WEEK 73: AN OIL DRUM WITH A CHIMNEY OUT OF IT
Monday 15 to Sunday 21 November 1915
November 1915 was a month of naval tragedies. On 6 November, the British submarine E20 was ambushed and torpedoed by the German submarine UB14 in the Sea of Marmara in the Dardanelles. Of its crew, 21 were killed and 9, including the captain, were captured by the Germans. Eleven days later, His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Anglia hit a mine while returning from Calais to Dover, carrying 385 injured officers and soldiers. The ship sank in 15 minutes and of its passengers and crew some 164 are thought to have been killed; the rest were evacuated by the torpedo gunboat HMS Hazard. A cargo ship named Lusitania which assisted in the rescue operation also hit a mine while picking up survivors. In Gallipoli, the weather was turning increasingly cold with high winds and persistent rain, which was beginning to cause problems in the trenches occupied by the Newfoundland Regiment. Determined to keep warm, Pat Armstrong stuck upon an ingenious way of generating heat.
Monday 15 November
We went to the Stores & got a lot of things to send to Pat for Xmas, then went & looked at carpets. Then we went to Willis & looked at a lot there, & brought patterns down with us. Then we went to Selfridge, & did a lot of shopping there, & came down by the seven train. We came down with rather a nice little Canadian boy, who showed us everything he had in his pockets! Our submarine “E.20”, has been sunk in the Sea of Marmora. Three officers & six men are prisoners.
Tuesday 16 November
We stayed in bed rather late, as it was very cold, & we were rather tired. Heppie worked in the garden. We looked at the patterns of carpets & I chose one for my room from Willis, 26/3, a green one with white bows & roses. An awfully nice one. After tea Muz, Heppie & I went down the town, & did some shopping, we went to bed at about eleven. The Roumanian government has stopped all traffic with Bulgaria. Kalkandelen, W. of Uskub, has again changed hands & is now in the occupation of the Serbians.
Suvla. Glorious day. Trenches rather wet. Got Worcesters to work on the wash house. Went round N F L D2 line which was filling. Was in till about 9 o’c then went up to NFL Hd Qrs they had just relieved Londons. Came home by Essex. Two court martials. Wilson rather seedy a touch of fever.
My dear wee Mus.
[…] Not much news here these times. I made a new house for myself & am more comfortably established into it. The other one was a horrid little hole. I managed to get some corrugated iron so am now well prepared for the winter. The weather is glorious at present beautifully warm. It only gets really cold when the wind goes round to the north. My door faces north but I have built out a porch which I hope will keep it all out. I hope to get a door fixed up later. I made a fireplace yesterday in Gen Cayley’s house, he is awfully pleased with it. It is made out of an old oil drum with a tin chimney made of tin from the ration biscuit boxes. We got it going to-day & it throws out a great heat. I’m dreadfully busy these days there is such an awful lot of writing to be done. I started my VI message book to-day & I have only been at the job about 10 days. What with returns & messages of all sorts, court martials & so on one is at it all day. Today was just an instance. I had breakfast at 8 worked till 10 went out & inspected the Newfoundlands once which was filthy got back about 1 o’c wrote & did odds & ends of things signing papers etc. till about 4 o’c. Then went up into the trenches got back about 6.30. Was again besieged with messages, which I got done about 7.30, left the mess at 9.30 & have been going through two court martials & some other papers & got finished at 11 o’c. Now I’m writing you a brief letter for K.M.3 to-morrow & I hope will bring a letter from you. the K.M. ought to have arrived to-day.
The Turks were very busy shelling Chocolate Hill4 this afternoon, that is away on our right, they gave us a few but did no damage. Percy has got a touch of fever to-day, bad luck isn’t it. I hope he will be alright again to-morrow. Talking about sandbags. I have issued about 15 thousand since I came here so you can see the amount we use. We had a great deluge of rain last night which lasted about half an hour, the trenches were very wet in places to-day. My house stood it well which was a great blessing. I’m sorry you don’t think G’s engagement is a success. Lucky you wrote as I was going to write to him as soon as I had time. I am awfully glad that little Welch & Zoo have fixed it up, he will make her awfully happy. I’m glad you are sending me B’s mittens, they will be grand when we get cold weather. I hope G comes out here I’d love to see him again. Gen Godley is at Anzac, so I have no chance of seeing him. What a bore about servants, they are the devil aren’t they. Jack is doing quite well but he’s not a patch on Ames. He is very young but awfully willing & nothing is too much trouble. I think in time he will make quite a good servant but Ames was invaluable he was so independent. One could leave him with one’s kit & everything & he’d always do a bit better than anybody else. I remember on the retreat he always got things fixed for me in a few minutes while other servants were looking about them. I hope he gets home safely & is alright. I wonder if you have got the cheque I sent you. If you haven’t got it when you get this write to Cox & tell them to stop it & I’ll send you another. How dreadfully sad about Edith Corry. I wonder how it happened. Thank you so much for the diary wee Mus. It will do splendidly. Must go to bed now as it’s nearly 12 o’c. Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat.
