TOUCH THEM THE STITCHES WOULD BREAK
Monday 11 to Sunday 17 October 1915
On 13 October 1915, the Germans made another successful Zeppelin raid over London. The attack became known as the Theatreland Raid as the first bombs struck the Lyceum Theatre where a play was under way. Of the five airships involved in the raid, one, the L14 commanded by Alois Bocker, strayed off course and, thinking it was over Woolwich Dockyard, dropped its bombs over the Otterpool and Westenhanger military camps near Hythe which were occupied mainly by Canadian soldiers. The noise of the exploding bombs could be heard by Jess Armstrong and her mother at Grimston Gardens. The attack on London, which killed 71 civilians and injured 128, was widely reported in the papers while the carnage near Hythe was hushed down and received very little publicity. In Gallipoli, Pat Armstrong’s attempts at improving his surroundings were hampered by a lack of good sandbags.
Monday 11 October
Muz, Ione & I went to the hospital1 at 8-30. I really went at 8-15. Ione’s first morning. I did a little dusting when I went first, & made a lot of the beds. The Drs came at about 10-30. I held one man’s leg while the Dr was dressing it. A huge wound, & very painful. Then I helped Sister to do a man’s side, an awful wound too, then I helped her to do Andrew’s leg, & then I bandaged it, & then helped her with Baker’s leg. We were very busy all morning, but the other girls brought up the luncheons. I came away at 2, & had lunch quickly, & went off to Mrs Lucas, to do sand bags. Then Miss Gilbank & Mrs Williams came back for tea. […] Letter from Pat dated 29th, he sent Ione & I each £10. M. Zaimis has informed the French government that Greece will remain in armed neutrality as long as possible. A British submarine has sunk a G. transport in Baltic.2
Suvla. Started new terrace in front of signal office. Left at 9 o’c went to 38th Bde Hd Qrs then up Asmac drain to “Well House” went on round line met Watson near Blockhouse.3 Took him up to Jefferson’s post.4 Rained hard. Got back about 1.15. Soaked through. Quite fine in afternoon but rather cold.
Tuesday 12 October
We went to the hospital at 8-30. Did beds, dusted etc. Muz & Ione left early, as they went over to Goodnestone5 to lunch, & took the Matron with them. Con & Trissie were over there. Algie suddenly turned up at the hospital, he has got a week’s leave. He came back for me at 1-30, as I was busy when he came. We talked for a long time, then we had a bath, I had one too, as I was so dirty! The others came back for tea, & brought Matron. We went to bed at about 11-30 Algie has been at Arras. The great G.6 attack at Loos on Friday last has cost them 7,000 to 8000 in Killed alone. At one point – a part of the Hohenzollern Redoubt7 – the G penetrated our first line, but were driven out by our bombers.
Oct 12. Tuesday night.
My dear wee Mus.
[…] Things are very quiet here. They shell the beach a good deal but comparatively little elsewhere. I can’t think how that rumour about the narrows having been forced got about as we’ve done absolutely nothing since Aug 218 & everybody knows what a ghastly affair that was. Most of the time now is spent making drains & preparing for a winter campaign. We hear of corrugated iron coming but none seems to arrive. I hope it will come along before the real wet weather comes along. […] I’ve been busy all to-day making a road for the General. I have had 20 men on it nearly all day & got it finished this evening. We started at 9 & went on till 12 then from 2 till 5 this afternoon. I just had to cut & level through the bushes so as to have a nice road to ride out on every morning. It was a horrible place to ride over before, all lumps & bumps & little paths & scrubby bushes. One never quite knew which path one was on. I have got a lot of work on hand at the present moment. I’ve nearly finished to [sic] cyclists terraces, then I have a party on B Mess making terraces etc. I’m making a new terrace quite close to our signal office. As soon as I get those all done I’m going to improve the road up to our Hd Qrs. That’s a big job as I have to build a sort of bridge. It is rather interesting all this work & keeps one awfully busy.
[…] Yes! we want sandbags 9 would like some too to make their dug outs of. Then you can send as many as you like to the Munsters. Tell them to address them to O. C. Munster Fusiliers 86th Bde. 29th Div. It was only last week that Geddes told me how much he wanted them. They had a big fire the other night on the beach & burnt about 200 thousand I believe. You can tell any private people who are making them to send them out here. We can always find use for them but they must be strong. I could dispose of 50 thousand this minute if I had them. […] No news yet from either Tony or the Boss about the horses. I wish they’d write. It’s 11 o’c & time for shut eye. Best love dear wee Mus.. Everybody is shouting out for them. We have been able to get a few lately but before that we could hardly get any. They sent a lot of rubbishy things down from Egypt that they had had made there. Some as big as corn sacks others like bodies bags, & most of them were so badly sewn that they wouldn’t hold the earth. I have got several holding my roof on now but if I touch them the stitches would break & they would fall asunder. With great difficulty I managed to get hold of 200 last week. Real good ones they were 100 were of that green wittenden [?] canvas pretty well waterproof the other 100 were excellent a sort of tarred canvas, quite the best I have seen. I could do with several hundred, my cyclists
Your loving Pat.
