6TH MAY 1915: 300 – 400 SHELLS & ‘A FINE BREAKFAST!’

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

WULVERGHEM TRENCHES

4th May,1915 Tue:  Paraded for trenches 9 pm, in relief of 6th South’s.

5th May, Wed:  Wulverghem Trenches. Trench 8 (Pte Bertie Hibbett’s) shelled with shrapnel & HE from 3 pm. Capt Milner wounded when sniping.  Capt A. W. Smith reported sick. No 47 Pte J. Angell wounded.

6th May Thur: Enemy Artillery commenced shelling Trench 8  (Bertie’s) about 7.30 am till about 3.00 pm between 300 and 400 shells were fired.  French rifles and equipment much damaged. I man killed, 7 men wounded.  After nightfall rifle and Machine Gun fire directed on gaps in parapet but partially silenced by shrapnel fire from Heavy Battery (115th Battery R.G.A.

CASUALTIES: KILLED: 8444 Pte W. Lowndes (wounded since died).  WOUNDED: 9136 Pte T. Garbett;  8125 Pte J. Evans;  8826 Pte F.J. Bailley (1);  8783 Pte H. Ellens;  8316 Pte H. Flynn; 9707 Pte A. Chapman; 9495 Sgt J.W. Pitt;  8779 Pte S. Pitt.

Sgt J.W. Pitt showed coolness, resource, and courage during the shelling of Trench 8. 

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BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
BERTIE HIBBETT:
19 in 1914Pte

 ‘Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: L ETTER to  MOTHER & FATHER, Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

ARTHUR HIBBETT:   56 in 1914.

Mother at Tea.

Thursday May 6th / 15    King’s Accession 1910

My Dear Mother & Father,

Sid and I received your welcome parcel on Tuesday last, the day on which we left camp for the trenches for the 5th time. But we managed to divide the contents nicely. We knew the tea-cakes were home-made, although you did not mention the fact in the enclosed letter.  At any rate we had one between us for Thurs. tea & the other on Wednesday, when we had tea in the bay of the trench.  Tell Ida, or whoever made them, that they were lovely and light.  The fruit was very acceptable & the bananas again arrived wholesome.

This time we are having it rather exiting, but I shall have to leave out a detailed account until I  get home.  I made a fine breakfast again, as we generally do in the trenches, but today was especial for I had a mess tin of lovely hot cafe au lait.  The chocolates were the finishing touch.  Sid wouldn’t think it one without a bit of chocolate.

At last we have got Harold’s parcel of useful presents including Carbolic soap & just the bar of chocolate I was going to ask you to send next time – Cadbury’ Bournville plain 1d.  

It will be four more days then & Harold will have made the 3rd one to be ‘far’ from home, yet I suppose he will no doubt pay a ‘home leave’ now & then.  Vernon told me specially to thank you for ‘the parcel’ as he put it &  I could not make him understand or rather I could not understand with regard to Mr Evans (2) asking Dad how Vernon himself  was getting on, but now I recollect that he was one of those ‘on sickwith diarrhoea, a petty complaint with the majority of us.

It was a very funny coincidence, for Sid & I were having one of our chats together about home & other homely affairs, seated straggle (sic) leg on a form in the trench one night &  I suggested writing to you to send Vernon some ‘crumbs of comfort as he loves a smoke, but Sid was not of my opinion & now you’ve sent the chocolate I think you have sufficed.

I had better close now.  What a pity we have to keep home letters short.  I could write on and on, but must acknowledge Harold’s parcel.  He addressed his last letter to Sid & the parcel to me for a change.

Did Basil have a pleasant Birthday?  Sid & I pictured you all at tea. 

Best love,   Bertie.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

‘Rather Exciting‘ –  8 hours shelling on Bertie’s Trench 8   & over 300 – 400 shells! – an understatement & a half! 

(1) Pte F.J. Bailley* friend of Hibbett family. (2Enoch Evans*, solicitor, later Mayor of Walsall.

NEXT POST:  9th May, 1915. ‘Through the Mill’.

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3rd MAY 1915: ‘BROTHER CLASPS THE HAND OF BROTHER’.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE

1st – 3rd May 1915:  In Hutments ‘Bulford Camp.

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
BERTIE HIBBETT: 

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to his Sister IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall. 

Camp.             May 3 / 15

IDA HIBBETT. 27 in 1914.
IDA HIBBETT.
28  in 1915..

My Dear Sister Ida,

The Battalion Band has just struck up a lively air.  Sid & I and F. Bailey* etc are lying in the grass in a hollow listening to it (1). I am of course trying to write to you as well.

Another sunny afternoon for Church ServiceSid & I have been on parade & have attended a most beautiful service of Holy Communion, administered on the field. 

