Home front

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Armstrong family portrait—(left to right) Ione, Lisalie, Rosalie (née Maude), Jess and Pat Armstrong. (Glucksman Library, UL)

Armstrong family portrait—(left to right) Ione, Lisalie, Rosalie (née Maude), Jess and Pat Armstrong. (Glucksman Library, UL)

The Armstrong collection also provides a unique insight into life on the home front, which was no easier than life in the trenches. Mrs Armstrong and her three daughters, who spent most of the war years in Folkestone in Kent in order to be geographically as close to Pat as possible, came face to face with the brutality of war while helping out in the harbour. Here they witnessed the arrival of boatloads of starving Belgian refugees, ‘looking almost inhuman’, and the return of the first wounded soldiers, ‘shuddering shaking and nearly mad’. They contributed to the war effort by fund-raising, sowing sandbags and volunteering in soldiers’ clubs, and ran for their lives whenever the unmistakeable form of a Zeppelin appeared on the skyline. They waited anxiously for news from loved ones, kept Pat supplied with endless parcels of food, clothes and cigarettes, and comforted those whose sons, brothers and husbands would not be returning. In the midst of these surreal scenes, life carried on as normal. Ione, Jess and Lisalie Armstrong dined and danced, spent hard-earned cash on frivolous hats, and enjoyed the thrill of the electric theatre, as the early cinematic experimentations were called. Caught in a conflict beyond their control, the three Irish girls adapted, adjusted—and survived.

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