Letter from Roland ‘Pilse’ Pillinger, Kephalos, to Pat Armstrong
My dear Pat.
Your letter of 30th Oct was received, on my return from Mudros, yesterday week: on Wednesday I went, hot foot, to Suvla, only to find that you had “cleared”. I was very disappointed. But I ought not to be since the cause was your advancement to staff captain, you know how proud I felt on hearing that. I’ve been trying to see you this many a day. Last August we only just missed each other at Helles: I was there and was told by Jimmie Watson that you had left “about an hour ago” He saw you taking ship. I was there for ten days and you shot off on the third of them. I am not quite sure whether you are with the 87th or the 88th Bde: think the latter so address this accordingly. I’ve seen every one except Long Un and Dofus. The latter wrote me the other day, from Anzac where he is adjutant of the Welsh Horse. I must try to get to him ere long. I am sorry to hear of the introduction of a KDG to command as I’m sure Giblet would do better with the Regiment than a stranger. We’ve tons of milk, but suppose you are not catering now. Do let me know if you want anything we have, and rely you will get it. Love to you Pat – and hope to see you soon. I am off to Suvla again, tomorrow.
Wednesday 17 November
I wanted to go to the hospital, but Muz wouldn’t let me, with my colds. Did a lot of mending & washing all morning. It was very cold all day. I sewed & tidied most of the day, & went to bed at about eleven. Ione came back by the late train, & was very tired, but had had a lovely time. Fierce fighting is taking place to the west of Uskub, at Tetovo, which the Bulgarians appear to have retaken. England & France are determined to secure from K. Constantine guarantees for our troops safety. With his object in view an allied squadron is concentrated at Malta, & is ready to sail for the Greek coast.
Suvla. Went down & saw work on wash house. Then saw Kerans & walked round reserve trench on green hill. Met General & Percy & came back with them. Was in writing most of the afternoon. Very high wind. Some rain in the evening. Very cold night.
Letter from Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong to Pat Armstrong
Dear old Maurice.
Thank you so much for the box of acorns which arrived yesterday. I will sow them all some in pots the others out of doors, they are very large – I am sorry you do not seem to have got any of my letters, two of them were about the two horses Anthony bought for you. One letter was written just after they came & the next about three weeks later. When Jessie told me you had not heard about them most probably by this you have got one of them. In case you have not I will tell you again about them. One is a big bay colt, 16 hands or more a nice quality horse, he has let down & thickened out a lot since he came here, Tony did not tell me how he was bred, at first he looked a bit high on the legs but he has thickened out well & ought to make a good horse up to 14 stone. The mare I like very much, she is chestnut with [—] white legs & a blaze down her face, about 15.3 a nice long low mare full of quality, you will like her, she was very cheap too, £45 Tony told me he refused £70 for her after he had bought her, as well as I remember the colt cost £65, they are both 4 yrs old. I rather wish you had bought 3 yr olds but it can’t be helped. This war may be over sooner than we think altho’ things look bad enough now – Horses are very cheap particularly young thoroughbreds, they can be bought for little or nothing & the very best – They are trying to make some of the young men about here enlist but they won’t so I am in hopes they will be made after a bit, it’s sickening to see dozens of them about the roads doing nothing. I send [sic] you two puddings yesterday, they had to be small as we are only allowed to send parcels weighing 7 lbs, tell yr servant only to boil them for one hour – They are making a cake for you today I would have sent them off sooner but Jessie only told me on Friday that she wanted me to send them to you. I do hope they reach you in time for Xmas. I am also sending you a couple of sets of underclothes they may come in useful. God bless you dear old man.
