“We want sandbags badly”

“We want sandbags badly”

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Description: Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
Date: 12 October 1915
Source: Armstrong Collection
Identifier: P6/1210 (190)

Oct 12. Tuesday night.

My dear wee Mus.

Charlie Burns the K. M. came over to see us to-day & brought our letters. I got one from you of the 29th. I also got 3 letters from you earlier in the morning of the 12st & 22d & one with enclosures. I got 5 letters from you on Thursday. So I’ve had a grand lot of letters this week. It’s lovely getting all your letters & just makes all the difference.

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 21 & 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. We have just had a very heavy shower lasted for about ½ hr but it has cleared off again now. Claude Rome has just been dining with us but went off about 9 o’c.

I got soaked to the skin yesterday. I went out with the General at 9 o’c & it was quite hot 80 as usual I went in shirt sleeves. We met Watson going round our lines. He is in the 60th was wounded at St Julienne in May & has now come out here to G.H.Q. The Gen told me to take in up to Jephson’s post on our left. It’s held by the 11th Div, so off we went. It started a regular down pour & went on for about an hour. I got in feeling like a drowned rat, but it cleared up in the afternoon & was beautifully hot. I expect we will get a good deal of rain now for a bit. I find my rubber soles are bad in the wet. I slipped up with them yesterday & fell heavily on the floor. But they are glorious in the dry weather going round the trenches.

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 rid 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. The only thing is that it’s hard to find time to write letters & I hardly ever seem to read even a paper. You see every other day I go out with the General about 9 o’c & don’t get back till about 1 or 1.30. Then I have the men working again from 2 till 5 & have to be pottering about watching them. They invariably do the wrong thing if they are left to themselves & don’t work half as well. I’ve nearly got the stables right now but there is still a good deal of work to be done on them, the horses are dug right in so they are pritty [sic] safe.

Basil came back last week but isn’t looking too well. The weather is good now & he has little or nothing to do so he ought to pick up. The weather is really lovely now, nice warm days occasionally rather spoilt by a coldish north wind & nice sharp nights. One feels awfully well. I haven’t felt so fit since I left France. The days pass quickly which is a great thing. I find that I’m never bored, some people always seem bored stiff. If I’m not actually working I can always poke about & work out little schemes to improve this place. It improves a bit every day which is a great thing. I shall be quite sorry if an officer arrives to take over the cyclists. They are such an awfully good lot.
I’m enclosing too little photos which my Sgt Major took of me on Sunday. He developed them himself that night and presented them to me yesterday. Quite good they are considering he only has a little Brownie camera.

I doubt if you have lost any of my letters. We haven’t heard anything about that mail boat & you seem to have got all the letters I have written. I always try to write one every week for K. M. & then another for the ordinary post sometime through the week. That is about all I can manage these times. I forget now if I told you that my under clothes arrived quite safely. I don’t want them just yet but expect I will in about a month’s time. My coat ought to arrive pritty [sic] soon now. The parcels are coming much better these times. This new canteen that has just been opened will be a great blessing as one can get practically anything from it. They have got about £20,000 I hear. So it ought to last for a bit. The Regts draw things in bulk. My cyclists have put in for £48 worth of stuff which they draw to-morrow. That works out at over 10/- a man. They are all full of money & haven’t been able to spend it.

I have sent you 3 lots of photos since I got back from Athens one lot in a paper parcel, the 2d in one of your wee tin boxes & a 3d in a cigarette box. Try & send them out to me as soon as you can. I expect Mrs de Lisle would send them by K.M if you asked her. It is so long to have to wait 3 months before getting them. I’m anxious to see them to see what they are like & if the exposures are about right.

The push in the west seems to have been a good show. I haven’t read any of the accounts yet. Burns told us to-day that our casualties were 47,000. The French seem to have done good work too.

I think the chief source of interest at the moment is in the Balkans. Greece is jibbing badly. Von Hindenburg is dodering [sic] about somewhere we don’t know where. We heard yesterday that Roumania had mobilised on the Bulgarian frontier. I wish she’ come in it would hurry things along well. If only Russia can push on well I think that there may be hopes of her coming in.

I’m sorry to hear about Capper. He was a very brave man.

I’m very interested to hear about the fleets. We have no news of it out here atall yet. We heard a rumour that we had got Ostend but there has been no confirmation of it. What rot people talk about the narrows. I only wish it was true. You’d have had a cable long ago if it was true.

Yes! we want sandbags badly. 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 tared [sic] canvas, quite the best I have seen. I could do with several hundred, my cyclists 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.

Will you thank wee Tom for the cakes she sent me. I got them last mail. They were awfully good but were very battered about. I had tea that day specially to eat one. I hardly ever have tea now. I think it’s a bad meal. “It’s a base insult to dinner and an ingratitude to lunch”.

I’m glad you got the little etching I sent you from Athens. I took rather a fancy to it as it was so nicely done. I thought it would be nice for the drawing room & would remind me of my trip to Athens. Oh! nearly forgot to tell you that I got a box of films from you to-day. I’m quite well off for them now which is a great thing.

I don’t know Alec Godley & even if I did I doubt if I would see him. He’s at Anzac & that’s a long way off. The General & Hardress rode there the other day & got sniped on the way, they heard afterwards that they were lucky not to have machine guns turned on them. Next time the General goes, if he ever does, he’ll go by sea. However if I do ever get over that way I’ll remember to go & see him. Write & tell him I’m here & then he will look out for me. There is one Gen Maude commanding the 13th Div. He used to be in the Guards. He is a relation I suppose. But what I don’t know. Do you. He doesn’t know me. The Gen talked to him about me one day but he didn’t know me.
I hope you can get Mrs de Lisle to come & stay with you. She sounds awfully nice. I’m sure she’d like the house.

I believe the sea gets pretty rough here in the winter but the Navy say that it will be alright. I haven’t much faith in them but we’ve got something like a month’s provisions landed & kept in reserve for the whole force so we oughtn’t to starve. At present one has only to wander about near the trenches & one can find enough bully beef & biscuits lying about to feed a Rgt. The waste of food has been dreadful. No! I don’t think there is any fear of our being short. They could always get stores ashore somehow. The thing I’m afraid of is that our mails may be bad. If they have any difficulty about landing stores they won’t worry much about our letters.

You seem very confident about my being back for Xmas. I hope you’re right. If things are quiet & this leave scheme works I think it might be managed. That was a great prophesy you made last year. Wasn’t it?

Hunter-Bunter is home sick. Joe Davis has got his Corps. Marshall used to Command 87th Bde but has now got 55th Bde, and Lucas his Bde Maj has been made a General & is commanding the Bde. They are detatched [sic] from us & are at Helles.

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.

Your loving Pat.