25th Oct. Mon: ALLOUAGNE. Marched to FOUQUIERES and went into billets.
26th – 31st Oct: In Rest Billets.
Lucky if this ‘Parchment of Rubbish’ arrives when you are both at Home again.
Woden’s Day. Oct 27/ 15
‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver’. 28.11. I can say these words from Proverbs truly apply to Mother, Father & all your letters, they have encouraged me so.
My Dearest Ida & Harold,
So Okoo (1) was at Home on Saturday. I remember the good old days when Harold paid his weekly visit Home on Saturdays. So if Harold was at Home he would be with Ida Q.E.D. You both remind me of the happy time when all the family dined together, & of the Sundays when we peeled oranges & cracked brazil nuts & crept up to Mummy’s bag of walnuts and Rowntrees Pastilles, of the time when Ida’s views & opinion clashed in opposition to Harold’s, of the time Okoo cried because Ida was walking slow & careless far behind. Hoo, hoooo sh.
And now, dear sister & brother do not see each other so often and the happy family, like a Dandelion Wind Clock, began to loosen those little seeds with hairy heads, & the first little hairy being, like a parachute, flew to Wolverhampton & thither to Yorkshire & the wind blew it all over the country, so that little seed saw a lot of the beauty of Rural England. I hope that little seed will settle in good ground now & cause another wind clock to grow (2).
Another little wind seed (3) was blown by ‘rude Boreas’ (4) to Little Tottam (5) thither elsewhere & at last settled in the very spot where it came from, after a very profitable flight, much to its little heart’s content; yes it is now settled in the sweetest spot on earth & is thriving splendidly, doing noble work.
Now there happened to be two little seeds which blew together (6), as is so often noticed with wind clocks. (6) Good kind old Boreas, in his admiration for them, bore them along over fair England and across the sea to the land of Chanticleer (7). Now, though Boreas, with his strong breath, caused the two little seeds to part at times, he succeeded in bringing them together most times.
One little seed was larger & finer than the other, it was older too & gained much favour from onlookers, its hairy head too was lovelier and larger than its brother seed, but they both loved each other & that is why jolly old Boreas did not allow his strong breath to spoil either of them.
There is still another little seed that is striving to get away from the Wind Clock (8), it has not grown enough yet, such a bonny little seed it is, but it is so anxious about its two brother seeds which are being blown together such a long way off.
Now there is a wonderful feeling of unity among these seeds & its is to be hoped they will one day be all joined together for a spree, a jolly big spree too. Send me the solution if you think it worth while!
Father’s few words, in each of the letters in the parcels to us both, have bucked me up. I don’t know about Sydney, but I shall very likely be right 5 times out of 6 that they have bucked him up too. I got the readable letter, gloves & sou’wester for Sydney, this evening when I went to the Company billets to post letters to Mother & Miss Foster* (9), & of course wait to see if there was anything in the post.
The Transport came while I was there & I was in time to see them sorted. From within the Parcel bag out came one for me addressed, I could see, by Harold, but when I opened it I saw firstly a letter from Dodger. I compared the writing with that on the parcel & well if Basil doesn’t write somewhat like Harold at times!
I opened & read the letters with jollification bubbling in my little sen, while I waited for Sydney to return from Parade. He came at last & I gave him the letters & papers & brought away Harold’s & the London Observer (10) so that I could refer to them in this letter.
Tomorrow – the ‘Glory Boys’, including Sergeant S. H., are to be reviewed by the King (11). Oh you know how humble, quiet , modest Sydney talks when such a palaver of ceremony is in preparation. I believe he wishes he were me. As for me I am ‘out of it’ altogether perhaps, most likely, I shan’t share in the sight tomorrow.
Oh! Bombs. Ida’s making bombs. I told Vernon & he was surprised in a way. Bravo Ida. Oh! my delicate spotty complexion, Harold, needs some face cream to hide the war-worn appearance.
Do you know what the Commanding Officer remarked in class about me? We were all discussing about the food & he said ‘Look at that chap’s fat face’, but I said ‘I have been in Hospital (where we had Tapioca pudding)’ . All my Tommy comrades say how fat I’ve growd (sic).
‘Food for the Front’ we read, but take care, be careful. ‘Too much Food, too much “Front” ’. ‘NUB‘ , as Vernon often said to me – ‘Nigh to Bursting’. Vernon, by the by, is in Hospital ‘Somewhere’ & I saw a parcel for him tonight (12).
