PARCELS TO THE FRONT & LETTERS HOME is dedicated to World Peace, in Honour of my Father, The Revd Arthur Hubert Hibbett (Bertie), his Brothers, Harold & Basil – all three seriously wounded in WW1 – and in Memory of his Brother, my Uncle Sydney Hibbett, Killed in Action 1st July 1916. Also of his Sister, my Aunt Ida Neal Hibbett, Red Cross Nurse, who died of cancer from work in an ammunition factory.

BERTIE HIBBETT’S STORY is told  in his own words through his Letters Home, with extracts from his own War Diary ‘A Little Book of Words and Doings’, and ‘My Memories of the First World War’ 1967, woven together with information from the South Staffords Regiment War Diary and Roll Book, and The History of the South Staffordshire Regiment.

UPDATE: This website is now undergoing a major re-edit, something that is long overdue. FOLLOWERS will be notified by email in the usual way whenever an editorial  change is made. VIEWERS & VISITORS will be able to navigate the site more easily, the Letters in chronological order will be easier to access from the Top Menu than at present, hidden as they are in the Archives. EXPLANATORY NOTES will be reduced and rationalised. Please see Further Editorial Information at the bottom of this page.

*  *  * * * * * *   INTRODUCTION  * * * * * * * 

Smiling Letter Home. DKW after the original by AHH. 1916.In August 1914, Bertie Hibbett, 19, apprenticed to a Mining Surveyor in Walsall, was on holiday with his family in Abergele, Wales, when the Headmaster of Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, sent a  Recruitment Post Card to his brother Sydney Hibbett. Meet here on Saturday next 11.30: but no need to cut short holiday, so long as you are ready to come at once if I send. ENM’.

On 11th AUGUST 2014: ONE HUNDRED YEARS ON this fateful Card was posted again, the first in a remarkable collection of Letters, Drawings and Sketches Pte Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, sent Home from the Trenches in France & Flanders. Some 200 Letters have been posted on the day they were written, between August 1914 and July 1916.     

READING THE LETTERS: Today, as I gently open out these flimsy sheets, I wonder at their history and the journey they have made from the trenches, through the years, into my hands.  I think about those who first opened and read them and of the brave young man who wrote them, much younger than my own son now.

Arthur Hibbett.

EDUCATIONAL AIM:  My Grandfather, Arthur Hibbett, was Chief Education Officer for the Borough of Walsall, 1903 -1925 and it will be a great satisfaction to me, a onetime teacher, to know that this 1st World War Primary Source Material is in a convenient form for study in Schools and Colleges, as well as by the General Public.

The Letters  will appear under the following Headings:-

1. Recruitment & Training: Saffron Walden & Luton: Aug.1914 – Feb. 1915.

2. Embarkation to the Front: Armentiers & Wulverghem Trenches, Listening Postopposite Messines. March – June 1915.

3. Ypres Salient: Armagh Wood, Zilibek; Yves Canal; Railway Embankment; Hill 60, Trench 32. June – August 1915.

4. No 12. & No 9. General Hospital, Rouen: Aug. – Sept. 1915.

5. Battle of Loos. Battle of Hohenzollern Redoubt: Sept. – Nov. 1915.

6.  Neuve Chappelle Trenches & Listening Post (underground): Nov. – Dec. 1915.

7. Mnerville Hospital, Boulogne: Transport to Marseille to join Battalion in Egypt. Immediate return to Western Front.14th Dec.-14th Feb. 1916.

8. Battalion at Bellancourt: 15th Feb. – 18th March 1916.

9.  Neuville St Vaast, Vimy Ridge, holding the Labyrinth: 19th March – 3rd May.1916.

Smiling Letter Flying Home from France. 1916
Smiling Letter Flying Home from France. AHH. May 1916. Designed as a poster by David Kester Webb. 2014.

10. Battle of Somme: Fonquevillers, L Sector Trenches, overlooking Gommecourt Wood: 3rd May – 1st July 1916.

11. Hospital in France, 1st July 1916;  Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Birkenhead. 9th July – May 1917. Discharge from Army, July 1917.

12. Lichfield Theological College, Armistice Day, 11th Nov. 1918: Ordination as Anglican Priest,1924. Ministry in Diocese of Huntingdon & Lincolnshire. 1924 -1973.

* * * * * * *   FURTHER EDITORIAL INFORMATION   * * * * * * *  

In 2014, when I embarked on this, my first website, my aim was for readers to follow my father’s story in his own words – from the time he volunteered in Walsall at the outbreak of the Great War, through his training and embarkation, to his wounding at the Battle of the Somme, 1st July,1916.

The pressure was on to discover the exact whereabouts for each letter along the Western Front, from Ypres Salient to the Somme. Then my intention was to publish the 1914 -1916 Letters exactly one hundred years on from the day they were written. This was achieved.

Family bereavement in 2016 and other distractions interrupted the completion of the project to 1918 and the end of my father’s ministry but I was able to post his Armistice Day Letter 11th November, 1918, as close to ‘one hundred years on’ as possible.

