Pte BERTIE HIBBETT. No 6 GENERAL BASE CONVALESCENT CAMP. YMCA LETTER HEADING – On Active Service with THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE to Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall. Written in ink.
No 6 General Base. Thurs: Sep 30th/ 15.
My Dear Mother,
Yes, I slept well on Sunday night. I was in the Convalescent Camp & I had a bed in a hut or ward, but of course they were without white quilts & fancy blankets & no pillows, but I felt as comfortable, – & now I am on boardsunder canvas again – & I suppose I shall be on the ground as next stage.
I received your parcel this morning. I walked across to the Hospital for it. I went to a service on Sunday evening in the C.C. (1) – but of course it was not quite so nice as the prettyChurch Tent in Hospital. The eggshave come safely, but this time the box seems to have had the worst of the journey, the paper almost off & the lid crooked.
Dearest Mummy I don’t think I shall need so many parcels,you have sent them on top of one another lately, but now that I am out of Hospital & can draw my pay & able to go to the Canteens, I might be able to get some freshly boiled eggs in a morning. I will tell you if I do.
Last night I went to an amateur play of Henry Vth in YMCA – was that Basil’splay (2) ? The enclosure of that envelope you sent was fromMr Bates*; he is in the Inns of Court OTC & is going in for a Commission.
I am keeping well & happy & I’m trying to take things as a matter of course. Hoping Sydneywill have a safe & happy journey (home). I am sending a letter to Harold.
Trusting you are all keeping well & ‘bearing cheerfully’ as McKenna sais of the Budget (3).
Your very affec: Bertie.
(1) Convalescent Camp. (2) QMSSchool Play or Basil’s Oxford Junior Examination text? Events before & after Battle of Agincourt , when Henry Vth, now a more mature young man, leads a successful War in France. (I wonder who actually put on this play in Rouen?)
(3) Reginald McKenna, 1863-1943.Chancellor of Exchequer. Third War Budget 25th Sept 1915. Introduced ‘Mckenna Duties’ :import duties, 50% excess-profit tax & 40% personal income tax to sustain the War effort (a temporary measure which lasted 41 years until 1956).
As First Lord of Admiralty, 1901, McKenna pressed for the building of battleships over social reform. First of 18 ‘dreadnoughts’ begun in 1911 gave British advantage against Germany at beginning of WW1. Chairman of Midland Bank 1919-1943. Wikipedia.
30th Sept. Thur: Many dug-outs demolished & much damage to rifles and equipmentbut no casualties. Between 3.0 pm and 5.30 pm enemyfired 16 ‘crumps’ (4)on to dug-outs and woods behind trenches 34 & 35.Enemycommenced heavy bombardment of 33 & 34 supports and dug-outs in wood, which lasted until 9.30 pm. ‘B’ Company went up to support trenches behind 33 & 34, one platoon manning 33 fire trench.
CASUALTIES: KILLED: 7931 Coy S Major Harris A.T.. WOUNDED: 8160 Dr. F Charless;8169 Pte S.J. Holmes; 8147 Corpl. W.J. Mallaband ; 7577 Corpl. W. Pearce. WOUNDED (shock) 8343 Pte V. Hackett; 9041 Pte S. Dance; 4817 Sgt W. Hawkins. SLIGHTLY WOUNDED (remain at duty) 8309 Pte R.J. Williams.
SEPTEMBER TOTAL: KILLED 3; WOUNDED 25; SLIGHTLY WOUNDED (remain at duty) 15; DIED OF WOUNDS 2.
D.O.W. 30/8/15: 7822 Pte L. Morris; 9415 Pte W. Pearson (Deaths advised during Sept.)
Signed: Richmond RAYMER Lt Col. Commdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 6 GENERAL BASE CONVALESCENT CAMP:YMCA POSTCARD to ARTHUR HIBBETT Esq. 95 Foden Rd. Walsall. Censor No 920.
No 6 General Base. Tues: Sep 28/ 15.
Was transferred from the Convalescent Camp on Mondayevening (1) & am now back at my Base; where I am put on light duty for three days & then I expect I shall be sent to my unit for Active Service & hope I shall soon be ‘up & at it again’ singeing the K____’s whiskers. (2).
Good news in the papers isn’t it? (3). I am quite well.
Best love to all, Bertie.
(1) Pte BertieHibbett had expected to move to Convalescent Camp on Sat. 25th Sept. but actually arrived there on Mon. 27th Sept. He expected to be in the trenches again in a few days. (Typically he addresses such important news to his father)
(2) ‘ARF A MO KAISER!’byHerbert Samuel (Bert) Thomas, MBE. 1883-1966 (Punch political cartoonist/ WW1 & WW2 propaganda posters).Cartoon. First published 11th Nov. 1914 in the Weekly Dispatch, raised £250,000 for its Tobacco for Troops Fund. ‘Every 6d will gladden the heart of a hero’. My father made several copies between 1914 -1915. <https://www.cartoons.ac.uk>
The Weekly Dispatch (British Newspaper estab. 1801) became ‘Sunday Dispatch’ in 1928 until merged with Sunday Express in 1961.
(3) Newspapers were quick to report initial success of the Battle of Loos (pronounced ‘Loss’), Hohenzollern Redoubt, on 25th Sept. 1915, part of the major attempt to break the trench stalemate along the Western Front.
SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
RAILWAY DUG-OUTS, ZILLEBEKE.
26th & 27th Sept. In Brigade Reserve.
CASUALTY: WOUNDED27th inst. 8715Cpl. R.J. Drew. 28th & 29th Sept: Dug-outs shelled from 11 am to 1 p.m. with 8 in. armour-piercing shells and H.E. shrapnel.
1. Allied Forces on the Western Front are taking offensive on the 25th inst. 2. The 2nd Army will attack E. of Ypres . . .
4. The 137th Brigade will cooperate as follows:-
(a) Enemy salients in I. 29, 30 and 34and his approaches to themwill be kept underartillery, riflefire, and machine gun fire, special attention being paid to suspected observation posts. The targetsfor the137th Brigadebeing these points in front of the Brigade Trenches,rifle fire will be from loopholes or sniperscopes.
(b)If the windis favourablea curtain of smoke will be directed on HILL 60and theCATERPILLARfrom the trenches of the Left Sector, 137th Brigade.
5. Watches will be synchronised from Battalion Headquarters at 12.30 A.M. Sept 25/ 15.
6.During the Artillery Bombardmentthat is :- up to4.20 A.M.men in the trenchesexcept sentrieswill be kept under cover immediately bombardment ceases,that is:- 4.20 A.M. rifle fire and machine gun fire will beopened on the enemy trenchesas directed in para 4 (a).
7. Battalion Head Quarterswill be established in theStrong Point in the Wood at 10.30 pm Sept 24thcommunications with Head Quarters are to be tested every quarter of an hour from that time onwards.
8. Casualtieswill be accommodated in the most convenient dug-out and if necessary, medical aid will be obtained from Battalion Head Quarters.
J. LAMOND,Capt. & Adjt. 1/5th Bn South Staffordshire Regt. Issued at 1.30 pm.
Pte Bertie Hibbettwas expecting to move from Hospital to Convalescent Camp on Sat. 25th Sept. The fact that a major offensive along the Western Front had begun would have been known in Rouen by that evening. But Bertie would not have known what was happening to 1/5th Bn. South Staffs on Hill 60Ypres Salient – and he would have been anxious for the safety of his brother.
In the event, as the following record shows, the 1/5th South Staffords cooperated as ordered; their Brigade Head Quarters in the Wood was not damaged and their casualties were comparatively slight.
