WEEK 71: PEPPERUM PATUM
Monday 1 to Sunday 7 November 1915
The interminable stalemate in the Dardanelles continued. Although the prospect of evacuation had been mooted since mid-October, newspapers insisted that “the British forces intend to spend the winter in the Gallipoli Peninsula, which they have no intention of abandoning.” Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, remained optimistic to the overall success of the Gallipoli campaign and objected to evacuation on grounds that any such attempt would cause unacceptably high casualty rates. Hamilton’s views resulted in his removal as Commander, and his return to London at the end of October effectively marked the end of his military career. The long spell of inertia had given Pat Armstrong time to think about his future and in early November he surprised his mother with news of an unexpected career move. In Folkestone, two engagements caused delight in the Armstrong household.
Monday 1 November
Went to the hospital.1 At 11 the matron asked me to go up & help on the top floor, & to go up for a few mornings. Tom brought Duskey round, & I gave her some lunch. After lunch I went round with Tom to ask for subscriptions for the Dardanelles fund.2 It was awfully wet, & we got soaked. On our way back, we met Kitty coming back from “sandbagging”, & I went back to tea with her, & afterwards we went to church, a memorial service for people killed in the war. We met Muz coming out, she had been there. I went to bed rather early, as I was awfully cold. The allied fleet has resumed its bombardment of the Aegean coast of Bulgaria.
Suvla. Gen much better. Started work with Cyclists3 on the rest camp. Stayed there all morning. Long ’Un wandered down there in afternoon, walked up hill with him. Got mail. Dug a bit in evening then Basil came up.
Tuesday 2 November
I was to have gone up to London, to have my teeth done, but couldn’t get an appointment. But I didn’t go to the hospital. I stayed in bed some of the day, as I was awfully tired. Read “Aunt Sarah & the War.”4 Got up at about six & went round to see Matron & tell her I couldn’t go to the hospital till Friday. Then went round by the post office. Gave Duskey her dinner, & then Mr Nicholson turned up, he is back on a week’s leave. He & Ione dined with Mme de Marotte. Went to bed at about 10-30. The Germans announce that they have captured Kragujevac, the seat of Serbia’s arsenal some 60 miles to the South of Belgrade. Sir John French’s despatches in the paper today about fighting on Sept 25th.5
Suvla. Left at 9.15 with the Gen. Went to 88th Bde Hd Qrs. Walked round Gibraltar. Gen went over to the posts. […] Glorious warm day. Continued work on rest camp. Heard from B. Got parcel of stores from Mus also letter by K. M.6
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
[…] Thank you so much for a parcel which I got to-night with a tin of biscuits, 2 tins of fruit & a lot of Gentleman’s relish. Awfully nice they are. We laughed at the name of the gentleman’s relish “pepperum patum”.7 Hardress said it was “peppery Pat”. We’ve had no news from Salonika. Byng was sent for last night to G. H. Q.8 for a conference but of course we know nothing as to the scheme. I wonder if we will be sent there. I hope not as we are so comfy here. I’m quite resigned to stay here for the winter. We’re really very comfortable all things considered & we might go further & fare worse. However we can only wait & see & do as we are bid. I’m afraid the idea of leave has gone to 1000 to 3 but by Xmas a lot may happen. Servia will be frozen up by then so even if we are there we won’t be able to do much. I’d love to get home for a spasm, it would be great wouldn’t it. I’m simply longing to see the house. I’m sure you have it awfully nice. We hear rumours that the Russians are going to send a quarter of a million men to Servia & that the French are sending more troops there too. If only we could have a success then Greece & Roumania might come in. The General thinks that Roumania won’t come in till the spring. The weather is still lovely here, to-day’s been glorious. We had a strong wind from the south yesterday which put a destroyer on the rocks in the bay here. She apparently dragged her moorings & went ashore. It’s rather sickening as she is one of the newest type & I believe they had quite a job to get her out of the Admiralty.