So much for tonight – I am writing this in a barn by the candle light & there are two rude Tommies peeping over me to see how long I am going to write. – Goodnight.
Of course Harold will join as a Medical Officer (13). I read in the Times that the War Office is in need of them more than the ordinary officer. There are chaps – why even this afternoon I came across an NCO who sincerely took the better side & viewed the circumstances in their better light & said that the men in England, who could easily come out here, must have many hours in uneasy thought.
Sydney will very likely tell you about the King’s Review (14), he has seen the King more times than anyone in the family. I did not go, nor did the bombing party. I was ‘quite out of it’ as I expected & felt somewhat sorry & envious of the ‘Glory Boys’. When I think of our Good King George V I remember Mr Dixon’s sermon, when he said he would always stick fast to loyalty to the King & indeed of all Kings. King George should find a true & loyal heart in every one of his subjects. Don’t you think so?
I think Sydney is a brother to be greatly proud of – his little history, since he was sworn in on Sept. 2 nd 1914 is as follows:
Luton. Paraded in civilian dress to be inspected by the General of the Division. His broad & tall stature admired by the General who spoke a few words to him. (15)
Walsall Tame Valley Range . Distinguished himself in shooting to the extent that he was clapped often by the men.
Luton Ranges – Gained the highest scoring in the Battalion .
Saffron Walden – started training as a sniper & distinguished himself in musketry courses.
France. May 1915 – made Lance Corporal. Sept.1915 – Corporal. Oct. 1915 – Sergeant. Jan 1916? – let’s hope for better still.
Best love to you all,
Poor old Private Bertie Arfer.
PS What think you of Servia? (16).
(1) ‘Okoo’ – another nickname for Basil Hibbett. (2) Harold Victor Hibbett: recently engaged to Hilda Bore*. Qualified Chemist & Pharmacist under pressure to join up at 31 yrs.
(3) Ida Neal Hibbett: now settled at Home in Walsall. (4) Boreas: purple-winged God of the North Wind, bringer of Winter. <www.theoi.com/Titanhtpl>
(5) Little Tottam in Essex? – first mention of Ida being in Essex. (6) Sydney & Bertie Hibbett: only 1 year & 1 month between them. As close & as loyal as twins.
(7) Chanticleer: Gallic Rooster/symbol of France from Roman times / play on gallus (Latin for ‘rooster’) & Gallic). Character in Nun’s Priest’s Tale /Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
(8) Basil Hibbett: the youngest. Still at School but preparing to join up. (9) Mary Foster, Bertie’s Godmother in Nottingham.
(10) The London Observer: 1791. World’s oldest Sunday Newspaper. 1915 Owner: Waldorf Astor /Editor: James L. Garvin .
(11) The King’s Review of the ‘Glory Boys’ (those who had been in the Battle of Loos -Hohenzollern Redoubt). Second Visit to review Allied Forces in France with Gen. Joffre & President M. Raymond Poincare. Gave Gen. Joffre a message of congratulations for French Troops. Pte Bertie need not have envied his brother. Sydney was to suffer the consequences (See 2nd Nov. 1915 Hibbett Letter) and the King fell from his horse & was seriously injured, 27th Oct. 1915. <https://www.royalcentral.co.uk> and <https://en.wikipedia.org>
(12) Vernon in Hospital so would not receive his parcel. (13) Harold under pressure from the National Registration Act 1915. Bertie’s attempts to reassure his Mother that Harold would escape being a private.
(14) King George Vth’s ‘dedication to duty’ kept middle classes loyal to the King in WW1. (15) cf. Hibbett Letters Oct.1914-Feb.1915. General of 46th Midland Division: Major General E. J. Montagu-Stuart Wortley.
(16) Servia: Invasion of Serbia Oct. 1915 by Austro-German & Bulgarian Army. Over 20% of Serbian population died of which 60% were men. ‘The Albanian Golgotha’ (‘Place of the Scull’ outside Jerusalem walls, where Jesus was crucified. Mark 15.22). 200,000 died in trek through Albanian mountains to Adriatic Sea (of cold, starvation and disease/ typhus). Survivors transported by Allied ships to Greek Islands. Many ‘buried’ strapped together at sea in ‘Blue Graveyard’ near Greek island of Vido.
NEXT POST: 2nd Nov. 1915. The King’s Review & its consequences for the ‘Glory Boys’.