Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: 2nd LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
44, Cromwell Rd. Luton. Sunday afternoon. Jan 31/14 (sic).
My Dear Mother
I know you won’t grumble at me sending you some note for I know you like some good paper to write on and there is a sheet ruled to guide the lines straight – all for your sen. The tie is for Ida if she should care to have it, or to send it on to Miss May O. (1).
Finished the Course at the Range on Friday – went a 12 mile Route March on Sat. on which I got to know of Syd’s scoring.
PS. Sorry I did not get any envelopes specially but put in a few of my own.
Just back from Church (2) about 8.30 pm.
My Dear Mother,
I must tell you what a pleasant service I attended to-night – High Church (3). The Preacher spoke somewhat like Miss May Brookes, quite natural, apt to go in jerks – “And I think you know sometimes“. His text was taken from the Epistle “Know ye not – – – but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain.”
TheHymns were very nice especially the last – in which there is a most appropriate verse – 170:-
Jesus is God: let sorrow come, And pain & every ill. All are worth while for all are means His glory to fulfil.
Worthwhile a thousand years of woe To speak one little word If by that ‘I believe’ we own The Godhead of our Lord.
Other Hymns were 533, 83A & M. (3)
I am going to have my hot milk now.
Ta! Ta! Bert.
I say better still –seethe packet of pins (for luck) – well if you want anything in the way of fancy stuff – say another tie – then you can send your order to the address printed on the packet.
Oh I’m ‘not ashimed to goo into a lidy’s shorp for inyfink for me muvver’.
31st Jan. 1915’s PC, Two Letters and a ‘For Luck’ Note ( with the brooch, tie & packet of pins)shows Bertie’s determination to make up for the bad firing news he sent the week before.
(1) Mary Overend* (2) Anglican ‘High Church’, in 1915, meant an interest in pre-Reformation worship, liturgy & ritual, sacraments, vestments & episcopal structure. (Also termed ‘Anglo-Catholicism’ – a development of 19th Cent. Oxford Movement/rise of Higher Biblical Criticism, methods of interpretation). Anglican ‘Low Church’, 1915,meant an interest in simplicity in worship, less emphasis on priesthood and ceremonial, more emphasis on Protestant Reformation and literal interpretation of the Bible. (Also termed Evangelicalism). Bertie had experienced both forms of worship in Walsall. (3) St Mary’s Parish Church, Luton. (4) Hymns Ancient & Modern.
NEXT POST: 3rd FEB. 1915. Syd’s: Dunstable Field Firing & S. Staffordshire Rgt. War Diary.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: First of Two LETTERS to Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall.
44 Cromwell Road, Luton. (1)
Sunday afternoon. Jan 31/ 14 (sic).
My Dear Mother,
I just feel like writing to someone and now I come to think of it I have a great many letters to write to a great many people, but I prefer to write to you first.
Ha hem! Tar Shar eh! (2) Well at any rate he’s top of all those in ‘A’ Coy. who joined since mobilisation.An’ I shouldn’t be surprised if he don’ come out on the very top of all.
I will just put it in more schedule form of course. The firing was a Regular Course and taken from Table ‘B’ Classification i.e. a Testto see what degree of efficiency each soldier attains.
First comes the Marksman who gains 130 or over, next comes the 1st Class Shot who gets below 130 and above 105, then there is the 2nd Class down to 70.Less than 70 comes the 3rd Class Shot.
Course of firing by untrained men of ‘A’ Coy: Marksman – 130 (nobody); Sig. S. Hibbett –112,1st Class; Corporal Page* – 106, 1st Class; Lance Corporal Bendall – 103 /4?, 2nd Class; Pte A.H.Hibbett – 90, 2nd Class.
Sid started with a full group (3) & you know I told you that Colonel Crawley* commended him. Sid would not tell me what he said.
Next day was fine but very cold,especially having to wait our turns. Some played at ‘tick’, back to school days again. Some had that most thrilling game of pick-a- back that Sid has told you of. Most of us put on our great coats & sleeping helmets & mits.