Yes! I saw that photo of B awfully good isn’t it. I must get the original. I cut it out of the paper, it’s quite the best I have seen of her. I got a very nice letter from her to-night. I sent her one of those photos of myself in the trenches with the M.G’s9 like I sent you. She was awfully pleased. Both Frankie & David Mitchell are now on Gen Milne’s staff 27th Div. It is nice for them being there together. I’m glad that they both have a good job like that. It must be a great relief for the Duchess. I think I told you that I wrote to her a short time ago. No! I don’t think our houses will attract the Turks, there are so many other things close by for them to shell that I don’t think they will worry about us. You should see the beach, it’s one mass of seething humanity mixed with mules carts boxes & every imaginable sort of paraphernalia. The old Turk is very attentive down there but all things considered he does wonderfully little damage. They have their daily ration which knocks out a few men every now & again but the work goes on just the same. I’ve been having a fireplace built in the mess to-day, we lit it to-night & it was quite a success, the General was very pleased, it smoked a bit but I hope with a little manoeuvring that we will get it right. I’m afraid that paper of Ames’s must be lost as I sent it some time ago. If it is you can just keep the money for him. I told him to let you know when he got home. The men will love getting plum puddings out here. I told the Boss might be persuaded to send me a couple one for myself & one for my servants. I got those photos alright by K.M, it’s the best way of sending them as it’s so much quicker, if Mrs de Lisle doesn’t mind. Yes! we are rather apt to get puzzled over them, you put what numbers you like on them, then if you send me two copies of each I’ll mark on the back what they are & send them back to you. That’s much the best way & will make it more interesting for you. You ought to have got quite a lot by now. […] I don’t agree with you atall about Alexandria you are much better where you are. I like to feel that you are all getting comfortably settled into a nice house. You’d see no more of me at Alexandria than you would where you are. It would be very expensive & very uncomfortable at Alexandria & now you are just getting comfy & have lots to do with the house. I love the feeling of having a house of our own to go to & not to have to make a home in lodgings & never know when we might be kicked out. Now I feel that as long as the family coffers hold out we are quite alright. I hope this leave scheme works out. It may who knows? […] Best love to you all dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
PS. Will you send me some more films.
Wednesday 3 November
Muz, Ione & I went up to London by the 9-30 train, & went to meet Gordon at his club at 1-15. Dolly was there, then we went to the Carlton for lunch, & afterwards we shopped. She is very pretty, fair & tall. We stayed with them till 4-30, & then they went off to tea with his grannie, & we came down by the five train, & got out at Shorncliffe. Gordon & Dolly’s engagement was in the paper today. The Serbian army is still intact, & is inflicting serious losses on its enemy. From official sources it is gathered that the German strength in Serbia does not exceed 150,000 men.
Suvla. Glorious day. Censored letters then went to rest camp & watched work. Walked on to R. C church & back by the beach. Met S— Flood’s brother & brought him back to lunch. Fireplace nearly finished in the mess.
Thursday 4 November
Ione & I went up to London by the 8-30 train. We went straight to Harrison, & I had two teeth done. I had rather toothache for the rest of the day, & a horrid sore throat. Then we shopped, & looked for golf coats for Ione. Then we went to a matinee “Betty”,10 it was awfully good. We went & stood, for 1/- seats! Afterwards we did more shopping, & then came down by the seven train.Zooie’s engagement is in the paper today.
Suvla. Left at 9.15 with General. Met machine gun officer at 88th Bde Hd Qrs. Went round & looked at good gun positions. Some rain after lunch. Asked General to make me Staff Captain. Dug in evening.
My dear wee Mus,
I have just taken a very big step. There was a vacancy for Staff Captain of the 88th Bde so I went & asked the General if he would let me take it on, and now it’s all fixed up. He doesn’t like me leaving him & of course I don’t like going but I have been feeling for a long time that there isn’t much to be got out of an A.D.C.11 job. Of course it is very nice & comfy & that sort of thing but it will do me no good afterwards whereas a Staff Captain job may lead me on to a Bde Major. Both the Staff Captains of the 86th & 87th Bde have both [sic] been made Bde Majors. I feel that it is a good chance that I oughtn’t to miss, as I might never have the same opportunity again. I feel that a time has come now when I ought to look ahead a bit & think of the future.
I’m on quite a different standing as a Staff Captain to an A. D. C. besides it has the advantage of extra pay. I will now draw something like £450 a year instead of £300 which will make a deal of difference. I wonder what you will think about it. I don’t like leaving the General after all this time & his being so good to me but I don’t think it’s a good thing to go on being an A.D.C for ever. I’m very lucky really as Gen Cayley is a charming little man & Wilson his Bde Major is a great friend of mine. He is in the Royal Fusiliers & was in the same Battalion in India as Basil. I’m very lucky really getting it in a Div like this. Now you will have to address my letters as: – Staff Captain Hd Qrs 88th Bde. 29th Div. You will still be able to go on writing by K.M through Mrs de Lisle as I’m sure the General will always send them on to me. The Hd Qrs I am going to are about a mile from here, so I’ll be able to send my K. M. letters down to Col Fuller every Wed & get him to send them for me so our letter system won’t be altered very much. I may find it more difficult to write letters as I think that there is a good deal of work to be done but it will be nice to feel that one is getting on. No news here atall. I must wash for dinner now. Best love dear wee Mus. I hope you will be pleased at what I have done.
