5th July, Mon. In Bivouac. Proceeded to Trenches 49, 50, A1, A2, A3, A4 and SPD in front of Armagh Wood to relieve 5th Leicester Regt. Heavy shelling during relief. CASUALTIES: KILLED: No 9571 Pte J.D. Allen; WOUNDED: 8755 L/Cpl G. Hewitt slightly wounded.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to FATHER & MOTHER, Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
The Z – Urban District Trench Improvement Society. Bully Beef Bungalow – Residence of one of the above Society’s Members. Mon. July 5/ 15.
My Dear Father & Mother,
I’m afraid I & most of ‘A’ Coy will not have much chance to write a letter in the new trenches we are going to tonight. So I will make up for the dearth to come like ‘corn in Egypt’ (1).
We have been doing some very hard & strenuous, yet profitable training, such as Rapid Marching in full pack & rifle in jolly, jolly sweaty hot weather & rapid firing in standing position in full pack. In fact it is an order to have six hours training in full pack every day in Camp. Very trying, but the lovely sunny evenings make up for the work.
We have a fine field for the Bugle Band to play the Tattoo & the Brass Band gives us the best of music now & again. We have just come off parade – it’s about 11.00 & we are having a rest today for the reason ‘before mentioned’. So the Brasses, Trombones, Euphonium & all the other instruments are keeping in fine time with the Bandman’s baton.
The heading to this letter was introduced in the Colonel’s speech about us going to the trenches. We have gained creditable reputation from many officers, Generals etc. included. Our trenches at the place we have left ‘are a Model to the British Army’ so said one to our Colonel. ‘You are a jolly lucky fellow to have such men under you’ said another, & there were many other praises I’ve forgotten.
I will pause now & pop a Rowntrees Walnut Cream (2) in my mouth – sent in a parcel from Auntie. Mother, I went to Holy Communion yesterday at 6 – sunny evening, but close. The little altar was laid under a tree. The Chaplain gave the little body of men present a very encouraging & comforting address on us going into the trenches – & suggested the Collect for St Michael & all Angels as a fine prayer (3).
Water is scarcer still here, in fact we have to buy it & we can only have a cup-full served out to us in Camp each day (4). Tell Basil the Band has played that well known piece which reminds me of the Picture Palace – Valse Septembre (5) & (6). I guess Sydney will be writing too, he is in the hut about 3 or 4 down.
I am exhausted of news now so will close, hoping you are keeping well. How goes the garden?
I remain a member of the Z. U. R. D. Trench Imp. Soc. Bertie.
At Ouderdom, the Army did its best to prepare the Staffords for their most trying ordeal yet. The Colonel proudly praised their reputation earned at Wulverghem; the Chaplain comforted them with thoughts of angelic protection; the Bandsman jollied them with good tunes; and the Serjeant Major drilled them relentlessly for the five-mile march to the Front (the notorious Shrapnel Corner & crossing at Zillebeke must be taken at the double in full pack). No ‘light duty‘ then for my Dad’s poor feet.
(1) Corn (grain) in Egypt. Genesis 42.1: Story of Joseph and Famine in Egypt. (2) Henry Isaac Rowntree: Rowntrees Walnut Cream launched 1912. George Thomas Lee‘s record of original recipe found in 2012. <www.yorkpress.co.uk>
(3) Collect for St Michael & All Angels’ Day: Sept 29th: O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of the Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels alway do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Book of Common Prayer, 1662.
(4)Water ration: one cup a day (5 Belgian francs?). (5) Electric Picture Palace: Lower Bridge Street, the first purpose-built cinema in Walsall, opened 12th April 1912 (closed during WW1). (6) Valse Septembre, 1909: Henry Albert Brown 1854 -1925 (alias Felix Godwin), English composer of light music. Used in film ‘Titanic’ 1997.
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