Sid – well I nivver – inspite of him firing with sleeping helmet on & oh! Miss Foster’s mits – he got 5 BULLS – at the silhouette targetstoo– the most difficult test of all.I shall have to tell Miss Foster that her mits arelucky, for the silhouettes are cut out like the shape of a man’s head & shoulders & painted a drab colour & stuck on a pole which is held up for, I think, not more than 5 secs & down it goes. A hit counts a bull – the alternative is a miss.
I watched Sid with great excitement first – which is the most anxious shot. He got a bull, then another bull would come, until the 4th was a bull again. At the 5th shot I got equally anxious as the first for I wanted him to get 5 & so he did. Hurrah!
Poor Sid then had to undergo another ordeal – this time our Capt. Lister* had a word with him. When I got back to my billet everyone was talking of Sid. “There’s a stripe for him” one said. (I was only just thinking – coming “home” from Church – Sid comes of age this year).
Well so much for shooting. I hope you have all spent a quiet & happy Sunday. I was just thinking of Rev. Darling*. I did not send him a ChristmasGreeting. Never mind, now you’ve got a servant you can, if you like, have him to tea sometime.
I am spending a very quiet Sunday afternoon in writing you this letter in Sid’s billets.Vernon & he are nestled down asleep on the floor.
I went to the Parish Church at the 11 service, being no parade, & the sunlightdid make the Church Choir look grand – white lilies & red flowers adorned the altar, which has not got a cross but a beautiful painting of the Last Supper.
After the service, in which we had Hymns No:- 351,565, 546, 525 (in Church Hymnal (4)so Dad can play them) I went to have a look round in the Someries Chapel, just been restored. There, there is a most beautiful Communion altar with Reredos & silver Cross.
Tell Ida. I was shown the tomb of the Archbishop of York’s Mother in the reign of Edward IV & that of Lord Wenlock, a Yorkshire squire (5).
The Widow of Sir Julius Wernher* has a beautiful name:- Dame Alice (Wernher) and she has given a Bible & fitted the Chapel with every accommodation. The Archbishop of York in Edward IV reign had residence near Luton (6).
On Sat. night I went to see what this Territorial Reading Room, in the New Bedford Road, is like. It was there when I left Luton at first. I had not been in before.
I say wouldn’t it be simply “Topping” if we had a large enough house, that we could afford to make a library or back room into a room where the soldiers can enjoy recreation & reading. Well that is what a generous private person has done with one of his rooms. I walked up the steep winding gravel path until I came to the French window & on looking in I saw no one. I entered & tapped a door to enquire if the use of the room was free. Yes, was the answer the housemaid gave, so I sat down and read about Kitchener & looked at the pictures on the wall.
Ida, it was just like our ‘Top Attic Study’ but most beautifully coloured portraits of Kitchener & Jellicoe (6) & the other generals & flagsover the fireplace & along the walls. Games of draughts etc, writing material & magazines of all kinds. All of the above were neatly laid in piles on the forms and tables.
I had a look at the Times’ ‘History of the War’ and noticed – (well I had never noticed before) how vulgar are the countenances of the German orcifers (sic) Von Moltke (7), Von __, Von __, Von Kluck (8) – all have got double chins, ugly flat noses, horrible dishevelled hair, broad hard faces. So different from the other nations (9).
I read your last letter, with deep interest, on the Range last Wed or Thursday, between the turns. But I cannot but admit that when I got to know what a fuss the P. C. caused I feltvery M____ble (10).
Dear Mother, I could give you all I get excepting just say 1/- for fear of a question from the Captain. I noticed your paper was getting short when I was on Home Leave. I know you like some good note to write on. Well here’s some for your very self. You will not very well be able to rip the sheets in two, as you generally do with the ordinary leaf note.
I thought of your advice to save my money. Well I went and got a 2/- P.O. intending to send it home, but I had to break into it at the end. Never mind I will send some home next week. If anything happens to me then it will be a “little” help to you.
