South Staffordshire BadgeeTHE  HISTORY of  SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT 1914 -1918 (1).

General Plumer.
General Herbert Plumer.

June 1915: South Staffs moved further north to Ypres Salient as 46th N. Midland Division now joined the 2nd Army under General Plumer (2).


27th 28th 29th June:  In Hutments near OUDERDOMCASUALTY: No 9713  Pte J.Monk, ‘D’ Coy, wounded while on working party.  30th June, Wed:  In Hutments near OUDERDOM. CASUALTY: No 9006 Pte. B. Hopley, ‘D’ Coy wounded while on working party.


Signed:  R. RICHMOND RAYMER Lt. Col. 1/5th S.Staffs Regt.   4.7.15.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to brother, BASIL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall. ( With newspaper cutting contrasting Lord Kitchener favourably  with Lord Fisher, First Sea Lord) (3 &4).

Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.
Basil Hibbett 1916. Age 17. 1915.

Woden’s Day me Lord. June 30th / 15

My Dear Dodger,

I’ve just finished tea so if there’s any sticky marmalade besmeared somewhat on the pages of this letter today I will hereafter be right sorry somewhat.

It’s a lovely hot day again, but oh dear we’ve started having six-hour drills per day in full pack (5).

Before I go any farther I must thank Mother for her very nice letter written on Sunday.   I will answer it  tomorrow for sure an’ I will.

You would like to have a fortnight –  say out here as an holiday.  On Sunday & Monday evenings I visited the I(ndianCamp (6).  They were dressed in khaki, just like us, only with khaki turbans on with red tassels. Tell Mother (I know she admires themthey are really splendid & marvellous & so sociable I am ‘struck’ by them everyday I see them, but they have left us now.  I had some of their oatmeal cakes called chipatte & they gave me some corn that they eat.  You would be amused at their sergeant beckoning –  & when they fall in they cease whatever they are doing & fall in straight away, some of their braces dangling behind, some in shirts sleeves, some with blankets around them & anyhow.

Vernon. Sydney & I had a letter sent to each of us from dear Mrs Penning*.  I will refer to them in Mother’s letter.   One night this week as I slept under this canvas tent, (by the by Sydney & Vernon are with me), I was awakened by the sound of bagpipes, such a lovely sound & the music came familiar to me.  Then early this morning, about 3.30, I heard a most glorious brass band, big drums & hornets, trumpets, clarinets, euphoniums, trombones of all keys, bass, soprano.  What a fine marching air & then I heard the sound of men singing & when the band ceased they cheered like billy ho.  We made out that it was the L & L coming out of the trenches (7).

We go on a route march often while in Camp & once I saw the men in kilts & glengarry & the men practicing the pipes. How we cheered when the Reserves came in to us the other evening with our band escorting them.

Tell Dad  Charlie H.* (8) is with us nowPoor chap, –  you know he had the bridge of his foot brokenI admire the General of the Division every time I see him. He does remind me of Mush* (?).  Why, by the by, isn’t Mush in khaki like the others?   Vernon gave me a most humorous letter from his sister Molly to Sydney & myself.  He showed me some funny photos of Norman & Molly playing at soldiers. I wonder if Mrs Evans showed Ida the one of Molly as a soldier.

Tell Ida  I didn’t  ‘Stand it’. Perhaps she’ll think I’m a bit of a tomnoddy slacker (9), jokingly putting it, but you see I lay down.  ‘Underconstubble un’stand’ – as a sergeant sais when drilling us.  She said she felt jolly tired & wondered how I stood it in the shell hole.

I will close now wishing you the best of luck in the exam. ‘Keep ya pecker up‘ as Okoo* sais.


PS  The last pot of cream was richer than those before – we like it thick.  Could Mother put some water cress in the next parcel as we get little or no green vegetables.

  PPS  To let you know we got everything & enjoyed everything I say I relished the plum cake with its nuts. The bit of cash will come in handy.  I hear the place where we can get something in the way of luxuries has been shelled The sugar will be sure to come in useful.  As a matter of fact the whole jolly parcel was spiffing.  The tomatoes arrived quite whole in a splendid condition.

Bertie.       Censor: WE Wright



NB: Pte Bertie Hibbett was in a canvas tent / bivouac, not a wooden hut at Ouderdom; a very large Camp accommodating  several Regiments ‘lent’ to the Division  after the bitter fighting of the 2nd Battle of Ypres in May – & all with their morale-boosting Bands. My father knew his musical instruments & knows his brother will be interested.

(1) The History of the South Staffordshire Regiment is kept at the Regimental Museum, Whittington Barracks, Lichfield. (2) Field Marshall Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, Commander V Corps 2nd Battle of Ypres April 1915, took command of 2nd Army May 1915; June 1917 won Battle of Messines.  

(3Admiral of the Fleet, John Arbuthnot ‘Jacky’ Fisher 1841-1920; ‘argumentative, energetic, reform mindedconsidered to be second only in importance to Lord Nelson in history of the Navy.  See wikipedia.

Admiral of the Fleet John Arbuthnot Fisher. 1841-1920.
Admiral of the Fleet John Arbuthnot Fisher. 1841-1920.

(4) Newspaper Cutting (Times? no date, marked in pencil):  ‘A CONTRAST. Compare this action with the dignified and patriotic attitude of Lord Kitchener – that silent sentinel of our Empire.  No attack, no personal consideration of any kind, perturbs him. He is the Soldier of his Job; and from early morning till late night, and frequently through the night, there he is at his post –  creating a British Army three millions strong, and all the while keeping his hand on the pulse of the colossal fighting bodies of all our forces in the field.  Try to realise the immensity of the task – and then you will get some idea of the greatness of the man. And why shouldn’t Lord Fisher be equally great?  Perhaps the comparative inactivity of the Navy may have dulled his imagination; but who shall say how soon our great sea leviathans may be spawning out the fumes of hell which the Germans have flamed into fury?  Then indeed will the First Sea Lord be a mighty factor in our Empire’s life.  And Britons would sleep more peacefully in their beds if they knew the “Kitchener of the Navy” was sharing with the Kitchener of the Army the supreme responsibility for the conduct of the war.‘                                      

On the back of this cutting is an article about the American people ‘who cannot remain unmoved by the war that was to shake the world.  Eighty million people, bound to Europe by ties of blood, tied by sacred traditions which cannot be wiped out in a generation, allied to all the great commercial and manufacturing centres’

(5) Full Pack weight: 1914: 50 -58 Ibs. By 1916 ‘with addition of steel helmets, box respirators, wire cutters, bulldog shovels, grenades and ‘extra’ ammunition 70 – 90 Ibs. <www.Tommy1418.com>

Memorial to Indian Forces 1914-1918.
Memorial to Indian Forces 1914-1918.

(6) Indian Camp Ouderdom9,000 Indian soldiers died on the Western Front, through severe winter conditions as well as action of the enemy.  A monument dedicated to 130,000 Indian forces that served in WW1 is to south of Ypres Menin Gate, Memorial to the Missing

(7) L & L: either 4th & 5th Leicesters or Lancashires & Leicesters. (8) Charlie Harrison*. (9) ‘tomnoddy’ ‘: etymology possibly from ‘dodman’ the snail hence ‘slow‘ and therefore ‘foolish‘, ‘stupid‘ person.

