PARCELS TO THE FRONT & LETTERS HOME  would appear to be a most appropriate title for this Post,  for most of the letters are joyful, often ecstatic thanks for parcels sent from home.

The sheer volume & variety of food & provisions, which Pte Bertie’s Family sent across the Channel, is extraordinary.  Bertie records each item carefully so that his Mother could check he had received everything.

Crawfords City Assorted packaging: used when paper was scarce.
Crawfords City Assorted packaging: used when paper was scarce.

‘Another 1/2 Ib & some of those round crisp assortment you sent as well.  & if you like next time you make anything for yourselves Ida can make me two tea cakes.  & of course the eggs but just as you please, you know. Forgive me.   Bertie.  See over’.

‘Like as you promise me another parcel I promise you another letter. But don’t you fall through the bottom of your chair Mum..  With regard to shirts & other important matters I will refer in my next letter. ‘  1915.

Nov. 23rd 1915
Nov. 23rd 1915

Transcription:   A Merry Party of Tommies.  

My Dearest Mum, Dad & All.  What really ripping parcels. And the best of it they have fortunately come at a very happy & convenient time. The one & the only one which was brought into the trenches that day. Indeed the towel came also very timely to cleanse my dirty black fuzzywig,  & the toffee too came also at an acceptable time, a rough time, a cold time, a time when my tummy felt cold & frozen a nightly time…

THE TOTAL NUMBER OF PARCELS  Bertie received in the Field, between embarkation on March 1st 1915 and July 1st 1916, appears to have been an average of one a week – from small parcels of cigarettes, chocolates and magazines to large food hampers of home-made cakes and bread.  The ‘tie with home’, as well as the promise of ‘home comforts on Listening Post’, gave my father the energy at times to carry not only his own parcels, on top of his full pack, but also those for his brother and his old school pal, Vernon Evans.

The Hibbett Family at Tea:  Mother, Bertie, Sydney and Ida.
The Hibbett Family at Tea: Mother, Bertie, Sydney and Ida.

MISSING PARCELS :  When parcels did go missing, Bertie’s grief was as much for his Family as for himself, that their Christmas gifts, so lovingly prepared and packed, could not be enjoyed by ‘the boy who would appreciate them best’. That the Army went to so much trouble to deliver these parcels  within just a few days , and that so few appear to have gone astray, is unwitting testimony to their importance to morale and as a necessary boost to the notoriously poor diet endured by the troops.

Mother at Tea.
Mother at Tea.

FOOD TO THE FRONT & LETTERS HOME  would also make a good title. Food was always on Bertie’s mind. He felt greedy but he wasn’t afraid to ask for more!

LISTS OF FOOD MENTIONED IN THE LETTERS mostly in thanks for parcels received and requests for more. ‘It’s only the Tie with Home I want really’.

ARMY FOOD: Beef; Bully Beef; Bacon; Marconochies (tinned meat & veg.); Pontoon; Rations; Vegetables.

Ale/ Stout; Almonds; Apples; Apple Pie; Apricots.

Bacon (Fa’bacon); Bananas; Beans/ haricot; Beef; Biscuits/ Crawfords; Bovril; Brazil Nuts; Bread/ Brown/Loaf; Bread & Milk; Bread & Buitter Pudding; Butter.

Cake: Cake with Sydney & Bertie’s initials; Caraway Seed; Cheese Tarts; Currant; Ginger; Queen’s Cakes; Wedding Cake.

Cheese; Chutney; Cocoa; Condensed milk; Coffee (Velma Coffee); Cold Food/ Meat; Corn; Crab; Cream/ tinned; Cucumber; Currant Bread/ Loaf; Custard.

Chocolate: Batchelor Buttons; Bournville; Cadbury’s; Cadbury’s Mexican; Chocolate Caramels; Nestles; King Edward Chocolate.

Dates; Eggs/ hard boiled/ duck.

Favourite Food: Ida/  nuts; Mother/apricots; Bertie/bread & butter pudding; Syd/ chocolates.

Figs; Fruit; Goose; Gravy; Ham; Herrings; Homemade Cakes/ Biscuits & Bread;

Horlick’s Malted Milk Tablets; Hot Cross Buns; Hot Food/ Drink; Hot Milk.

Jam: Gooseberry/ Damson; Jelly; Lemon Jelly; Lemonade Crystals (Symingtons & Birds); Lemon Curd.

Milk; Mince Pies; Mineral Water; Mixed Fruit; Mutton; Nuts/ Hazel; Oats/ Quaker; Oatmeal Cakes; Oranges/Jamaica; Oxo.

Pancakes; Parkin; Pea Flour /Symington’s; Pears; Pea Soup; Pickles/ Cross & Blackwell; Picallilie; Pippins; Pork Pie; Pleasant; Pineapple chunks; Plums; Porridge; Potatoes.

Pudding: Bread & Butter; Christmas; Milk; Plum; Rice; Tapioca; Yorkshire/ York.

Raisins; Sardines; Sausages; Sausage rolls; Scones; Shortcake; Shrimp & Salmon Pate; Soup; Stem Ginger; Sugar/ brown; sultanas; Syrup/ Golden; Strawberries.

Sweets: Acid Drops; Butterscotch; Bachelor Buttons; Barley Sugar; Bull’s eyes; Caramel Toffee; Cream walnuts; humbugs; Mackintosh’s de lux/ mint toffee; Pastilles/ lime juice; Rowntrees pastilles/ walnut cream; Terry’s Toffee; Turkish Delight; Walnut Cream; Whitby Rock.

Tinned Food: Butter/ Coffee/ Cream/ Crab/ Marchonochies/ Meat.

Turf Cake; Turkey; Tea; Tomatoes; Water; Water Cress; Welsh Rarebit; Wine.



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