Pat Armstrong’s worry over having to return to his regiment as troop leader reached a crisis point near the end of April, when he asked his mother to intervene in the matter on his behalf. The pressure placed on Pat Armstrong was illustrative of a problem which plagued the British Army in 1916. The rapid expansion of the British Expeditionary Force from one to five armies between 1914 and 1916 through conscripted and volunteer soldiers on the one hand, and the heavy casualty rate among trained commanders and junior leaders during the first year of the war on the other caused a logistical challenge which threatened the British army’s capacity for effective operations. Moreover, training inexperienced recruits was a thankless task for the professional soldiers, and one which caused a deep sense of disillusionment in the mind of Pat’s fellow officer, Courtney Brocklehurst.
Monday 17 April
Mrs K. stayed in bed all day. K & Tom went down the town, & Muz& I worked in the garden all morning. Then I went to the tea shop, & we had a good many people in, & I got back at about seven. Muz went to a meeting at Tally Jones, about the Rest Camp. Kitty was there too. Mrs Paul brought Muz back. I wrote letters. We had dinner rather late, & then settled Mrs Kirwan off afterwards, & we went to bed at about 10-30.
Dew Drop Inn
Tuesday 18 April
Ione & I went down to the Rest Camp at nine. Mrs Paul took us down in her car. There was nothing to do at all, so Mrs Paul, Kitty & I went to watch the trains coming in with all the people going back from leave, as they have all been recalled, & have to be back today. Four boats went out, we had rather fun watching them, but it was a bit cold. Mrs Paul brought us back. After lunch Muz & Heppie went to an auction, & got two oak chests for the hall. I packed all Markie’s luggage, & got it sent off to him in hospital. Then I cleaned out Duskey’s house, & nailed up some boards. We had tea in Mrs Kirwan’s room, & then K. & Tom went out, & Muz & I went to church, & then went to see Viva Brooke. After dinner we settled Mrs K. off, & then went to bed at about 11.
Wednesday 19 April
Went down the town, & did all the shopping, then met Kathleen, & went out on the Front. Mrs K. stayed in bed, so did Ione. Muz & Heppie worked in the garden. Mrs Hare came to call. Mrs K. got up for lunch, but didn’t come down till tea time. Mrs Lucas, Colonel Battiscombe, Miss Peters came to play bridge, & Kitty & Pam came for tea, & went straight afterwards. Mr Sutton came for tea & stayed for dinner. Muz & I walked to the Shorncliffe to visit the hospital & got back at about 7-30. Tom went to tea with the de Marottes. I got things ready for dinner. Ione, K & Mr Sutton went to the theatre, & Muz & I settled Mrs K. off to bed. I did some of the washing up, & we went to bed at about eleven.
Thank you ever so much for your letter which I got this morning. I thought probably you were out in this country but I didn’t know your proper address. What are you now a Major or what? I haven’t seen anything in the Gazette. I am so sorry you didn’t get my letter I will write to my Bankers & find out if the cheque was cashed. Let me know old boy if I can do anything for you in that way, or any other, you know I should only be too delighted. We are having such miserable weather, rain & wind all day. We spend most of our time training as Infantrymen half the men can’t ride. I am now in C Sqn with Giblet commanding & old Burragh Sahib, Gough, Winn, Ednam as troop leaders. Gough understudies old Brisley. My brother Phil is quite close to here & I often see him, we were talking about you the other day & wondering where you were. It’s not the same here as it was in the old days Pat, how I wish we could jump back a few years & have it all over again.
Pat in Gujarat
I did love those days in India when you joined, I have got a photo in front of me now of you at Gujarat, do you remember? I am still a fearful cripple with my ankle & hobble about like an old horse with the ringbone. By the way old Prophet is still here with me. Goodbye old boy take care of yourself & write again soon.
Yours as ever Brock
Thursday 20 April
Mrs K. & Kathleen & Ione stayed in bed all morning. Mrs K. had lunch in the smoking room. Afterwards the de Marottes came to call for Tom. In the morning Tom went down to skate, & Muz went too. I did a lot of tidying & wrote letters, after lunch I sewed. Mrs K. went to tea with Mrs Thorburn, & played bridge. Ione, K. & I went for a walk, & then they went home, & I went on for a bit. Mme de Marotte asked us all to dine in her new house, but only Ione & K. went. Mrs K. went to bed when she came back, & had dinner up. Went to bed at about 10-30.
Friday 21 April
Ione & I went down to the Rest Camp at 8-30 till 12-30. We were quite busy till 11-30, & then nothing to do. Royal Irish Fusiliers & Dublins in mostly. One boy had been with the 2st Batt, & now was going to 8th. He had been in Ned’s company & saw him the day before he was missing, he said he was awfully fond of him. Mrs Peters came down at 12-30 instead of Muz. I went to church on my way back till three. Mr Marriott was doing the service. Muz was there too. Kathleen & Ione went to tea at the Grand. Mrs K. lay down & we had tea in her room, then Muz & Tom went up to the Grand, & I wrote letters. Then washed up & laid the dinner, Mrs K. had hers in the smoking room. We went to bed at about 11.