I admired Ida’s dress when I was at home & ‘eyed’ the dainty ‘blouse’ with its pretty red, white & blue ‘border,’ so I could not resist going & buying what I thought a pretty knot to match the blouse. Should Ida not like it, then I think Miss Mary Overend* should have it, for she has been very good to us in sending chocs etc.
What does Basil do on Saturday & Sunday afternoons now? Bless him. I do hope he will manage to get through (exam) without injuring his health. Does Harold often come & see you at weekends? When I send him a P.C. I often wonder whether to send it to home or his Wol’ton place (11). Does he show you the P.Cs I send him?
Have I told you that we have had good meals here, no two dinners alike – change every day. Milk pudding to-day, being Sunday. Am having a glass of hot milk for my supper.
If you would like a tie like the one I sent for Miss Foster* (I sent it to you to have a look at it, for it was your idea & I hope you mentioned it to Miss Foster. I shall in my next letter). I say if you want another tie (I can’t get one like yours) just write by return & I will get one before we leave Luton on Tuesday Feb. 2/ 15.
Is there anything else? Not as I know of yet. Got some P.Cs in store for future use & your collection. Field firing begins next week at Dunstable, when we shall take billets.
(5) Hibbett interest in Yorkshire history (grandparents’ home). i) Edward IVth 1461-1470 & 1471-1483. 1st Yorkist King (eldest son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York) granted Luton estates to ii) Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham (formerly Bishop of Lincoln – brother iii) John Rotherham became Lord of Manor of Luton Hoo, 1476). iv) Lord William Wenlock d.1471 (fought for both Yorkists & Lancastrians in Wars of Roses; Knight of Bedfordshire; Speaker 1455 Parliament). Wenlock Chapel, St Mary’s Parish Church, Luton).
(6)Earl John Jellicoe, Admiral of the Fleet 1914 -1916. Governor of New Zealand, 1920-1924. (7) Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke, Chief of German General Staff, 1906 – 1914. (8) Alexander von Kluck, German General.. (9) i) Marshall (Papa)Joffre 1852-1931. French General; ii) Sir John French. Anglo-Irish Officer, British Army. (10) PC re Monday’s ‘bad scoring’? (11) Woverhampton abbrev.
NEXT POST:31ST JAN. 1915: 2nd Letter with a FOR LUCK Note.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: PLAIN POSTCARD to ALL the FAMILY, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
Tues Jan 26/ 15
I have just been making up my Diary & am suddenly brought to a full stop when I notice the date.
It reminds me that I forgot to put in the‘Touchy Bit’ in my last letter – I feel persuaded to write to you as Jan 27th is the anniversary of the Kaiser’s birthday. His Imperial Majestyrequests that no ceremony must be celebrated. “This is a sure sign that the Kaiser is beginning to wish he had never been born” – so sais Punch. Oh Syd and I are bound to make the Germans scoot and grovel in the ground!
TODAY’S SCORING is a great improvement upon Mondays.Syd fired at 300 yards yesterday& got 3 bulls and 2 inners(1).I got (at 300) 3 bulls, I inner,I maggie, (17) (2).
In rapid I flurried a bit (the belt got stuck) – I bull, I inner and the rest not signalled.
Up till this they said was just Preliminary. Syd was so glad for then his bad scoring (10 grouping ) will not count. For the kick off of the Regular Course Syd got 25 out of 25 grouping & was complemented by the Colonel. I wanted to know what he said, but modest Syd only joked ‘Have you anything to say? “No Sir” – well shut up then‘.
I kicked off with 20 & hoped never to see that horrible flag (which I thought when I first fired out of a rifle at QMS was meant as a maximum score!) – but now a washout –nought – oh! oh!
Well I thought of you & thank you all for your good wishes for our good scoring. Your hope has brought good fruit at last. I guess you, especially Basil, pulled a long face at Monday’s bad scoring. Today’s weather was lovely and bright & partly accounts for the good change.
