14th EntrainingPractice of Transport fully loaded & all horses & mules.
15th Shortgrove Park (1) Attack Practice by Coys. I Coy Night Trench Digging: instructions received to send indents for Equipment & Stores by 9.0 pm & to be prepared to move at short notice.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
Mon. aft(ernoon) Feb 15 / 15
My Dear Sister,
I really must tell you. You know you wanted to know what would become of Sydgetting such high scores at the Range. No he is not going to be a sergeant – he doesn’t like stripes. I heard the result this morning at Dismiss. I heard thatthree men out of 2 Platoonwereneeded for theMachine Gun Section (2). Sidvolunteered but was soon ‘put down’ by Lieut Wright, our Commander.
‘What Hibbett is it?S? Yes, well we can’t spare you. You are going to be trained as a Sharp Shooter’ & up came our friend Lieut Parr& said with a good smile: ‘You’re picked for a sniper, you’re the best shot!’ – the latter remark I hardly remember but still. My word the Germans will not half shout. “For goodness sake halt a Stafford is comin’!’
Tell Dodgerthat bit in Mother’s letter was superb. We are crack sougers (sic) now.Sid, my word isn’t half smart &tell Motherhe does look after his rifle. Cleaned it after that night out (3). Sunday 7th Feb. was one of the few exceptions & it was unfortunate that the Brigade Major did not pick out Sid’s rifle & then he would not have blowed us up about it. We have had to parade 3/4 hr earlier in consequence for rifle inspection.
Mrs Pennings’s son (4), who has been at the Front since mobilisation, is coming home tonight. Mrs Penning is in raptures and nearly fainted.
Ta Ta! Bert.
Postscripts on side of letter: ‘Mrs Penning got a tele(gram). We’ll show him when he comes that we are not playing at soldiers. Many thanks for letters Mother. Don’t waist (sic) your note on me, it is for you to send to your friends etc’.
Postscripts on top of letter.‘I guess Sid is too modest to tell you. But he did want to join the Machine Gun Section. No he must be a sniper‘. Parade 6 for a lecture on trench digging – so that PC is more true than ever.
(1) Home of Carl & Adele Meyer*. (2) Sydney Hibbett was an Engineer Apprentice. (3) 9th Feb. Night Trench Digging. (4) CorporalArthur Penning*, (Regular Soldier. Royal Garrison Artillery later Killed in Action).
NBS.Staffords War Diary: photocopied by Major Beedle, Staffordshire Regt. Museum, in 2002, to whom grateful thanks.
NEXT POST: 19th Feb. 1915. King George Vth Review & Farewell For France
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: POSTCARD to Mr. Dodger Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
Feb. 14th 1915.
What do you think of our air raid, a fine sight to see those 34 air birds flying over the seato accomplish their task (1).
This view showsOstend Stationwhich you know wasdestroyed for fear of becoming a Naval Base (2).
Thanks for your letter. Bert.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: POSTCARD to Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
Feb. 14th 1915.
Although the town is what you might call a villageit has not, as most villages have, a small ‘kirk’ but a noble edifice which greatly improves the appearance of the village.Within its walls have worshipped, it can proudly say now, the Staffordshire Brigade & North Midland Division & it possesses the old flags of the Essex Volunteers in the Boer War.
(1) Feb. 12th 1915: British NavalWing attacked German-occupied Zeebrugge&Ostend, targetting Railways & Stations. No Allied lives lost in one of the biggest WW1 raids. (On same day Kaiser ordered bombing of London Docks). (2) GermanBase for Submarines).
NEXT POST: 15thFeb. 1915: ‘Crack Sougers’ & ‘ A Sharp Shooter’.
We are all very busy, excepting the “sick” people & even they are looking slippy, Vernonat least, for there is an Inspection of the equipment & general appearance of the soldiers in uniform tomorrow at 9.30 a.m. (2)
Talk about taking the ‘cake’. I took some ‘toffee’ at any rate for the occasion. Had porridge on the march – yes on our feet.
“Mud, mud, mud, mud, never mind your muddy feet, step out smart & always mind you keep in file”.
Cleaned our buttons & hat badges for the occasion. Teaprovided in the Trenches at 11.30 pm – delicious flavour – somewhat resembled that of camomile & senna. Dismissed at 12.20 a.m. to Parade at 9.30next morning, equipment generally clean & rifles as well.
No 29 Locked – barred – at the tap of the knocker Landlord appeared in pantaloons – half asleep?Landladyup to give us a little supper. Fell through the floor when saw our general “muddied up” appearance – besmeared with clay & white marl so to speak.