I found out, when I sent my May Day letter to Mother, that I had missed some touchy bits I had put in my draft  (I made a draft being a special letter).  Sentry duty being monotonous at times one’s thoughts are likely to wander.  Now don’t come to the conclusion it’s through laziness yo ho!  I’m aye ready for any of the wiles of the enemy – but you can just understand although not in the same circumstance.

Well my thoughts werewhere do you think – why of Home Sweet Home (2).

Home Sweet Home. Sheet Music version published in 1914.
Home Sweet Home. Sheet Music version published in 1914.

I repeat those words again (3), ‘Guide there my affections, my thoughts‘ – & now my pen or rather pencil.  Well I thought of Mother as usual & I also missed the music of Home & so I began to whistle songs & hymns.  I whistled & half sang that lovely song The Brook’(4). I pictured Mother at the piano accompanied by Dad playing.  Other songs were ‘Jerusalem’(5), which reminded me of Nottingham (6).

I promised to tell you about the article I read in the Daily Mail I managed to get hold of.  Well I think I could have begun the article a little better than Miss Wise by letting Poor Georgia have been an adopted child; it would have been more fitting for the object of the article’ a filler- in‘.  At any rate Poor Georgia was plainly dressed & had ugly features somewhat.  At Sun. School the Teachers had quite a dispute & none would have her in their classes, but it so happened that the pianist took pity on her & said that . . . .  (Pages missing here sadly!)   

PS  I enclose two letters which I know you & Mother & all at Home will be pleased to read  & so you will know that we are remembered & we are often if not continually in the thoughts of all in dear old England

We have discarded pants, but the day we took them off – & since – the weather has been colderToday there has been a cool breeze, but how lovely it was to have Church Service in the sunshine.

‘Brother clasps the hand of brother’ goes that lovely hymn. (7)

We should be delighted with either a tin of pineapple chunks or Mother’s favourite apricot & cream Yo ho!  

Best wishes,   Bert.  

PS You may let Mother read this tooLet me know if & when you got my letter to Basil & Mother.  PS  Vernon has just given me another letter of his to read.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1)  My father always loved to hear a Band; he had a fine singing voice and used it well for intoning the Anglican services after he was ordained. (2) Home Sweet Home: music Sir Henry Bishop; lyrics John Howard Payne, 1823. (3Kipling: See Letter 1st May 1915.  

(4) The Brook: Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1809 -1892. Poet Laureate.  (Born Somersby, Lincolnshire, where his father was Rector.  I like to think that I was taught in the same rooms as he was at King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth, and that his poem‘Flower in the crannied wall. . . ‘ was inspired by the School House Lane wall I passed everyday. NB  Unable to locate the music score unless it is the hand-written one in Indian ink, titled ‘Spring’ – found in the same envelope.  (5) Jerusalem:  William Blake. 1757 -1827. Romantic Poet & Painter 

(6) Bertie Hibbett was born in Nottingham, (1895) where his father Arthur Hibbett was Organist & Choir Master at St. Mary’s High Pavement. The family moved to Walsall around 1903. 

(7) Hymn: Through the Night of Doubt & Sorrow. Bernhardt S. Ingermann 1826. (Translated from Danish by Sabine Baring Gould, 1834 – 1924).Sabine Baring-Gould. The line quoted above continues:Stepping fearless through the night‘.)

 

1st MAY 1915: Friendly Fire & Forget-me-nots.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

WULVERGHEM TRENCHES

26th April, Mon: Two working parties of 200 men each on G.H.Q. lines.  Bn paraded for Trenches at 8.50 pm & relieved 1/6th S Staffs Regt.   27th April, Tue: Wulverghem Trenches.  Heavy artillery fire all day, mainly on our right. Aeroplane duel about 6.0 pm over Wulverghem. Casualties: 085 Sgt W. Stevens, 9491 Pte J. Parkes both of ‘A’ Coy, wounded by rifle fire.  Gap between 10a & 10b completely closed.

28th April, Wed :  10a support trench shelled. Sniping from Messines. Casualties: Wounded:4468 Sgt W.J. Yardley, ‘A’ Coy 9012 Pte G. Wyley, ‘D’ Coy wounded. 29th April, Thur:  Shell from supporting battery struck 10b Trench seriously wounding Capt. Mc Craith, (North Midland R.E.)  Killing Pte W. Martin, (M.G. section). Other Casualtieswounding 8436 Dr. H. Mills ‘A’ Coy., 8526 Pte J. Lewis. ‘A’ Coy.

30th April, Fri:  Quiet day. Six shells fell in Wulverghem village about 4.0pm.  Casualties – Wounded:9332 Pte N.C. Hilton, M.G. section wounded.  1/6 S Staffs Rgt. relieved us 11.45 pm Bn to Bulford Camp. Casualties: L.Cpl. H. Meyrick, ‘B’ Coy & 8908 Pte V.C. Hough ‘C’ Coy wounded during relief.