To read the entire letter, click here.
Wednesday 13 October
Algie went up to London by the 8-30, to see his sister, & do some shopping. We went to the hospital. Miss Reid & I scrubbed the ward; it was rather hot. Mrs Wood, Kitty & Miss Gilbank came for tea. Then I walked home with Kitty. Mary went away today, so Ione & I helped Ida with dinner.10 We had ours early, as Algie was coming back at 8-30, but the train was late, & he didn’t come till about 9-30. We heard the bombs being dropped on Otterpool but couldn’t see anything. Nine dropped. 14 soldiers killed & over 20 wounded, but we hear we caught the car with them.11 Bulgarian forces have crossed the Serbian frontier, & are attacking our allies N & S of the Sofia-Nish railway.
Suvla. Left here at 9 o’c with Gen. Cold wind. Went in on left of line round 1st London Regts line. Watched men working all afternoon. Dug at the stables in the evening. Gilman & Basil came to dinner. Trouble about water.
Letter from Blanchie Somerset, Badminton, Gloucestershire, to Pat Armstrong
Just a line to thank you for the little snapshot of yourself. I loved so getting it & it seems such years & years since I’ve seen you – I don’t think I’ve told you before that Frankie is now on General Milne’s staff, the 27th Division, & so is David Mitchell – which is nice for them both being together. I’m glad F. got the job as from what I make out the regiment has had rather a bad time of it lately. John Chesham & his wife came over here to hunt last Sunday. I think he’s charming & his wife great fun, she knows all there is to know about hunting & sport in general – So we are going to get up some coursing meetings as they’ve got some long-dogs12 & we’ve got 4 – & he seems stuck at Tidworth indefinitely. F. thinks he’ll get some leave in about a month’s time which will be good. Pat, darling, I suppose there’s no chance of you getting any, is there, unless you get an appendicitis or something. Oh, how I long to see you. Well, I must stop as have no more news.
Best love from
Your loving Blanchie
Thursday 14 October
We went to the Hospital. Algie sat out on the Front nearly all morning, then did some shopping. I scrubbed the ward with Miss Reid. Sister called me over to let me see her getting Jack Brown’s arm ready for an operation, awfully nice of her. Lane is going to have an operation on his leg too. I didn’t get away till after 2, as there was rather a lot to do. Algie came to meet us, & we walked back with Kitty. After lunch we talked, then Algie & I went down to the theatre, to get tickets for tonight. It was a very good show, “The Geisha”. We went to bed at about 11-30.
Suvla. Left here about 11 o’c & went round right sub section going up saps13 etc. Went up Nos. 1, 2 & 3 then to Dublin Castle. Got back about 2.15. Continued work on B mess & terraces. Quite cold. Very cold as soon as the sun set.
My dear wee Mus.
I got 5 letters from you last week of Sept 16-17-18-19-20 which I haven’t had time to answer yet. The weather has got quite a nip in it these last few days. I have had my coat on all day to-day. I went for a long walk this morning all round the right section of the trenches, & didn’t get back till about 2.30. Quite an interesting morning. My thick coat hasn’t arrived yet but I expect it will soon. Don’t send me any more stockings as I hardly ever wear them. I nearly always wear puttees.14 I always wear ration socks which I can always get quite easily. They are the best socks I know. I’m so glad to hear that Con is doing well. It must have been a pretty near thing. The War doesn’t seem to have improved Markie much. What a nuisance he must be to have staying with you. Tommy seems to have done well snubbing him about taking those tennis balls. I think it’s quite a good scheme having the bear skins lined, they will make good mats. You can always put them away somewhere in a corner where they won’t have much traffic on them.