I meant this card for a halfpenny stamp but now I’ve filled it I shall have to dig out 1d. Well I’ll just see what Syd is doing.
There are 2 Sids in next door and 2 Berts in my billet.
Your affec. Bertie.
Kitchener’s New Army sent its recruits on Firing Courses at Luton, to test their quality before mobilsation to the Front.
(1) At QMS, Walsall, Sydney Hibbett won the Blyth Shooting Prize, a silver shield mounted on wood, its lettering now almost obliterated by his mother’s polishing.
(2) Firing Scores: Bertie’s description is rather confusing and I am unable to find a concise definition of scoring in 1915 but a ‘maggie‘ meant ‘no score‘ (indicated by a white flag); ‘grouping‘ meant placing shots as close together as possible – the Lee Enfield .303 rifle’s sights could then be adjusted for the bull.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MARIE N. HIBBETT at 95 Foden Rd, Walsall.
Cromwell Road, Luton. Jan 24 / 15
My Dear Mother,
Another Sunday has come along & it finds me writing in another strange house. Never in my life before have I been in so many houses.
I went to the Parish Church this morning on the occasion of the Dedication of the Someries Chapel restored by Lady Werner (sic) in memory of Sir Julius Werner (1). The Bishop of St Albans preached and conducted the ceremony. Two lovely anthems- ‘I was glad when they said unto me’, (2) ‘Comes at times a stillness’(3). On the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany we had that lovely hymn ‘As pants the hart’ (4).
I am sending 3/- shillings home. I got a 4/- P.O. on Pay Day so that I should make certain of not yielding to spending all my pay. But when I got here I had to break into it & cash the PO. I better send it off at once & so prevent further temptations. I shall not be able to get to Church tonight for I am ordered to be On Guard to-night.
6.30 pm. Two jolly Privates and a Corporal. The Corporal is playing on a piano & one is about to sing. This is in the Guard Room – funny room ain’t it? My friend Cope (5)is on the first guard. I am on from 2 in the morning till 6, the finish. So I have all night to wait while Cope will finish altogether in 4 hours time. Of course he will have to wait in the Guard Room for fear the Guard has to turn out.
Ask Father if he knows of Sanger*, a teacher of his – well he is the Corporal in command (6). There is a bonny little boy watching us. He is very fond of us soldiers, sais he will be a soldier when he grows up, but he is very quiet and reserved, so good. Light hair just like Basil. By the way how is Dodger getting on now? I guess he felt it when I had gone. He wished he was coming in the London train with us.
Does Dad play the hymns we have here on Sundays – those I give you in my letters ? – 332 & 118 were two we had this morning (7). You should hear a whole church full of soldiers sing ‘The Church is one foundation’ – my word how thrilling!
When I heard of me having to be on Guard I was thinking I should not have time to send or write this letter – and I have forgotten something now. I remember what you said dear Mother about the present for Miss Foster* – well I could not get the exact pattern of flag I got for you, but will this one do for Miss Foster? The flag is in the centre & pictured as on a mast. I will save this letter until I put the kerchiefin. Syd wanted to change guard with me, but I thought I had better do as I was told, – so here’s luck.
Tell Dodger Luton town is full of Kitchener’s Army now& officers do look queer in dark navy blue & khaki short great coats. When I went down town to get the tie for Miss Foster it was nothing but arm exercise up and down, down and up again with the left hand and the right (8).
Sergeant Hartley*, another of Dad’s teachers, is now an Officer. They have seen him in town. Sanger is a funny but sociable chap; he is sick of the long-winded business. I daresay the Education Committee thought that, when they offered so many teachers, the teachers would soon get to real business.
I had an egg for breakfast with my bacon & an egg for tea, both new laid. This was on Friday. Does Ida remember me having a letter from one of my scholars? – that one the Deaconess (9) gave her? & does Mother remember picking up another letter with note like hers with flags? Well another PC awaited me when I got back that Friday night. It was from another little chap. So you see the little beggars have not forgotten me.
