Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, possibly 52, Tavistock Road, Luton: LETTER to HIS FAMILY at 95, Foden Road, Walsall.
LUTON OCT 12th / 14 (1)
My Dear People,
Mother – we are just having everything belonging to our kits inspected this morning, so I can manage to scratch a few lines home to you all. I will begin with you. We tasted a bit of toffee you gave us & it is good, my word, and the apples too are ripping, – as Father said, he likes a good cooking apple and we agree with him.
Father – the journey was more comfortable, physically so to speak, as far as the travelling goes. 8 wheeled cars ran smoother than the 6 wheelers we went home in (2). I awoke early, before dawn, this morning & found myself on THE FLOOR! Oh! I did feel Home Sick I must admit, and it was the first time I felt it so much. That is one disadvantage of Home Leave, but, and a big BUT too, we did enjoy the few hours with you and Mother and all the ‘famalee’. How pleasant & comfortable the study looked at Saturday’s breakfast time, and what good meals you served us & how lucky we happened to come home on Harvest Festival, which made the Sunday all the more Sundayfied and homified than those we get here in Luton.
Had you better send us a blanket each, now we have been supplied with bran new ones from the Company ? Of course we shall have to give them up when we go to spend a night in the open & they will get mixed up again. Being that the blanket I mentioned to Mother was full of holes & torn you can use your discretion whether you send just one for me, as each private is supposed to have two blankets each, now and in the future.
Ida – it is a lovely, bright autumn morning which cheers us up – good luck. We are all so pleased not to have to go marching off first thing after the late arrival yesterday. Miss Kathie, I mean rather Miss Kathleen Brookes (3), wrote such a pleasant and comforting letter that I feel I ought to remember her more than ever before.
Basil – it seems as though this Antwerp business of the Germans is wakening us all up here still more, the way things are in speedy preparation (4). Have you seen the kinker brush and button stick? (5). Syd left it on the dresser – it was wrapped up in a dirty handkerchief. Send it if you can find it with the other things later on. Remind Harold (6)not to forget to send some insect powder with the other requisites.
And now back to Mother with whom I will end my letter. Reggie (7) was delighted with the tin of toffees ‘from Mrs Hibbett’ & I gave him some sheets of drawing paper & a pencil representing Father’s present. He’s fond of drawing and he’s just like cousin Stanley at York. He can chew your Mackintosh’s toffee DE LUX while he plays with his soldiers & makes a sketch of their manoeuvres on the paper of Father’s. We are all in the highest of spirits just now & hope for the best, but it is a bit rotten that Home sickness. We sympathise with Ida (8).
Best love to all, Bertie.
MY MEMORIES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR. Arthur H. Hibbett Lindsey Association for the Elderly Competition. 1967.
‘I remember writing to my mother that I was in the service, not of George V, but of the King of Kings. I had been brought up a confirmed Christian, and gave my name to the recruiting officer as C. of E. My faith was certainly tested when we were first billeted in Luton. I had to sleep on the floor with other soldiers and when I attempted to kneel to say my prayers a boot came flying over towards me. I was 19 years old. It was the first time in my life that I had experienced what might be termed persecution for one’s Christian way of life.
I remember we had a great deal of route marching. We bivouacked in Luton Hoo Park and were inspected by Lord Kitchener and King George (9). We marched so close to the King that I could have shaken hands with him. Sir S. Wortley (9), our Divisional General, praised us as a ‘fine lot of men’. I was attached to the 46th North Midland Division, which included the Lincolns and the Tigers, ie. the Leicesters. ‘
NOTES: (1) ‘LUTON‘ (writ large) expresses Bertie’s feelings at the stark contrast between Home & Army life. The 48 hr. Home Leave came suddenly – no mention in 9th Oct. Postcard. (2) A railway carriage with 8 wheels (4 bogueys). (3) Miss Kathleen Brookes, Sunday School Superintendent, St Paul’s, Walsall. (4) ‘Antwerp business‘ – The reality of the War is settling in. On 1st October 1914 Belgian troops withdrew to Antwerp and came under siege from ‘Big Bertha’ howitzer guns. British troops joined them on 7th Oct but the city fell to the Germans one hundred years ago today,12th Oct.1914.
(5) Kinker brush & button stick. A button stick slips behind buttons to protect uniform. Bertie’s gadget had a brush attached. Does anyone know what a ‘kinker’ is? (6) Possibly Reggie Hoar son of the Landlady. (7) Harold the Chemist. (8) Reference to Ida’s homesickness when training as a nurse in Leicester? (9) Luton News reports inspections by Kitchener, King George V & Sir Stuart Wortley on 21st Sept. and 1st Oct. 1914.
NEXT POST: 9th Nov.1914: Still Training in Luton. Letters to Father & Brother Basil.