Web-Bertie in Town Hall 2018 Crop 2 DSCF2255
Pte Bertie Hibbett. Portrait painting from 1914 Photograph above. Greg Fearon. WW1 Exhibition. Town Hall Walsall, 11th November 2018.

I was also very glad to visit Walsall that year, to gather round the War Memorial on Sunday 11th November at the 11th Hour, to remember my Uncle Sydney, my father and all the members of the Hibbett Family who suffered so much during the War and its aftermath. It was a wonderful surprise and delight to see my father’s portrait on the Town Hall stage, one adapted from the 1914 photograph of him at the top of this Welcome page.

In lovely sunshine, I visited some of the Family’s old haunts, St Paul’s Church and the Arboretum. I met and chatted with some interesting people and heard something of their own family history. Then I walked up the old Foden Road from the Arboretum to the Family Home on the corner of Rowley Street, the Home that had seen such extremes of sorrow and joy in the Great War.

LOOKING FOR AN EVENT OR BATTLE? Select Left Menu. WW1 Hibbett Letters: Monthly Summaries from January 1915. LOOKING FOR A RELATIVE? Select Left Menu. South Staffordshire Regiment: Officers and Men.

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTIONS to Letters, Food Parcels, Walsall Education etc will be found also in the Left Menu.

PLEASE NOTE:  I look forward to your Comments – especially from members of Walsall Families mentioned in the Letters, and from  Staffordshire Regiment historians. This research is on-going. If you have further information I would be pleased to make additions and alterations where appropriate.

* * * * * * * * *     ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS     * * * * * * * * * 

I have been researching these Letters since my father died in 1973. For their helpful interest, grateful thanks must go to the late Vernon Evans, Bertie’s best friend; the Penning Family, who billeted him in Saffron Walden when training; Arthur Venables’ Family. Arthur saved his life on the battlefield; Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall; The Record Office, Essex Street, Walsall; Members of The Western Front Association; The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and The Imperial War Museum. I am especially indebted to The Staffordshire Regiment Museum, Lichfield, for sight of their Roll Book, precious and rare, and for copies of the Staffs Official War Diary, through which I was able to discover the exact location of my father when he wrote Home.

That this website was built in time for the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the Great War is due to the wonderful care I have received from the National Health Service. My most grateful thanks go especially to my GP, Dr Baljit Kalsi, Health Workers  & Nurses at the Queens Medical Centre, Barnstaple; Cardiac Consultant, Dr. C. Gibbs, Nurses & Rehabilitation Team at North Devon District Hospital; Cardiac Surgeon, Dr Fazil Azeem and Intensive Care Nurses from all over the world at The Royal Brompton Hospital, London  – and lastly, for good measure, my  most grateful thanks to Breast Cancer Surgeon, Mr J. Groome, Anaesthetist, Dr. Hibbard & Nurses at  NDDH. And now I’ve had all my Covid jabs. Thank You NHS!

Heading IllustrationPoppies on the Battlefield. Watercolour. 4″x 4″. AHH.1917.

Website Copyright. EFW and Family. 2014.      

16 thoughts on “WELCOME”

  1. it was a delight to meet Elizabeth Hibbett webb last wednesday and i shall be following this page with great interest !!

    1. Dear David, I would be delighted for you to use some of my father’s 1914 sketches of Abergele. I am sorry I have not been in touch sooner but I missed your genuine email amongst the spam ones until now. If you have any constructive comments on how the site might be improved please let me know. I am pleased with the response world-wide – viewers in all 5 continents and in most countries except mainland China and a couple in the middle of S.America. I hope to be over in Wales sometime soon to visit Rhyl Church where there is a Prayer Desk in memory of my grandfather, Arthur Hibbett; he and my grandmother retited to ‘York Cottage’, Dyserth in the mid 1920s. All best wishes, Elizabeth.

  2. Hi Elizabeth, sorry it took so long for my reply. Great to hear such a connection with my home area. I didn’t realise there was a link to Rhyl as well.I will be putting together some stuff for apiece in our local history web site soon. To make sure i copy it to you it would be better to keep in touch on e-mail if that’s ok with you. Very best regards, David

  3. Hi Elizabeth, what a fascinating Web page.
    I have just written a Novel based on my Grandfather’s Diary from WW1 he worked on the Ambulance Trains in France during 1916 and the Battle of the Somme. I have copied his Diary onto the computer as the original Diary is quite fragile. My book LEONARD’S WAR is by Margaret Garfoot (my maiden name.)

    1. Hello Margaret. Many thanks for your comment. It is always good to hear from other family-historians. What a great year 2018 was for remembering WW1. My father travelled by Ambulance Train from Arras to Rouen after the Battle of Somme – it is not impossible he was tended by your grandfather! I shall look out for your novel. All best wishes,

      Elizabeth Hibbett Webb.