I expect Syd will come out a crack shot after the course. Everyone knows he is THE SHOT, but he’ll have to control the cig. smoking.
Well the letters are getting long again. I try to keep ’em short, but my agile fingers will scribble.
I have something at the back of my mind & can’t just think of it. . . (‘Oh its nice to get up in the morning, and its nice to stay in bed’, so the song goes. . . Let’s see when is the Conversion of St Paul? . . . Has the Revd J.W. Dixon our late [former] Vicar, been to see you lately? . . . . . . . . .) (10).
Now what can I say to fill this page?
Oh the people of my billet ARE just all right. They don’t interfere wiv we & we don’t interfere wiv them, except wash our crockery up. They are paid to provide us with the food – no more trolling out with the jug & coming back with arms full of provisions.
Today we had sausage & bacon cooked in butter, beef – brussels or Belgian sprouts & Yorkshire pudding for dinner & of course apple pie 2nd course; tea – jam, bread and butter & cake. We don’t expect any luxuries on weekdays & especially washing day tomorrow. ‘See’ sais the landlady ‘its Sunday today’ Ho! Ho! that’s why.
I think its best to send the money home, then it’s safer for it can’t keep even in a money belt.I sent a PC to Harold. You will larf when you see it. I was interested in Ida’s last letter. What a joke it was about that beggar and so Dad reads our letters aloud does he? I can see I shall have to be rather careful in what I say in my letters. I guess Dad was rather disgusted at the beggar (11).
Can you read my writing? I always am tempted to scribble when I write in pencil.
Best love to all,
Yours affectionately, Bert.
Kitchener’s New Army Firing Courses in Luton, were there to test the quality of its recruits and who was the ‘best shot’. Bertie’smixedemotions about what he and his brother were soon to do ‘for real’ in France, are evident in this long letter.
(1)Sir JuliusWernher. 1869 -1948. German banker/ diamond magnate: art collector with his wife Lady Wernher (later Lady Ludlow). In 1902 he bought Luton Hoo (the de Hoo FamilyManor since 1455, which passed through the Someries Family); setting for Steven Spielberg’s film War Horse.
(2) Coronation Anthem/Introit: Sir Hugh Parry, 1902, Psalm 122 v1-3, 6,7 (Psalter/ Book of Common Prayer.1662. (3) The Revd Isaac Gregory Smith, parish priest & academic, author of books on ethics and philosophy; born 1826. Music Sir Herbert Oakley.
‘ Comes at times a stillness as of even, Steeping the soul in memories of love; As when the glow is sinking out of heaven, As when the twilight deepens in the grove. Comes at length a sound of many voices, As when the waves break lightly on the shore, As when the dawn the feathered choir rejoices, Singing aloud because the night is o’er.
Comes at times a voice of days departed On the dying breath of evening borne; Sinks then the traveller, faint and weary-hearted”, Long is the way” it whispers – ” and forlorn!”. Comes at last a voice of thrilling gladness Borne on the breezes of the rising day, Saying the Lord shall make an end of sadness; Saying the Lord shall wipe all earthly tears away.
1884. Written for the unveiling of the Albert Memorial, Edinburgh.
(4)Handel Anthem on Psalm 42, composed for Chapel Royal. (5)Norman Cope* one of the Four billeted at 29 Gold St. (lived same street as Hibbett family in Walsall. See Menu Page). (6) Corporal Sanger*.
(7)Hymns Ancient & Modern, early version?NB Bertie was to find great comfort in the fact that the Church of England at this time followed the Christian Calendar as set in the Book of Common Prayer, 1662; he knew that his family would be hearing the same readings, saying the same liturgical prayers – and mostly singing from the same Hymn Book (either A & M or the English Hymnal. 1906).
(8) Saluting with both hands? – must be Bertie’s joke! (9) Kathleen Brookes*or Mary Brookes*. (10) Typical habit of Dad when he couldn’t remember something – think of something else. (11) Possible ref. to his description of Sunday School children as ‘little beggars‘ or ref. to story of a real beggar?
