26th August 1914: Recruitment in Walsall

 Bertie in UniformBERTIE HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall  to his Parents, Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, still on Holiday in Abergele, N. Wales. 

Aug 26th Bert

                            Wednesday Aug 26 / 14

My Dear Father & Mother,

Things are getting a bit serious here.  Sid went down to the Grammar School last Wednesday & Marshall (1) told him to “bring Arthur with you next week”.  Well I thought (of) waiting till Mr. Nightingale *(2) said something, but news getting rather serious, and nothing definite from Mr N.  I decided to go down to the Grammar &, should I be called upon definitely to join, I would tell Mr N. & see what he sais.

Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall.

Well I went down tonight and when Marshall had called out the list, he wanted the names of all the new chaps present.  When he caught sight of me he grinned all over his face as though as to say “his brother has brought him & I’m glad he’s come!”  He then commented upon the voluntary patriotism of his old boys not waiting to be forced to join. . .    (The rest of the letter is missing)

NB * (1) QMS Headmaster. (2) Mr. Nightingale, Mining Engineering Works, Lichfield Sreet; Bertie ‘s boss as a Mining  Surveyor Apprentice.

MY  MEMORIES  OF  THE  FIRST  WORLD  WAR: The Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett. 1967 .                                    

My elder brother, Sydney, and I decided to enlist with the Territorials, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, rather than wait to be conscripted into Kitchener’s Army .  My eldest brother, Harold, had not been schooled at Queen Mary’s; he was to join the band later, but in the Inns of Court Company, so also my youngest brother, Basil, who joined the Manchester Regiment (after leaving QMS). My fair-haired sister, Ida, was among many who, by doing her War Service at home, making hand grenades and later becoming a Red Cross Nurse and V.A.D., influenced Parliament to give women the franchise.  She died not long after the war at the age of 32, from cancer contracted through exposure to phosphorous lead in the making of bombs.’       Extract AHH.

WHILST THESE FATEFUL DECISIONS WERE BEING MADE BERTIE  designed a Prayer Card ‘Watch and Pray‘ for the Sunday Church School at St Paul’s, Darwall Street.  He had passed his Teachers’  Examination  with Merit, in April  that year.

S. School Cert. 1914


Walsall Sun Sch.

St Paul's Walsall 1914. Now called St Paul's at the Crossing.

ST PAUL’S CHURCH, WALSALL is now called  THE CROSSING AT ST PAUL’S.  My father would have appreciated the symbolic depth of this new name . The thought of St Paul’s  and the support of its people was a daily comfort at this fateful crossroad in his life.

THE CHURCH was built in 1893 on the site of  the Chapel to Queen Mary’s Grammar School; to meet the needs of the growing industrial population of Walsall. ‘By the mid-1960s it was clear that  the original reason for the building had gone and either it must re-invent itself or close’.  With courage and imagination  St Paul’s has certainly re-invented itself.  In 1995 it became a Christian Social Enterprise and Place of Worship.

St Paul's at Crossing

St Paul's Interior WalsallThe Hibbett Family of 1914 would not recognise their Church as it is now, for this ’19th Century Gothic’ building has undergone a remarkable  reconstruction to make it fit for the Church’s purpose within the wider Community today. ‘The integrity of the  listed building has been maintained with an amazing feeling of grace and style.


Out of its lofty height three floors have been created. The ground floor is a Mal with small shops and a cafe, opening on to the street through the old West door. The Mezzanine floor has a restaurant & a variety of rooms  for offices and art exhibitions.

The crowning glory is the top floor, an architectural triumph in its inspiring use of space and light, of old and new.  Here the Church has its Upper Room for Sunday Worship.  A Glass Lantern in the roof allows sunlight to illuminate the building . Hanging the full height of the Light Well and linking all three floors, is a great green-glass Cross. It is a magnificent work of art, symbolic of the Church’s whole message and enterprise.

In his Letters from the Trenches my father often imagined his family at worship in St Paul’s, with the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows.  With them he could follow the Psalms & Bible Readings for the Day in the Christian Calendar and sing the familiar Hymns.  If he could visit today he would be as astonished as I was, but  I am sure he would be delighted with it all – especially as the outside of the Church remains largely as he knew it and the old Lady Chapel is unchanged and still in use for daily prayer. Above all, he would have loved walking right up close to the beautiful stained glass windows of the East End and  being beside  the tops of the pillars and arches, once so high above the Hibbett Family singing way down below.

This Church is worth a virtual visit,  but better still an actual visit on foot. Here is a Church Company with ‘a social conscience … an ethical trading policy … committed to Fairtrade and Make Poverty History movements …actively involved in the regeneration of our town.’

Notes & Quotations : St Paul’s at the Crossing website: http://www.thecrossing@stpauls.co.uk

THE HIBBETT FAMILY also attended Walsall Parish Church of ST MATTHEW high on the hill overlooking the Market.

Market High Street, WalsallSt Matthew’s Parish Church on the hill and Market, High Street, Walsall.

NEXT POST: 4th Sept, 1914. QMS OLD BOYS MARCH OFF for Training in Luton.