Elsewhere the story was very different. On 25th Sept. the Battle of Loos (pronounced ‘Loss’) witnessed the first use of chlorine poison gas by the British and led to the gassing of 2,632 of their own men. Initial success that day came to nothing, through lack of Reserves. The fight for Loos and the Hohenzollern Redoubt was to continue for many weeks with many losses.
SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
S. W. SLOPE HILL 60.
25th Sept Sat:During early morningEnemyshrapnelled 36Trench with H.E. – also fired single shells at intervals into the Woodwithout effect. Trench mortar opposite 35 silenced by Belgian Battery. Enemy trenches opposite 35 & 36 bombed and rifle grenaded. Enemy trench-mortared 33 in reply until silenced by Belgiangun.
CASUALTIES: WOUNDED: 8534 Pte L. Lyons. SLIGHTLY WOUNDED (remain at duty):8246 Pte L. Abel; 8454 Pte S Goode; 8708 Pte W. Selby.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL, ROUEN: O.H.M.S. POSTCARD to Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
I am quite well. Friday Night.Sep. 24/ 15
Have beenmarked for the Convalescent Camptoday by Major. Shall in all probability movefrom Hospitaltomorrow. Since I received your welcomeparcel& lettersI have been dealing with the matter with regard to Father’s request.Very little hope so far.Will let you know something more tangible about affairs when possible.
Had welcome letter from Sydney yesterday, sais he has his name down for Leave. Hopingyou all will see at least one of usbefore theWinter. Sent you a PC on 22nd.
I remain, Your affec. son, Bertie.
Pte Bertie Hibbett and his Family must have been aware of rumours, circulating in the UK since June, of amajor offensive planned for the Western Front. This would account forthe heightened anxietiesin recent Letters Home regarding the possibility of a ‘Blighty‘ for himself and Home Leave for his brother.
With the move from Hospital to Rouen Convalescent CampPte Bertie accepted he must soon join his Unit and do his duty to his country. We have seen that he hoped against hope that his sense of a ‘higher calling‘ meant he had a future – that he would survive this campaign.
My father’s heading: ‘I am quite well’ and ‘Fridaynight’ indicates he knew a ‘Big Push‘ was absolutely imminent. He would not of course have known the details(below) of the 2nd ArmyOperation Orders for 137th Brigade (signed at 1.30 pm that day) – that it was to act as distraction from assaults elsewhere and that 1/5th South StaffsInfantry were to remain under cover on Hill 60, hopefully behind a smoke screen and firing through loopholes and sniperscopes.
Pte Bertie would not have known the whereabouts of his brother.
1. Allied Forces on the Western Front are taking offensive on the 25th inst.
2. The 2nd Army will attack E. of Ypres.
3. The 3rd Division are to attack on the front J.13. c. 8.0. to I.12. c. 9. and the 14th Division on their left. The final artillery bombardment will commence at 3.00A.M. and the Infantry will assault at 4.00 A.M.
4.The 137th Brigade will co-operate as follows:-
(a) Enemy salients in I. 29, 30 and 34and his approaches to them will be kept under artillery, riflefire, and machine gun fire, special attention being paid to suspected observation posts. The targets for the 137th Brigade being these points in front of the Brigade Trenches, rifle fire will be from loopholes or sniperscopes.
(b)If the wind is favourable a curtain of smoke will be directed on HILL 60 and the CATERPILLARfrom the trenches of the Left Sector, 137th Brigade.
5. Watches will be synchronised from Battalion Headquarters at 12.30 A.M. Sept 25/ 15.
6. During the Artillery Bombardment that is :- up to 4.20 A.M.men in the trenchesexcept sentries will be kept under cover immediately bombardment ceases, that is:- 4.20 A.M. rifle fire and machine gun fire will be opened on the enemy trenchesas directed in para 4 (a).
7. Battalion Head Quarters will be established in the Strong Point in the Wood at 10.30 pm Sept 24thcommunications with Head Quarters are to be tested every quarter of an hour from that time onwards.
8. Casualtieswill be accommodated in the most convenient dug-out and if necessary, medical aid will be obtained from Battalion Head Quarters.
J. LAMOND,Capt. & Adjt. 1/5th Bn South Staffordshire Regt.
Issued at 1.30 pm.
CopyNo.1. To O.C. A. Coyby Orderly.No. 2.To O.C. B. Coy by Orderly. No. 3. To O.C. C. Coy by Orderly. No. 4. To O.C. D. Coy by Orderly. No. 5.To Machine Gun Officer. No. 6. To Bomb & Signal Officer. No. 7. To Medical Officer. No. 8. To War Diary.
CORPORAL SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
20th – 24th Sept. 1915.
SW SLOPE OF HILL 60.
20th Sept. Mon: Enemy fired onetrench mortar at 35, no damage. Very quiet day.CASUALTY: WOUNDED: 9512 Pte G. Wooldridge; 9123 Pte W. McNeil(slightly wounded remain at duty).
21st Sept. Tue: Patrolssent outfrom 34 and 36found nothing unusual.Aeroplanesvery active.Enemy’s front lineopposite 33 and 35 rifle grenaded, no retaliation. 22nd Sept. Wed: Trenchopposite33again rifle grenaded without reply. Exceedingly quiet night.
23 rd Sept.Thur: 4th Belgian Batterydamaged parapetopposite 34. Riflesfixed on the gaps and fire maintained during the night.Trenchopposite 35 bombed at 2.20, 3.15 and 4.45 am. retaliation one trench mortar shell.Our artillery bombarded trenchesopposite33 and 34 from 12.5 pm to 12.50 pm.
At 9.30 pm enemy exploded mineoutside33 trench. No 1 Bayblown in crater just clear of our parapet.Force of explosionlargely dissipated by 139th Brigade sap, and slope of Ravine. Another smaller cratersince observed, about 30 x south of large crater and midway between the lines.Trenchoppositewas observed to bepacked with enemy, rapid fireopened at once from all available rifles.Two Germanswho exposed themselves were shot.
CASUALTY: WOUNDED: 9346 L/ Cpl A. Danks. (slightly wounded remain at duty).
24th Sept. Fri: Very quiet day. Enemytrench-mortared 33 and 34after dusk. No damage.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 9 GENERAL HOSPITALROUEN: LETTER to MOTHER, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
Another Sunny Sunday Afternoon. ‘In the easy chair’. Sept 19th / 15
‘O prosper thou our handywork’ (sic). Psalm 90.
My Dear Mother,
Beginnings. I’ve missed out the ‘very’ & was thinking of beginning afresh, but then it would be waste so you will forgive me won’t you Mum. Now I have got a lot to say and didn’t know which end to begin so I’ve adopted little headings. I do like to make a good start to a letter.
A Striking Coincidence. Oh Mumyou have begun your letters of late capitally. Your last two did thrill me, especially the long one enclosed in the last parcel. What a queer thrill went through me when I read that you were thinking about us both in the garden in the sunshine.Now it is natural that both sides should be thinking of one another, but after me writing last Sunday afternoonjust when you were thinking about us & me writing about the fact too & then to hear from you in writing. It was indeed a striking coincidence.
I’ve just sharpened my pencil & popped the last of your Nestle’s chocs: in me mooth(1) – no more details now, you’ll understand I guess. I have your letter in my hand.
Well MumI should like to say I’m TOP HOLE –but will put it that I am happy & grateful at present.
A Victory. I was going to begin my letter dramatically & shoutHurrah! – for I managed to coax round the cook & get three apples roasted on the day I got your last parcel. ( Oh! I say to me sen, I’ve let the cat out of the bag. I wrote to Mr Darling* yesterday & had to start twice, the first attempt was on this sheet and I haven’t a rubber to let the cat in the bag again (2).