NEXT POST: 1st JULY 1915.  Bully Beef Bungalow.


South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR DIARY


25th June, Fri: Marched out en route for OUDERDOM at 9.0 pm.

OUDERDOM. 26th June, Sat: Arrived at and occupied E Hutments, about 12.30 am. (1) Position on Map Sheet 28 YPRES 1/40,000.

Rough Map of Wulverghem & Neuve Eglise 1915, with modern roads deleted.
Rough Map showing distance from Neuve Eglise & Wulverghem Trenches to Ouderdom Reserve Camp and Zillebeke. (modern roads deleted. efw. 2015.

27th June:  In Hutments near OUDERDOM. (2)

Bertie in Uniform

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal Hibbett 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

‘Somewhere Else’.   Sunday June 27 / 15

My Dear Mother,

One of the ‘nicest’ parcels we’ve received.  I was expecting a parcel from either Harold, Auntie or Home. Just let me break off on to something else.

The authorities will not accept anymore white letters – all correspondence to be in green ones (3).  That means we must comply with the strict statement on the back that on our honour the letter is of nothing else but private & family matters.

‘I certify on my honour that the contents of this envelope refers to nothing but private and family matters.’ Signature (Name only)

So it’s rather awkward aint it, but I don’t think there’s much harm in saying I was in luck’s way for the last two days.

The rain came down in bucket fulls the night we left the camp & I with other sick men waited for the ambulance (4).

So yesterday I had a long rideIt was a lovely sunny day & I was looking forward to a parcel at the end of the journeyMy delight was complete when Dick*, a friend, led me to a hut where Vernon & Sydney were & Sydney gave me your letter & we indulged in the pineapple & cream.

Many thanks for the butter which improved the taste with the pineapple. No not even at the Front have I got used to eating dry bread with fruit, you’ve spoiled me with such ripping parcels.

A Major of the R.A.M.C. said I could do with a day or two rest with my boots off,  but there is no chance of rest here where we are now so I am on light duty today (5).  Now do not be anxious dear Mother one little bit, in fact to tell the truth my feet are practically better.  It was only a huge blister that Dick caught sight of & advised me to gosick” & what with the serjeant advising anyone who thought they would not manage the long marchWaiting a whole night & half a day for the ambulance eased & made my feet better.

What a dear happy cheerful letter yours to me was.  Yes, Mrs Jones said in her letter that you were standing the strain very well & with cheerfulness & smiles.  Not the exact words but the expression.  I cannot just get hold of the letter, Sydney has got it.  Did you have a happy pleasant day on Saturday, Walsall’s day for celebrating Alexandra Day (6).

I will just pop a piece of chocolate in my mouth; perhaps it will help me to make my letter more chatty.  On looking in the box I see I have a tomato left.  They came in splendid condition & my 1st one tasted fine.  I shall eat the other one with my other lovely scone & some good cheese given to me in my rations.  This Bournville is tasting ‘nice’.

Another sunny Sunday.  Again I can picture the rays of sun shining on the small family group in the pew (7) listening to the 1st Lesson about Samuel & the Israelites wanting a King.  The 14th verse strikes me as being very appropriate (12 chap. 1 Sam (8).  I well remember the tune to Oft in danger & re read it this morning.   ‘Fight, nor think the battle long Soon shall Victory wake your song.’ (9).

Just heard from A.O. Jones* who is sitting with me now; he has been ‘on sick‘.  He has just told me, Ida, that  R. Ball* is likely to have a commission in the A.S.C. Mechanical Depot (10).  I met Leonard Bailey* yesterday evening.  I do hope Basil will do well & I am so glad his teeth are in good condition now.  I hope too that he will keep his ‘pekker’ up & the exam will not make him ill in any way, with the hot weather too.

I picked some more wild roses meaning to send them in a letter yesterday, but I did not write yesterdayI feel awfully  ‘nasty’ with myself for brooding on the affair about my ill mood in Ida’s green envelope.  I mean for mentioning a word about it again in the one I enclosed with yours. (11).

I see you too uniquely headed your letter on 23rd – ‘Prince of Wales Birthday’.   Don’t be anxious Mother, we shall not be able to send so many letters now – green envelopes are not so plentiful as white ones.

Your affec. son.    Bertie.                        Censor EA Wilson.



(1) Pte Bertie Hibbett escaped the March from Neuve Eglise to Ouderdom, approx 10 miles in 3. 5 hrs. in hot weather & with full pack. (2) Staffords found 5th Leicesters nicely settled into their field on 22nd June 1915:


(3)  Green Envelope. Only one a month issued at this time. Pte Bertie was to write 10 Letters Home in July so this  issue must have increased considerably; to save time on censoring(4) Ambulance. A wagon drawn by horses or a motor ambulance. (Not to be confused with a Field Ambulance which was not a vehicle but a stationary post). See website:The Long Long Trail.

(5) Light Duty: excused physical activity/parades etc. (6) Alexandra Day.  Queen Alexandra, Danish consort of King Edward VII, established a Rose Day in 1912, to mark her 50 years in England. Silk roses were sold for hospital charities. She is said to have been inspired by a Danish priest who sold his own roses to help the poor.(7St Paul’s, Walsall.

(8) I Sam. 12. 14. This Hebrew source approves the appointment of a King over Israel, provided the people and the King  ‘serve and obey’ God’s voice’. (9HymnOft in danger, oft in woe. Words based on 1 Timothy 6.12, ‘Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…‘; the accent is on a spiritual fight rather than on a physical/ military one. Henry Kirke White. English Poet. 1785- 1806,  died age 21.

Henry Kirke White.

(Revised by 14 yr old Frances Sara Fuller Colquoun. MusicUniversity College.  Henry J. Gauntlet.1852.

(10) Army Service Corps Mechanical Depot.  The ASC was responsible for supply of goods, equipment & ammunition to Division Refilling Points from the Home Port  – & possibly on to dumps & stores nearer to Front Line. Each British Division ASC had 5 officers and  337 other ranks responsible for 45 x 3 ton lorries, 16 x 30 cwt lorries, 7 motor vehicles, 2 cars, and 4 assorted trucksSee website: The Long Long Trail.

(11) ‘Homesick’ Letter 5th June & 24th June.

NB NAMES: Starred * – information pending.

NEXT POST: 30th JUNE 1915. Bagpipes & Indians.


South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY



Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to IDA, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

Mid-Summer Day. June 24/ 15 (1)

My Very Dear Sister,  

IDA HIBBETT. 27 in 1914.
28 in 1915.

Have just read your usual three paged letter & its bucked me up further.  We have been inspected by the Army Corps General (2) you’ll know his name later; I guess it will be published.  He gave us a very encouraging address.  The Division is to be ‘lent’ to another part of the line for about three or four weeks.

