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Monday 6 to Sunday 12 December 1915

Monday 6 to Sunday 12 December 1915

WEEK 76: A PAIR OF TURKISH WIRE CUTTERS

Monday 6 to Sunday 12 December 1915

Pat Armstrong did not have long to mourn the break-up of his relationship with Blanchie Somerset. On 7 December 1915, the British government finally sanctioned an evacuation of all 145,000 officers and soldiers from Gallipoli. Preparations for the withdrawal of men and guns began on 10 December at Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay. In Folkestone, Jess Armstrong continued her exhausting work at the Manor House Hospital. It was just one of over 3000 temporary hospitals established across Britain during the war years by the Red Cross to look after wounded soldiers returning from the various theatres of war. As a rule, patients admitted to auxiliary hospitals did not suffer from life-threatening injuries, being more in need of rest than extensive medical treatment. Staffed primarily by members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and part-time local volunteers such as Jess, the auxiliary hospitals were less crowded and more homely than large military hospitals and therefore in great favour among servicemen.

Monday 6 December

jess__diary_cameoWent to the hospital.1 It was pelting when I left. A lot of the men went away yesterday, & some more are going this afternoon. Put Dusky’s supper on to cook, then changed, & went to Mrs Lucas, to sew sandbags. Kitty was there, & came back to tea with us. Mrs Foster, her son & his wife, General & Mrs & Miss Steele came for tea. Kitty stayed till about seven, then I gave Dus her supper, & then wrote letters. Miss Walter told me last night that Helen is engaged. We went to bed at about 11.

Sir Samuel Benfield Steele

Sir Samuel Benfield Steele


pat_diary_cameoSuvla. Dull & warm went out at 9.30 & went all round line. Got back about 2 o’c. Great improvement in N.F.L.D. Went round & saw G about 3 o’c came back at 5 o’c. Gup2 that only 29th Div were going to move

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to an unidentified recipient but possibly his sister Ione Armstrong

You old Pet.

Postcard from Thurles

Postcard from Thurles

Devil a line have I had from you since that post card of the great town of Thurles with all your most secret correspondence written in large letters on the back of it. I think it would have been more discreet to have put it in an envelope. Don’t you? Well! I hope this will reach you on or about Xmas to wish you a very happy Xmas. I sent Mus a little present for you last night & want you to buy something for your room with it. I feel that it will be more useful to you than anything I could order for you from out here. I told Mus all the news in my letters last night & the night before. I’m sick of the flood & all to do with it & besides I’ve told Mus all the horrible details so I’ll tell you none of it. So as I have nothing better to write to you about I’ll tell you about myself & my affairs. Well things have come to an end with B. I thought that it was very unsatisfactory the way we were going on. Things weren’t square & weren’t right. And I felt that a time had come when things had to be settled one way or the other. Well so I wrote to her & asked her if she had made up her mind & the day before yesterday I got a very nice letter back saying she had & that it was No.

Well! that ends it. Of course it’s upsetting but it’s better to know it now than when I get home. It didn’t come really as a very great surprise as I have half expected it all along. I have felt for some time now that she was writing nice letters to me & that she was fond of me in a childish way but at the same time she was probably writing much the same sort of thing to somebody else3. I don’t accuse her for a moment of double dealing but I just think that she doesn’t know enough of life to realise the seriousness of it. I am perfectly convinced that she would ever marry either of us.4 If truth were known at the present moment she is not in love with anybody. Well there it is. I’m left in the cold anyway as I have said before it hasn’t come as much of a shock as I have expected it all along & had sort of prepared myself for it. I dare say it’s all for the best that is what I tell myself anyway. Anyhow I have the consolation of feeling that I have played the straight game over it. She asked me to be friends but of course that is quite impossible. So now I shall neither hear from her or see her for goodness only knows how long – perhaps when we do meet again we may be able to be friends.