Parcels. Yes Mum I’ve had both parcelsall right, the one addressed to the Base came up without fail. I don’t think there is any harm in hard boiled eggs, I think they have done me good, having had no signs of further illness through eating them.I guess they are dear in Blighty now.
Lissie’s* Toy Gun. I had a parcelfrom Okoo when I got yours as well. How thepatientseyed me with envy carrying the parcel post away again. I opened your parcel1st & found the treasureDodger told me to look out for, Lissie’s gun. I sent her a card & she will get it today & you will have got my F.P.C.It was too bad of you to send another bit of cash. I tried to get some of the apples roasted, but I was late at the cookhouse. The cook hadn’t got the ovens going then. Then I opened Harold’s parcel after reading your letter.
Mummy’s Photo. . . Oh! Mummy!Let me see you again. How lovely you look, your light hair in contrast with Miss Bore’s and the pretty frill.
I see you are busy with your ‘fissies’ as usual – (tissies)as Basil called them (1).Yes! I have looked closely & well I never! its a pair of socks you are knitting & very likely the ones I’ve been wearing. Oh! you are nearer to me now Mummy – & you felt so near to me all day Thursday that I almost saw you by my side.Iknow you are thinking of Sydney & me again, but I trust you are thinking happily.
Sister’s Address.A very nice letter indeed & I was in raptureswhen I read near the conclusion & went to read that little bit to theIrish Sister & showed her your photo Harold sent. When she heard of such a generous exclamation as ‘Bless all those who are kind’ to Sydney & me,and that you would send a littlepresent, – guess what she said – she said it quite naturally, not as if she was posing & aware that I should write down her words – ‘What a nice kind Mother she must be’.
She was delighted with the photos; she knew Whitby & had a sister who had been there & seen the old bridge, underneath which you were taken, & the old houses on the cliff.She gave me her name so that if you wish to keep toyour generous promise, dear Mum, you can send a little present to Miss M.E. Boyd*,No 9 General Hospital B.E.F. – that is enough to find her. All the Sistersare right for their work & take things lightheartedly, amusing the patients & asking them how they are getting on. But this Irish Sister, who I have said reminds me ofWinnie Overend*, often gives us cigs & sweets,which I believe she buys out of her own pocket.
The other dark-haired Irish Sisteris alwaysproddinginto me when she sees me writing. (She is going to give me some cigs; she interfered with my writing again jokingly & I showed her your photowhich she greatly admired – & then promised me some cigs this afternoon).
Miss Foster. I wrote to Miss Foster on Thursday, in time for the letter to reach her onher birthdayyesterday. This sister picked up my letter when I showed her my drawing of a patient in Hospital Dress& she just glanced at the introduction. How she larfed. ‘No it isn’t’, I said as she expressed the idea that it was my fiancee.
I thought I would draw something for Miss Foster, not being able to give her anything more than a letter, but as I was half way through a newsboy came to the Ward door & instead of buying a paper I bought a Souvenir Card he tempted me with.I put some of Ida’s W.H. scent on it & enclosed it inMiss Foster’s Birthday letter.
Dr Hibbert (3). Now here’s another funny coincidence – during yesterday I came across a patient who had been to Nottingham Goose fair every year & never missed up till theWar. He was a Lincolnshire lad who knew all about Uffington (4)too – the conversation started with reference to mushrooms.Another patient I came across was in the Royal Scots Greys & came from York. By the by, these acquaintancesremind me of Ida at Leicester Hospital. TheHead Sister of the two Wardssaid once when she was giving me medicine, ‘Call for your medicine Hibbett – let’s see – I know a Hibbert, I have a friend related to a Dr Hibbert’.That’s the limit – now on to something more serious.
Besides the photos of you all at Whitbythere was one of Harold. Who took it? I must congratulate the photographer for it is very artistically arranged, butOh dear Okoo, why isn’t there a smile, eh.
The Marriage. I say Mummy, & all of you at home, wouldn’t it sound nice to read & hear of a Lieut. Harold Victor Hibbett R.A.M.C. will be married shortly to Miss H.B. eh. what oh! & to hear that his brother, Mr.A. Hibbett’s second son, who is fighting at the Front will act as best man.
Best Man. Oh Sydney! how can we buck up & ‘singe his whiskers’ (5).How can we bring such a colossal state of upheaval to a close – & get Home to witness a fine bust up at Home, Sweet Home.
Boils. Now, Mum, that leads me to tell you the answer to your anxious enquiry. Yes, I will let you know all in this my (next) letter.I daresay you were disappointed in all the letters you’ve had since the 12th thinking I should answer your queries in them. I don’t think for a moment now that I could get Home through my complaint for I am quite better now; the ‘excavation’ into my neck has been finished with & the ‘cavity’ is practically closed up now.
Home Sweet Home. I was expecting to bemarked out (6) today, but the Doctorsaid I should be in tomorrow, Monday. The Doctor was very amiable & knows his business, but I do not think he could do anything to send me Home & I know it is of no use whatever to try & put the matter to the Colonel. You see there are many more cases & some are worse than mine & too there have been many cases such as mine& they have been able to put them right enough for Active Service.
Blighty, My Little Grey Home in the West. No, I don’t think Dad could do anything; it is all very well for Sydney to say what he has said to you & I’m grateful to him at the same time.I believe the great majority of patients want to go to Home Sweet Home – Blighty as we call it.
Dining Hall Talk. It is ‘Dining Hall talk’ on how chapsare favoured & work their ticket marvellously & that it isone in 1000 who want to go up the line again.
The Three Calls. But oh Mum I have told Mr Darling* that I feel I am on the balance in Hospital here. I can hear three calls. I can hear Sydney calling me (seems funny, although he doesn’t wish me to join him). I can hear the call of Duty. ‘Rise! fellow-men, our country yet remains, By that dread name we wave the sword on high & swear for Her to live, for Her to die’ (7).
At Duty’s Call. My New Calling. Ready Aye ready.The third call comes indirectly through Hopes of living through the campaign & taking up a new career. His calling, that came to me through Bishop’s Stafford’s text for the confirmation candidates of 1911. ‘Blessed is the man whom thou choosest & receivest unto thee. Here am I – send me.’ (8).
My Little Khaki Case.Another look at you dear Mum. I have scentedyou with Ida’s White Heather Scent. Motherit reminds me of the lovely scent you had on you. I have scented the case. And there’s ‘Crippen’ Mummy – oh don’t say that ofdear Dad,but it’s a joke ehMum, ‘Hoo Hic! ain’t he strict.’ (9).
Thinking. Another look at Mum. Yes you are thinkingof me & I of you. I wonder if you are peeping at Sydneytoo & my photo.
Today’s Post. I had a letter from Cousin Stanley* this morning. My word what a change in style and manner, – of course he is 17. He seems to have grown out of his shyness by the way he writes.And I have had a nice, delightful, little letter from Miss Jones* & Miss Humphries*. . . There was to be abox of cigs with the letter but I have not had it yet, perhaps it will turn up tomorrow.Miss Humphries says rightly, ‘The Lord is the same yesterday, today & forever’ (10).
Keep Looking Up.There is a happy thought to conclude with. Keep looking up, it is a bright blue sky & the sun is ‘nearing’ the West where you are. Let your two sons push forward to the East & singe his whiskers, asHaroldsaid, & do our Dooty,as England expected in Nelson’s day, & ought to now, & does now (11).
God bless you dear Mother, my very dear Mother & the same to my Father. I do love himwhom Ida once said is ‘kindness itself’ – she knows.
Best love to all, from Bertie.
Post Script.Another Victory.Of course you must always expect a Post Script.