Our trenches have been highly commended.  In fact our Colonel (3) said  in his personal address afterwards, that we have been praised by several other officers & our trenches were a ‘model’ to the British Army.  But we must not go with swelled heads, but in quiet determination to keep up & improve the high standard we have gained since the weeks after we started going into the trenches.  The General gave a very well spoken address, fluent and natural.

I’m comforted to read at the end of the PS, on the slip of paper, that you were not ‘put out’, or disagreed with my green envelope (4). Sydney did disagree and I was half sorry I wrote, but the lesson I can screw out of it now is what it showed we are all of us quite human, and are not always in the mood to write letters.  I think what put me down were two feelings within me, fighting one another.  One said ‘don’t fag about writing’ – another said, ‘think of Mother & acknowledge their kind thoughts & continued remembrance – & the Parcel’.   And dear Ida I hope you do, and all the others at home, appreciate the effort it takes at times to write, when one does not feel like writing sometimes.

Generally, I am very grateful to say, I love writing & think it is the best way of spending my spare timeThat is why I think I am so disgusted with myself when I feel I ought to write yet can’t collect my thoughts together.  You said it seemed a small thing to worry about, but dear Ida, small things can upset one enough to make men incompetent for THE work i.e. fighting the enemy.  

I was looking forward to a letter from home & my anxiety was completely dispersed & I was delighted when Sydney (who went for the parcels & letters for the Platoon) handed me your letter.

Best love to Mother, Father and all of you.    Bertie.

 PS  My greatest wish is that I live through the whole of the campaign & take part in it till peace is declared.  If I had Home Sickness ever so much I still don’t think I should care to be at home –  of course I could not be at home even if I wanted.



Pte Bertrie Hibbett belonged to the 137th Brigade, relieved by the 149th Brigade on 22nd June 1915).

‘Lent to other divisions fatigues’. CHAIN OF COMMAND numbers approx: CORP: 2 or more Divisions, 50,000 – 100,000 soldiers.  DIVISION: 18,000 (full strength) with 3 – 4 Brigades. Infantry BRIGADE: 1,500 – 4,000 in 3 – 4 Battalions. BATTALION: 1000 (full strength) 3 – 4 CompaniesCOMPANY: 500 – 800 in 3 – 6 Platoons.  PLATOON: 15 – 30 soldiers.

The Staffords, many familiar with mining and explosives, had impressed the Army with their efficiency & digging speed at Wulverghem and were now needed near Ypres (Ieper), approx. 11 miles north.

Rough Map of Wulverghem & Neuve Eglise 1915, with modern roads deleted.
Rough Map  showing Wulverghem; Neuve Eglise ; Messines (Mesen); Ypres, Ouderdom & Zillebeke. with modern roads deleted.  Adapted from Michelin Map.  EFW. 2015.

(1) The Summer Solstice/ Mid-Summer Day (when sun appears highest in the sky usually 21st -22nd June) was 24th June in 1915. (2) VI Army  Corps: formed in France 1st June, 1915, under Lt. Gen. Sir John Lindsey Keir, took over the British Lines at Ypres and first engaged at Battle of Loos, October, 1915.

(3) Lt. Colonel R. R.  Raymer, Cmdg. 1/5th S. Staffs.  (4) Green Envelopefor personal information only/ ref: Letter to Ida, 5th June 1915) .

NEXT POST: 30th JUNE, 1915.  Bagpipes & Indians.



South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY


21st June, Mon:  Hostile aeroplane over trenches, 4.15 am. dropped signals (1 white 2 green, 1 red) (1) C.1. MONMOUTH FARM and N. MIDLAND FARM shelled during morning. 2 shells dropped on parapet C.1. CASUALTY: No. 9822 Pte E. Birch wounded.

WULVERGHEM /MESSINES MAP of FARMS. redrawn with help of
WULVERGHEM / MESSINES: showing BRITISH FRONT LINE in Red and FARMS named by British Troops.  Redrawn with help of http://www.martlet-books.co.uk/bible.htm

22nd June, Tue: Three Hostile aeroplanes crossed line towards NEUVE EGLISE about 4.am. N. MID. FARM shelled in afternoon. 

149th  Brigade relieved 137th Brigade in trenches occupied by them. The 5th Northumberland Fusiliers took over C.1,  C.2 & Diagonal and position of C3 held byA’ and ‘B’ Coys.  The 6th Northumberland Fusiliers took over SOUVENIR FARM S.P. 4 dug-outs and N. MiIDLAND dug-outs occupied by Company of 6th S Staffs. (2)

23rd June, Wed:  NEUVE EGLISE. In Hutments, BULFORD CAMP.


BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
19 in 1914.

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to MOTHER & FATHER, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.   Post Mark 27 JU F P 149     Censor 447 E A Wilson   

Prince of Wales Coming of Age.  Wed, June 23/ 15  

My Dear Mother & Father,

‘1894 –  Notts fell on the floor!” (3)   

The Notts fighting men have been doing a bit of fine work (4) & it will soon be the time when we shall have the opportunity.  Our trenches have been highly commended by the General & those who are coming to take them over.  I think we shall not go back to them again We again spent only three days & so came out last night.  We were expecting to bivouac (5) but I suppose, because it rained, we came to the hutsHow delighted we felt on entering Camp to think we had the comfortable huts again & not be exposed to the cold & rain; for these last weeks it has been cold at nights.  

Prince Albert PC

I suppose if it were peace time there would be great rejoicing & celebrating today.  You see I have a unique way of heading my letters so that you can tell me, in a brief way, which letter you received at a certain date, for a delayed or missing letter causes anxiety to both sides.

We had lovely service after an equally pleasant celebration of Holy Communion in the open fields on last Friday morning.  The people of these two countries are of a more religious nature than the English.  What interested me during Holy Communion was a small group of children playing in the green grass, they were as quiet as mice.  I suppose they were somewhat impressed by the lovely little altar with the little cross & cloth,  also by the surplice & purple stole the Chaplain wore.

I’m sorry I forgot to say how I enjoyed the Jamaica orange.  I ate it on one of those very hot days & how I relished the juicy orange without pippins.  We shall have to fall in now for mess tin inspection.  I guess its Brewin’s savvy that’s spread such a rumour about the privates coming home.

Best love to all,    Bertie.

PS  Had letter from the Vicar this morning enclosing his address on socialism.  I need some dentifrice, perhaps Harold could supply that.  Before getting this into the post I will tell you that Vernon has had sent him two tins of Rowntrees Chocolate which he gave to Sydney & myself.  Shall I write to Mrs Evans?

Envelope June 27th PostmarkCensor

Censor 447.  EA Wilson. 



(1) German Markers dropped by Reconnaisance Planes to indicate main Farms & new Diagonal Trench for shelling? (2) cf. website:  Northumberland Fusiliers 1914 -1918.  A useful summary of the Wulverghem Trenches & their dangers:  Monday, 21st June 1915. The 4th Bn marched to Aldershot huts near the town of Neuve Eglise and twelve miles south of Ypres. It was a very hot and dusty journey that sapped the mens’ strength, but they soon recovered.

