Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, on her own at 95, Foden Rd Walsall. (Mother, Father & Basil on holiday at Whitby).
In the Trenches. Whizbang DugOut (1).
My Dear Sister,
By the time this letter gets to you you will have settled down at home. I guess you are on your way from York – it is about two o’clock now – pm.
I read your letter to Sydney. How queer, Ida, I suppose you saw the Field Postcard with the line :- ‘I am being sent down to Base’. This ought to have been crossed out. It was a mistake, a rather foolish one of mine, but queer enough I did not know I had made a mistake till Mother mentioned it in her letter – & on the very day I got Mother’s letter a strong rumour got to my knowledge that I was going to the Base for a rest & yesterday I went before the Doctor & eventually I have my name down to go to Base (2).
– I conclude I am going but do not know exactly when. I have heard that I shall be going while in the trenches. Another queer part about the matter is that I had long been recommended for a rest & had been before the Doctor before I sent the PC to Mum .
Well, Champion, how have you enjoyed your stay at Ashton & York? I should think you have no difficulty whatever in travelling now. Did you pass through Crewe again ? – & have a tray brought to you?
You will feel the difference being at home, practically alone, after being with the relatives in the hub bub of the great centers. But I guess you will have the Overends* to tea in our sunny garden. Yes, I well remember May* (3) coming to tea & we had the basket table out & the silver. I shall indeed appreciate dining at table with a white cloth, flowers & china. Here I squat tailor fashion with my mess tin lid in which I eat my bacon & pontoon.
You tell us not to eat so much cake, very well then we will take your wise advice, but we get to long for such luxuries after biscuits & cheese – & yet we can eat anything after a long march, – as for the case for Auntie’s cake – I ate that at night after marching up the trenches. Instead then of cake we should very much appreciate one or two of your tea cakes with currants in – & you can put some caraway seed in mine.
While in the trenches, last time, I was called to the Brigade Headquarters (4), together with three other chaps from the other Battalions, as being picked for surveying work (5) I was to go & have my rest with my Battalion & then when I come back to the trenches I shall be liable to go & do some surveying. I have not been called to do this surveying as yet.
Can you read my writing? Yes I am afraid it will take some effort to improve upon this. I get agitated somewhat & when I start a letter I lose patience trying to express the great stock of news I have in my mind.
Sydney forgot to return the Copy (6) Mother sent & so I will return it in the green envelope, in which also is enclosed the souvenir card I meant to send you. I thought of sending it to Auntie* & then Miss Foster*, but I have decided to send it to you because I dare say you will like to have it on your mantelpiece in your bedroom.
You can send the Copy off to Mother who will be at Whitby won’t she? with Dad & Dodger. I would like to send them a letter while they are there but I am running rapidly short of notepaper & this pencil is getting short too.
I hope Dodger has done well at the Grammar School & passed with Honours – what say you? Yes, he was the scamp who chased the pigs at Uffington (7) – those good old days when we used to number off the days for the holidays & stop away from school on the day we travelled.
I wonder if Basil will do what he said in one of his past letters – i.e. if they bombard the town again – to lie down full length in the grass on top of the Cliffs & watch the excitement .
Capt. C. (8) is back now & he does look ‘andsome on horseback does Tim.
Tell Dodger he can send us some picture PCs. – they come in handy for decorating our dugouts & are a pleasure to look at them. I have several up in mine now. I have still the one of our home with an Alexandra Rose (9) in it from one of my scholars, and Tamworth Castle (10), Sutton & Sunday School group.
Hoping you will have a ’appy time on your ony own.
Best love, Bertie.
The Hibbett Family were not deterred by the War from taking their usual summer holiday. It is likely that they purchased the German Bombardment Book of Photographs, in aid of Whitby victims, at this time.
(1) Whizbang: Tommy’s name for a small high-velocity shell, which made a whizzing sound in flight & a bang when it hit.
(2) Rouen on Seine, B.E.F. Main Base. (3) May/ Mary Overend*. (4) Brigade Headquarters, Railway Cutting, Hill 60. (Divisional Headquarters was at Ouderdom). (5) Surveyors were being brought together from different battalions to form special units & Tunnelling Companies. Pte Bertie Hibbett was a mining surveyor apprentice before the War.
(6) Gazette Press Cutting re:- Colonel Wade & his son Jack Wade (missing on Eastern Front). (7) Uffington: village near Stamford, then in Rutlandshire. Home of Uncle Tom & Hibbett cousins.
(8) Captain Leslie (Tim) Cozens*, 1/5th S.Staffs ‘A’ Company. QMS scholar, Sunday School teacher, Walsall. (9) Queen Alexandra’s Rose: charities & hospitals for poor. (10) Tamworth Castle: Norman Castle overlooking River Tame, Staffordshire. 2nd largest motte & bailey castle in Uk to Windsor). <www.visittamworth.co.uk>
NEXT POST: 1st AUGUST 1915: Wizbang Dugout, Hill 60 & Family Holidays.