12th Dec. 1914: Saffron Walden – Bad Soup & Missing Blankets.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE: Long Letter, Part 2  (Pages 14 – 26) to BASIL HIBBETT; in which he also answers a letter from his Mother.

Saturday Dec 12/ 14

12th Dec,1914. Part 2.

Have just read Mother’s lovely letter which was very homely & interesting.  I thought a great deal of it. How long it was /is too, 3 pages.  In fact I was so eager and delighted that I read it while waiting for my pay.  I hurriedly screwed it as carefully as I could in my pocket before going up to the Capt: Ha! Ha!

The 1st question in it – personally tired? Yes that’s all I’ll say to that!

As to why I could not eat the pontoon (1) was like this:-  We waited & waited & waited till the 50th time, of going down to the bottom of the Street to the Cuckhus, we met a Pte who said it had to be sent away  – the pontoon was so bad – the water was quite green – well all we could do was to wait for tea, in patience.  We made up for it by having a good tea.

Sydney got the letter & P O and will most likely write. The name of the people at 52, Tavistock St. Luton is Mrs HOAR (2). Perhaps she did not know if she was right in sending the parcel carriage forward by train or through the G.P.O.  I really must write a lot plainer.  So you got Ida’s letter then, I can tell from Mother’s letter.

So you are acting again this XmasAh! –  we (you & I) did not know last that this coming Christmas will be spent more preciously – & what would happen before it comes.  I remember well the last (school) plays, Henry Vth & ‘Thesbe’.

It must have been raining all over England this last 2 days or so.  I can picture Ida knitting away before the fire busily at my old mitt. Ah! if we are not at home by Christmas we shall treasure a welcome box of mince pies etc. but I hope we shall all spend a Real Christmas i.e. all the Family together again on Christmas Day.  But I am doubtful about Christmas Day – we might have to wait a few days later; if so I hope we hit on Ida’s Birthday(3).

If Mother chances to read this letter she will see queerly how I have followed her letter. I have got it close to me. I have learned from experience, for I know I have tried to think of things that you want answered but alas I’ve forgotten so I will keep the letters & pull them out when writing to you.  I have always kept a little pile of the most interesting letters in my pocket to read on a day off, or to refer to.

Time will soon come when our letters will be censored i.e. when we get nearer the coast, then we shall  not be able to say what we like, especially where we go & are staying at, etc etc. – but one thing  – we need not pay postage.

FIELD PC: 25th Aug.1915.

The PCs issued to us free are queer things, all printed, & the sender has to cross off what he isn’t & leave what he is –  like this:-  I am ill. I am well. Received your letter last & so on.

When I went to Luton my geography was so bad that I could not tell where we were, & all the time  – up till now  when I have just got 2 maps. I will send you one & then you will be able to follow our travels until that wicked censor comes along. (N.B. I will send you both & the one you don’t want send back).

Sid has gone with Vernon to Cambridge – what oh! swank.  Vernon knows, or rather at one time had an interview with the Head of Keys College, Cambridge.  I hope they’ll manage it all right – straight road from S.Walden.  I shall larf if an M.P. gets hold on ’em.  They hired two brand new cycles for the afternoon from 2 till 9 pm.

Sydney & I got the lovely handsome presents from Miss Kathie (4) –  it was really very kind of her, they will come in so handy & useful, just fit the haversack, so we shall be able to take them to the Front  if  we go.  They will last a long time & stand some of the rough handling which ‘they’ must make up their ‘ minds’ for, but shame!

(Page 21 -still strong!) –   I will take the greatest care of mine if Sid doesn’t – leather too by jinks! You will be sure to express to her my deepest thanks for her kindness.  Miss Kathie said in the interesting little letter she enclosed that I need not write to thank her.  I will tell you the exact words – wait a mo! while I get it out.  She sais ‘Please do not bother to write & thank – they are not worth it (ba! to this) & I know you will have no time for that kind of thing.’ I will enclose her letter for it’s worth reading –  show Mummy & then send it back don’t forget.

It’s a miracle Dear Ida got my letter.  I did not notice the address until Mrs Penning here pulled it out of a drawer & showed it me at tea-time today.  She is keeping the wrapper for a “keepsake”.

Ha! Ha! How dare the Reserves come up equal to us –  who should pop in the kitchen – come right through the front room & into the kitchen where I was writing this letter, but who do you guess it was?  – why Alan Machin*.  He did look well & we had a good little chat – told him about Sid etc & I heard the “Dads” are getting on well in the Volunteer Corps (5).

Been on ration service – just when about to have a comfy tea.  Had to carry 170 loaves in a blanket with 3 other Ptes along 2 streets. –  nearly  pulled my arms out – never mind, all in the day’s run.   Ha! Ha! again I say, but no!

Sorry Dad’s letter was too late, but no more bother at Bishop’s Stortford –  “ne’er more a the sight a the Corn Exchange fa me, nor thank you!” (6)

Well – I have really forgotten what I wrote first & have written since I started – in this short letter.  I hope I’m not repeating myself. Alas! I’m beginnin’ to see I’m backsliding into scribble.   I thought you would be interested in the district paper here & read about the Herts Terriers and the queer names of  Ware, Sawbridgeworth, Widdington (where we went to dig trenches) Thaxted(dy), Stansted(dy) etc. (7). Marching Map 1914

I better close now & reserve some news for the future.  I guess Sid will not help repeating news I’ve written, but I’ve stolen a march on him this time.  All success to the play & how goes de eggsham (7)?  Don’t forget about thanking Miss K Brookes. I feel strongly tempted to do now – to just write a line of thanks on her paper she sent, but I guess Sid will, or rather I give Sid the chance, be’in as I’ve written to K. before.

All good wishes to you & the rest.

With Fondest Love,


(Page 26 –  even more!)

PS  I will only  leave Sid to say what he’s done at Cambridge. I’ll  be determined to beat the  record. I’ve got the time & its a pleasure sure an’ enough ’tis.

The Captain (Lister) told us that all ‘A’ Coy. must parade tomorrow (Sun) as he would like all his Coy (‘A’ Coy) to have a photo taken of themMr Penning is very interested in reading the Walsall Observer sent to Evans.  He has just asked me if that was my Dad’s name as he pointed to the report on the Baths (8).  Well I don’t think Sid will have an easy job to beat me!

Goodbye for the pres.   Bert.


(1) Pontoon: School Boy/Army slang for Soup. (2Luton Landlady: blankets appear to have been lost in transit home to Walsall. (3) Ida’ Birthday: 28th Dec. Holy Innocents’ Day. (4Miss Kathleen Brookes, Sunday School Superintendant. Gift/ possibly a leather writing pad or wallet. (5) Volunteer Corps:  Town/ Home Guard – forerunner to WW2 ‘Dad’s Army’. (6) Ref. perhaps to Arthur Hibbett’s  letter of complaint regarding unsuitable Corn Exchange accommodation at Bishop’s Stortford, which appears to have caused so many colds.  (7) Bertie loved such play on words. (8Arthur Hibbett’s interest in Walsall’s Swimming Association. (See Menu: Walsall Education).

NEXT POSTS: 13th Dec. 1914: Saffron Walden: Church Parade. 16th Dec. 1914 : German Raid on Whitby.

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