The following day Bn officers rode off to reconnoitre the new trenches under the guidance of an officer from the South Staffordshire Bn they were about to relieve.The trenches were to the east of Wulverghem village and ran along a high ridge with a wide expanse of ‘dead’ ground behind them. They had been very well built and significantly improved by the Staffordshires during their two month occupation. The German trenches were between one and three hundred yards to the east. It would appear that on the ride out to the trenches the officers were spotted by the Germans, because Col Foster, Major Gibson and their two orderlies were subject to directed artillery shelling for most of the ride back.’

(3) 1894 Notts Rhyme. Does anyone know  origin & meaning? (4) Notts Hand to Hand Fighting referred to in previous Letter. (5) Bivouac: portable canvas tent.

NEXT POST: 24th JUNE 1915. STAFFORDS ‘A Model to the British Army’.


South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


20th June, Sun.   Hostile aeroplane over trenches about 5.30 am.  Quiet day. Demonstration at 11.30 to ascertain enemy’s strengthArtillery fired 2 salvos, 2 burst of rapid fire opened with interval of ten minutes. Impression that enemy’s trenches more weakly held than usual. CASUALTY: Pte. B. Lakin wounded.   

Bertie in UniformPTE BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall

3rd Sunday after Trinity                                                             June 20 / 15

My Very Dear Mother,

‘O anxious one!  Sit still at Jesus’ feet, In quiet there thou hearest words so sweet.’   Very beautiful, comforting & soothing are those verses by Bessie Porter (1).  Yes they are all full of Mother, as I said in my letter after Mothering SundayThey also apply to me.  I have thought of a quaint coincidence.  I must ‘stand still’ on Sentry & you must ‘sit still’ at HomeI have just read them over again they are so fine. 

Bessie Porter: Elizabeth Ann Porter Head.
Bessie Porter: Elizabeth Ann Porter Head.

You got the pamphlet from the case of Bibles.  You were so generous as to call it mine I am half sorry that you sent it, but really such a poem helps wonderfully in my life away from home.  Yes we must ‘sit stillnot so literally speaking though.  I shall guess rightly if I say that your letter on the 16th Wednesday afternoon (when you said Ida was cutting the grass & it is nearly teatime) was sent posthaste to the General (PO), for I noticed the post mark – 5.15 pm 16.

So naughty Sidney, besides disappointing you with saying we shall move tohotter quarters’, will tend to make you more anxious, but ‘Be not impatient, but in stillness stand’ & again ‘leave it in His wise hands’. (2). He can work the impossible.  Yes none of us on earth can actually tell when this War will be over.  Peace can come any time, sooner or later. Let us pray that Peace will come soon.

Now I must say how sorry I was for not addressing my letters to you more often, but you know dear Mother, who said in her short address that Sunday afternoon (sunny as this is) to the girls in the Sunday school,  ‘Let our minds be as broad as the skies(3) & you will have noticed that I mention you in most of them.  I must apologise too for not letting you know that I have got your two pencils now, the one made in Manchester, called the ‘Popular copying’ and the yellow B pencil I am writing with the ‘Popular’ one now.

We had our rest this morning after doing Listening Post in the new place last night.  So I spent some of the time in reading the Psalms & I again pictured you in St Paul’s.  I can remember some of the chants now (4).

Now I will have my say with regard to Home leave.  We heard that Capt L. (5) & the Adjutant* had gone yesterday, Sat. so your words came true.  Our Platoon Commander seems to have an idea the privates will not get Home Leave for some considerable time, but it is not improbable that the NCOs will have Home leave after the officers & then there will be four men out of each Company go each day.

Oh rumours have been quite at large lately, but we, (Sydney & I) have thought it wisest not to alarm you & get you disappointed for fear we do not go home (6). Brewin* also had a curious letter saying they expected him coming home with Capt. L.  & W. (7).

Well I will close now, hoping you are spending a very Happy Sunday together.

The Hibbett Family at Tea:  Mother, Bertie, Sydney and Ida.
The Hibbett Family at Tea: Mother, Bertie, Sydney and Ida. Abergele. 1914.

I can picture you all at tea.  Sydney & I are going to have some of that nice tea from Home today.

Best love from Bertie.

PS  On Saturday morning we had a celebration of Holy Communion out in the open fieldThe Chaplain wore his surplice & purple stole & the altar was a lovely little one with cross & cloth complete.  What interested me were three little children, as quiet as mice, playing together without the circle of men in khaki (8). After the Eucharist we had an ordinary service when the Chaplain gave a very useful address upon the Gospel for the 2nd Sunday in Trinity about the feast (9).

I am finishing this letter about 6.o’clock.  I have been digging a communication trench all afternoon & thought of you about 4.30 at tea.  We are waiting to be relieved by the next (digging) party so that we can go & have our teas & I can enjoy some tea from home.  We were paid last Thursday so I got a tin of milk from a stall outside camp.   Shall you go to Rushall (10) this lovely evening?  I read that Mrs Jones* went to St Paul’s one Sunday.

PS  I shall have quite a number of headings to letters this week.  Tues. ‘Summer Commences’.  Wed. is ‘Prince of Wales Coming of Age’.

Censor WE Wright.



(1) Bessie Porter:  Elizabeth Ann Porter Head. 1850 -1936.  b. Belfast. Evangelical Hymn writer/ secretary to YWCA. Refs on the web to ‘O anxious one…’ state origin unknown, so thanks Dad. (2) ‘Be not impatient’: my father implies this is also by Bessie Porter. 

(3) Mrs Kathleen Brookes. Walsall Sunday School superintendent. (4) Anglican Chant grew from Medieval Plainsong tradition during Reformation.  Devised to provide musical settings to English language version of Psalter in Book of Common Prayer. 1662. ‘Matches natural speech-rhythms to notes in a simple harmonious melody‘ (Wikipedia).  Earliest known are by Thomas Tallis 16th Century. Used by Christian denominations world-wide. Under the influence of his father, Arthur Hibbett, organist & music teacher, my father loved both Plainsong and Anglican chant

 (5) Captain Lister*.  (6) Home Leave: in the event, NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) Sydney Hibbett did not get Home Leave until hospitalised with jaundice in Autumn 1915.   Private Bertie Hibbett never had Home Leave the whole of his Active Service (i.e. 17 months) and probably not until hospital discharge in Spring of 1917. 

(7) W: W.E. Wright: adjutant? /censor of most of the 1/5th Staffords Letters.  (8) Bulford Camp, Neuve Eglise attracted local people (& their children) eager to sell wares to soldiers. (9) St Luke 14.16. (10) Rushall Church, an evenings walk from 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

NEXT POST:  23rd JUNE 1915.


South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

18th June, Fri:  In Hutments Bulford Camp


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings. 18th June. ‘Battle of Waterloo (1)In Camp. Got some souvenir cards for Rev. E.  M. Darling’s son*, of ‘The  King of Belgians‘  – & ‘Entente Cordiale‘ for Mother100 years ago French were against us, now French are allies  – & Germans opponents’.