19th August: Recruitment in Walsall

SYDNEY HIBBETT 20 in 1914.SYDNEY HIBBETT, 95, Foden Road, Walsall, *(1)  to His Parents, Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, still on Holiday in Abergele, N. Wales.

95 Foden Rd.

Written on old Examination Paper:FOR ROUGH WORK ONLY No marks will be given for answers on this page.’                                                                      Sydney's First Letter - Copy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Wednesday 8.30 pm                                                                                                                                   Aug. 19 . 1914

Dear Father and Mother,

Bert & I have just returned from parade at the school.  The facts of the case are these:-

1.  Col. Hickman is raising a platoon of men in Walsall for service at the front if required in  Kitchener’s new Army.

2.  He will form a separate company of old QMS boys in his platoon of  30 or so volunteers to serve in it.

Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall.
Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall.

3.  Major Griffiths who inspected us said that Kitchener wants 30 divs. at the fighting line which means that every able bodied man will have to go soon, willy-nilly.

4.  If we don’t join now we shall not be a company among ourselves, but have to live and sleep with an inferior crowd, fleas etc, when (3) comes off.

5.  Major Griffiths wants the names of those boys who will volunteer for above by tomorrow Thursday night.  28 have already promised, but not absolutely definite.

6.  I am one of these, to put it plainly.  Canby is another, (not Machin)     and other Old  Boys.

7.  I think that if we all  have to join the Army sooner or later,  I might as well join now.

8.  The platoon will be trained for 4 – 6 months & then packed off.

9.  Notice at the Works  *(2) says that all men who have been called up or volunteered for the war will have their jobs back again when they return.  No work on Mondays and Saturdays during the war. 4 days a week for all.

10. Expect to see Mr Hay *(2) on Friday to tell me about going in the Drawing Office.  I saw him on Tuesday but he was v. busy.

Will you advise me what to do;  am I right in joining this new Army?  We shall not be off just yet for a week or so.  Anyway, can I join?  The other boys, about 50, are being trained for Territorial Service, at home or abroad but not at the front.  It is very slow work it seems & they don’t seem to be very keen or serious about it.

Major Griffiths said that if you want to serve your country, the new Army is the place: he knew that he was wasn’t talking to “Ward Street riff-raff’ & so he cut out all the usual recruiting sergeant’s talk & spoke man to man.

Now do you see?  Please think about it & let me know as soon as you can.  I want to know this week.  It depends on you & mother of course.  Bert is in the Terr. Force but can back out, as I can if I like. He is asking Mr. Nightingale *(3) in the morning.

If the Ashton boys can volunteer for foreign service (not at the Front I know) I am sure mother won’t mind me doing my bit.  The Works’ Battery of Heavy Artillery now in South of England are expected to sail for Egypt soon.

I don’t think there is anything more till I see you on Friday.  A  lot of men have gone off for service:  Bridge Yard is quiet and empty – no job.  Switch Shop is nearly hung up for work & no S. Africa jobs can be sent off.

Hoping you are having a very good time – with much love

from  Syd.  

PS   Hal said on Sunday that he will still continue to go over to Sutton on Sats, have his pound of plums every afternoon & see ‘my chum’ Evans (3) every night & let other people go abroad, but you ought to see him smile.

PS  I quite see that my first duty is to you both & the country comes second.

Syd's First Letter 2nd half


ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB 2009Handling Primary Sources.  Readers will approach Sydney’s letter with their own individual knowledge  about  the  First World War.  In order to squeeze as much historical fact as possible out of this source  it is important to be objective and attempt to distinguish between what Sydney actually says  & intends to say  – and what can be ‘read between the lines ‘ about his attitude to the War, to Recruitment, to middle-class  values in 1914 regarding social position, duty to parents, to the Old School and to the Country.  Few of his letters still exist but those that do can be studied for any  change of attitude as the War proceeds.

Notes: *(1) In the year 2000, I went searching for No 95, Foden Road.  No 95 till exists but the road name  was  changed when Broadway  was built.  I wanted  a photograph of the house, the door & the letterbox through which all Bertie’s Letters arrived from the Front.  We were given a wonderful welcome by the Family living there  now , despite our unexpected appearance.  Not only did they invite us into that ‘bright kitchen’ where my father longed to be,  but they gave us a lovely lunch and we talked history.

*(2) Engineering Works,  Wednesbury.  * (3) Mining Engineering Works, Lichfield St. Walsall. *(4) ‘Evans’ is Enoch Evans,    For further information on Names mentioned see Menu: Walsall Friends & S.Staffs Soldiers.  These Pages are updated regularly.

NEXT POST : Bertie’s response.


11th AUGUST 1914: Recruitment Postcard


4th AUGUST  1914:     ‘Staffs Infantry Brigade withdrawn from Camp at Towyn in North Wales and immediately mobilised and on a War footing.  Strenuous training in Luton, Bishop’s Stortford and Saffron Walden.  2nd Battalion formed 137th Infantry Brigade of 46th North Midland Division, 1st complete Division of Territorials to take the field.  1/5th Battalion commanded by Colonel A.R.Crawley and 1/6th Battalion by Lt. Col. T.T.Waterhouse.’