These Hd Qrs are awfully nice. Everybody who sees them say that they are the nicest on the peninsula. When the Div got here first Gen Marshall was commanding it & made his Hd Qrs very far forward. The General said it was too far forward & had a new Hd Qrs made here. People didn’t like moving as they were quite comfortable where they were, & there was nothing really ready here. But now we are comfortably settled here everybody realises that this is a much nicer place. I’m improving it now & ought to have it really nice in about a week or so. I have practically finished the terraces for the cyclists. I am going to start a bit of road making now in a day or two. There is rather a steep hill just beside these Hd Qrs, it now goes straight up & I’m going to make a zig-zag of it so as it will be an easier path for the mules. I am just going to get the messes done nicely first & then start off on it. Errol O’H has gone off to Mudros. We were all awfully sorry to lose him he is such a good sort. No more news to-day wee Mus. I’m just going to have a look at the men & see how they are getting on & then I’ve got a few letters to censor. Basil dined here last night but wasn’t looking too well. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 15 October
Algie went up to London by the 8-30. He is going to meet Gordon, & then go down to his sister. We went to the hospital. I got two of the men to scrub the ward. Sister Downes asked me to look after no 2 tent, & see that the beds were made etc. every morning. Miss Reid didn’t come this morning. I bandaged Lane’s hand, & helped with some of the dressings. […] Muz & I walked home with Kitty. After lunch I went & lay down, then Miss Lewis came for tea, she is working on Muz’s floor. Miss Gilbank came too. I went to bed at about 7-30. Ione went to the dance. Our troops have resumed the offensive between La Bassée & Loos, advancing under a cloud of smoke & gas between the Hohenzollern Redoubt & the village of Hulluch. Bombs on London last Wednesday.
Suvla. Rather cold. Kept coat on all day. Left at 9.15 went up Asmac drain & got into line near Newfoundland cook house. Worcesters in line. Then went up into E & F posts then round to C & D got back about 1 o’c. Got mail about 4.30. Worked on terrace in front of Signal office.
Letter from Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong to Pat Armstrong
My dear Maurice
Jessie tells me you have not heard about the horses Anthony sent here for you, as soon as they came I wrote & told you all about the, my letter must have been lost in the post – He first sent a chestnut mare about 15.3, with four white legs & a blaze on her face, a very nice mare with good quarters & looks like going fast, he told me he paid £45 for her but could have got £70 after he bought her, she is by St Luke, I’ve got her pedigree for you – Anthony then sent a big bay colt about 16 hands he moves well & is a nice horse, but to my mind shows too much daylight under him, he may grow thick, & they both have done well since they came here – The bay colt cost £70 if I remember right. The mare is my sort, long low with good bone but Anthony is such a good judge I am sure the colt will turn out well, he did not tell me the colt’s pedigree but I’ll get it from him the next time we meet.
– We have had simply awful weather the whole of the summer, it began to rain on 22nd of June & until 18th August we had not two fine days together. I hope the hay will all be in tomorrow but half of it isn’t worth bringing home – I shot five days by myself, there were any amount of birds but dreadfully wild, the rain & floods on the mountains set them mad, on the 18th I got 6 brace as it was fairly dry but if the birds had sat tight I’d have easily got 20 brace, it is a great thing to see them. This little room got so smelly I took all the old cupboards away & put them up in the servants’ hall, you can’t think what an improvement it is, now there is plenty of room round the fireplace & there is plenty of air. How are the parcels of Harrods getting to you. I heard none of them were reaching you so I tried sending small lots by Parcel post, they sent me a letter you wrote them so I am in hopes some of them have reached you. There are a good many snipe about this year but I have only been out one day as it is better to keep the place quiet early in the season then they settle down & stay – I have the same dog still, he is very good on Grouse & Partridge but too slow on snipe – write to me soon & tell me the latest news. Best of good luck to you.
Yr loving Sir.
Saturday 16 October
Muz wouldn’t let me go to the hospital. Muz went, but Ione didn’t. I stayed in bed all morning. After lunch Muz, Heppie & Ione went to Canterbury in the car, to look for servants. Ione took her Sister with them. I went to Viva to ask her for cardboard boxes, for the men in my ward, to keep the things under their beds. Then I went to Kitty, then came back & had tea, & went to the Blakes, Miss Walter & then Mrs Lucas, & asked them about boxes. Harrison was doing the gravel outside the house today. The others got back at about 7-30. Went to bed at about 9, but Muz didn’t come till later, I am sleeping with her still. Officially stated that we are at war with Bulgaria. A naval engagement has taken place in the Baltic, between a British submarine & German man of war. At least one G destroyer was sunk.
Sunday 17 October
We went to the hospital. Miss Reid wasn’t there, so Miss Mackenzie & I did everything. A lot of the men are up now, & some out on the balcony. I helped with Lane’s leg again, & bandaged his hand. After lunch we all lay down. Ione didn’t get up till late. After tea I went down to Miss Walter to say I couldn’t go to the club tonight, then went in to the Club to get the date of a paper for Tom. Muz & Tom went to church. Heppie scrubbed the kitchen & scullery, as the new girl comes tomorrow. We thought Algie would be coming back tonight, so we waited up toll about 12, & he didn’t come, I suppose he will come tomorrow.