WW1 Postcard: Entente Cordial
WW1 Postcard: Entente Cordiale
WW1 Postcard: King of the Belgians. Sold in aid of WW1 Charities.
WW1 Postcard: King of the Belgians.


LETTER to Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

18th JUNE, 1915.

I guess Ida & Dodger can picture the neighbouring country our allied enemies 100 years agojust such another fine sunny afternoon.  re  Colonel Wade (3) Great Men all remind us They can make our love sublime And departing leave behind them Footprints in the sands of time. (4)

Centenary of Battle of Waterloo. 1815.  ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation’. Friday June 18th 1915.

My Very Dear Mother,

Another sunny dayThe Battalion went its usual route march before breakfast this morning. Certainly the march gives one an appetite for the fa’ bacon, but I think there’s no exercise in marching in full pack.

Well I must get on & answer all your past letters & I am very sorry Mother that I have not addressed enough letters to you, but I guess you will have seen that you are remembered & mentioned in the letters addressed to Basil & Ida etc.  Sydney received quite half a dozen letters Wednesday, including the ripping long one from Dodger;  the others were from Miss Foster*.  She sent her usual page letter, always the same note & a box of Egyptian cigs.  I don’t think she must be so well off,  for she took the cigs out of the tin box to save postage; at any rate it was very good of her to remember us so. 

Sydney gave me his letters (home) to read yesterday & I popped in a line to say  I was writing today.  Isn’t Sydney a knut eh! see where I underlined his comic phrase. We both thoroughly enjoyed the currant bread at tea-time outside the hut in the sunshine together –  & Vernon handed us a slice of currant cake which made a pleasant appetising tea.  Many thanks for the useful sugar & we shall treasure the tea from home.

You do surprise – 2 parcels coming on top of one another almost.   I forgot to put the photo of Colonel Wade in the letter I wrote at Souvenir (5).  I must congratulate you on the improvement of 11/- extra in the collections for the HospitalI guess there are a few wounded there & the beds are full up.  Sorry the service on the Sunday School Festival ‘Flower Sunday’ was not so happy as it might have been owing to the inappropriate hymns & I myself agree that on such an occasion the Curate or Vicar should preach (6).

I did not want you to read my letter to Ida for your own good, but as Miss Kathie Brookes* said once in Bible Class (I shall never forget it) – that we must let Mother know all our secrets.  I am in very good health & condition now, excepting feet – owing to the fatigue ration party at Souvenir.

We had two exciting & arduous journeys up to the trenches the night we were relieved (7). I had to carry ammunition & after, within half an hour of being relieved by our ‘sister’ battalion, I chased after the rest of the party with a mile length of foot board for laying along the trenchsupposed to be carried one between two men. 

Trench 8. Pte bertie Hibbett's Wulverghem Trench showing foot boards.
Trench 8. Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Wulverghem Trench showing foot boards. Grateful thanks to Andrew Thornton.

Well ‘they’ set the machine gun on us along the road & I nearly ran with the foot board.  Tell Ida if she remembers the day in Abergele when she sprained her ankle, well my ankles gave way suddenly, but I didn’t want to be left behind, you know why I guess, but bear in mind it was not my fault I was left behind.

Well I must not rest too much on what we’ve been doing for it will take all my time & paper to answer your requests.  I am indeed very sorry Basil has had to go under the dentist’s hands & I guess you will understand that I quite sympathise with him;  when I remember the time I went I shudder, but there is also another reason & I sympathise with  you in the latter respect which you will know without me saying so (8).

We heard on Paradehere I am again saying what we’ve done & heard – but I think you will be interested to know that the Notts & Derby  Sherwood Foresters have done some hand to hand fighting & it was read out to us this morning on Parade.  They are on the same line of trench as us.

You will I trust let me know if you get this letter, for I am dubious about the badge being on the paper (5) but I sent it because of the red letter day.  I suppose there will be great doings in the great centres of patriotic societies ahem!  

Oh Mother – the gum has mended my prayer book capitally & I hope it will last me the duration of the war.  To be handy on the march & elsewhere I should like a small khaki tobacco pouch.  I told Sydney to let you know what I wanted because I am always sending  ‘begging letters’ . A bottle of barley sugar would be welcome if  you cannot make some butter scotch; the latter I prefer, but it doesn’t matter much which you sendSend a small pot of lemon curd for we both relish that above all.  As for the butter, I think we shall manage, though I prefer butter from home & it won’t go bad at all if put in a little pot like you did last time but one.

Sorry I am scribbling.  The time we went on ration party those days have upset the routine, but you were right in saying we went to the trenches on Saturday 12th.  So Basil will be sitting (exams) very likely during the week of my birthday.  How capital of you to have saved the lucky 6d.  I too hope it will bring him success.

Sydney has received a letter & paper (9) from Harold this  morning, but has not opened it yet.  I am going to try to get a pass to buy you a lovely souvenir card worked in silk for this occasion.  I have marked all the special days off in my diary (10).

Oh thank you for the mirror, it will come in useful.  I was needing one & I hope my old 1914 diary is safe.  That reminds me – did you get the Staffordshire Swanking Song – do you like the music?  (11)

I like the Bournville Choc do you? – have you tried any?  Generous Mrs Jones sent her monthly parcel, – the same welcome contents as usual.  This time I had a tin of Embassy & one of the box of Nestles.

Sorry Tim Machin* is ill.  Have you had the letter from Allen* I wish I could write better, but to write such long letters in decent hand is arduous.  I re-read your past letters & make drafts for my next letters, but I cannot help but miss things out.  Now is there anything else?  I guess Sydney has helped me out a bit in his long letter.

Oh with regard to my 20th don’t let it be mentioned beyond the family circle.  I have warned Sid not to say a word to Vernon & we shall both spend the 12th day of next month quietly I remember you saying that yours and my Birthday are one & we have tea together on the lawn Mother like little children.

You will laugh at Sydney’s letter, where he mentions the ‘little scamp smoking’.  We have seen on the march a little chap, not above 3ft tall in height dressed in khaki wearing his 3 stripes.  He saluted and kept at the salute as we all passed.  English good. Lallerman no good (11).

I will close now, thank you again for the long letter.  I will write & finish ‘my say’ later.

Your affec.   Bertie.



(1)  Centenary of Battle of Waterloo: British defeat of the French under Napoleon. 1815. Another example of the importance to my father of events in British history. (2) Proverbs 14.34.  (3) Wade: info pending. (4) A Psalm of Life.1838.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poet 1807-1882 (published in his first collection: Voices in the Night).

(5Souvenir  Farm/ Ration Farm. Strange to find a military name in Pte Bertie’s letters (especially as he’s worried if the censor will accept the Staffords Knot letter-heading).

(6) Whilst the father I knew was enthusiastic about  post 2nd WW new Bible translations and took most of the liturgical changes of the 1960s in his stride, he always  wanted everything to be done reverently – ‘decently and in order‘ (St Paul: 1 Cor. 14.34) – i.e. suitable to the occasion  – and this he seems to have learnt from his Mother at an early age.