Sent to Sydney whilst on Holiday at Abergele. Aug. 11th 1914.

QMS headmaster's Recruitment Message.

TRANSCRIPT:  Reserve Company of Territorials.  ‘We are extremely anxious to raise a Company of Men who have served in Queen Mary’s School Cadet Corps either when attached to 2nd V.B.S. Staffs Regiment or in the O.T.C.  Will you make this generally known?  If you will join, please communicate at once with Capt. Overend or with me.  E.N.Marshall.’

Personal note to Sydney:-  ‘Meet here on Satdy  (sic) next,11-30: but no need to cut short holiday, so long as you are ready to come at once if I send. ENM.’

Sponsored walk from  Bertie's old Theological College, Burgh to Skegness, in aid of Christian Aid.
The Revd A.H. Hibbett: Sponsored Walk from Burgh to Skegness, on his 74th Birthday.12th July 1969.

MY  MEMORIES  OF  THE  FIRST WORLD  WAR: The Revd Arthur Hubert Hibbett. 1967.

‘In the year 1914, my father, mother, three brothers, my only sister and I  were all together spending our summer holidays at Abergele, in North Wales.  We little knew that we should never have a Family Gathering like that again, for on the 4th August Britain declared War on Germany .

The schools started their holidays towards the end of July and from our bedroom windows at Abergele we saw some Regular soldiers in Camp in fields near our apartments; also some ‘lively’ Sea Cadets and Baden Powell Boy Scouts, moving about among their bell tents.

Scouts at Abergele. Watercolour. AHH.  Aug. 1914
SEA SCOUTS AT ABERGELE  Watercolour. AHH. Aug. 1914

There was great excitement when the Regulars  were mobilised.  The holiday-makers crowded into the streets of that seaside resort to see them form up.  Their band played the National Anthem and the people cheered & waved their hats & caps in the air.’

‘Our home was at Walsall and the Headmaster of Queen Mary 1st Grammar School gave word to all the Old Boys that they could join up on their return from holiday and form a Company of Old Grammar School Boys.’  Extract: Essay Competition, Lindsey Association for the Elderly. 1967.



Bertie, Hilda Bore (Harold's fiancee), Basil, Ida. Seated behind,: Mother and Father.  Photo taken by Harold..

Beach Bell Tent: Standing: Bertie. Seated Front: Basil, Hilda (Harold’s fiancee), Sydney, Ida.  Back: Mother & Father. H.H.

Sydney, Basil, Harold and Bertie.
Sydney, Bertie and Basil.
SYDNEY, BERTIE, BASIL.   Bertie sent Home for this photo of ‘Heads’ in 1916.










Harold's Camera. AHH.


‘Our Bathing Tent. Wed. Aug.12th 1914. As a momento of Harold’s Photography.’


Sketched a 'stone's throw' from holiday digs.Aug. 1914


 ‘Sketched this on a boiling Friday afternoon Aug.14th, just a stone’s throw from Fron Hyfrid, the place we digged. Struck 3 when I had done a little & quarter to 5  (when) I finished – bad pen or heat dried the ink, slight wind.’  

Abergele Tower: AHH Sketch Aug.1914
ABERGELE TOWER   Watercolour. AHH 

In the year 2000, EFW discovered the Hibbett Holiday Let by  lining up the Church sketch with the Tower on the horizon, then -‘just a stone’s throw ‘away –  there was Fron Hyfrid!

Fron Hyfrid,  Abergele. Still a Holiday Let in 2000.
Still a Holiday Let in 2000. 






The Old Tower. Situated Tower Hill, Abergele. Can be seen from Rhyl. Most lovely panorama of Abergele, Rhyl and beyond Prestatyn, also beyond the Dee, Birkenhead – the trains on the mainland seemed to crawl along.  I climbed up the inner wall of this tower to a sort of chimney in the wall.  Could stand up in it.  Carved our names on the walls. Ida, Miss Bore & I went Aug. 2nd .  My sister took a photo of it, Miss Bore took photo of Ida. Gathered heather. Lovely day.’

Abergele ornfileds AHH.

Father 'Reading the War News:' AHH Sketch. Aug. 1914.

‘Drew this on the way to our Tent on the Sands. The Hills at the back of Grych Castle  – & Cornfields for a foreground.’







Looking out to Sea: AHH Painting: Aug. 1914

'An Impression': AHH


An Impression’ was drawn on the first Saturday, 1st Aug. or very early in holidays of 1914.’ AHH.


'The Railroad by the Sea'.   AHH. Sketch. August 1914
‘THE RAILROAD BY THE SEA. Abergele – Rhyl’  AHH.. Aug.1914


EFW  2009

The First World War is only a generation away still, for many. I found the  Headmaster’s Recruitment Postcard very useful when teaching  Open University Arts Foundation History (Handling Primary Sources).  But invariably there would be someone who would ask: ‘Was your father killed?”  To which I would reply “I’m not as old as all that!” or  just raise an eyebrow!