I have been unable to obtain any milk or eggs,but I should think I shall be at theBasebefore this week is out & then I shall be able to get some eggs. But you must understand thatwe have not the conveniences like at Home. Men won’t be troubled with boiling milk & eggs for me or anyone else. But I managed by coaxing the chap at the Soldier’s Institute Canteen to make a bowl of coffee with the coffeeyou sent me in the parcel & it was ripping with those digestive biscuits & I enjoyed a good little supperthat night (last night). I wondered whatever to do with that coffee. The shirtwill come in useful when I am out of Hospitalbut you need not send me another as I have lately been given a new outfit & Sydneycould do with them.
Hoping I have satisfied your queries. I have not said all yet. I wonder if I was thinking of you before you were thinking of me today when I went to Holy Communionin the same lovely little tent.
It is a lovely evening again & I am going to Church, are you?
Pte Bertie Hibbett’s longest letter yet in which his little headings help him to sort out his own confusion between Three Calls:Duty to his Brother, Duty to his Country and Duty toGod.
(1) Hibbett Family Jargon/ Slang: mooth–mouth; sen–self; ‘cat out of the bag‘ –let out a secret by accident; fissies (Yiddish for ‘feet‘) – hence knitted socks; Hoo Hic– nonsense words; dooty-duty. NB. ‘Okoo’ & ‘Dodger’: nicknames for Basil Hibbett, Bertie’s youngest brother.
(2) Bertie has written ‘Saturday Sep 18/15 ‘Dear Sir’ along the side of paper).
(3) The Hibbett Family was proud to differentiate itself from the ‘Hibbert‘ descendants of the Ibbot Family. Spelling: from my (6 x great) grandfather John Ibbot b. 1690; William Hibbett/or William Ibbot b. 1735; Luke Hibbitt b. 1765; William Hibbett b. circa 1790; Henry Hibbett b. 1824 (my great grandfather of Rutland & York); Arthur Hibbett b.1860 (my grandfather); Arthur Hubert Hibbett. b.1895 (my father). Sydney Martin Hibbett b. 1931 (my brother). NB Observant folk will notice the number of years between father & eldest son is mostly 35 years.
(4) Uffington: Lincolnshirehome of Hibbett cousins. (5) ‘Singe his (Kaiser Wilhelm II’s) whiskers‘: get close enough to defeat him. Found in WW1 soldier’s story.
(6) ‘Marked Out’ (by R.A.M.C.): to be sent back to the Front Line. (7)’Rise fellow men. . . ‘Wanderings of Childe Harold’: John Harman Bedford, Lieut. R.N. ‘A Romance of Real Life’ (Lord Byron). 3 vols. 1825. London. (8) Bertie has conflated two biblical sayings on God’scalling:‘Blessed is the man…’Psalm 65.4. ‘Here am I send me‘: First Isaiah 6.8.
(9) Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen: American homeopath murdered his wife/ first criminal to be caught by wireless telegraph. Executed Pentonville Prison, 1910. Familynickname for Dad (Arthur Hibbett) when strict.(10) ‘The Lord is the same. . .’ Hebrews 13.8.
(11) ‘England expects that everyman will do his duty. . .’ Signal sent by Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson from flagship H.M.S. Victory 21st Oct 1805, Battle of Trafalgar. Napoleonic Wars.
Lance Corp. SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
CANADA HUTS NR DICKEBUSCH.
18th Sept Sat:Divisional Reserve.Relieved the 6th North Staffin the trenches.
19th Sept. Sun: S.W. SLOPE HILL 60. Very quiet day.Aeroplanes active on both sides, our machines appeared to have the upper hand.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL,ROUEN: LETTER to HIBBETT FAMILY 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
Holy Cross Day. (1) Tues. Sep 14 / 15
I wonder who Dad will give this letter to? Will he read it himself first? Let me know if you have got this letter by return of PC.
My Dears – Dodger, Champion & Mummy (2),
Just eaten one of those many appleswhich smelt as good as it tasted, and thenI set to work re-reading all the letters I’ve had from Sweet Home since I sent my last green to Mum, taking notes as I re-read them for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time, as I could not hold all of them in front of me to refer to, especially Ida’s long scroll of the Committee’s parchment (3), and also Basil’s many sheeted epistle .
Now I promised this letter to be plain, short & serious,but how ever can I! I have had something from the post every day I have been in Hospital since the 10th when I got Mum’s letter of the 5th (Sun) – the record coming to a climax today & yesterdaywhen I got Ida’sletter including Mum’s off the sheet & Basil’s & one from Cousin Muriel; she can write well both in hand & in grammar.The final – The Limit came todaywhen I opened your other hamper of good stuff.
Dodger, you said Lissie (4) had brought you something from Venables*, were they the delicious cheese tarts? – and Mum you didn’t finish your letter either – I’ve caught you this time, Ha hee. Did Basil get his letter I enclosed in the green to Mum & Dad?
I really thought I had thanked you for all. I’m sorry, very, if I did not say I got a bit of cash – which came in useful, as I missedpay day again, coming here on the Tuesday.
Now Dodger your description of Home was simply delightful to read & you’ll be surprised that I did not sentimentally faint, to long all that much to come Home. I hope you will not look at that in the wrong light – what I’ve just said – especiallyMum.
Yes I can picture you now Dodger coming down stairs after washing off the smoky grime of the journey. How miserable too the journey for you must have been, but I was so very pleased you loved the sight of Home again.
I am human & sometimes long to come Home & I think Ida will agree with me that if I give myself to that feeling & did not try to masterthat longing & check itI should not live happily out here.I say I made short notes but it looks as though this letter will persist in great length, try how I might.
Did Ida & Mum read Dodger’s letter before he sent it off? Idaought to be proud that Basilloved to meet her at the station.Ida is a genuine Champion for advice, & if she could not see her way to give advice she would show wisdom. I mean she will help Dodger to pass his exam next time & she has bucked me up a lot too, I could say more on this but must stop.
No: I must just say one word more. I am cross at Ida for not taking notice of what I said in my green to her – & Mummy I cannot let you off lightly ’cos I know you would get to know all – as for myself I put all the blame on my rascally pate. I do feel a hypocrite, yes Ida there are worse cases than mine, & I ought to have trusted that you would know my case was not all bluff (for they do not send anyone to Hospital for nothing) without me saying even a word .
Oh I am sorry Mummy I have made you all more anxious, it was not at all my intention, but my intention has been all along to make you happier. Sydney, I have no doubt would have ‘scolded & reproached’ me dreadfully & rightly too I now think.
Just a touch upon light trivials:- I have mentioned the same Winnie unconsciously of Basil’sthought (you can tell by the time the letters were written). This IrishSisterlaughs just like Winifred Overend Yes Ida is a Championwith a knack of putting one right, & that put me in mind that Basil too becomes his nickname nicely when I read of his whimsical dodge at catching bunny rabbits on his record tramp to R.N.B. (5).
Now will that do for Dodger. I will just wish him the best of luck in his nextattempt. Is he going to school again? I hope so. QMS I suppose.
Now for Mummy,as I read yours next I will say my say. Yes I will try & cuddle round the cook to get me some of your nice apples roasted& will tell you if I succeed. I will not miss out thanking you for every article in the parcel this time, starting with thewelcome bit of cash. I have not unwrapped it yet, but put it in my purse straight away.
I will keep to your adviceMum&buy, if I can get, milk, eggs & fruit. I am sure of the last, but not so sure about the eggs because I am not at the Base & eggs are nowhere to be found to buy here. As for the milk there is only tinned milk here, if none at all & if I am out of the Hospitaltomorrow the only liquid milk obtainable is at YMCA & that is Horlicks Malted Milk. At any rate I will try my best to spend it wisely & think of Mummy as it dwindles down to a penny & then to a sou.