The one that got away

The one that got away

I suppose I have got hard & cold through being out here so long but I must say if you had told me a month ago that I would take it all so calmly as I do I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact now it’s all done & over I am surprised myself. In fact I can’t quite make myself out. I am awfully disappointed but at the same time now that I have written to her & told Mus all about it & feel that everything is done & over it has got very little real bite about it. It is hard to explain what I mean but I expect you will understand. The truth of the matter is that I’m trying to analyse myself & can’t & therefore it is all the more difficult to put things clearly to you. I wonder if you can understand or if this is awful twaddle that I am writing. It is so hard to express exactly what I do feel. The only way I can describe it is that it’s been like seeing a heavy weight dangling on a string & knowing that it would almost certainly fall on you which wouldn’t be as bad as if the thing fell on you unexpectedly & one hadn’t seen it or expected that it was going to fall. A rotten simile I’m afraid but it sort of explains my feelings. […] One expects to be frightfully hurt & then when the thing happens it isn’t as bad as one expected. Let me know what you think about it. I wish I could discuss it with you. At one time I felt that my future happiness & almost my life depended on it but now that the worst has happened I take it quite calmly. Mind you I don’t for a moment say that it doesn’t hurt because it does, but not nearly as badly as I expected. Well enough of myself & my troubles. This is a jolly sort of letter to write to you for Xmas isn’t it? But there it is, it’s written & it has helped me to explain myself to myself. Well old thing I’m sorry not to have had anything more cheerful to write to you about. But I feel that you would like to know exactly how I feel about things. Well best love to you & all my very best wishes to you for a happy Xmas & New Year.

Yours ever Pat.

pat-cameoLetter from Pat Armstrong to Jess Armstrong

My dear wee Jess.

I hope this will arrive in time to wish you a very happy Xmas. I have sent Mus a little present for you & want you to buy something nice for your room with it. I have got a pair of Turkish wire cutters which I will send along to you but I’m afraid they won’t arrive in time for Xmas. Thank you so much wee Jess for your letters of the 5th & 13th. You are splendid the way you write to me. I have seen quite a lot of G, he is Bde Maj to the 23rd Bde which is just on our left only about 10 minutes’ walk from here. I went to see him on Sat & again this afternoon but he is so busy that I don’t really see much of him. Yes! it does seem funny his being engaged. I can’t quite believe he is somehow. I am awfully glad that Zoo has accepted the little fellow he will make her awfully happy. Poor old Christy we must find someone for him. Yes Miss Heppie will do shall we arrange that!!! 5

I’m sorry to hear that Dusky is seedy. I think it might be a good plan to get a vet to look at her. From the sound of her I’d say she wants a real good dose & then a tonic of some sort afterwards. I am sure a big dog like that being in the house as much as she does wants a good deal of medicine to keep her blood cool. That leg breaking out again sounds like heat in the blood. Benbows 6would be no good for that. I should say she wants salts of some sort & perhaps a good dose of areca nut.7 Consult a vet about her any way. Her going down when you touched her back sounds like kidneys. Suggest this to a vet & see what he says. Calomel is good for the man beast with kidneys & I should think would probably be good for her. I think to keep her really fit she ought to have a dose about once a fortnight. I used always give the ponies salts once a week to keep them right & find out here that the same thing applies to me. I was never right inside at Helles. I always had a sort of sand colic & now since I came back from Athens I have a dose about once a week & it keeps me awfully fit. Gen de Lisle always has one every Saturday night. I am a great believer in treating men like you do animals & vice versa animals like you do men. What a lot of talk!! Well wee Jess I have no news for you. I wrote pages to Mus last night & the night before. Rather agitated I’ve been these last couple of days. But now since I have sent all B’s letters to Mus I feel much better. I just don’t worry. Life is too short & there is too much work to do these times. Best love wee girl & all the very best wishes for Xmas & New Year.

Your loving Pat.

Tuesday 7 December

jess__diary_cameoWent to the hospital. Just as we were going four stretcher cases came in, & we had to get things ready, as we hadn’t expected them. After lunch I got Duskey’s food ready. Then went round to see Kitty. Major Winstanley came back this morning on a week’s leave. Then I went down to the club to get bits for Dus, then changed, & Kitty, Major W. Mrs Wyndham, Mr Turnbul & his friend came for tea. Then they & Ione went to the tango tea. Then Mr Marriottcame in for a little while. Then I played with Dus, & put her to bed. Then worked at the box room with Heppie till dinner time. Ione went to theatre. After dinner Heppie played, & Tom & I danced about till about ten. Muz wrote letters. […]