I’m not half ‘picking’ up since I joined the army. Parade – voluntaryparade – at 5.30 – belt & bayonet, on the occasion of Bishop of Lichfield’s visit to the South Staffords Brigade (3).
Will write soon. With fond love.
Bertie I was, Bertrus I will be, Bertram I am
(1) Undated Letter: 10th Feb. fits timing in Letter with S. Staffs. War Diary re 4 Hours Night Trench Digging on 9th Feb. dismissed 12.20hrs on 10th.
(2) i.e.11th Feb. Coy Drill Shortgrove Park.1 Coy Quarterly Test J.D. one Coy Night Trench Digging 6 hours, officers revolver practice. NB J.D. means Joint (North Midland) Division.
(3) Bishop of Lichfield’s Visit (info. pending).
NEXT POST: 14th FEB. Two Postcards: Saffron Walden ‘Kirk’ & Soldiers Marching in Ostend.
4th FEB. Inspection by G.O.C. N.M. Division to attack Little Walden 10.30 am (in conjunction with 1/6th Staffs Regt).
5th FEB. One Coy Bridging, one Coy Outpost, 2 Coys Fire Direction & Control at Audley End Park.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
29 Gold Street, Saffron Walden
Feb 5 / 15. Pay Night 8 pm
My Dear Mother,
I can taste the butter, & I do believe you’ve gone & put some eggs in it too, such a lovely flavour there is in the toffee – most delicious. I offered Vernon some just before going on Parade on Thursday. He forgot his share & left it on the table. I thought it was his but did not want to force it on to him. He was quite put out that he had forgotten the toffeefor he, two others and myself, as well as Corporal Sanger * in command, formed the advance guard in the attack (1) & the day was lovely and bright and Vernoncould just do with some toffee in his mouth. He did enjoy the toffee when he got it and didn’t refuse some more when I offered him a second dose. Syd also enjoyed it.
These two sheets have stuck. I thought it was all one. Are the socks for Syd or for me? (Just finished my lump– I say its a long time since I started it!).
I ‘tumbled’ across Lieut. Tim Cozens* (2) – no not tumbled, for I tried to give him a good salute& he simply beamed all over with smiles – didn’t say anything of course, but just raised his hand in reply. He was carrying an ‘oddity of white’ on his shoulder (3) – something like a dirty clothes bag, Ha! Ha! What eh! ‘naughty boy don’t let me hear you say that again!‘
You ought to have seen the orcifers (sic) playing at children this morning. Well, Capt. Lister’s Company and Captain Moore’s Company(4) were out on their own while the Battalion went out on a Route March. We went Bridge Building again. The Colonel*(5) turned up to see us (must have come away from the March). After Bridge Building the best runners out of each platoon had a Steeple Chase round the field – then we watched the officers trying to beat each other at Longest Jump.
Then how we roared with laughter when the two companies’ officers had a Tug of War. ‘A’ Coy won, down they all fell in the mud. ‘A’ Coy. again, Hurrah! ‘A’ Coy won in the Steeple Chase too. You should see our lankyParr*leap and jump and oh when he plays at Tug of War! He got his coat off and hat too and set to work. He showed off his ‘ganzy’ or cardigan, he has got a swanky one like the Colonel has got swanky pattees. And oh! you really cannot imagine what our Lieut. Parr is like skipping, his long legs flying about. Beg pardon, but he is a fine officer to be under & he supervised all the business of engineering in the way of bridge building this morning.
I say! try and cash that PO. I heard the shops have stopped taking POs. The Post Office will take ’em I believe. Well try and see. I am sending a 1915 half crown & a bran new 1915 sixpence for Basil. Good of you to suggest the idea of giving him the 6d before going in for the exam (6).To prevent breaking the good luck of thatlucky 6d you can send 6d back if you wish. I thought he would like a 1915 6d. I too was rather surprised to see such new coin so early in the year.
I have been tempted to buy a lot of lovely postcards, some specially for your collection & I daresay you will like one or two for your bedroom mantlepiece. I’m glad Okoo (7) shows you his PCs. I cannot very well send you all the comic cards. I find it a hard job which to send you.
Yes! Syd and I are feeling in the trim. I am in high spirits (not wine) myself, but Sydhas been either ill or in the dumps this last night or so. He has just gone to get it cured at the ‘pictures’ tonight with Vernon & Eddie Hateley*.