Your loving Pat.
Friday 5 November
Stayed in bed nearly all day, as I had a horrid cold. I went down to get the luncheon, as the others were out. Wrote letters afterwards. Then Mr Wardrope & Mr Meredith came for tea, I didn’t go down. Mr Meredith is the man we travelled down with last night, he has enlisted in the 16th Batt. Canadians.12 Ione went to the dance at the Metropole. We didn’t settle off to bed till after twelve. Captain Mac Gregor has got the D.S.O. & Mr Currie the Military Cross. Letters from Pat dated 11th & 30th. The Bulgarians have now got within six miles of the E. of Nish. Our allies’ troops continue to land at Salonika.
Suvla. Rode up to 88th Bde with Howard de Walden. Saw Gen Cayley. Started taking over from Smith. Got back about 1.45. Went down to the Beach to try & see dentist. The Gen & Hardress went to 11th Div. Felt very depressed.
Saturday 6 November
Stayed in bed all day, as I had a horrid cold. Muz & Ione went in to Canterbury in the car, to look for servants, but didn’t do any good. They brought Mr Lyng back for tea, then Ione dined with Mr Alexander & went to the dance. I tidied a lot of my things, in drawers. Muz sat up here all evening, & we settled off at about 11-30. Sir Ian Hamilton’s despatches in the paper today, General de Lisle & Colonel Percivalare mentioned. Letters from Pat dated 18th & 20th, he tells us privately, that Hardress told him his name had been sent in for the Military Cross.
Suvla. Took over Staff Captain of the 88th Inf Bde. Stayed in all morning & censored a regular shower of papers. Went out about 3 o’c. Went round some of the wells & support trenches. Got back about 6 o’c. Went round Battalion Hd Qrs.
Letter from Maria Elliot, British Legation, Athens, to Pat Armstrong
Dear Captain Armstrong
I am sending off a third box of books for the soldiers. I hope the other two reached you safely. I wish I could send them in greater quantities. Perhaps during the winter I shall be able to send some more. I trust you are keeping well, I have heard nothing from you except a few lines I received at Kaphisios. We no [sic] nothing about what will be decided about the future movement of troops, but sincerely hope that some will be sent to help the Serbians. The troops in the Dardanelles are at least holding up a certain number of Turks, but you must find life out there very monotonous. Please send me two lines.
Very sincerely yrs
Some of these may interest you. I leave here to-morrow. I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t taken on this job but I suppose it’s for the best. I feel I ought to try & get on. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Enclosed letter from E. Herbert Armitage, 13 King St., Cheapside, London E.C., 24 September 1915.
Sunday 7 November
Letters from Pat, dated Oct 24th & 17th. He says Ames has got dysentery, so has got to come home. I stayed in bed all day, Tom & Ione did too. Muz went to early service. I mended table napkins nearly all day, & then wrote letters. I wrote to “uncle Jimmy”! & Joan, as she has lost her brother. Then I read for a bit, & finished “German Spies in England.”13 Went down & gave Dusky her dinner. Muz went to church. We went to bed at about eleven.
- Manor House Hospital, where the Armstrongs had volunteered their services ⇑
- The Dardanelles Fund had been set up in July 1915 by Lady Hamilton to send clothing, foodstuffs, cigarettes and gifts to British soldiers in Gallipoli ⇑
- A company of the Cyclist Corps under Pat Armstrong’s charge ⇑
- Aunt Sarah and the War: A Tale of Transformations by Wilfrid Meynell (1915) was an “entertaining book about Aunt Sarah who takes the war as a personal injury when her footman enlists” (Newcastle Journal, 30 January 1915).⇑
- The first day of the Battle of Loos, which had resulted in yet another stalemate on 14 October 1915. French’s official despatch, published in The Times on 2 November 1915, was full of misstatements of fact and ultimately led to his resignation as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force⇑
- King’s Messenger ⇑
- The anchovy paste sold as Gentleman’s Relish is also known as Patum Peperium.⇑
- General Headquarters ⇑
- Machine guns ⇑
- Betty was a hugely popular musical comedy in three acts, It had premiered in Manchester on 24 December 1914 and opened in London on 24 April 1915 where it ran for 391 performances ⇑
- Aide de Camp ⇑
- 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) was a unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War ⇑
- German Spies in England. An Exposure by William Le Queux (1915). ⇑