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 Test to 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 targets too – the most difficult test of all. I shall have to tell Miss Foster that her mits are lucky, 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 Christmas Greeting. 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 sunlight did 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 & flags over 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 felt very 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.
Yours affec. Bertie
(1) Sydney’s Billet next door. New Year date wrong again. (2)’Ta Sha’ (Staff’s dialect – meaning ?) (3) ‘Group’: See 26th Jan. (4) Must mean English Hymnal, 1906. (19th Cent. research – Medieval plainsong & celebration of Saints). See Robert Alwell Article. http://www.englishhymnal.co.uk and http://www.stmary’sprimrosehill.com.
(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.
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