South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

S.W. SLOPE OF HILL 60. TRENCHES:  35, 36  & 37 with their Supports.

17th July Sat: Relieved 5th Leicester Regt. Trenches 35, 36, & 37 with their Supports about 11.45 pm.

18th July, Sun :  V Quiet day. Enemy aeroplane appeared hit by Anti-aircraft guns, descended quickly behind German lines.  Howitzer battery (1) fired with good effect on enemy trenches on our left at 9.00 pm. N. W. wind.  CASUALTIES:  KILLED: No 8536  Pte. J. Wilkinson. WOUNDED: No 9709 Pte W. Ball.

19th July, Mon: RE reported having bored through to enemy mine in gallery in front of 37 Trench. No working was heard from enemy mine. Our Listening (2) near old mine crater reports all quiet.  Enemy shrapnelled old 35 communication trench about 12.5 pm.  RE removing explosives from enemy mine. S.W. wind.                           

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
20 in 1915..

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

In the Trenches.  Monday Washing Day. July 19/ 15

My Very Dear Mother & Father,

It is a lovely sunny evening with beautiful blue sky & fine with white clouds. Just before tea – no about 3 o’clock, I went to Sydney’s dugout, a very comfi one in comparison to others.  If it could have some green baize round the mud walls it would compete with an officer’s

Sydney had all his picture PCs hung up over his head.  We had a nice little talk with Charlie Harrison* (Dad’s clerk) and an NCO chum of Sydney’s, Clive Hammonds* of Lloyds Bank, a sergeant; – he was relating what he had heard from a Sergeant Major about the War.

Piccalillie Advert. Crosse & Blackwell 1867.
Piccalillie Advert. Crosse & Blackwell 1867.

Sydney had a tune on his mouth organ & we had some bully beef with some of Harrison’s pickles called Cross & Blackwell’s Piccalle (sic) (3). Then Charlie & I came away to our dugout until tea time  – which consisted of little bits of biscuit, gooseberry jam & some butter.  For Sunday’s tea I used some of your tea & sugar & we had a ration of milk, the whole making a delicious drink. 

With Harold’s Mineral Spring Health Granules & his bottle of Lemonade Crystals I can make a lovely morning’s drink. 165_medium There are two wells in these trenches & we can get as much water as we like up to a certain time at night  – ‘Stand To’ I believe.

Well I am sorry I have told you so much about our doings so far.  I intended starting by saying how delighted I was on receiving your two letters.  [While I was at Sydney’s dugout I asked him if he had got any letters, he pointed to his overcoat pocket & I pulled out two letters & an envelope with this note paper in]. Two very nice letters, ones which I was looking forward to as I lay down in my dugoutI had not had one from you since 14th.  So the weather was fine at home for my & your birthdays.  It rained at breakfast here but turned out sunny & windy & we both had a very enjoyable tea together in Camp. 

How lucky I was to spend the day at rest  – we had come from the trenches during the night & on your birthday we went digging all day.

I shall be pleased to get a letter from Ida.  I hope she had a fussy welcome at Ashton* & will she go on to York next (4)?  Auntie said something about her going there.   I pray that Jack Wade* is safe & will be found & that the anxiety in Ashton will not last long.

Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall.
Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall.

I pray also that Basil will succeed well in his exam & his health will not crash down for Mother & Father’s sakes.  You are pleased I am sure that he will be nearer home if the exam is at the Grammar School (5).

You will have him arrive sooner to tea  and he will spend more time over his breakfast.

Dear Mother how very good of you to send a parcel –  another one so soon after the two ripping ones.  We have demolished all the contents of them & we shall look forward to going back to where the parcels are awaiting us, –  with the one from your kind friend Mrs Jones*(6).   You will tell me when you get the letters acknowledging your parcels?  I guess you got them on the 16th –  the day you wrote to Sydney & meSee if you can tell me exactly when you got all my letters from the date I send you the card.

By-the- by did you really get that card on your birthday? – if so what luck eh!

I say isn’t this letter cramped! – I have put these little bits in since I concluded my letter proper.  Did I mention that I gave Leonard Bailey* your generous little gift & he was delightedIsn’t he a funny chap & he didn’t wish me many happy returns either, but I forgive him, with all my heart I do.

How many more Washing Days will it take before I see you all againMr Nightingale’s little daughter* used to count by washing days for the holidays to come.

Best love Bertie.                            Censor: S.O. Allday



My father has covered every available space with his rambling ‘little bits‘ and appears increasingly anxious about receipt of his Letters to & from Home.This Letter was posted in a white envelope; presumably Green envelopes had not yet been issued in sufficient quantity.

(1) Howitzer Battery: artillery piece between a ‘gun‘ and a ‘mortar‘; designed to propel projectiles at high trajectories, with steep angle of descent.  (2Listening Post.  Pte Bertie Hibbett often volunteered for this dangerous underground duty.  cf. Previous Hibbett Letters & A Little Book of Words & Doings. Tunnelling Companies were very active in 1915, laying mines under enemy lines.

(3) Piccalillie: English version of an Indian Pickle. Etymology: ‘Paco-Lillo‘ 1578; ‘To pickle a Lilo’, an Indian pickle‘.1694. Ingredients: chopped vegetables, usually cauliflower, marrow, mustard & turmeric. Crosse & Blackwell estab. 1706. cf Wikipedia.

(4) Ashton under-Lyne; former home of Marie Neal Hibbett (nee Yoxall). York: former home of Arthur Hibbett.  Ida Hibbett is visiting relatives; Jack Wade* (missing in action) is probably her cousin.  (5) 95, Foden Rd is about 500 yrds up hill from QMS (now the Girl’s Grammar School). 

(6) Mrs Jones*.  A little bit of oral family history Apart from being a ‘kind friend’ of my Grandmother, and sending parcels to my father in WW1, I knew nothing about this lady until today when my older brother casually remarked that he thought Mrs Jones came from Ashton under Lyne  – and was the ‘Nurse Jones’ who came to help my Mother when I was born. My brother also informed me that I did meet my grandparents before they died in 1940. At 6 months old, the family took me to visit them in Rhyl.  But we had to leave suddenly – it was Sept 2nd, 1939, the day before World War 2 broke out. Changing trains at Chester or Manchester, my 8 yr old brother remembers the station crowded with refugees.

NEXT POST: South Staffords War Diary 20th July -31st July 1915 will be posted on 20th JULY 2015.   

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