With regard to Sydney’s Com: I say what Mum sais, you seemed to want us both to be officers,but if you think, as no doubt what you say is true, we shall likely be parted, then I say Downwith the idea. Down with it.
I am quite well now Mummy & am happy, so you will be too in the future won’t you Mum? I do feel a hypocrite when I am in my deck chair among the flowers& think of Sydney up there. How can I reconcile for what I have said & the consequences in the way of making you anxious again.I pray twice a day for you Mum.So let us both ‘Look up’ again.
I am writing straight away again you see for your kindthings & will tell you how I enjoyed my tea withapricots, cream, sugar & cheese tarts. I will reserve one for supper, & will make the parcellast out. I am looking forward to the other part of the hamper & you will naturally have another letter from me but let me keep . . . . .
(end is missing)
(1) Holy Cross Day: Feast Day of Veneration of the Cross of Christ.St Helena of Constantinople250 -330 AD. Patron Saint of Archeologists is reputed to have discovered the true Cross in Jerusalem. Mother of first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine (‘In hoc signo vinces – by this sign I will conquer’).
One ofDad’s favourite hymns: ‘Lift High the Cross’ 1887. Words: George Kitchin, Dean of Winchester. Revised 1916 by Michael R. Newbolt. Hymns Ancient & Modern.
(2) Basil, Ida & Mother. (3) Education Committee paperfrom Arthur Hibbett’s office? (4) Lissie: Arthur Venables* little sister? (5) R.N.B. : ?
Lance Corp. SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
14th Sept. Tue:CANADA HITS NR DICKEBUSCH.Divisional Reserve.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT ROUEN: LETTER continued to Mother, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall
6.30 am about.
Another Sunday Monday letter.
I am indeed making the most of my time in Hospital. I have written no less than eight letters, including Ida, & Harold & there’s Sydney’s too, besides Miss Molly Evans, Mrs Hurst* & Her Ladyship Mrs Jones* & to make the list complete I must write to Mum, that’s one reason why I wrote last Friday.
Whatever the others sayMum, I say it is aRestto write to Mummy and I think Mumwill sympathise with me &be happy at the thought of her very affectionate son, Bertie.
PS Of course I must have a Post Script else the letter ain’t complete.
Now I don’t expect a long letter from Mum, although I have had comparatively long epistles which have surprised me as well as pleased me . So I enclose the size of the letter you need to send me next if you wish. It is from the Writing Pad in the Lucky Bag I chose from the bundle sent from Ireland (1).
I enclose too some cuttings from John Bull, my word ain’t it tolerant. It does use strong views. But I quite see in the article about ‘Blood will out’. I remember Capt Tim Cozens*, so popular with the Tommies getting quite a crowd around him & he said he loved a charge.It was when he told us about the knut leading the charge dressed practically in mufti (2). The article also puts me in mind of the Lancashire lads you know Mum (3). Ta ta.
PS Sorry I am not in a hurry about a letter – its only the tie of family love I want really.So (if) you are busy, forgive me for insinuating. I expect I shall get your long letter tomorrow, but I will send this off tonight at any rate.
Kind regards to Woody – safe journey back to Hospital I hope (4).
NB Pickwick Club (5) reminds me – Snodgrass (6) had a letter from May (7). I hope Capt Flo* is a good help to Sydney getting a Commission.
Something for you to fathom about in your spare time – I like letters which last a long time for you to read. Isn’t Mrs. Hurst jolly good, I enclose her letter. Thank you Mother for the magazine. It goes without saying that I enjoyed the perusal so to speak eh what!Sorry Mrs Hurst’s letter must be in the incinerator with Sydney’s letter I told you about (8).
PS NB 13/ 9/ 15
Oh! I shall fall through the earth next. I have just received Basil’s long epistle – & nearly banged my head through the back of the deck chair when I unrolled Champion’s mile long letter of such black writing but so neat. I had another letter too, it was from Cousin Muriel*.
Have I to write in turn to such a windfall, such a gasping slap. I think you will think I am taking things to extreme but I shall have to write a letter to you all soon & will let it be just plain & serious, so you will forgive me for this my long letter.
Oh! Basil dear Dodger. Oh! Mummy (Hush I saw your writing in Ida’s & read yours before her’s, – don’t tell her though) & Oh! Ida’s was a record for a Champion. Yes I will tell her of a Jock we call the ‘Scotch’. 32 beds in my Ward.Did you get my letter to you & Father in a green envelope dated Sunday 6th?
Now you won’t lose any of the sheets as this last letter marked PS NB is important.
This Letter clearly shows how important writing & receiving letters was toPte Bertie Hibbett. In his heightened emotional state, in an agony not to break this ‘tie with Home‘, he adds Postcript after Postscript.
(1)The Hospital Bag Fund(one of WW1’s many ‘morale boosting & practical schemes for soldiers’)was set up by Lady Smith-Dorrien1881-1951for the benefit of the sick and wounded in Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations. In <http://easttextile.co.uk/onewebmedia> Janette Bright 2015writes that Volunteers produced an estimated 5,000,000 ‘Treasure Bags‘ to provide a store for a soldier’s personal treasures: papers, pay-sheets, photos & letters. Around 12″ x 14″ in size, made of strong material (flowered cretonne preferred) each had a drawstring and could be hung where a patient could easily reach it. Volunteers often addedlittle gifts such as sachets of lavender and lucky charms. In Pte Bertie Hibbett’s case his ‘Lucky Bag‘ arrived with a little writing pad & envelopes and amongst his treasures would have been his Prayer Book – & the Bible given to each soldier by the Army. Sadly it did not prevent some of his letters being lost in the Steamer De-louser when, for a day or two, he was put back into khaki.
NBLady Smith-Dorrienwas the wife ofGeneral Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrienwho was relieved of command of 2nd Army in 1915 ‘by Lord French for requesting permission to retreat from the Ypres Salient to a more defensible position‘. Wikipedia.
(2) Lord Cardigan. Letter 10th Aug. 1915. (3) Marie Neal Hibbett’s relatives/ close friends in Ashton?
(4) Leicester Hospital.(5) Childhood Pickwick Club. Letter 23rd April & 7th Sept. 1915.(6) Sydney’s Clubnickname. (7) Mary Overend.
(8) Steam Disinfectant De-louser.Letter 7th Sept 1915. (9) Dickebusch: in parish of Ypres (Ieper). Divisional Rest Camp; notorious history of soldiers ‘Shot at Dawn’.
Lance Corp. SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: No 9 GENERAL HOSPITALROUEN: LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
Pages 1-4 missing. Sunday 12 Sept. / 15
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I have eaten the last of your Lady chum’schocolates, Nestlesas usual, but I love them. Isn’t she (Mrs Jones*) a brick eh! – to send us both something again, but Hoo Hic!if only her Ladyship knew what I’m calling her. She, by the by, calls Mr Jones ‘His Lordship’. And ain’t she a rattler to enclose a letter everytime. She’s a genuine old sport because you see it is not only the gift but the thoughts behind the gift& so she tries to express hers by sending a short letter with it & a little news in with it as well.
Yes this War is rotten for hampering careers.Now Mummy is it that Dodger passed in3 subjects or that he passed all subjects but 3 eh? (1). I conclude, after thinking, that it is as you say, but I am disappointed. Poor Basil – after all his sweated labour, after all his confinement in the study, alone, to swat with his head in his hands asHarolddid – and he will have to go through it all again, but I hope he will pass this next time. But of course there’s this in it, it will come to him easier with regard to the 3 subjects he passed, what were they?– anything to do with the Doctor’s profession? To be a Doctor he will have some stiff exams, as hard, in fact harder than Harold had to pass (2). He isn’t going in for agriculture following George’s* work is he! (3)
If I had have known I was going to stay such a long time in Hospital I would have sent for some Greek & Latin. I was almost going to write toMr Darling*on Saturday,but I had an idea I shall be soon out again for good. I should like a line from Dad about my career(4).