Saturday 22 April
A memo from Corps
Bathed Duskie’s back, & tidied etc., then Muz & I went down to the Club at 12-30, till four, but nothing to do about 400 had been in in the morning. Some little boys & the Ritchies came to tea with Tom. Mr Arnoldi came, & Mme de Marotte latter, but Ione, K. & Mr A. went up to the Grand, & I went down the town with Mrs K. Then Muz & I went to the club at seven, & the others went to the dance, & Mrs K. went to bed early. We went to bed at about twelve. It was in the papers yesterday, that the Russians had landed at Marseilles.
Acheux. Dull morning. Left at 9 am went round all M G emplacements with Beckwith. Got back about 4 pm. Started to rain about 1.30. Had very busy evening getting off summary M G positions etc. A memo came from Corps saying that G.S.Os & Staff Captains were to be temporary Captains.
Sunday 23 April
Muz, Ione, Tom, Heppie & I went to early service it was Tom’s first. Then I laid luncheon, & then Muz, Tom & I & Hugh [blank] went to church again, & then went out on the front. Mme de Marotte, Hugh & Mr Arnoldi came for lunch. Kitty came round afterwards, & I played with Presh, & then Kitty took her out on the front. Muz went for a drive with the Arnoldis in her car. Mrs K & I went out on the Front then Mr Marriott & Mrs Cleghorn came for tea. Muz & I went to the club at seven, & Mrs Cleghorn stayed & had dinner with Mrs K. They had it in the smoking room. K & Ione had it in the dining room, & then went up to the concert at the Grand afterwards. We went to bed at about twelve.
Acheux. Glorious sunny day. Went to early service. Stayed in till 12 o’c then rode over to Corps. Lunched there. Rode back with Mellor. Went for a walk with T. X Corps carried out two raids last night one successful other one not so
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
I haven’t been able to write to you for a couple of days as I’ve been so busy. Yesterday morning I left here at 9 o’c and was in the trenches practically all day getting back here about 4 o’c in a glorious mess mud from head to foot. I had a real busy day of it going round machine gun positions. We have had a lot of rain lately and the country is pretty sodden. Then when I got back I had a pile of papers to get off. Saturday is always rather a busy day as I have to send in several returns to Corps all of which take some time to make out. I was working till about 12 o’c last night. To-day has been the first really fine day we have had for some time. I went to early service then was in the office till about 12 o’c & then rode over to Corps had lunch there & got back again about 3.30. I’m afraid I’ll soon have a better seat on a chair than on a horse!! as I spend about half my day in the office.
No news from the Colonel yet, he won’t write I’m afraid which means he’s annoyed. I wish we could get the thing settled up satisfactorily. It’s a horrid feeling like this. In some ways I feel I ought to be with the Regt as I haven’t been with them for so long but there doesn’t seem much point in going back to lead a troop. If it was a squadron it would be quite a different affair. I had an awfully nice letter from old Brock yesterday. He doesn’t say anything about my going back. He is doing 2nd in command of C Sqdn which Gibbs is commanding. They have got 5 troop leaders. Young Gough who joined a short time ago is understudying Brisley as troop leader which doesn’t look as if there was any shortage of troop leaders. Wardell & Mark Fielden are both doing A.D.C to John Vaughan. I don’t suppose that either of them will come back. I am firmly convinced that the whole thing is a plant just because I am with the General. I should think that Gibbs is probably at the bottom of it as he dislikes the General. Something must be settled definitely now. But I don’t for the life of me know how to do it.
I suggested your going to see him [Crichton] in my last letter which I really believe is the best thing to do. But you’ll have to be very careful what you say. I suggest your seeing him and asking if I am really wanted back go on the tack that I am doing more credit to the Rgt here that I could if I was leading a troop in it. You might add that you are very keen for me to get on & make a profession of it & that you know that I have got the credit of the Regt at heart, but I shouldn’t say anything about my being under an obligation to the General except as a last resort. I will try to think out a letter to him and sent it to you to see before sending it. I feel that there is much more chance of things being settled amicably if you go and see him. I will tell him that if he wants me he will have to apply officially for me. But I’d rather that didn’t happen if it could be avoided. I know that the General wouldn’t let me go but that really doesn’t make things any better as they would always say that other fellows have left staff jobs and gone back and that if I had insisted I could have gone too but that I had a nice comfortable job & didn’t want to leave it. The ordinary regimented officer looks on the staff as an awful loof. I think I’ll write to Pokes & ask him what he thinks and what people say about it in the Regt.
Let me know what you think of this. I won’t write to him till I hear from you. He would tell me exactly how the land lay. It would be a dreadful thing if after this show is over I was told that I wasn’t wanted. Hardress has been asked to go back & promised a Squadron & I think is going. But it’s different going to lead a Squadron to leading a troop. It is an unpleasant situation any way – I’d like to get it straightened up. Under the circumstances I can chance a good deal but I mustn’t leave things too much to chance. They could be very nasty about it if they liked. Let me know what you think about it all when next you write but if you go & see the Colonel whatever you do leave the General’s name out of it as much as possible. Don’t go on the tack that I’m under an obligation to him. The light will be out in a few minutes so I think I will go to bed. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
P.S. There is a new army order just out which makes Staff Captains & G.S.O3 temporary Captains while they are holding the appointment. So I can put up a third star now.