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 been marked for the Convalescent Camp today by Major. Shall in all probability move from Hospital tomorrow. Since I received your welcome parcel & letters I 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. Hoping you all will see at least one of us before the Winter. 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 a major offensive planned for the Western Front. This would account for the heightened anxieties in 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 Camp Pte 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 ‘Friday night’ indicates he knew a ‘Big Push‘ was absolutely imminent. He would not of course have known the details (below) of the 2nd Army Operation 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 Staffs Infantry 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.
OPERATION ORDERS No. 3.
by Lt Col. R.R. RAYMER Commdg. 1/5th BATTALION, SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT. 24. 9. 15.
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 3.00 A.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 34 and his approaches to them will be kept under artillery, rifle fire, 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 CATERPILLAR from 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 trenches except 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 trenches as directed in para 4 (a).
7. Battalion Head Quarters will be established in the Strong Point in the Wood at 10.30 pm Sept 24th communications with Head Quarters are to be tested every quarter of an hour from that time onwards.
8. Casualties will 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.
Copy No.1. To O.C. A. Coy by 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 one trench 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: Patrols sent out from 34 and 36 found nothing unusual. Aeroplanes very active. Enemy’s front line opposite 33 and 35 rifle grenaded, no retaliation. 22nd Sept. Wed: Trench opposite 33 again rifle grenaded without reply. Exceedingly quiet night.
23 rd Sept.Thur: 4th Belgian Battery damaged parapet opposite 34. Rifles fixed on the gaps and fire maintained during the night. Trench opposite 35 bombed at 2.20, 3.15 and 4.45 am. retaliation one trench mortar shell. Our artillery bombarded trenches opposite 33 and 34 from 12.5 pm to 12.50 pm.
At 9.30 pm enemy exploded mine outside 33 trench. No 1 Bay blown in crater just clear of our parapet. Force of explosion largely dissipated by 139th Brigade sap, and slope of Ravine. Another smaller crater since observed, about 30 x south of large crater and midway between the lines. Trench opposite was observed to be packed with enemy, rapid fire opened at once from all available rifles. Two Germans who exposed themselves were shot.
CASUALTY: WOUNDED: 9346 L/ Cpl A. Danks. (slightly wounded remain at duty).
24th Sept. Fri: Very quiet day. Enemy trench-mortared 33 and 34 after dusk. No damage.
NEXT POST: 28th Sept. 1915.