Today’s Gospel tells us not to be over anxious, but as it says in the Parish Magazine, for which I thank you, it says we must be prudent & take prudent provision for the future.Doesn’t it seem that I was destined to live through the Campaign after all? Well its only right & very much so that we should HOPE. ‘Hope still & thou shall see, he is all & all in thee’ (5).
I went to the YMCA Popular Evening Service while I was at the Base last Sunday & the hut was full of soldiers & my word didn’t I sing ‘Fight the Good fight’ – just tried like I did when I had my voice in childhood & sang with you in Church. Do you remember?
Do I want any shirts? – no not yetMum. I have two, one is new. When I go back into khaki I shall be all in khaki ’cause of your socks. No Mum I won’t touch tinned stuff, like crab. I put it (6) down to thetinned meat & vegetables called Marconochies (sic). I ate one in thetrain but not all the meat. I left a great deal of that & ate more of the vegetable. They are part of the Rations & of course I could not go all day on the journey without something to eat.
I expect I shall hear from Ida tomorrow. I am so pleased Woodie* came after all, they would indeed enjoy themselves in the ride to Lichfield Cathedral. I hope to get a pass into Rouen to see the famous cathedral there.
I will conclude after I have come from Kirk.
There are a great many Jocks at this Base & some do afford amusement in the Ward, one especially was taken to by one of the Irish Sisters.
I will just refer to Sydney’s would-be Commission before putting my boots on to go to the Dining Hall for tea.
Bedtime — instead of coming to finish this letter after tea it is after supper now.
I had to go to sweep the floor & go for my medicine, my horrid medicine – no wonder when it has such a dreadful jaw-breaking name as Mist: Ferri Perclilor,and you can tell Mrs Jones that her chocscame in pretty handy to take away the nasty taste (7).
We had a nice little service this evening, but it was held in the Soldier’s Institute Tent, electric light installment (8).There was nothing but patients there & most of them from my Ward I was grateful to see – all but the organist, I mean the pianist. On the way back the Chaplain told me there were 40 men from the Base tobe confirmed tonight at another tent, just after the service. I did not go, but we had a prayer for them. I thought of my confirmation & Basil’s & you being with us. I was confirmed too on the 12th day:‘Blessed is the man whom thou choosest’ was the Bishop’s text (9).
I was interested in the 1st article in the Parish Magazine about Life wasted. Did you read it Mum? I guess you readitall through & the thrilling story of the nurse who rode on horseback to deliver an urgent message.Chiefly I was interested in the Vicar’s letter about Mr Henning* (J.P. is he now?)
I wondered whether I shall see anything aboutDad being promoted. Charlie Harrison’s*opinion is that Dad ought to take Dr Sauler’s position & have a combined Head. By the by Charlie must have been sent to Blighty, I have not seen him here.
What can I say to fill the page Mum? I am too late to wish Allen many Happy Returnsof his birthdayat Home. I remember Dad’s wit in his letter to me on mine. Let’s see tis 3 months today – Hoo hak, my word the time does fly, Tempus Fugit it does – and the 13th, well let us hope it doesn’t bring ill luck but Yah! I dunno believe in superstition a lot. It seems instead ’tis bringing goodluck, so there.
The 12th, yes I took myprayer book, mended with the gum you sent me. ‘Be thou faithful unto death & I will give you a crown of life’(10)& the Bishop of Stafford’s address‘Blessed is the man whom thou choosest & receivest unto thee’& the Collect ‘because the frailty of man cannot but fall — lead us to all things profitable for our salvation. Look up & trust that we shall never fall (11). Queer ain’t it Mum?
Now you’ll press the matter in & push it along if Sydney wants a Com(mission). But it was nasty of Capt. Flo* to talk aboutcarelessness. Should anything happen to Sydney or me you would perhaps think we were careless dear Mum. He was naughty, to say that, of course you know he ain’t been in the trenches.The Life of the Tommy there is different.Tommygets careful there – even if he is apt to be careless in Camp where discipline is.
Lights out – 8. o’clock in Wards. Finish Tomorrow.
(1) Oxford School Matriculation needed passes in at least 6 subjects in one go. (2) Harold’s Chemist/Pharmacy exams. (3) George Lallerman, Ida’s friend.
(4) Pte Bertie’s father would have paid for his Mining Surveyor apprenticeship. His training as a Priest in the Church of England would also need parental support – as well as support from Mr. Darling, Vicar of Walsall.
(5) Hymn: Fight the Good Fight.Last verse:Only believe and thou shalt see, that Christ is all in all to thee.Words(based on 1 Tim. 6.12)John S.B. Monsell.1863. Music: ‘Pentecost’,William Boyd 1864. (6) Illness blamed on Maconochiesstewon trainjourney from the Front to Rouen B.E.F. Base. 10th Aug.1915.
(7) Mist Ferri. Perclilor: ‘perhaps the best & most used preparation of iron‘ <https://archive.org/stream>. (8) Church of England’sSoldiers & Sailors Institute. (9) Ps. 64. 4. (10) Revelation 2.10 :
(11)15th Sunday after Trinity: Gospel: Matthew 6.24.Collect: Book of Common Prayer. Thomas Cranmer 1662. (12) Dr Sauler*. Education Committee, Walsall Borough Council?
(13) Hollebeke Chateau/possibly one of two: HollebekeSchloss, 200 metres east of Ypres Canal & Railroad or White Chateau (Bayern Schloss) 1.5 km west of Ypres Canal. cf Great War Forum Old Sweats.
More Hibbett Jargon/ Slang: ‘rattler’– good energetic person; a ‘good sport‘- decent/ nice person; a ‘brick’– reliable person; I dunno – I do not; Yah – yes; Hoo Hak/ Hoo Hic:(I never heard my Dad use these sounds):schoolboynonsense sounds: goodness!/ gracious me!/ my word!’ Queer – strange coincidence.
Lance Corp. SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
SW SLOPE OF HILL 60.
11th Sept. Sat:Rifle and machine gun fire directed on enemy’s *newwork opposite 36. About 6.45 am enemy aeroplane driven off over our lines by our aeroplane. 2nd Derby Howitzer made direct hit on enemy embrasure.Enemyretaliated with 4.1 Howitzersdamaging36 parapet in four places.CASUALTIES WOUNDED: 9318Pte J. Bladon. 75Pte J. Waterfield (slightly wounded remain at duty).
SW SLOPE OF HILL 60, Trenches 33, 34, 35, 36.
12th Sept. Sun: Machine gun and artillery fireopened on enemy transportusing roads near Hollebeke Chateau (12).Patrol reported water from mine coming from enemyfront lines N. of Ravine. Mining timber and metalpipes being carried to trench opposite 34. Relieved by 6th North Staffs about 10. 15 pm. CASUALTIES WOUNDED: 9671 Pte G. Forest. 8472 Pte J. Kenyon (slightly wounded remained at duty).
NEXT POST: 13th Sept. 1915 – continuation of Letter 12th Sept.1915.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL to Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
Back again in Hospital:No 12 Ward. No 9 Gen. Hosp. Friday Sep. 10 / 15
I shall need some more envelopes I can see at this rate!