(7)15th June night fatigue. Until communication trenches were completed at Wulverghem, soldiers had to approach the Front Line, 600 yards from 57th Brigades HQ at North Midland Farm,  across open  & higher ground and were exposed to danger from snipers, shells & machine guns. (8)’Newspaper‘ is meant here, as distinct from ‘note‘ for writing paper which he also refers to as ‘paper’.

(9) Mother’s Birthday:13th July; Bertie’s Birthday 12th July.  (9Basil’s dental appointment was in preparation for joining the Army I presume. (10) ‘Lallerman’: a child’s pronunciation of ‘Allemagne’, French  word for ‘Germany‘.

(11) Staffords Swanking Song. I think I have seen this written somewhere; does anyone know of it?

NEXT POST: 20th JUNE 1915.




South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


14th June, Mon: Patrols went out to within 15x (1) of Enemy trench, reported all quiet. German seen opposite D3, through a gap in enemy parapet, dressed in khaki and what appeared to be a Glengarry (2). 

A Glengary.
A Glengary. Scottish military cap.

Enemy shelled Diagonal (Trench) in the morning and afternoon. During the evening C.2 Support and C.1c shelled.  CASUALITIES: 6820 L/S. G. Hoare and 9143 Pte G.I. Lamb wounded.

15th June, Tue: Two shells over C.2. Supports during the morning. At 3.0 pm Enemy shrapnel single shots, at interval of 5 minutes, burst between S.P.5 and R.E. Farm (3).

Wulverghem: showing Souvenir Farm; North Midland & South Midland farm,
MAP OF WULVERGHEM  (circa 1915 -1917) showing St Quentin Cabaret; Souvenir/ Ration Farm  – with North Midland Farm  & South Midland Farm on the road to Messines (Mesen).   

At 5.0 pm shelled Monmouth Farm. From 5.0 pm – till 5.30 pm  8 shells burst by N.M. Farm & Dugouts.  One dugout demolished. Enemy parapet opposite D.2 damaged by Lyddite from A49 Battery. Relieved by 6 Souths.  CASUALTY9080 Pte Sidaway W. wounded in relief.


16th June, Wed – 19th June Fri:  In Hutments, Bulford Camp.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: FIELD POSTCARD to 95, Foden Rd. Walsall. HOME

June 17th 1915 (Stamped 19th June).           

17th June 1915 FPC


I am quite well.  I have received your letter dated June 14th/ parcel June 14th. Letter follows at first opportunity.

Signature only.    Bertie.                                                                                     Date  June 17th



(1) Patrol within 15 ft? of enemy – i.e. pretty close.  (2) Glengarry: Scottish military cap, heavy wool; no doubt a trophy found or taken from a Scottish soldier. (3) Germans (interested in new Diagonal Communication Trench) appeared to be testing strength of British lines before shelling  R.E. Farm, Monmouth Farm & North Midland Farm (an important admin. centre for Staffords).

(4) WULVERGHEM MAP: R.E. Farm (and Monmouth Farm ?) are north of Souvenir Farm & off the Map.  The Front Line Trenches are red zig-zags.  The red dot is Wulverghem Church.   Grateful thanks to <http://thebignote.com/2013/23/wulverghem-churchyard&gt;

NEXT POST: 18th June, 1915.


South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

12th June. Sat: In Hutments Bulford Camp. Proceeded to trenches in relief of 6th South. ‘B’ Coy Somersets attached.


13th June, Sun:  Enemy fired  single shells at varying intervals, commencing just after midnight at the Diagonal.  

Portrait of Herman Struck in Officer's Uniform 1915 by Lovis Com, German 1858-1925.
Portrait of  German /Jewish Artist Engraver, Herman Struck in Officer’s Uniform, 1915,

Germans wearing dark grey caps with red bands and patent leather peaks (1) observed behind their parapet opposite C.4.   Diagonal shelled at 1.30 pm. Enemy  aeroplane reported over village. CASUALITIES: KILLED 9074 Pte H. Walter. WOUNDED: 8719  Pte J. Sherratt and 7984  Pte J. Pargeter.  


Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MOTHER, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
19 in 1914.
Marie Neal Hibbett. Abergele 1914. Watercolour. A.H.Hibbett. 19 yrs.

2nd Sunday after Trinity.  June 13 / 15

My Dear Mother,  

How can I thank you for the lovely letter, & how surprised I was on seeing another parcel on Sat.  I was thinking on Sat. breakfast that we shall have to wait another fortnight. Yes you’ve spoiled me at any rate.  I can’t do without a bit of luxury with my tea or dinner.

I was exceedingly interested with the newspapers you sent.  Very sad though about Colonel Wade* (2) .  I guess you would like to keep the photo so I send it back.  How curious, on the one side of the paper was all about war whilst the other side was mostly concerned with home & peace.  I mean the procession of Sunday School children. I well remember dear Mother you telling me all about the banners & the long procession of gaily & neatly dressed children & the meeting places.

St Paul's Interior Walsall
St Paul’s Walsall before modernisation into St Paul’s at the Crossing.

I am aware that it is St Paul’s Sunday School Festival today & I picture them going up to the altar with flowers & singing ‘Here, Lord, we offer Thee’ (3).

I do hope you will have my parcel safe & the roses will be fresh.  I have written more than twice to the Vicar* since on active service & I guess he has not written back because of Mrs Key’s sorrow on losing her brother. Very sad.  I read the letter in the magazine you kindly sent me, thank you very much Mother for the Mag.

A month today will be your birthday  won’t it?   I set to work on this letter before having my tea.  How nice it was to know that  you can tell when we go in & out of the trenches, but dear Mother, the usual run has been changedI am now one of the ration party again at the farm (4).  I wonder if you remember me writing before when on ration party.  How queer we had currant bread then too.  Oh the currant bread is absolutely ripping &  not at all stale.

Yes I think we gave Brewin* some of the good things on Sydney’s 21st  because Sydney gave a slice of cake & a huge lump of toffee all round.  Vernon & our favourite Corp. had a large share, as for Ford E.* he is in another Company & we did not see him.

Sydney & I had a happy chat with our old friend R. Ball*.  Ida remembers him.  Could you send him a few De Riske? (5) cigarettes (I don’t know the correct name)  .  De Reszke Cigs.(6) Matchin*  told me to convey his thanks for the cigs & he will write later.  Father knows Allen*, he wanted to know how you and Father were.  I told him Dad was busy with exams. (I had previously got your letter saying so).  

You popped in your letter a hurtful question as to what I should like for my birthday.  Well you know I like lemon curd,  I like the bit of currant cake you sent addressed by Ida in the flat box, the cheese tarts were fine & with the short cake arrived wonderfully well.  Well excuse me being mercenary & yet, to save you getting puzzled, if you want to send us both a parcel put a pot of curd in & a small currant cake with nuts in, tin of pineapple & cream, currant bread & butter. Is that too much?

Yes I remember having the scholars around me on the lawn & the maid coming shyly to serve (7). Did you manage to get through Hospital Saturday? (8).  Yes it must have been undoubtedly trying.  I guess Basil’s fingers were busy elsewhere, it will soon be the examination.  I hope and pray he will pass successfully.  I reckon it is as vital as this war.  

