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.


South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

31st May,1915, Mon: Enemy opened bursts of rapid Machine Gun fire on C1 and 2.  Otherwise very quiet day.  CASUALTY: 8434 Rif. McNally J. wounded.

CASUALTIES FOR MAY: OFFICERS KILLED: Lt H.W.M. Parr. WOUNDED: Capt. W. Millner. 2 Lt. F. Wilkinson, 2 Lt. S.P. Smith.  OTHER RANKS: KILLED 6. WOUNDED 21, includes 1 man died of wounds at Aid Post.  

AVIATIC -C.1 became principal German Reconnaissance Aeroplane from 1915. 160 hp Mercedes engine.  Max. speed 89 mph; ceiling 11,480 ft.

1st June,Tue: Two enemy aeroplanes passed over the lines and were fired at.  C2 support shelled (39 H.E.) no damage.  Quiet day. Relieved by 6th Souths about 10.30 pm

2nd June, Wed: NEUVE EGLISE.  In Hutments, Bulford Camp.  3rd June,Thur. Instruction of  ‘C’ Coy  8th Rifle Bde.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Hibbett Family, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.  FPO 6 JU 15 Censor 447 W E. Wright. (1).

King George’s Day. Thur. June 3 /15

Dear People.

Brewin* has given me a sheet of note & I must just write you all a line saying how we spent this red letter day.  To begin with I was lying in the hut when I heard 3 cheers. I’m ashamed to say I was ignorant of knowing the why & wherefore of such shouting.  The Battalion had formed up for a route march.  Cyril Hinde, Vernon & others, including myself, had been on fatigue the previous night & had the privilege of staying off 1st Parade.  3 cheers for our good King George V. 

The next Parade was for respirator drill & rapid firing practice (2).


It was about dinner time. (I went without dinner for two reasons, Ist because I went to have a spiffin’ hot bath & secondly because the weather has been dreadfully hot too. I enjoyed the wash all the more with a tablet of Mrs Hurst’s oatmeal soap).

I wrote to Okoo (3) Sid wished to peruse it, but as soon as he saw the writing he gave it up as a bad job.  I received a ripping letter from the Curate – by the by that reminds me of something rather personal which I shall have to write again about sooner or later.  I came across Bailey’s brother Leonard* & conveyed your kind wishes Mother (etc).  This was after coming away from a fine outdoor concert  by the Divisional Concert Party.  How the officers laughed, especially the Doctor & Colonel*.  The Chaplain was present too.

Another sheet of note I thought I could tell you all in one, but alas no.  The Chaplain reminds me of the book, such a nice little pocket New Testament, with coloured pictures in – & his signature etc he wrote in after the service of  Whitsun Holy Communion.  

I enjoyed the entertainment.  The amateurs were dressed in Pierrot costume & gave a Variety turn.  Now I’ve got another sheet I’ll tell you – no I’d better leave it for a green envelope now I come to think on’t.

It is getting dark so I will close.  

With best love to all,  Bertram.  

a) P.S.  I’m in need of toothpaste We got your parcel with pants (4) & enjoyed theju jubes’ & Bournville chocolate very much, thank you indeed. Ta Ta.

b) P.S.  Yes you can send some more emery cloth. The last was excellent quality and I need another indelible lead & some notepaper & envelopes. To lengthen the list still I need another hanki & could you please send some spare flannel to clean my rifleany odd pieces will do as long as the fabric is not rough & ‘hairy’.   Toodle – oo.

Elizabeth Hibbett Webb.



(1)Aviatik C.1.  German Reconnaissance Aeroplane: In service1915; Mercedes engine 160 hp; ceiling 11,480 ft;  max. speed 89 mph (hence the need for rapid rifle firing practice. http://williamwhitson.com/planes/apprentice_warrior.  Gas Mask practice was stepped up as these planes were capable of dropping small bombs. There was also threat of gas when the North wind blew from Ypres. [S.Staffs War Diary.6th June 1915].

(2This Letter had to wait 3 days before being  passed by the censor & posted.  Bertie’s previous Letter re- permission to leave off underpants had obviously arrived Home too late. (3) Okoo: another nickname for Basil. (4) Army underpants were woollen & knee length; not as comfortable as ones sent from Home.

NEXT POST:  5th JUNE 1915. Not Happy.