My Very Dear Mother,
Good! I said, as a letter was thrown into my lap – delivered to me out of due time. I was sittingthis morning, as I am now, in aCamp chair in the sunshine, just outside the Ward door surrounded by flowers. And I was bemoaning myself, not so much about the pain, but because of not getting anything in the post. I saw Basil’swriting (it has improved by the by) & as I ripped it openI was thinking his promised long letter was enclosed, but when I saw your writing Mummy I was – NOTdisappointed, you must not think that at all.
Now I have been in a tremendous dilemma since I read such a beautiful letter – – – Called! to go for my dose of horrible medicine – – – a dilemma as to whether to write to day or not! I was thinking of all I that could tell you, with ‘chirpy’ little bits here & there between the news & after it all I was almost going to send you aFPC instead, because of this:- –
Are you getting tired of hearing from me so oftenand not so much from Sydney? Have you lost looking forward to my letters because they are so common? Why, only just this very second, a sister passed by me, from the opposite Ward into No 12, my Ward (not No 6 now) and she said, ‘What a scribe you are’.
And, now dear Mother, I’m beginning to think that you will be getting more anxious about the expense & rapid consumption of your writing paperthan of me, or Sydney put together.
Perhaps Dodger issick of seeing the postman hand him a letter from me, eager by all means to get to the door first, but coming away slower than he went, very much disappointed at seeing a letter without a penny stamp on, and above all with my hand writing on.
I’m a scribe and no soldier, but I don’t care a toss, as long as the censor don’t say nowt, – so here goes and on to another sheet of your writing pad, for all that.
What a happy coincidence Mummy, to have had a letter from both boys on the same day, and did they come in the same post?
Page 3 & 4 missing.Page 5 . . . I think I have enough(letters) to have kept me going eh Mum? He hee Hoo Hic, how brimful I am. Here’s another letter to spoil your breakfast. Dad will be vexed. I’m sure he thinks I was foolish to have said too much about my complaint. You too Mum must rest happily & as I have said before, which really came from you & I have still got: ‘Sit still & leave all to Higher Hands’ on that little pamphlet (1).
Aren’t you grateful we are both still safe. I’m sure you are & I hope you will hear from dear Sydney soon if not since you told me you hadn’t.
Hoorah Hip Hip for Harold,he has good intentions, but poor Mum (2). I could not fancy him out here in rank & file; he ought to try & get a commission in the R.A.M.C.& I feel sure he could try & probably succeed nine times out of 10.
Isn’t this letter getting long! How can I leave room to acknowledgeChampion’s effort supreme. I shall have to send her a ‘superb effort supreme’ shan’t I?
I was proud to relate Sister Agnes Sawyer’s career in the War Zone (3). Agnes is a pretty name eh Mum, just right for a nurse. The Irish sister would ‘love to go to the firing line‘ she told me. Ida would envy Woody* in such a Ward. By the by, these Wards hold thirty four beds, not 32 as I told Ida.
We had a Jock, Ida, in No 12 Ward, who made us all roar with laughterespecially when he joked with theother Irish Nurse, but he could not match Woody’sJock.
Yes Ida, there are, I guess, a lot like Oriel*, the Oxford man, as privates (4) & it puts me in mind of the J. Bull cuttings I sent Mum & Capt Tim*, so you will not be ashamed to say you have a brotherfighting for you. I say fighting in a general way. I hope to soon. I am succeeding little by little to stifle & master my lesser self. It is just like your life in Leicester Royal & reminds me of you telling me of Woody’s letter when she said ‘Your disappointment is God’s appointment’(1).
Now I should like to know who reads this letter first. I wonder if Dad will, as this effort is addressed to him. I wonder who he will pass it on to. As Dad generally contributes the address & wrapping I will address it to The Gov’nor & trust that Dodger, Champion &Mummy will see that he reads it if he wishes to sacrifice his usual perusal of the newspaper.
See how I fill up the corners!
Best love to all. Bertie .
Private Bertie Hibbett is still struggling to rise above his emotions, his illness, his Blighty disappointment and his own status as a ‘Private‘.
(1) 19th Cent. Christiansayings. Origin? The first is possibly inspired by Psalm 46.10:Be still and know that I am God.
(2) HaroldHibbett’s proposed enlistmentwould make all four Hibbett sons in the Army. He eventually joined the Inns of Court & was invalided out with the TB that ended his life in 1940.
(3) Sister Agnes Helen Sawyer: niece of former Matron Leicester Royal Infirmary, where she trained & became Sister of the Men’s Accident Ward. Served as a nurse in France 1914 – 1918.Obituary The Passing Bell. British Nursing Journal: Nov.18th 1922. (Known to Ida Hibbett). <http://rarchive.org.uk/data>
(4) ref. to university educated middle-class responding to John Bull posters and serving as privates rather than taking or being offered commissions as officers in the Army.
Lance corp. Sydney Hibbett & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
SW SLOPE OF HILL 60.
8th Sept. Wed:41st Trench Howitzer Battery fired 10 bombs from 34, four exploded. Enemy retaliated with 10 on 34 and 4 on 35,blowing in No 1 Snipers Post and damaging the parapets in several places. CASUALTIES KILLED: 9714 Pte T. Blount. WOUNDED: 8588 Pte J. Carroll.
9th Sept. Thur: Enemy fired 40 trench mortar shells into 34 and 35, damage slight, our supporting battery replied. Discoloured waterapparently from a mine coming into ravine from enemy trenches. Enemy rifle fire heavy till midnight. CASUALITIES WOUNDED: 7953 Pte J.Mayer; 65 Pte J. Siviter (slightly wounded remain at duty).
10th Sept. Fri:Mine explosionfelt but not heard about 1.5 am.Enemyburst a trench howitzer shellin the air about 12.30 am.Twenty trench mortars fired from 34 and 35 this morning. Two did not burst. Enemyretaliated with many trench mortar bombs, damage slight. CASUALTIES KILLED: 8406 Pte J. AstburyBrigade Mining Section killed inSap in Trench 37 (Left Sector).WOUNDED: No 4. Pte A. Billingham; 9009 Pte B. Hendley. 8427 Pte A.E. Smith (slightly wounded remain at duty).
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, ROUEN: No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL. No 12 Ward. LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
NB –> In Red White & Blue. Tuesday Sep 7 / 15
PS The lavender was given me while in 5 Ward.Take care of the Twiddly bits in this letter (1).
My Very Dear Sister,
Now I ain’t made no mistake loike (2) as one does at th’ beginnin of year & puts nineteen 14 ’stead of 15 and begins with Dinstead of Jeh!
This bit of touchy ‘chirpy’ (as you calls it) nonsense, is the effect of hearing a comic song at a concert – well I will tell you that later). I have soon been sent back to Hospital again & am now in No 12 Wardat the same local Hospital – ie No 9 General Hospital. There is such a ‘nicenurse’ here, her hair reminds me of yours & making me wish I had you & Woody (3)to look after me.
I hope Mummy & Daddy will take to Woody. I fancy she is somewhat tall & dark – is that so? Tell me about the time you are spending with her. I discovered after all that the little scentiment of scent sent to me in the parcelwas sent from you. I mean the lovely Whitby Heather scent. Do you remember Sydney sending you a bottle while you were in the Royal Infirmary? (4).
I have just had one of those round biscuits, Crawford’s Kings, they are a delicious assortment.
Ida, it is simply a glorious, lovely, bright afternoon -that sunny effect at teatime. I’ve just hadtea. Everything seems sunny & the spick an’ span cleanliness of the Ward makes a great effect of brightness doesn’t it? You know, for I’m sure The Leicester Hospital was something like this, sunny & bright.
I am scribbling this seated in a comfy easy chair facing down the Ward.I close my eyes & fancy you strutting along the centre between the neat cots; you are dressed in spotless white apron & the uniform of the Hospital.