Eddie Hateley was invited by Vernon that when he went to Walsall on Home Leave he was to go to Dundrennon House & have tea. Well it turned out he went twice & sent Vernon some mince pies from them. Oh! he’s had a really good time of it, but it just shows, don’t it Mother – Fancy going twice. But Eddy is one of the best in the Company& I am so sorry he has to leave us, for he has been told off for ‘D’ Coy. He is a Signaller like Syd, but more experienced & so it’s a good job Syd isn’t so experienced for I should also lose him.
You like the note & Ida likes the beau – oh no I mean the bow (8) – that’s good, now I’m satisfied. And you all enjoyed a Happy Sunday, that’s another good thing. Yes Sid is coming home soon, so we are expecting & I shouldn’t be surprised if it’s free & on Saturday Feb6th or next weekbut I don’t want to disappoint you or cause anxiety. I just say what I’ve heard to fulfil the expressed desire you seem to put in your letters to us.
By the by I got the letter from Mother after I got the parcel. The letter posted on the 27th of Jan. So funny, it seemed & the two letters – the one in the box & the one sent alone were as different in character as chalk & cheese.
What can I say next. Well all along I have tried to keep my letters short & far between, but alas! I hope you look forward to them – that’s THE thing for Iwas disappointed when you expressed the lack of freshness & loss of being able to look forward to my letter, beg pardon.I remember now – you Mother were the only exception. At any rate I hope I succeed in keeping you, as well as myself, in the pink of good spirits (not Hall’s wine this time) (9).
Now I have done it now – I shall have to try to fill this sheet or there will be a calamity (10) .
Ida you are catching me up, how dare you try to write such long and chatty letters like MINE, I don’t think. And my word Mother, you have done more than your fair share of handwriting. Alas! for human nature, it cannot keep to scheduled rules and ‘lipped’ promises even between the affections of members of the famillee (sic) what oh!
We, Mother & I, said we should both write once a fortnight. I daresay you guessed I was straining myself the week after I left home, my word what a long time it seemed before I could write to you.
Now I hope I have not missed anything out. Keep well. I dreamed a vivid dream about Dad one night – awful it was, dear, dear!
I remain your affec. Bert.
PS I never thought I could write such a lorng letter. Never mind, as long as you can read it all’s well.
* S. Staffords War Diary. Regimental Museum, Whittington Barracks, Lichfield. (1) Attack on Little Walden. (2) Lieut Tim Cozens, (former Sunday School Teacher at St Matthews, Walsall. (3) Lieutenant’s stripes. (4) ‘A’ & ‘C’ Coy respectively. (5) Colonel Crawley* (6) Basil’s Junior Oxford Exam. (7) Basil’s nickname (& Dodger). (8) Staffs Brooch. (9) Hall’s Wine: a tonic wine – its ‘rich, revitalising power is evident to doctor and patient alike’. Find My Past website. (10) Started page 16. (On page 6 is written ‘5 has flown away’).
NEXT POST: 8th FEB. 1915:Night Trench Digging & Porridge on Foot.
1st FEB.Audley End Park, bayonet fighting, J.D. (1) night entrenching abandoned at 3.0 am, rain. Musketry Party at Luton, Kit Inspection & Interior Economy . 1 officer & 29 casuals (sick men) returned from Luton.
2nd FEB. Musketry Party marched from Luton to Dunstable: preliminary instructions overground in Field Firing, men billeted.
3rd FEB. Field Firing at Dunstable. 14 officers & 518 men returned to Saffron Walden.
4th FEB. Inspection by G.O.C. N.M.Division to attack Little Walden 10.30 am (in conjunction with 1/6th N. Staffs Rgt).
SIG. SYDNEY HIBBETT: POSTCARD to Mr. & Mrs HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall, Staffordshire.
Tuesday. 3rd Feb.1915.
Here we are in Dunstable.
We marched here from Luton at 10.am – here by 11.30 – carrying full pack and blankets. Billetsnot ready for us – so we marched through to see the N. Staffs finishing their advance.
Men were posted on all the roads to stop people whilst the bullets hailed over the countryside. Could see the thin khaki line advance drop down & a rapid fire open.
We then advanced over their ground about 2milesand lor!! The muck and chalk!! – lying down in it and plastered all over. We were just practicing for tomorrow (2).
Shall return to Saffron Waldeneither Wednesday or Thursday night.If raining hard tomorrow no firing.
Been very wet today & a strong gale. Hope to be home for next weekend.
Love from Sydney.
From February 1915 onwards, Pte Bertie’s Letters Home will be set against the activities recorded in South Stafford’s Regimental War Diary. (See Welcome Page). (1)J.D.- Joint Division. (2) Attack on Little Walden.
NEXT POST:5th FEB. 1915: Training Audley End, Saffron Walden.
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.