Well I must close now. I owe letters to Harold and York.  I will get my tea & enjoy the rest of the good currant bread & brown bread.  This is your pencil I am writing with, thank you for the paper too. I don’t know how I should have managed to tell you & answer all you enquiries.  You will be able to tell how long your parcels take by the Field Postcardsof course not getting them in the trenches they have to wait till we get back to Camp.

I say Mother isn’t it queer we are often of the same mind – during the hot weather Vernon & I were on Listening in a shell hole & we wished all that we liked.  I said I should like some lettuce, radishes, young onionsIf you put some in a bottle or made a salad of some – what say?

I  have read all the service, excepting Morning and Evening PrayerI picture you listening to the story of Sisera, how he fled & his army was scattered & for the evening lesson Deborah’s Song of Praise (9).  I derive a lesson from the two that we should always be thankful and sing praises.

Best love to all. Khaki Case with Photo


I see Ida’s face smiling up & Mother’s looking straight at me, in my little khaki case (10).

Hibbett Family c. 1908.
HIBBETT FAMILY  c. 1908.  Standing: Mother, Basil, Ida and Sydney ‘who didn’t like having his photograph taken’. Seated:  Bertie.  Note the family pose.

Your affec.   Bertie.



Recent Letters Home reveal an exchange of parcels, flowers, roses & lilies as well as an exchange of photographs & letters. Otherwise this is a typical Bertie Hibbett Letter, full of thanks for food parcels and cravings for fresh salad; taking comfort in pictures of life at Home  – and in coincidences which he calls ‘queer‘ – as he answers his Mother’s questions about his friends at the Front.

(1) 1/5th Staffords notice a change B German Uniform. Portrait of German/Jewish artist/ engraver, Herman Struck by Lovis Corinth, German 1858-1925. (2Colonel Wade: (info. pending).

(3Hymn written for a Flower Service at St Luke’s  Chelsea, London. Words: Abel G. Blunt, 1879. Music: Blumen. Uzziah C. Burnap, 1895Here, Lord, we offer Thee all that is fairest, Bloom from the garden, and flowers from the field; Gifts for the stricken ones, knowing Thou carest More for the love than the wealth that we yield.’

 (4) Ration Party: Souvenir Farm? cf Letters: 5th; 23rd April.  (5) De Reszke: Jan Reszke (Jan Mieczyslow) famous Polish Tenor. 1850 – 1925. YouTube recording 1901:  Cigarettes manufactured in Piccadilly, London. Adverts: ‘Just as good & pure a cigarette as was specially made for & always smoked by that great singer’; ‘Mines a Monor . . . why don’t you try one of mine?

6Alan Machin* correct spelling.  (7Ref. Bertie’s  19th Birthday Tea ,July 1914, at 95, Foden Rd. 

(8) Hospital Saturday Fund. Inspired by 12th Earl of Meath, Victorian Social Reformer. Saturday was traditional pay-day and the  working-class donated a ‘penny in the pound’ to ensure a Free Hospital. The Manor Hospital Walsall, 1863, was an early example.  It seems that Pte Bertie’s Mother found collecting ‘trying’.

(9) Anglican Book of Common Prayer. 1662. Reading for 2nd Sunday after TrinityJudges 4 – 5 tells of Deborahpoet and prophet  – who inspired an Israelite Victory over the CanaaniteSisera, and all his iron chariots. Her Song of Praise is considered one of the oldest pericopae in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) –  with its powerful tale of three women in time of war: Deborah, ‘a Mother in Israel , Jael, who kills the sleeping Sisera with a tent peg  and Sisera’s Mother who waits for him in vain. 

(10) This particular photograph is lost but those illustrated here were with Pte Bertie Hibbett when he ‘saw Ypres Cloth Hall shelled to the ground.  Grateful thanks to my sister, Rosamund Neal Hibbett, for getting Dad to label things in the 1960s.

NEXT POST:  17th June 1915.



South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


6th June, Sun:  North Midland Farm shelled at 9.0 am ad 3.0 pm. Three German Officers seen examining our line from behind their parapet. CASUALTY: KILLED 7749 Pte  D. Seabury. North Wind (1).  ‘A’ Coy Rifle Brigade attached for instruction.

7th June, Mon: Germans again seen examining our line.  New Diagonal Trench shelled (H.E.) at 3.30, 5.15 and 9.40pm (2).  CASUALTIES:-  WOUNDED: 7789 Pte F Ladkin, 7965 Corpl E. Dingley, 9477 Pte E. Bloomer.  KILLED: 8684 Pte T.O. Jones. WOUNDED: 9247 Pte E.H. Walker and 96 Pte B. Westwood (shot wounded accidently) . 4 men of 6th North Somerset Regiment wounded while on fatigue in new Diagonal Trench. 5 men of 6th South Somerset Regiment wounded while on fatigue in new Diagonal Trench.

8th June, Tue:  Enemy shelled Diagonal Trench in evening, otherwise quiet day. CASUALTY KILLED: 7867 Corpl J. Webster. 9th June, Wed:  Enemy shelled Messines Road in rear of C 2.  More rifle fire than usual during the night. Relieved by 6th Bn South Staffordshire Regiment at 12. MN (Midnight).

10th & 11th June, Thur. In Hutments, Bulford Camp. Instruction of ‘A’ Coy,  9th Rifle Brigade completed.  

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
19 in 1914.

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Brother BASIL , 95 Foden Rd, Walsall.

Sun Burnt-All-Over.  10th June / 15

My Dear Dodger Brother,

I guess you’d like the shell nose (3) I’m trying to keep in my haversack –

Shell Nose Cone.
Shell Nose Cone. British fuse. WW1.

& I expect you miss The Times you sent – which I guess will spoil the pile upstairs.  I’ve not had time to read it all through yet, we’ve been awfully busy today.  Parade, Parade, Parade.

I’ve had to start on another sheet of this note so I thought I would address it to my brother.

Tell Mummy the cash came in very useful & we cannot find words to thank our dear Mother.  I pray often that she may have a good night’s sleep in happy dream land.  I have lately dreamt of the enemy advancing (4).  

It would be nice to see all the soldiers in Birmingham. Corp. Sanger* and many other sick and wounded have returned.

I have been on one or two ‘creepy jobs’ this time at night –  so as Mum said, when she repeated Rev. E. M. Darling’s* words, we must pray hardI find great comfort in the Psalms & the same will come very useful with regard to your exam, which I suppose will soon be over & then I hope you will have a good rest, for brain work is more tiring than physical tension.  

Isn’t Miss Kathy* jolly good!  I shall put the lilies in my pocket Bible.  Tell Mother we relished the pickles immensely, they served as a good savour to the bully beef.

Do forgive me – being so busy to & fro I lost Harold’s cig. holder and find I cannot do without one.  I cannot make a cig. otherwise.  Tell Ida Vernon gave me another amusing epistle from his little sister Molly* to Sydney & myself.  We’ve found our Kitcheners lot, especially the orficers (sic), are topping & have lent invaluable aid (6).

