With acknowledgement and thanks to John Bottle's Genealogy transcripts we are able to serialise Dorothy Mabel Bottle's memoirs of a Queen's Army Schoolmistress from about 1904 until 1935.

Little is known of the life of Miss Bottle (c1886-1973) outside her experience as a schoolmistress. We know that she was born in Yorkshire and retired to live there after a full life of teaching the children in military schools in Ireland, Jamaica, Egypt and the home command. She was a keen observer not just of army life but of the communities in which she spent a good part of her teaching life at home and overseas.

Miss Bottle was an astute observer and articulate in her description of social courtesies whether commenting on the colourful language in which Jamaicans expressed themselves, the customs of her native England maintained by her fellow countrymen when serving in overseas stations or in responding to the school and garrison visits of royalty.

Throughout her narrative, Dorothy Bottle maintains a lively awareness of everything going on about her. She is a non-judgemental reporter of the political scene whether she is mixing with supporters of Sein Fein met during the early years of the century or when discussing the Arab-Jew divide long before the state of Israel became a reality many years after she died. For these and many other reasons her memoir is well worth reading.

Here, then, begins the lively narrative of Miss Bottle's memoirs, first published (c1936) by Arthur H. Stockwell Ltd., London, under the title

WHEN the maroons fired on Monday morning the eleventh of November nineteen hundred and eighteen, it was almost unbelievable to realise they were telling us that an armistice had been signed, so often had they warned us to take cover from approaching air raids. Owing to an epidemic at school I was in London when the good news burst forth, and rejoiced with others in the quiet of my home.
          The first and second anniversaries of Armistice Day were spent in class with my girls in the Garrison Elder Girls' School Chatham. Needless to say, the children who observed the silence in those years understood more than a little some of the sorrows the war had brought. They remembered fathers and relatives who had been killed or reported "missing," know what it meant for a parent to be badly wounded, and were thankful for the safe return of loved ones mercifully spared.
          The next Armistice anniversary I was in Jamaica, and in the November of nineteen hundred and twenty-two a Cross was unveiled in the "Memorial Park" Kingston. Jamaica has a long roll of honour, and every year her sons and daughters proudly pay tribute to the memory of those who gave their lives for the Motherland.
          Each November forenoon, assembling with Girl Guides in Kingston, it was terrifically hot. Dazzlingly white were the Public Buildings and the tall Cross, majestic and graceful the royal palms. Near us, in the blazing sun, were Government Officials, rows of soldiers, police, and Boy Scouts, and all around an ingathering of people who were unable to find standing room in shady doorways or under verandahs.
          Simple and reverent was the service, impressive the silence, and when all was ended great numbers passed by to see the beautiful wreaths that had been placed at the foot of the memorial, over the inscription, "THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE."
          Armistice anniversaries in England during my next three years of Home Service were commemorated in Colchester, London, and Aldershot. Infants who commenced school in nineteen hundred and eighteen were now of an age to understand what we told them about the sad events of their babyhood. Furthermore, many of them still had parents in the army who served in the Great War, and the children often heard tales of wonder from "father's own lips."
          Among schoolmistresses and their families the war had occasioned many bereavements, and in response to the deep feeling of personal as well as of national loss, it was decided at the Annual General Meeting of the Army Schoolmistresses Association, that a wreath should be placed on the Cenotaph on Armistice Days.
          The year I was teaching in Woolwich, a retired Army Schoolmistress met me in London, and, carrying a wreath, we made our way to Horse Guards Parade where members of other associations were assembled. Taking the places assigned to us, we walked in procession through the archway into Whitehall, and then along to the Cenotaph. Never shall we forget the pre-eminent scene before our eyes, nor the silence of that self-communing throng.
          At the end of the solemn service, our wreath placed in position, we followed in the pilgrimage to Westminster Abbey, to the grave of the Unknown Warrior.