* * * ‘Does Dodger depend —‘ Oh! Jocks just been in – with the Chaplain of the Hospital; Jock was the comedian who made us all roar with larfter at the entertainment this arfternoon. ‘Does dear Dodger depend drastically— * * *
I came into the Ward this morning in time to go to this concert party of Miss Ashwells* held in the Dining Hall at 3. Beautiful songsters, but I felt queersome–like when a man sang a patriotic song with appealing words – sort of practice what you preach sort of effect. But I suppose he wanted to show his fine voice for the benefit of entertaining the sodjers eh! what?
Jockcould imitate a larf an’ no mistake, a fat little chap he was & he screwed up his nose & opened his mouth & wrinkles all over his fizog, but the effort did make him sweat. I saw him mopping his brow with his handkerchief afterwards.—
* * * ‘Does dear Dodger drastically depend on his – – (I can’t make a sentence of dees) pocket money – his weekly allowance – for his contribution in parcelsto his two bruvvers at the fronteh! what!?
I enjoyed the chocolate while a listnin’ to the singin’. There was a violinist, I mean the one who played a large violin – forgotten the name of it – but although she was elderly she reminded me of your picture ‘The Violin Player’(5) & you.
Have you, by the by, got a good collection of your favourite pictures – & framed?
Tell MummyI quiteenjoyed the eggs & ate two this morning, without salt, with a few biscuits& they tasted so creamy like, beautiful – and I’m sure they will do me good.
Of course the sisters came to see the fun & oh! I saw the ‘ode sisters’ of No 6 Ward & guessed they’d be somewhat disgusted, if not surprised, on seeing me again.I did make a mistake arter all aboot the ’eddin. The trio [Red White & Blue] was not complete – it is now for I have just had a clean red tie given me.
When I was discharged fromHospitalonSaturday I had to get all my togging on the Sunday – kit & pack & ammunition & rifle etc. All of it had to be handed in again this morning & my khaki clothing disinfected again. So particular they be here,although I had only been in Camp 2 days.
Sergeant Wilkes (a teacher) (6) really thought I had gone to Blightywhen I made my appearance in his tent on Saturday. I will not buoy your hopes up falsely. He said if I had stayed in Hospital & lingered over 4 weeks I should have gone to Blighty automatically – & a chap with the same sores on his legs (only) went to Blighty while I was in 6 Ward, I saw him go.
Hush! Ida!scribble this out with the blackest dye of ink when you’ve read it:- I have endured toothache in the neck – now don’tlarf— that is the best description of the pain of this boil on the back of me neck. For4 nightsrunningI have not had a whole night’s sleep. Just like toothache& as bad too, for toothache does go away sometimes during the day, but this pain lasts all day & night as well.
Dear Ida,I do believe in some sort of transformation (sic) of the minds of people,more especially of relatives (7). You understand my meanin’?I mean that I have no doubt that you overlook my touch of chirpiness& can seein thedepthsof it all that my complaint is not all bluff .
Vernonthought boils didn’t hurt, but I know now. And there are so many cases among the men that one doesn’t get so much sympathy. And dear Idathat is why I do not think for a moment now that I shall come Home through boils.I hope to get up the line with Sydney & then there might be a chance of coming Home on Leave see, more than there is in here.
Now methinks this letter is getting long for the censor. It looks as if I shall have to enclose it in a green.
About my khaki suit being disinfected (8) It is put in a steam chamber with some chemicals in the steam to kill the — never mind!
Well I left a letter to Sydneyin one of the pockets.It was in answer to his I sent you & in it was Mother’s lovely letter and yours. I did want him to read them. I did like to send you his to see how brother writes to brother. It was indeed unique to get a letter sent to me with the triangular Field Postage stamp. I knew t’was from Sydney when I saw it.
Just another thing I should like to tell you & that is you would remember the good old days of the PickwickClub (9) (when you read Miss Edith Evans’ letter I enclosed in Mother’sletter about the childrens’ party in the Cycle Shed, an annual affair? )I mentioned the fact to VernonaboutSydney nicknamed Snodgrass.
When you were in York did you see Mr Walker*?By the by that reminds me, did you send him those Bible markers after all? That is the question you will answer me in your long letter.Oh!but I suppose it is already on the journey now from theLittle Grey Home in the West,from thatlittle white table in the little white room of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (10).
Ta Ta. I remain, dear Pickwick, your affectionate brother at the front.
PSS Have you managed to get through this puzzleof a letter? I have had several goes at smothering my nose in the delicate khaki fabric saturated with Whitby Heather Scent.
(1)’Twiddly bits:Many additional comments tucked in margins/ as well a lots of underlining. (2) ‘Chirpy bits’:mixture of Black Country dialect & childhood language with lots of rhyming words, deliberate misspelling & alliteration:- e.g. scentiment (sentiment) of scent sent; loike-like; th’ beginnin – the beginning; nicenurse-nice nurse; spick ‘n span – tidy/clean/in order/as new; sodjers – soldiers; larf/larfter – laugh/laughter; arfternoon– afternoon; fizog – face; bruvvers – brothers; listnin‘/ singin/ meanin‘- listening/singing/meaning; ode – old; ‘eddin-heading; togging– uniform & kit ; unique – unusual; Ta ta – Goodbye.
(3) Woody: Ida’s nursing friend. (4) Leicester Royal Infirmary, Infirmary Square,where Ida appears to have done basic training, 1914-1915.
(5) The Violin Player: Ida’s copycould be one by Joseph de Camp 1858 -1923 – or The Violinist. 1912. Mary Neal Richardson(American) 1859 -1937. Both paintings would match Ida’s white bedroom.
(6) Serjeant Wilkes: the kind Serjeant referred to in Letter: 5th Sept. 1915. (7) Foden Compound Steam Engine/ Lorry adapted for De-lousing & Disinfecting in WW1. Edwin Foden, Sons & Coy Ltd : British Truck & Bus manufacturer, based Sandbach, Cheshire. 1856. [No connection with Foden Road, named after E.A. Foden, Lord Hatherton’s land agent, responsible for creating Walsall Arboretum 1871]. <http://www.steamscenes.org.uk> Wikipedia. <http://www.1914-1918.invision.com> Great War Forum Old Sweats description.
8)’Transference’ is the word Bertie means (probably not in the full 19th cent theory sense of ‘transference of thought from one person to another without the sensory / physical channels’) but his belief that Ida would understand his ‘chirpiness’ masked a real pain & his bitter disappointment at not getting aBlighty.
(9) Hibbett Pickwick Club (childhood clubbased on Charles Dickens‘ Pickwick Papers):begun at 106, Rowley St. in 1903 (before moving opposite to 95, Foden Rd). Aim: to collect interesting observations and report adventures.
***** Sam Pickwick President: – Ida Hibbett.Editor: Sam Weller – May Overend*. MEMBERS: Augustus Snodgrass – Sydney Hibbett(8 yrs);Tracy Tupman– Bertie Hibbett (7 yrs);Sam Wardle –I. Cozens* (?); Nath Winkle – D. Cozens* (?) *****
10) Ida’s bedroomat 95, Foden Rd. (11) Winkle: Bertie has changed hisPickwick Club membership name.
(12) Crumps: German 5.9 inch shellor loud thudding sound as it burst. ‘the last crump’ meant the end of the War.
LANCE CORP SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
S.W. SLOPE OF HILL 60
7th Sept. Tue:Enemyrepairing parapets damaged by rainstorm, fired on at intervals during the night. Between 11 am and 12 noon enemy fired six crumps (11)behind 35 and 36 supports and at 2.30 pm shelled West end of wood. CASULATY: WOUNDED: 9784 Pte D. Hunt.
NEXT POSTS:10th SEPT. 1915.
The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.