CASUALTIES during month : KILLED: 7 OtherRanks  (includes 8990 Sgt J. Sanders (attd R.W.) killed at Dickebusch, 27.4.15);  DIED OF WOUNDS: 2  O. R. ; DIED IN HOSPITAL: 1 O.R. ; WOUNDED: 2 Officers, 25 Other Ranks.   

Signed Raymer Lt Col Comdg. 1/5 S. Staff Regt. 

1st May 1915: NEUVE EGLISE, BULFORD CAMP HUTMENTS.

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Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MOTHER, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall. (Pages 5 – 8 only)                                                                                                         May Ist/ 15  (Basil’s Birthday)

Page 5 . . . . . .  Our little place under the ground (1) was nice & cool while Sid and I broke into a parcel from Mrs Jones*How generous of her to have sent again & she must have kind thoughts of us to pop a long letter in each time and to say “There is something very pleasant in sending comforts to our ‘dear lads at the front.

Two tins of Embassy cigs for Syd and some Nestles ChocNow this war is on I do not think Nestles Milk choc is such good quality, but I enjoyed it very much because it was from a friend of Mother’s.  She told us you had gone to tea that Monday afternoon.

I am proud of Sydney & admire him for his modesty (2).  He has done some sniping & I shouldn’t be surprised if the result was – well I’ve suddenly taken a serious turn – rather sad to say.

Ask Ida what afiller-inis. I managed to get hold of a Daily Mail.  One of the days I read a jolly article, yet a pretty one, entitled Poor Georgia – she was a ‘filler-inall through life & it ends up something like this  ‘And heaven was full but there happened to be just a little spot that no one would take & so Georgia ‘filled it in’!

Wouldn’t you all like Sid & me to come on Home Leave now?  I have had a new tunic and puttees & bootsYou would admire the little bit of scarlet at the back of our hat badges (red & khaki go well together) and Sid with his a new tunic and stripe

In camp I frequently come across our friend Ball* with his rosy cheeks & kindly smile.  Last time I saw him at the washing place in the field.  He said he had got another boil; the one on his neck has quite gone.  I remembered Mrs Jones* to Cyril Hind* & he went on to say that Miss K. Brookes* had read part of my letter, and his, to her Class. (3)

I’m glad Dodger had a good time at Easter, he will miss the rides with Mr Cox (4) as well now Mr Cox is going to Devonshire.  I received a very interesting letter from Miss Foster* telling of her time in Scotland.  She says she is also anxious about us both.  I got her letter with Basil’s mile long one today.

Sid, I think, would like for his 21st birthday a few crumbs of comfort – cigs, some chocolate 3d and 6d Cadbury’s Mexican & a cigarette case You can pop a few cakes in & perhaps a tin of Nestle’s Milk to make tea taste nice.  A tin of pineapple chunks would not be amiss for we crave sometimes for something cool to eat or drink.

If Miss Bore* wants to send us anything tell her to send some acid drops & bulls eyes again, for its time for those now.  Well I’ll finish up my May Day letter referring to the Boy of the Day (5).  How goes he on the piano now?  I should think he ought to give you real pleasure with some nice tunes.

Vernon’s older brother* has his birthday today the first of May too.  I hope sincerely that Basil will get through & not be excited about the exam after all the long time of preparation.

Remember us both to Tom Ser* [& Bes] (6) – if they are ‘nice’ yet- ha!  ha!

Dear Mother I hope this letter will give you some comfort.  I have tried & I hope my little effort will have good effectalso the lovely little forget-you-nots;  but the pressing has taken the pretty light blue out of them.

They remind me of Rudyard Kipling’s hymn:–  Lord God of Hosts be with us yet, Lest we forget – lest we forget! Lord bless my Home – guide there my affections-  my thoughts – my pen. Tho’ sundered far – by faith we meet   Around one common mercy seat. (7)

Fondest love from your affect. son,   Bertie.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) Listening Post ‘like a Walsall pit’. (2Sydney Hibbett had just been promoted to Lance Corporal. (3) Sunday School Class at St Paul’s, Walsall. (4)  Mr Cox, probably the farmer Basil Hibbett (future agriculturalist) helped out during school holidays. (5May Day 1915 was Basil’s 17th Birthday. His exam was probably Junior Oxford. (6)Tom Ser & wife Bess ( Uffington friends? information pending).

(7) Rudyard Kipling: b. Bombay, India.1865 -1936. The People’s Laureate’. Short story writer, poet & novelist/ children’s classics. Won Nobel Prize for Literature. Lost son at Battle of Loos, Oct 1915. Critical of British Army. Involved in Imperial War Graves Commission.

Poem: ‘Recessional’ (composed for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897) repeats the refrain ‘Lest we forget‘ (i.e. the sacrifice of Christ/ representative of all Humanity). Adapted by the Anglican Church as a hymn/ used especially at Armistice Day/ Remembrance Services. Frequently found on War Memorials.

NEXT POST: 3rd May 1915.