Yr loving Sir.
Thursday 18 November
I went to the Hospital. Everyone has been moved round again, so they hadn’t settled where I was to go. But Miss Deck got sick so Matron asked me to take her place in the Hall. I had to take all the men’s names & numbers, who went to go out this afternoon etc. It was lovely & warm! Tom & Duskey came to meet me. After lunch Muz & I went in the ‘bus to Hythe, to call on Mrs [—] & Mrs Wellesley, but they were both out, so we went to tea with Kitty, & stayed till nearly eight. Went to bed at about 11. Our hospital ship “Anglia” has been sunk by striking a mine in the channel on Tuesday. 85 missing. A ship coming to the rescue was sunk by another mine.
Suvla. Rather cold but nice hot sun. Went up to Worcesters & Londons. Settled about drainage & a wash house. Got back about 12.30. Spent most of the afternoon making a window for my house. Walked5 round to C.R.E with the Gen & Percy in the evening. Kerans dined with us.
Friday 19 November
Went to the hospital. I am on the 1st Floor again. Miss Mann & Miss Lawson are orderlies with me, & Florence & Miss André are the nurses. Ione stayed in bed all day. Muz & I went to tea with the Arnoldis, & they want us to help them with the Canadian Comforts committee. Then we went to church, & then down the town. Talked to Ione for a long time, then went to bed at about 10-30. Our Athens correspondent describes the situation in Serbia as almost desperate. The fall of Prilep, he says, is imminent, & the Serbians in the Babuna Pass are in danger of being surrounded.
Suvla. Rather cold. Went round Essex & N.F.L lines. Dusted up6 Essex Doctor. Left here at 3 o’c with Gen & Percy & saw Hants shelling Turkish redoubt. Wonderfully good shooting. Turned very cold in the evening.
Saturday 20 November
Algie’s birthday. Went to the hospital, & we were very busy. Muz & I went & called on Mrs Gardiner, but she was out, then we went on to have tea with Viva. Tom & Yvonne came too. Miss Marshall was there. Afterwards we played “Kuhan Kan”. Then I went straight down to the club. We had a lot of people in, & were busy all the time. Wrote to Algie when I got back, & went to bed at about 11-30. The Serbians are preparing to evacuate Monastir, & owing to the occupation of Prilep by the Bulgarians, it will be impossible to gain up with the allies.
Suvla. Nice sunny day but cold north wind. Was in till about 11 o’c then went round to N F L D & saw that the place was clean for Gen Byng’s inspection. Worcesters relieved Hants in right sub section. Gen Byng & de Lisle inspected the area in the afternoon. Put my fireplace in, a great success. Very cold night. Got a mail in the afternoon.
My dear wee Mus.
[…] We have had a couple of heavy showers of rain but my new house stood them splendidly. It is an awfully nice house nearly as good as my last it is really as good except I haven’t a door but I hang a waterproof sheet on it which acts quite well. I put a stove in this afternoon which is a great success. It is made out of an oil drum with a chimney out of it. It’s an invention of General de Lisle’s. They really are splendid & just make all the difference. It was awfully cold sitting in here in the evenings writing. This job means a lot of sitting & writing & one gets very cold. I put a window frame in yesterday afternoon, made it out of wood from a packing case, then I made a sort of shutter out of a frame covered with tin from a biscuit box, so I could get a tremendous fug up here if I want to. I am really awfully comfy & don’t mind how long I stay here. There is always lots of work to be done so I’m busy all day, in fact one really wants to be in two places at once. There is always a lot to be done in my area seeing that it is kept clean & arranging all sorts of odds & ends. General Cayley is a most charming man to work with. I’m awfully fond of him. I am really awfully lucky getting on such a nice staff.
I haven’t seen a paper for days so know very little of what is happening. I got two weekly Times to-night one of Nov 5 good work that isn’t it. That is about the quickest things I have had yet. I haven’t looked at either yet but will to-morrow all being well. Yes! our force to Salonika does seem small doesn’t it. It is hard to foresee what is going to happen. Greece is playing the dirty too, making a sort of secret alliance with Bulgaria. Dirty dog that she is. That old King must be a rotten fellow.7 My only hope is that we don’t go there, it would be a horrible business, awfully cold & uncomfortable. As we haven’t gone up to now I’m hoping we won’t, this is a very nice climate & we are really very comfortable. Besides if we stay here we might get leave. Devil another word about it though, so it doesn’t look very hopeful at present, but this time last year nobody dreamt of leave. So I keep on hoping.
