SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
April 9th Fri. Inspection of ‘B’ & ‘C’ Coys by Brigadier. Working Parties. April 10th. Sat Bn paraded at 6.30 pm for trenches to relieve 1/6th S Stafford Regt. Relief completed 11.0 pm. Casuality: 9414 Pte D. Jones ‘C’ Coy wounded during relief. Trench Parade 6.30.
April 11th. Sun. Wulverghem Trenches. Quiet day. Captive balloon up from Messines. English aeroplane over hostile trenches received from trench garrisons. Officers’ patrols examined cross sap Trench 8 (Bertie’s) (1) to Trench 10a & worked up to German wire. Casualities: Killed: 8346 Pte W. Durrant (M.G. Section) 114 Pte H.J. Rock both ‘C’ Coy. shot thro’ head. Wounded 9466 Pte A. Tortoishell ‘D’ Coy.
April 12th Mon. Working Party in Trench 8 (Bertie’s) under heavy fire about 2.00 am. 10a & 10b Support & Wulverghem village shelled between 4 – 6 pm. No damage. heavy transport heard moving at back of German lines about 9.30 pm. Officers’ patrols again examined cross sap & reconnoitred German Listening Post. Casualities: Killed 6943 Cpl G. Howard ‘D’ Coy Wounded: 9068 Pte W. Smith ‘A’ Coy.
April 13th. Tue. Five H.E shells dropped into Trench 9c. about 12.15 pm. Casualties: Wounded: 9088 Pte G.H. Benton seriously wounded (died same night). 8070 Pte R. Bradley ‘A’ Coy wounded. Two men buried in collapse of dugout, not hurt. Trench 10b shelled between 3-4 pm. No damage. Burst of rapid fire from German lines between 8 &11 pm.
April 14th.Wed. A few shells fell N of Wulverghem about 1.0 pm. Casuality: 8906 Pte W. Hough ‘C’ Coy wounded. Relieved by 1/6th S Staffs. Relief complete 11.0 pm. Marched to ‘Bulford Camp’.
April 15th. Thur, & 16th Fri. Neuve Eglise. Drill. Kit Inspection. Working Parties. Musketry on 30x range for indifferent shots. April 17 Sat. Baths all day.
Saturday April 17/ 15
My Very Dear Mother,
I can see Sid is settling down, like I am, to thank you as much as ever we can for such a handsome ripping parcel again. We are both glad you sent us some fruit for we never get any green vegetables, excepting now and again, in the way of Marconoci (sic) tinned pontoon, consisting of carrots, haricot beans, potatoes, meat & soup. (2)
We have not long had dinner; we shall enjoy the currant bread & butter for tea & will write later saying how we appreciated the cafe-au-lait. I guess we shall be in the trenches again before we finish off the contents.
I believe we go in for the last time at this place, but for six days not 4 as usual. We shall be able to make hot water on the little braziers (3). I can say Mother that I have enjoyed the best breakfast I have had since we’ve been . . . (censored). . . here in the trenches. I can get the bacon nice & hot, & fresh tea all hot, whereas in camp with waiting in the queue the tea is generally cold or lukewarm.
Sid and I received a PC each from Garvock Hill (4) where Miss Foster* spent her Easter. You have had bad weather in Walsall, so had she, snow & rain. We also had two lovely postcards of Ashton (5) from Dodger. I guess you remember well the Dingle (6). It looks very pretty from the PC. Basil misses us, I read, yet he says he may as well enjoy himself as much as possible while he is about it. Quite so.
Please don’t be too anxious, dear Mother. We shall treasure and appreciate the glorious home-coming still more if we take things patiently. What did you think of my letters ? – not morbid are they? Ida’s letters were read with homely pleasure (if there’s such a phrase). I got such a ‘nice’ letter too from Miss Brookes* at Southport. Mr Brookes* seems rather interested in my letters too. I shall have to take great care over my grammar & let Sid write oftener.
We went to another bath this morning. I must apologise for not letting you know we do get paid. We were paid 5 francs yesterday (7). Sid had 10 francs because of his being away about the time when you sent your last but one parcel. So you must not send anymore. We do not know how to express our gratefulness.
You were very good in remembering the Emery cloth which is of good quality too. I have your photos yet. Could Harold send us some more? – one of us taken from the inside of the tent at Abergele?
I sent a letter to Tom Ser (9) thanking them for some chocolate – got while we were on sentry in the trenches. This Nestles of yours is lovely. Sid can’t go without a bit.
PS Could you send some thicker & white note as this lead (pencil) does not show so plainly.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to FATHER, Educational Offices Lichfield St, Walsall.
Saturday April 17/ 15
Sidney and I have written this afternoon to Mother thanking you all for another parcel of good things. Sorry we did not inform you that we do receive pay, – about once a fortnight. So Mother must not send any more, although the cash will come in useful in the way of getting vegetables if there is any knocking about.
We could do with more note paper & of a thicker wove for indelible lead does not show very well on the type paper. A few indelible leads would be very acceptable if you would be kind enough to send us some. So Henning (10) packs up the parcels does he? How goes the Institute & have you finished feeding the poor? (11)
Your affectionate son, Bertie.
PS: I could do with a Seidlitz Powder (12 ) in your next parcel.
(1) Cross sap trench: communication trench dug below ground/ underground gallery out of sight of enemy. A ‘sap head‘ was usually around 30 yards forward of the Front Line and used as Listening Post for enemy activities e.g Laying bombs. [My father told me that he & his fellow ‘Listeners/ Hearkeners’ listened for the sound of digging and when it stopped they got out as quickly as possible and British sappers tried to set off their mine and occupy the crater before the Germans did]. John Simpkins has useful Trench System website: Sparticus Educational <http://www.sparticus-educational.com>
(2) Maconochie: meat & vegetable ration/best eaten hot but required heating in boiling water for 30 mins so often eaten cold in trenches. Peter Sauer has a great website: The Joy of Field Rations with WW1 Army recipes to try out. (3) Braziers:
(4) Garvock Hill, Dumfermline, Fife. (5) Ashton-under-lyne, Tameside, Greater Manchester (Family Home of Marie Neal (Yoxall) Hibbett. Bertie Hibbett’s cousins the ‘Ashton Boys’ volunteered in 1914, see Aug.1914 letters). (6)The Dingle: area in Ashton, possibly Yoxall family home.
(7) French/ Belgium Franc: 25 to pound sterling in 1915. So Pte Bertie received less than £5 a fortnight. (When France left gold standard in WW1 the franc lost 70% in value. See website Old Sweats).
(8) Green Envelope: Pte Bertie’s first use of new official envelope/Army’s attempt to speed up censorship of 1,000s of letters sent home in 1915. Soldier signed on back: I certify on my honour that the contents of this envelope refer to nothing but private and family matters.
(9) Tom Ser: Hibbett family, possibly Bertie Hibbett’s uncle; lived at Uffington, Rutland. (10) Henning/Hemming: Arthur Hibbett’s Secretary at Education Office, Walsall. (11) Walsall Municipal Science & Art Institute. (12) Seidlitz Powder: effervescent salts (bicarbonate of soda, Rochelle salt & tartaric acid) to aid digestion or as a laxative.
NEXT POST: 23rd April, 1915.