‘46th Division (North Midland) landed in France at Havre on 3rd and 5th March 1915. Sent, after rest, to old Salient outside Armentieres. 1st ‘baptism of fire’. After a few days took over the section of line facing Messines.’
SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
March 6th 2.25 a.m. Train left. Travelled via ROUEN-Monterolier – BUCHY – ABBEVILLE – CALAIS – St OMER to ARNEKE. Arrived Arneke started detraining at 11.30 p.m. finished 2.15 a.m. This long time detraining was due to there being no dock available for transport of horses. High ramps had to be used down to ground level.
March 7th ARNEKE. Finished detraining 2.15 am – went into billets in farms – rather scattered, some Coys 2 miles apart. March 8th: Remained in billets – a few billets changed for better ones. Lecture by G.O.C. N.M.D. all Officers & Sgt Majors. Coy Inspections.
March 9th Tue: Marched 9.30 am about 13 miles to BORRE arrived 2.30 p.m. Very slow halting march, a great deal of traffic on roads. Billets in farms better than before. Left cooker with broken pole at Arneke (1) Warned to be ready to turn out at 1 hrs notice.
March 10th: BORRE. Remained in billets. Coys did physical drill & short route marches. Sent to Arneke for cooker – didn’t arrive. Drew 250 pairs of gum boots.
March 11. Thur: Received order 10.10 am to be ready to march at 11. am – were actually ready at 12.0 noon. Marched at 1.0 p.m. leaving behind fur coats & surplus stores – by order – marched about 12 miles arriving at 8.00 p.m. Very halting match, great many troops moving on same & cross roads. Whole Batt. billeted in one farm, 1 mile from ESTAIRES – called TROU-BAYARD.
March 12th Fri: Remained in billets, warned to be ready to move at any time from 6.0 a.m. Short route marches by Coys. Physical drill – Coy drill.
March 13th Sat: Remained in billets –warned to move at any time from 5.30 am. Short route marches. Later warning to move at 2 hrs notice. Cooker arrived back from Arneke.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mr & Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall. Censor WE Wright.
Samedi. Trieze March
My Dear Mother and Father,
On Wednesday night last (2) 20 of us in that attic had a pleasant surprise, especially Sid and myself. The only light we had was an oil lamp placed in the centre of the floor. The postman came in with a bag full of letters & his overcoat pockets full of them too. We crowded round the little lamp & listened to the names called out & watched the piles of letters. At last Sid and I got yours & very interesting too they were. (3)
Bravo Okoo! I guess you would like to see him in his uniform which he bought of his own expense! (4)
We should like to see him over here, but you dear Mother, you have done your share & its nice to think you have your youngest and eldest sons safe.
I have had a very good dinner & am at peace with all the world, except the G—mans. The guns have been sounding all the time we have been here & aeroplanes have been constantly flying about.
We marched to this barn on Thursday & reached it at dark (5). So we have slept in it two nights now. I guess you look forward more to our letters now. I am running short of note so it would be a good idea if you could put a sheet in the next letter you send, like Mrs Penning did. You were very kind in writing to her.
Father, & you I guess, know that we shall not be able to write often now. So do not be over-anxious if you don’t receive a return letter to any of yours.
I suppose Dad got the French newspaper? I am afraid of writing more for fear I say something the Censor (6) will not pass & consequently you will not get the letter at all.
You were very kind in asking if we wanted anything. I hope you will all spend a pleasant Sunday & give a smile to the laddies of Sunday School for me, ha! ha! I received a P.C. from Mrs Brookes yesterday.
Best love to all, Your ever affec. son Bert.
Railway Route to the Front marked + + + +. Front Line at Ypres Salient, in 1915, was largely the same as in 1916.
(1) ‘Cooker’ was most probably a Field Kitchen. (2) Borre, 10th March in a farm attic. (3) First Letters received since March 1st. (4) Basil’s QMS Cadet uniform? (5) Whole Battalion in Trou-bayard Farm near Estaires. (6) Censor: Captain W. E. Wright.
NEXT POSTS:17th March; 24th (x 2) and 28th will be posted late owing to unforeseen circumstances.