Sunday Oct 17.
My dear wee Mus.
[…] In your letter of the 28th you say “3 little round tins with photos & a box of them came this morning” etc. How many rolls of films were there altogether? I gave Parton a parcel with either 5 or 6 rolls in it I can’t remember which. I don’t know if you mean that 2 parcels came one with 3 rolls & then another box or if it all was one parcel. You see the writing on the envelope & on the brown paper you sent me are different which is rather puzzling. I feel pretty sure that they must be the lot that Parton took home. I’m longing to see them as they ought to be good & very interesting. If you send me 3 prints of each, I can keep one for myself give one lot away & then write on the backs of the others, number them & send them back to you. It would make it easier for you & more interesting. For instance in two cases with the last lot of photos, two of them joined together & made a panorama photo. I don’t suppose you spotted that. I think it’s safer when sending them out to put them in a little box, as they seem inclined to burst open in a letter. If I number them all for you & write on the back of them what they are you could then start putting them into a book. Let me know if there is anything you particularly want taken. I think I ought to have a pretty good collection if they only come out successfully. The light is getting bad these times which makes it more difficult. We are having rather queer weather now. Last week it was rather cold wind. Yesterday it was quite warm & to-day it’s dull & cloudy. Rather like an autumn day in Ireland. “Soft” you could call it, no sun atall. One thing about this place I think we will always get sunny days in the winter not like France where one never saw it. There is no news atall. There has been a little more shelling this morning than usual but nothing to worry us. That is a very interesting bit you copied out of a paper about the use of artillery. It’s wonderful how this is becoming a war entirely of machines. The whole thing is practically a question of guns & ammunition. The side who has the most guns & the most ammunition to blow off at the one spot can give its opponents absolute hell. […]
To read the entire letter, click here.
My dear wee Jess.
Ever so many thanks for your letter of the 21st. I’m glad the house is getting on so well. It will be a good business when you have the morning room & the drawing room finished. The rest of the house sounds awfully nice. I’m longing to get home & see it all. I have got a lot of acorns off the oaks here & also some acorns off the little bushes which are here called holly-oaks. I don’t know if that is the right name or not. They grow to about 5 ft & are something like a stunted holly tree. Only the leaves are quite tiny. I should think they would probably do quite well in England. I am going to send some to the Boss & get him to plant them at Moyaliffe. The whole place here is covered with this stuff. Some of the oaks are really quite fine. I believe that that is quite a big industry in this country with acorns for tanning purposes. I will send them along to you sometime but they aren’t quite ripe enough yet. I picked a lot but I think I’ll get some more better ones in about a fortnight’s time when they ought to be really ripe. It is a great relief to me to know that the films have arrived which I gave Parton to take home for me. Some of them are rather gruesome I’m afraid but they will be interesting afterwards. I hope all the others will arrive safely. […] This has now become an absolute side show & I think we’ll just sit down here for the winter. Personally I’d just as soon be here as anywhere else. It’s raining quite hard to-day & quite chilly. The hot weather has gone now & the sickness is decreasing which is a good thing.
Best love dear wee Jess.
Your loving Pat.
- Manor House Hospital, where the Armstrongs had volunteered their services ⇑
- A flotilla of British submarines wreaked havoc in the Baltic Sea during September and October 1915, sinking German transport vessels laden with iron ore from Sweden.⇑
- Blockhouse = a fortified easily defended structure with ports or loopholes designed for observation or defensive firing ⇑
- A hill named Sivritepe near the British frontline, renamed Jephson’s Post by the Allies after Major John Noble Jephson of the 6th Royal Munster Fusiliers who was mortally wounded capturing the position on 15 August 1915 and died of his wounds on 29 August 1915.⇑
- Goodnestone Park near Canterbury, Kent, home of the Plumptre family ⇑
- German ⇑
- A defensive strongpoint of the German Army at Auchy-les-Mines near the French border with Belgium ⇑
- The Battle of Scimitar Hill ⇑
- A company of the Cyclist Corps under Pat Armstrong’s charge ⇑
- Mary and Ida were domestic servants in the Armstrong household ⇑
- This turned out to be a false rumour; one of the Zeppelins had been spotted by searchlights and attacked from the ground but it was able to return to base.⇑
- Greyhounds ⇑
- Sap trenches = small trenches dug from the front trenches at 90 degree angles leading out towards the enemy trenches ⇑
- Long strips of cloth wound spirally round the leg from the ankle to the knee, worn for protection and support ⇑