          In recent years it has not been possible for our association to be represented in Whitehall on Armistice Day, and so a wreath is taken to the Cenotaph at noon when Queen's Army Schoolmistresses meet in London for their annual reunion. (For many years two wreaths were placed on the Cenotaph, one at Whitsuntide and one in November.)
          Six times while I was in Egypt did Remembrance Day come and go. The Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders were stationed in the Citadel when I arrived, and a few weeks later the regiment paraded on a small square for the two minutes' silence at eleven. Some of the people living in the fortress were present at the ceremony, but chiefly the army folk went to our War Memorial in the cemetery in Old Cairo, joining with the whole British Community for the three o'clock Service of Remembrance.
          The memorial in Old Cairo, a lovely white Cross, stands in the centre of the beautiful cemetery. Throughout the afternoon, all who gather round it are in the very presence of hundreds whom they honour, because, near the Cross and extending a long way to the rear are rows and rows of war graves in which our heroes lie. In its solemnity and simplicity, the service proceeds exactly the same as services do at other shrines, all hearts with one accord paying homage to the dead. Huge floral tokens made from Egypt's choicest blooms as well as from artificial poppies are placed on all sides of the Cross, by His Excellency the High Commissioner representing His Majesty the King, by Officials connected with the Residency, by Corps and Units in memory of their comrades, by Organisations and Associations having branches in Cairo. From a group of Guiders, one steps forward, slowly lays our wreath, salutes, and returns.
          At this memorial, all is not over when the service is ended, nor when the wreaths have been laid -- there is the hallowed enclosure to be visited. Always beautifully kept and tended with the utmost care, the hundreds and hundreds of war graves bring tears to the eyes at any time. On Armistice Days emotions are intensified, for the previous week loving hands have placed a decoration in front of every headstone. One year, I know, palm branches curved across the stones, and my last year in Egypt a green wreath lay at the foot of each. " We shall remember them."
          Alone, hidden by trees in a spot close to the memorial, is a grave we always looked at compassionately, although it is not a war grave. It is the resting place of one who lost his life in Egypt---the late Sir Lee Stack. And a little farther down is the grave of a Queen's Army Schoolmistress who died but a few years ago.
          During my first Service of Remembrance in the cemetery, I could not help noticing from where I stood, the wide extent of ground covered with small crosses and headstones to the memory of babies and children whose parents had been stationed in Cairo. Only once have I lost a scholar, but the sadness of following his coffin draped with the Union Jack in a far-off land will ever remain with me. Sad indeed is ft for the mothers and fathers who must leave their little ones behind when the overseas tour is completed.
          November, in Egypt, can be one of the nicest months in the year for weather, but sometimes towards, and on the eleventh instant, rain inclines to fall: not much, but still, it rains. One year, I remember, rain fell heavily on the eleventh, and we had a big storm at night.
          The sale of poppies has increased in our schools of late years. Every child wants a poppy. No longer are there any children who remember the war, for the boys and girls of those days are grown to be men and women. But when we tell about the men whose lives were sacrificed for us, about orphaned children, about the sick and wounded, and about the soldiers disabled by the war, our children of to-day are eager to be helpful in any way they can.
          If Armistice Day falls on a school day, we (teachers) stand still in the classroom for the two minutes' silence as we did with other children long ago. Sometimes, nowadays, we all go to church.
          Since returning to England, I have listened-in each anniversary of Armistice Day (except 1935), to the broadcast of the Chief Ceremony of Remembrance from the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Big Ben booms, I sense the crowds and feel the silence. Then, while hymn one hundred and sixty-five is being sung by thousands, mind goes back to the Guards' Chapel in Chelsea Barracks. Black soldiers had sung that hymn in Queen Victoria's day ... Their descendants had fought in the Great War . . . another generation would join in the same hymn across the sea to-day ....
          Last Post.  Night after night have I heard it, and by the open grave too.
          Reveille.  I love it.  Morning after morning has it wakened me -- on the desert, in the tropics, at Home.
          Knowing what is coming, one automatically stiffens, and thrills to the most glorious anthem in the world---