  4. Hi, Elizabeth,

    A tangential query , if I may. My grandfather was at Lichfield Theological College from 1919. I am researching his life and wondered where you found the college magazine in these pages…or whether the name Francis William Killer pops up in your records?

    I see the history of the college says there were only 36 students that year, so perhaps Messrs Hibbett and Killer knew one another…

    Kind regards,

    Iain Keiller

    1. Good to hear from you. Your grandfather Francis William Killer and my father were certainly contemporaries at Lichfield Theological College between 1919 and 1921. The college was small: total numbers of students usually between 18-20 until 1919 Lent Term, when the College Magazine Editor (Senior Student E. Howard Weston) reported a total of 36. He adds that with the increasing number of students (returning from the War) came a corresponding increase in the number of social functions. I think your grandfather & my father would have known each other pretty well over the two years they lived, studied and worshipped together.

      I have two copies of the College Magazine, one for Lent Term 1919 and one for Advent Term 1921.

      The Lent Term 1919 Magazine does not list you grandfather under any of the categories of student (Seniors, Juniors, Matriculation Class), presumably because he did not arrive until the Advent Term 1919 i.e. the beginning of the new academic year. The Magazine for the Advent Term 1921 (with my father’s sketch of the College on the front & posted on Nov 11th 2018 ) lists your grandfather under Seniors: Killer F.W.

      The College Magazine was published 3 times a year. Your grandfather may have contributed an article or poem or whatever, so I suggest you write to the Diocese of Lichfield (St Mary’s House, The Close, Lichfield) for possible whereabouts of other copies. Local museums might shed some light. [NB the degrees awarded by the College were from the University of Durham and of course there is always Crockfords for details of your grandfather’s clerical career]

      I hope this is of use. All best wishes,

      Elizabeth (Hibbett) Webb.

  5. Elizabeth,

    Thank you hugely for that insight! My Grandfather was known to suggest family members went where the hymn books had handles…so good to know his social adventures began early…

    There’s a summary of what came of him here: https://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/Francis_William_Killer. If of interest!

    I will take up your suggestions, but wondered whether it would be possible to ask for photos/scans of the copies you hold? I’m keen to get a sense of the events and thinking of the people at the college when he was there. He spent WW1 as a miner in the Bolsover Colliery, feeding five after losing his Dad in 1912 – so I’m assuming the college was a somewhat refined shock to his system!

    Any help you are able to provide would be lovely.

    Kind regards,

    Iain Keiller

  6. Hi Elizabeth
    I’m not sure if you received the message I sent yesterday.
    I am currently the vicar at Great Paxton where Arthur was Vicar for in the early 1930’s.
    I am wring an article about Great Paxton vicars and would love to use a picture of Arthur in the text.
    It will be published by the St Neots Local history society in autumn 2020.

    I hope you can get back to me.
    Many thanks for the wonderful web-site
    Kind Regards
    Annette Reed

  7. Elizabeth Hibbett Webb – I live in New Brighton, which is now called “Wallasey” on the Wirral Peninsula. When I was growing up in the 1950s the Wirral was in Cheshire. When the Councils changed it became Merseyside. WW1 poet Wilfred Owen was brought up and educated on the Wirral. I am most anxious to spread the word about forgotten poets and artists of WW1 and your Father fits the bill. Please may I share your information on my weblogs and Facebook Pages? Kind Regards Lucy (Lucy London, Commemorative First World War Exhibition Project – Forgotten Poets, Female Poets, Fascinating Facts, Inspirational Women and Artists of the First World War.

    1. Dear Lucy,
      What a joy to hear from you and about your project. Please do share my Father’s Letters and Sketches from Flanders and the Somme. Thank you for the information about the Wirral and Wilfred Owen. Let me know how your project goes. I will follow you on-line and check Facebook but I rarely use the latter. All best wishes,

      Liz Webb

  8. Hi
    I have my Grandfather’s diaries of WW1, which I am attempting to put into book form for his 9 gt-gt-grand-children, as they obviously can’t all have the originals. This is a purely personal, non-profitmaking venture. As such, may I have permission to use your picture of Alexandria in 1915, as he was sent there from Malta, after recuperating from a wound received at Gallipoli. It would be fully credited.

    Thank you

    Stella New

  9. Hello Elizabeth, I am still researching and still really enjoying it. I am now looking for a WW1 poet called W.G. Thomas who I believe was a Master at Queen Mary School. I am trying to help Jim Maxwell of Harlech Old Library who contacted me recently asking for further information about the WW1 poet W.G. Thomas. The Library have acquired “Amateur Soldiers” a WW1 collection by W.G. Thomas, published by Old Royalty Book Publishers, John Street, Adelphi, London in 1928. W.G. Thomas is listed as receiving the MC during the war when attached to the Machine Gun Corps. .He sppears to have had another collection of poems entitled “Pass of the Acorn Cups”.
    I am trying to find biographical information on W.G. Thomas and if possible a photograph for my weblog Forgotten Poets of the First World War and wondered if you know if there is a resource that might help. With many thanks and sincere good wishes from Lucy

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The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.