Fancy Zoo & the little man bringing it off. He has worked hard for it, hasn’t he. How delighted he seems but I don’t know about her. She seems to take it as a matter of course, anyhow he will make her very happy. The war has done him good anyway, as I don’t think she would ever have accepted him only for it. Do you? I must write & congratulate her. […] I’m so glad G has got a good job. G.S.O 3 one day & then to get a Bde Major from that. I wish I could get promoted Captain that would be a great help. Is G a captain yet. I wonder which Div he is going to. I hope it is the 11th they are on our left. It will be difficult to see very much of him in any case but still I expect we will manage it somehow. Percy was at that hospital with him & knows him quite well. I’m longing to hear what Div he is coming to. He will make an extraordinarily good staff officer. I heard from little Pilse to-night he is running this canteen out here, he says he will get me anything I want. That is a good egg as at present the canteen is very short of stuff. There is no butter & we’ve ran out here too. I expect my weekly pound in a day or two now, it has been coming very regularly lately. […] No I’m not thin, mother dear, I’m getting fat with all the sitting & writing I do.
B’s letters are just as affectionate, the last one I got dated Oct 13 was extremely so. I wrote to her some time ago & asked her if she had made up her mind yet. I’d like to have things settled one way or the other. I think it is bad the way things are at present. It is rather an impossible situation really. If she is fond of me she ought to break it off with the other man & if she is not she oughtn’t to write to me the way she does. Of course she is very young but it has been going on for a long time now & she ought to know her own mind by now. I’m rather dreading getting her letter as I fear the worst but I feel that it is much better to have things quite straight. What do you think about it? I’d like to have seen her & talked it over but as there doesn’t seem much chance of that I feel that it is best to have written. I will let you know all about it as soon as I hear from her. What a relief it would be if she broke it off with the other man. Briggs8 commands the 21st Div. He used to have the old 1st Cav Bde. 11th H, 5 D.G. & Bays,9 then he got the 3rd Cav Div about April & now I hear is in this part of the world somewhere. Some people say that they were in Egypt & others that they have gone to Salonika. Poor Marky I don’t envy him, but if he gets through it all it will make a man of him. Why can’t Kicky get some job at home, let him do something to help. Henry Churchill couldn’t pass the Vet & got a job in a censor’s office. Kicky could do the same. He will regret it awfully afterwards if he doesn’t do something anything better than loafing about at Kinlough. Those stories you wrote are very comic they gave me a good laugh. Yes! it’s sad poor old Christy being left.10 I wish he could meet somebody really nice. Great if you could bring it off with Peter Cox she sounds nice. Well wee Mus no more news to-night. It’s late & I feel like bed. I never seem to be able to write to you in the daytime now. Best love to you all.
Your loving Pat.
Sunday 21 November
Went to the hospital. There was rather a lot to do, & Miss Mann didn’t come, so I was rather tired […] Four new men came in, & seven yesterday, & we had three operations yesterday, the first since the theatre has been done. I lay down when I came back, & then at seven Muz & I went to the club, it was quite crowded. Muz played for a bit. We did a lot of washing up before we came back. Went to bed at about eleven, & had supper in bed, as we were rather tired.
Suvla. Bitter north wind. Had to start leather waistcoat. Not much correspondence in the morning. Went round left of line.
- The Turkish name for the Macedonian city of Tetovo ⇑
- Newfoundland ⇑
- King’s Messenger ⇑
- A hill so named after its dark, rich-coloured soil ⇑
- Officer Commanding Royal Engineers.⇑
- To dust up = to have an argument ⇑
- King Constantine I had been blocking the attempts of the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos to bring Greece into the war on the side of the Allies, insisting on neutrality as the best option for his country. ⇑
- Lieutenant-General Sir Charles James Briggs (1865-1941).⇑
- 11th (Prince Albert’s Own Hussars), 5th (Princess Charlotte of Wales’s) Dragoon Guards and 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays)⇑
- Mrs Armstrong’s brother Christy and her sister Zoo were the last unmarried siblings of the Maude family. They lived together at the Maude family seat, Lenaghan Park, and Zoo’s marriage to Harold Welch meant that Christy would be left living on his own.⇑