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 D instead of J eh!
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 Ward at 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 parcel was 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 had tea. 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?
Jock could 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 parcels to his two bruvvers at the front eh! 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 Mummy I quite enjoyed 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 from Hospital on Saturday 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 Blighty when 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’t larf — that is the best description of the pain of this boil on the back of me neck. For 4 nights running I 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 see in the depths of it all that my complaint is not all bluff .
Vernon thought 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 Ida that 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.
Well I left a letter to Sydney in 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 Pickwick Club (9) (when you read Miss Edith Evans’ letter I enclosed in Mother’s letter about the childrens’ party in the Cycle Shed, an annual affair? ) I mentioned the fact to Vernon about Sydney 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 the Little Grey Home in the West, from that little 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 puzzle of 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 copy could 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 a Blighty.
(9) Hibbett Pickwick Club (childhood club based 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 bedroom at 95, Foden Rd. (11) Winkle: Bertie has changed his Pickwick Club membership name.
(12) Crumps: German 5.9 inch shell or loud thudding sound as it burst. ‘the last crump’ meant the end of the War.
S.W. SLOPE OF HILL 60
7th Sept. Tue: Enemy repairing 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.