Wednesday 8 December

A scheme of carts

A scheme of carts


jess__diary_cameoWent to the hospital. We were rather late with everything, as three new people came in last night, & the Dr had to see the dressings. When I got back, I worked in the attic, & got a lot of the other boxes up there, & tidied it all out, & was just finished by tea time. Mrs Marriot came to call. Afterwards Muz & Tom went for a walk, & Heppie & I went down the town to order curtain poles, & we brought some stores back with us. I was awfully tired, so went to bed at about nine.

pat_diary_cameoSuvla. Cloudy & warm. Went to a lecture at Div Hd Qrs on gas about 11 o’c. Then went down to the Beach. Got back about 2 o’c. Wet round N.F.L.D. & Essex in the afternoon. Got a mail. Heard from the Boss. Percy went round the line. Wrote letters & worked out scheme of carts for evacuating kit etc.

Thursday 9 December

jess__diary_cameoWent to the hospital, & got there rather early. Miss Mann didn’t come so I had to do her work as well as mine. I had 23 luncheons to bring up! It rained hard all day. After luncheon we talked about covers for the morning room. Then Muz & I went out. We went down to the club, to get bits for Dus, & then left a note for Mrs Dashwood. Gave Dus her supper, & then went to bed at about five, as I was very tired. Wrote letters. Got letter from Algie dated 6th.

pat_diary_cameoSuvla. Warm & bright the usual. Mended the house in the morning. Went out about 11 o’c went round N.F.L. & Worcesters. Got momentous message8 about 3 o’c. Conference at 3.30. Very busy all afternoon. Loaded ammunition etc. till about 3 am.

Friday 10 December

jess__diary_cameoWent to the hospital, we had a lot of changing of men & things, & were awfully busy. Then 15 new men came in, & I helped to wash them etc. I had lunch at the hospital, & stayed on till 4-30. Muz came to meet me. I was rather tired, so had tea & went to bed at about 5-30, but we didn’t settle off till after 11, as Heppie was working at covers in our room.

pat_diary_cameoSuvla. Conference of C.O’s9 at 9 am. Went down to Beach & had teeth done on the way back. Went & saw G in the afternoon but he was very busy. Went round a bit of 8th Line in the evening with Percy. Very warm night. […]

Saturday 11 December

jess__diary_cameoWent to the hospital. Muz & I went to tea with Miss Dashwood & Ione went to the Steeles, & then came on to us later. We played hide & seek with the children, then I went to the club. Mrs Boddam-Whetham didn’t come, so her sister came instead, & I had to show her everything. We had a lot of washing up to do. Muz came down to meet me, & helped us. We didn’t get back till after ten. Went to bed at about eleven.

Sunday 12 December

jess__diary_cameoWent to the hospital, this is the last day of the month on the 1st Floor as I go to Ward II tomorrow. After lunch I did some washing, & then worked at my papers. Tom had two wee boys for tea. Ione was out, & she sent a boy back to us to tell us there was a fire up near Bathurst Road, so Muz & I went up to see it. Then Muz & I went to the Club, it was fairly full, we got back at about ten. Went to bed at about 11-30, but I couldn’t sleep for ages.

“Two wee boys”

“Two wee boys”


pat_diary_cameoSuvla. Left about 9.30 went up to Wor & got — gun working. The 2nd Line was heavily shelled. Took on Sims as a permanent orderly. Went all round 2d Line in the afternoon. Arranged for ammunition to go to Batt Hd Qrs.


Footnotes

  1. Manor House Hospital, where the Armstrongs had volunteered their services
  2. Gossip
  3. Pat’s rival was William James Baird (1893-1961) of Oakham, Rutland, whose father was Master of Hounds of the Cottesmore Hunt
  4. Pat was right; Blanchie’s engagement to James Baird came to nothing
  5. The prospective marriage between Heppie and Mrs Armstrong’ brother Christy was a standing joke in the Armstrong family.
  6. Benbow’s Dog Mixture, patent medicine for dogs
  7. Also known as betel nut, believed to expel wind, kill worms, aid digestion and stimulate the appetite
  8. Order to evacuate
  9. Commanding Officers

 
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