Tell me if you get this letter because I get anxious too.

Best of luck,   Bertie.  

PS I thought of the evenings with Mother & Miss Bore* on Rhyl promenade when I was hot in the trenches.  Tara!


(1) North Wind: ref. to danger of drifting gas from German attack at Ypres. (2) New Diagonal Communication Trench caught the attention of the enemy.  Digging & fatigue parties came under increased rifle fire at night – and heavy shelling  in daylight (hence Pte Bertie Hibbett’s ‘Creepy Jobs’ and increased casualties.

 (3) Shell Nose:’The time and percussion fuse No 80 was the fuse usually used in the British shrapnel shells in 18 ‘pounder’ Field Guns, WW1 ‘. <www.passioncompassion1418.com>

(4) Dad’s Dreams were very significant to him. He used to say ‘That’s broken my dream’ when a real event coincided with one in his sleep. (5) Corp. Sanger* (a teacher in Walsall, known to Bertie Hibbett’s father, A. Hibbett, Director of Education). No ref. to his being wounded found in the Staffords War Diary.

(6) ‘Kitchener’s lot’: evidence of genuine regard for these inexperienced Officers.  Names*: See Menu. South Staffordshire Regiment

NEXT POST:  13th JUNE, 1915.


 South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY


5 th June, Sat. In Hutments, Bulford Camp. Proceeded to Trenches in relief 6th Souths.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

IDA HIBBETT VAD Nurse. 27yrs.

Saturday May June 5th / 15.

My Dear Sister Ida,

I have addressed this to you for a reason, I should not like Mother to know, but I know you will take it in a stronger light.

Somehow I don’t feel quite happy; what causes it puzzles me.  Whether it was the bananas that spoiled all the lovely contents of the parcel; whether it was because I’ve had to borrow got no paper of my own to acknowledge the topping comforts & had to borrow this from Vernon who is lying with me on the grass listening to the army band playing waltzes – whether it’s because the latter is somewhat sentimental music or what. Could it be homesickness?

How its come about I don’t know, but there it is.  Perhaps it is very likely with regard to acknowledging this ripping parcel with topping comforts.  So I will set my pencil to work – not my pencil there it goes again, its a borrowed pencil –  Ah perhaps its because I keep writing to you to send so many articles.  Syd(ney), I at any rate, was looking forward to this parcel & was anxious about its coming when we shall be in the trenches.

Good – how delighted I felt when I saw Dad’s writing on the familiar & usual shape of the hamper.  So we shall be able to enjoy the pineapple apricots and cream in the Listeners’ Lounge. Not just because the things are good in themselves, but they will remind us & fill our thoughts of home as well as fill our tummies.

Now in my last letter to Mum on King George’s Day I said when I would write the next & would enclose it in green envelope, so no references to the army.

Mrs Evans, as Vernon has told me, in every letter she writes to him,  wishes to be remembered to Sydney & me.  Vernon said he got quite tired of repeating her wishes,in fact he admitted he had missed more than once to convey them to us.  What had we both better do, putting it frankly and squarely?  I was in puddle (sic) & made myself foolish, I could not find words in response to Mrs Evans kind wishes.  The question arises – shall we write?  Sydney, I guess you trust, has acknowledged her fine box of King Edward Chocolates.

Tea now.  We must arise & then I will put to you another puzzling personal what do you call it.  See how adjusted I am, I can’t write properly today.  There’s another ten minutes yet so I can go on for that length of time.

The Curate* I told you sent me a very nice letter.  Where the puzzle comes in is that he mentioned about his son and described an instance very nicely.  Now its about his having a son that I’m puzzled about, or rather more strictly how it concerns me.  Shall I write & congratulate him, express my pleasure of hearing of the birth or shall I let it slip by?

It’s tea time for sure now, so I’m off. 

Just finished tea. The next puzzle is a practical one.  How shall I cram all the rest I want to tell you on this page? 

I must tell you how I enjoyed the cherry wood pipe with the Lobby’s bacca (?) while with Vernon listening to the band this afternoon.  The weather has been hot again & being evening now it is the best part of the day, excepting the time before breakfast.

You’ll be amused, like Vernon was, when I now say that I struck more than half a dozen matches to keep the old chimney,  no – the new chimney going.  Everyone looked at me and made some ‘rude’ remark jokingly.  Surely its jolly good of you to send a parcel to VernonAlas he’ll have to wait till we come back from the trenches.  Harold sent another good box yesterday & you needn’t send a cigarette holder, but I should have liked a white one.  Yet the yellow and gold of Harold’s looks ‘pretty’ when the smoke curls in front of my face.  

We read the letters generally first, before looking into the parcels, because it is the spirit in which they are sent which primarly ? (sic) matters.  So it goes without saying I could write twice the length of this letter – to thank Mother & Ida for their lovely homely epistles.

Best  love Bertie  (note the ‘ie’  – see PS)

PS  Another reason why I was not up to the mark today is perhaps I was sorry on hearing about the ‘Syd’ & ‘Bert’.  Forgive me but I’m a maddun on cutting words short – ‘he’ll’ in fact means ‘he will’.  I will emphasise the ‘ie’ and ‘ney’.  I do so hope you will fathom out my writing & forgive my bad expressions.  



Somehow I don’t feel quite happy’ –  Bertie Hibbett is not being ironic.  He is genuinely puzzled about his feelings and writes for advice to his Sister, rather than to his Mother.  The Letter is written on scruffy paper and his writing is rushed, with lots of crossings out and additions. Postscripts are tucked in at top & bottom of pages and up the sides. In short the letter’s appearance, as well as its content, reflects Bertie’s low spirits.

Dictionary of Etiquette.
Dictionary of Etiquette.

In his copy of A Dictionary of Etiquette by Marjory Luxmore (Cassell’s Pocket Reference Library 1914) Bertie has written the following maxims on the fly cover:Manners maketh MAN’; ‘Follow the example of General Gordon, Earl Roberts, Wellington & Nelson’ and most revealing of all  ‘None so great as a Gentleman Soldier‘.

[General Charles George Gordon, 1833 -1835. Gordon of Khartoum;  Earl Roberts, 1832 -1914. Frederick Sleigh Roberts of Kandahar, Afghanistan ; Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wesley cum Wellesley, 1769 -1852. Anglo-Irish General, defeated Napoleon at Battle of Waterloo, June 1815;  Admiral Horatio. Lord Nelson, 1758 -1805. (6th son of a clergyman). Killed at Battle of Trafalgar, 21 Oct. 1805. Famous signal to his fleet: ‘England expects everyman to do his duty‘]

One hundred years on we can see Pte Bertie Hibbett is trying to do the impossible under horrendous conditions. He is trying to be a dutiful son. a soldier and a gentleman  but he is exhausted in mind and body.  In this Letter I see signs of the Shell Shock he suffered from for the rest of his life.

NEXT LETTER:  10th JUNE 1915. Dreams of Enemy Advance.