As February ended, so did Pat Armstrong’s home leave. One by one friends and family, who had gathered together to spend time with him, made their departure from Folkestone. In the midst of all the comings and goings, Jess Armstrong struggled to find a few moments to prepare for her nursing exam which took place just days before Pat’s return to Egypt. As Pat bid his family goodbye and made his way to Boulogne, he also left behind his love affair with Blanche Somerset. They were not the only couple to endure heartbreak as a consequence of war. The heightened emotional charge of wartime correspondence was a lifeline to many a soldier, bringing a welcome diversion from the grinding boredom of life in the trenches. It could also bring a multitude of problems: infidelity and broken promises on the one hand and hastily tied knots, later to be bitterly regretted, on the other.
Monday 21 February
Pat had a bit of a cold, so he started working at his Dardanelles photographs. I went down the town with Poppy & out on the Front. Afterwards I helped Muz & Pat to put the photographs in. I stickied them & Muz put them in. We worked at them again after dinner, then talked & went to bed at about eleven.
I was so pleased to see you again in town, it seems ages since we met. I wish I could have seen you again but I was dragged off that Monday night & didn’t get a chance. I wonder if you saw Charlie while you were in town. Do write & tell me all about yourself & what you are doing I never seem to see you nowadays. Let me know if I can do anything for you in any way. I enclose a small birthday present for last Aug 20th which may help to oil the wheels of your leave.
Yours as ever
Tuesday 22 February
Worked at the nursing some of the morning. After lunch helped Pat to cut some of the French photographs. Muz, Ione, Pat & Mary went to the Tango tea; & Poppy, Tom & I had tea here. Afterwards I went round to Florence to get some bandages for tomorrow, so we practised bandaging, & Violet was asking her questions. Mary & Mr Arnoldi were here for dinner.
Wednesday 23 February
Spent all the morning working at my nursing book. The others went out, it was snowing for the first time. Then Muz & Pat did the French photographs, & got them all finished. I worked again after lunch till four, then went to call for Florence at the hospital. She was at two operations, so we didn’t get away till late. Dr Dobs was giving the examination. They went up in lots of 20, & we were the last lot, so didn’t get away till after eight. I answered all my questions right, & did a hand bandage, & changed a draw sheet with Florence. Mr Arnoldi came for dinner, & Miss Steele came in afterwards & told fortunes. It has been awfully hard to work up this exam as we have had people in the house ever since I began.
“Did the French photographs”
Thursday 24 February
Helped Heppie to get the Abbotts’ room ready, then after lunch went out with Poppy & Tom, on our way back met Pat, & went down the town with him. The Stubbses & Miss Steele came for tea, I didn’t go in, I finished getting the room ready & laid the table etc. […] After dinner Mme de Marotte, Capt Bettington & Capt Bell & Mr Ross came in, & we danced upstairs. Didn’t go to bed till nearly twelve. I felt awfully queer. Colonel Abbott is awfully nice & on Pat’s staff, & she is quite nice too.
Friday 25 February
Pat goes. I had a temperature, so Muz wouldn’t let me get up. Poppy went off by the 9-15 train, & Pat’s boat went at 12-30. Colonel Abbott went too, & then she went off by train. Mrs Ross stayed for lunch & tea, & then went back to London. Pat had to see that all the men had life belts, & he wore his waistcoat. He goes back to Suez again, but may be back fairly soon, as the 29th are on the 1st Division to come home. I had a horrid headache all day.
Saturday 26 February
Stayed in bed all day, & read. Finished reading “Great Expectations”. Muz & Ione went & dined with Mr Sutton at the Grand, & danced afterwards. I read till about eleven.
Sunday 27 February
I stayed in bed all day, & read some of the time. Muz stayed in bed. Ione went to tea at the Grand. Mr Arnoldi came here for tea, & came & sat on the stairs & talked to me. Kitty & Winifred came for tea too.
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