NEXT POST: 26th Jan. 1915. Luton Musketry Course – Good Scores.
Signaller SYDNEY HIBBETT: POSTCARD to Mr & Mrs Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall, Staffordshire.
c/o Mrs. Pleasance, 44 Cromwell Rd, Luton.
Here we are in the land of hats and what not again (1).
Billeted in different parts of town to Tavistock St. (2). With Evans and two other nonentities. Tommies of usualtype. Bert got separated but is next door with very good fellows. Left Saffron Waldenat 10 am arr. here at 2 pm.
Our road is on the left in the middle of this photo where the pencil mark is (3). Very fashionable part but usualtype of house this.
Weather foggy & raw. Letter following,
(1) Luton renowned for hat-making. (2)Rough Billets of Sept.1914. (3) Mark just visible between 2nd & 3rd tree, middle row.
POSTCARD: Bedford Road is now ‘Old Bedford Road’. From my flat (right) I walked across Park (left) to teach at Luton High School for Girls (1961-1965).
The Germans carried out a two-day Bombing Raidon Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Hull, causing1,413 casualtiesand 3,409 injuries. Named after its inventor, Graf von Zeppelin (1900) the Zeppelin was first used overAntwerpin August 1914.
According to The National Archive (a very useful website <www.national archive.gov.uk>) the main strength of Zeppelins, as weapons of war, ‘lay in their psychological impact on an island people used to the protection of the British Navy’.
The Archive provides a range of images and goes on to explain that to some extent the danger was exaggeratedfor Zeppelins ‘did not handle well in poor weather‘; and their large size, at 3,000 ft, provided a ‘good target for machine gunners and pilots‘. Of course, if they flew at 10,000 ft such attempts at defence were totally ineffective. To provide some sense of protection the government erected barrage balloons.
There is also evidence that imminent threat of raids was kept from the general public and even from local government officials (much to their anger) when Zeppelins bombed towns in the Midlands, in 1916.
THE HIBBETT LETTERS describe the fear and distress caused by the Zeppelin Raid on Walsallin 1916. Bertie’s mother, standing in the door of 95, Foden Rd, waiting for his father, watched the huge sinister shape pass slowly overhead. Arthur Hibbett, escaped from the Education Office just in time, but the Mayoress of Walsall (1) was killed whilst riding on the top of a bus.
NB: The first Zeppelin raid on London did not take place until 31st May 1915.
The WALSALL OBSERVER was sent regularly to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT & his brother SYDNEY when training in Luton, Bishop’s Stortford and Saffron Walden. The weekly list of casualties, with photographs of soldiers they knew, would have been read with deep regret and no doubt some trepidation as the brothers waited to be sent to France.
JANUARY 1915 WAR ITEMS & other topics which would have caught Pte Bertie’s eye: –
2nd Jan. ‘Christmas in Walsall: Good Cheer for the Sick and the Poor’.
9th. Jan. ‘The European War:Day of Intercession.Bishop of Lichfield at St. Matthew’s Parish Church’. “What we hope & pray for – Victory for a Righteous Cause”.
9th Jan. ‘Territorial Trifles: Stories of South Staffords fine work at the Front’; ‘Staffords in Action’; ‘Adulterated Milk’.
16th Jan. ‘Marching.’
23rd Jan. ‘Come to Church Sunday:Free Churches and Church of England’; ‘Administration in Education. Interesting Debate. Should Authorities be elected bodies?’
(1) Mrs. J. N. Cotterell, Mayoressof Walsall, 1914 -1915. The Cotterells lived at Beverley House, Lichfield Road, Walsall, now a friendly hotel.
NBThe Record Office in Essex Street, Walsall, has copies of the Walsall Observer on microfiche for most of 1914 – 1918.
NEXT TWO POSTS: 24th Jan. 1915: LUTON Musketry/ Firing Course.
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.