Captain William Maurice ‘Pat’ Armstrong

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The weekly posts are primarily based on the letters and diaries of Captain William Maurice ‘Pat’ Armstrong, which provide first-hand accounts of events as they unfolded in the various theatres of war, and the diaries of his sister Jess and mother Rosalie, which illuminate civilian life during the conflict. Pat Armstrong was the son of Captain Maurice Beresford Armstrong of Ballydavid House, Co. Waterford, and Rosalie Maude of Lenaghan Park, near Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh. Maurice and his three sisters—Ione, Jess and Lisalie—were born in Sligo but in 1899 moved with their parents to Moyaliffe Castle, Co. Tipperary, which Captain Armstrong had inherited from a cousin who had died without immediate family. Like many sons of well-to-do parents, Maurice was sent to England for his education and acquired his nickname ‘Pat’ at Eton College. Like his father, Pat sought a career in the army and, as a passionate horseman, secured a commission in the 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal) Hussars after his graduation from Sandhurst in 1910. With his regiment, Pat spent three years in Rawalpindi, British India, and a year in Johannesburg and Potchefstroom, South Africa, remote outposts of the British Empire.

Although cavalry regiments continued to form a substantial part of all armies in the early twentieth century, reforms were under way. In the face of emerging new tactics and weaponry, cavalry as a mobile mounted force armed with swords, carbines and occasionally lances were becoming less effectual. Since the Second Boer War (1899–1902), more and more emphasis was being placed on mounted infantry training: lances were abandoned for all but ceremonial purposes, and from 1903 all cavalrymen were trained for dismounted action and issued with rifles. Young and ambitious, Pat Armstrong was eager to be on top of his game, and in October 1913 he bade his regiment farewell and made his way to England to enter the Cavalry School in Netheravon, Wiltshire, in March 1914.

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