20th – 21st Oct. In Rest Billets.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER To MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
Anniversary of Trafalgar Day. 1805. Oct 21/ 15
‘I mean to debar myself of many comforts to serve my country & I expect great consolation every time I cut a slice of salt beef instead of mutton’. Lord Nelson. (1).
My Very Dear Mother,
I feel so happy with Sydney now & I have felt so grateful for his safety in the past & am indeed proud of his further promotion. Sergeant Sanger*, (who went on Home Leave to Isle of White yesterday) put in a good word for him & so he was made full Sergeant from Corporal (2).
How nice the potted meat tasted, I did enjoy it & Sydney did too.
Thank you for the Monkey soap (3) which will come in so useful & the cloth & emery paper. I enjoyed the thick broken chocolate on the journey (4). The little rosy apples were good to eat & helped to get Vernon up one morning, they were so cold.
Vernon, I am sorry to say, is going to join the Signallers (5) but he will be able to see us now & again. I read such a jolly letter from his little sister Molly* who copied my last letter to her so exactly. How the many crosses for kisses form a Union Jack at the end of them all.
Well I shall have to be closing. I must get ready to parade. I will write again soon.
Best love to Ida, hoping she is doing well at Pink Forms (6) & comfort at home.
Best love to Dad & Basil & Bestest love to you.
PS We are, I guess, always thinking of each other eh! Mum?
PS NB I got & read with deep interest your letter of Sunday Oct 10th. I shouldn’t be surprised if you were writing when I was. Send me another shirt if you have one as comfortable as the first you sent me at Hospital. It was so nice & soft.
(1) Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson. 1771 -1805. Quotation: Nelson’s letter from Bath to Thomas Lloyd, Esq. No 15, May’s Buildings, St Martin’s Lane, London. Dated Jan 29th 1898. Pte Bertie’s use of it may well be because his parents had told him of food shortages at Home.
“England expects that everyman will do his duty” : Nelson’s famous message to his men at the beginning of the victorious Battle of Trafalgar (in which he lost his life) must have been on everyone’s mind at this time, along with Earl Douglas Haig’s recruiting poster ‘Your Country Needs You!’
(2) That Sydney Hibbett was promoted to Sergeant, so soon after being made Corporal, is indicative of the large numbers of casualties in the Battle of Loos-Hohenzollern, 13th -15th Oct. 1915.
(3) Monkey Soap. A scouring soap produced in 1899 by Sydney & Henry Gross, Philadelphia, USA (later called Port Sunlight Soap).
(4) Bertie’s Journey from Rouen Hospital to Bethune and back to the Front. This could have been in uncovered wagons.
(5) A Field or Signallers Company of Royal Engineers (total 162 men – with Company HQ and Four Sections) was attached to each Division. (No 1 Section communicated with Division HQ. Nos 2 – 4 communicated with its Brigade). As armed infantrymen Signallers carried a SMLE (short-magazine Lee-Enfield: the British Army’s standard rifle from 1895 -1957. They had use of 37 riding horses, 47 draft horses, 4 pack-horses, 32 bicycles and 9 motorbikes.
(6) Pink Forms. Type in ‘Pink Forms’ and discover ‘The Derby Scheme’. The National Registration Act was initiated by Lord Derby, and passed on 15th July 1915. It required all men, between the age of 18 and 65 years, to register their residential location on 15th Aug.1915. 29 million forms were issued: Granite Blue forms for Men and White forms for Women.
In order to create a Card Index of Men Available for Military Service, a Pink Form was completed for each Granite Blue Form, if that man was between the age of 18 and 41 years. This was then passed to local Recruiting Officers so that canvassing could begin. Again this is indicative of the huge numbers of casualties resulting from trench warfare in 1915.
Pte Bertie’s sister Ida must have heard from her father (Chief Education Officer) that help was needed at the local government office. My aunt’s War Service also included VAD Red Cross nursing and bomb making.
NEXT POST: 24th Oct. 1915 ‘Making Bombs while her Brother is throwing them’ will be posted as soon as possible.