               "God save our gracious King
                Long live our noble King
                God save the King."

Thank God for King and Country.

H O M E    S E R V I C E

FOR the greater part of my service in the Homeland I have been teaching in Kent. The years associated with Ireland (Chapter Two) belong to my first period of Home Service, and to them must be added a few months' duty in the Midlands.
          When I recovered from the accident that happened shortly before I was due to sail to India, overseas orders had been cancelled and Lichfield substituted as a temporary measure. Amongst my recollections of spring and early summer days in Lichfield the long walk to and from school in Whittington Barracks, anthems in the Cathedral on Sunday afternoons and a visit to the house of Doctor Johnson are the most clear. To the friends and companions of those days the memory is faithful. We were happy together.

     .       .       .       .       .       .

Chilly winter was in full swing and snow covered the ground the morning I reported for Home duty on my return from the tropics. But a warm reception more than compensated for the weather -- a student-friend of former days, the very one who had taken my place in India, opened the door. Such meetings occur ever thus in army life. I met the same friend just as unexpectedly eleven years later when our wanderings brought us together in Egypt.
          The station to which I had been posted was Chatham, the year nineteen hundred and seventeen, the third year of the war. In Rochester (I lived there) we had more air raids than were to our liking, especially the week when the visitors came every evening as we sat down to have a meal. On one occasion the raiders passed overhead in the interval between morning and afternoon school making for London during the daytime. Our children were safe at home and all was well. There was a certain morning, though, when stones and pieces of glass were found in the playground. A bomb had dropped on the glass roof of a shed in the Royal Naval Barracks below our school which overlooks the river. Many sailors lost their lives that night.
          Rationing came into force early the following year and in common with everyone else I became the possessor of a ration card from which coupons were detached for my weekly allowance of meat, butter and sugar. I remember that owing to a shortage of potatoes we were given portions of rice in a rather solid condition, rice fashioned into potato-balls. And one week-end when I went home to London I bought a packet of powdered cereal which claimed that a pudding could be made without milk, eggs or sugar. I made the pudding according to the directions on the label, and when my mother saw the result she remarked that it was like the mixture with which her father used to feed his pigs ! Another incident comes to mind. A greengrocer's shop window was filled one morning with a new sort of fruit at a shilling apiece. I bought three, an extravagance in those days, prepared and showed friends how to eat them. They were delicious grapefruit such as I had often enjoyed in Jamaica. As time went on the grapefruit still remained in the window, eventually being reduced to sixpence each. I bought three more. What became of the rest I do not know. Nowadays people understand how to prepare grapefruit which seasonably appear for sale in many shops.
          One evening, after I had been in Chatham but a month or two, I went to a hut along the New Road where Girl Guides were holding their weekly meeting. The Medway Division was being organised by a newly appointed Divisional Commissioner, and I became a Guider. Guiding, however, is an adventure on its own, and will not be recorded here.
          Four years of service in Chatham brought several changes of staff, overseas orders coming again to me at the end of that time. Some of my colleagues had gone abroad as soon as the war ended and the sailing ban was lifted. Others who stayed will perhaps remember our tennis parties on the courts by the river, the Cathedral and the Castle rising picturesquely above.

     .       .       .       .       .       .

Berechurch Road, Colchester, was the Garrison School to which I was posted a month after returning from my second tour in Jamaica. Changes were imminent. Our younger children were with us no longer, having been sent to Civilian Schools in the district. And when the Christmas holiday drew near we heard that we were not reopening in January. The day the school broke up the staff and children gathered in the Assembly Room to listen to a farewell speech from an Education Officer. Our school was no more. With saddened hearts, we sang together for the last time "GOD SAVE OUR GRACIOUS KING" and then quietly dispersed. At the beginning of next term the children were transferred to schools in the town.
          In the New Year I received orders for Woolwich, but later on was given an appointment at the Domestic Subjects Centre in Aldershot where for a while my wanderings came to an end. Several years had passed since I left Aldershot as a probationer and it was interesting to be back again. Many improvements had taken place in the camp and in the town, the latter in the meantime having become a Borough. Three months after my return to Aldershot the National Strike broke out lasting for nine days. We were fortunate in suffering no inconveniences from lack of supplies, and from the morning the British Gazette was published we managed to get a newspaper every day but one. I still have the copies of the British Gazette.
          A military spectacle for which Aldershot had become famous was the searchlight Tattoo, our soldiers for a few nights every year providing stirring entertainment for thousands of people in the splendid setting of the Rushmore Arena. Army children were privileged to witness the daylight rehearsal (a privilege widely extended nowadays), and our young folk thoroughly enjoyed the various representations. They delighted in picking out their own regiments, easy enough sometimes but a trifle confusing when the men wore fanciful and decorative uniforms of long ago.
          Towards the end of the Great War an Army Schoolmistress (now retired) had the idea of establishing a magazine for our branch of the Army Teaching Service. Hard work and perseverance won the day, and after the Armistice, War Office gave permission for a magazine to be published. Then followed the formation of an Army Schoolmistresses' Association, a movement linking together its members far and near. (Badge oval, three gold links on dark ground, superscribed "The Link that Binds"). The Committee of the Association has its headquarters in Aldershot, because Army Schools and Schoolmistresses are more numerous in the Aldershot Command than in other stations. There were eighteen schools and about sixty schoolmistresses in the Command during my second period in Aldershot.
          At the end of my last overseas tour an official letter directed me to report at the Garrison Children's School, Chatham, at the expiration of a month's leave. Winter sunshine cheered my way to the well-known entrance door and again I found someone I knew.
          Since that day more than three years have passed. To and fro, overseas and homeward, move the children, to and fro the staff. Friends new and old arrive, old and new depart.

   ". . . As years roll onward,
   Overseas and Home are bound
   In our hearts with varied mem'ries
   Many friends are lost and found."

        British Isles !
        East and West !
        Empire loved of all the best !
        Clasp your hand and yours with mine,
        Let us evermore combine.
        Links afar,
        Links at Home,
        Join on!


The end