Pte BERTIE HIBBETT. No 6 General Base, Convalescent Camp, Rouen: POSTCARDNos Allies Cosaqueto BASIL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
October 10th 1915.Got this in Rouen last Friday, near Cathedral (1).
How are you blowing old boy.This gruesome old chap looks as if he means business on somebody’s blood. Yes, the Russian when he gets civilisedwill be of immense importance (2).
Good Luck and best of success at QMS (3).
Love from Bertie.
(1) So Pte BertieHibbett got his hoped for pass to visit Rouen Cathedral before he went back up the Line.
(2) Russiahad joined the Triple Entente with Britain & France in 1907. In 1914 it had the largest Army in the world – but its poor infrastructure made effective deployment difficult.<http://sparticus-educational.com>.
(3) Basil Hibbettwas back at Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall to re-sit his Junior Oxford Exam.
NEXT POSTS: 11th OCT. 1915. ‘If you keep this card & I see it again’.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT. No 6 GENERAL BASE CONVALESCENT CAMP: LETTER toArthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
Sunday Afternoon 4.20 pm3/ 10/ 15
My Dear Mother & Father,
A Break in the usual Sunday Letters, & Home Thoughts Abroad eh.
When I go into the fray for tea, for it is a fray indeed standing in the crush of men outside the hut or canteen, I shall be thinking of Sydneywaiting for hisnice tea at home, laid on a nice white cloth & flowers & nice food. He is perhaps listening to Ida’s music or Dad’s opinion of the War, or joking with Dodger, or watching the cool fresh sparkling water running from the tap on to the slop stone, – yes & he sits there & finds infinite pleasure and amusement with turning the tap.
‘Come along’ shouts Mummy from the Dining Room & in Sydney goesarm in arm with Champion & Dodger, immediately the latter relieved by Mum’sarm, & he then sits down to enjoy a nice Sunday’s tea with you all.
I went on Church Parade this morning & we had 370 (1) again – the Sea Hymn, ‘Eternal Father’. Yes, by the time this letter reaches you, Mother & Dad, Sydney will be in the train very likely, & will have crossed again those seas which the Spanish Armada sailed on.
What is there for tea for me today? I must be going to get some Roley Poley sic (2), or Duff as the Tommies call it.
It would not do for any of you to write to the authorities. You may write to John Bull, good old JB. (3). I never take him serious, so it’s all very well.
We had Marconochies (sic) (4) for tea once & Mum’s hard boiled eggscame in pat. A Tommy sang a very comic song at an entertainment for Winter Sports entitled ‘I’d rather have an ’ard boiled egg’ (5) & so I didin place of that which I believe causedmy boi—no I won’t say any more, ever about them!
I guess you will all be going again to St Paul’s tonight (6).
Best love, Bertie.
Pte Bertie Hibbett’s father appears to have considered writing to the Army about his son’s illness, in the hope of obtaining Home Leavefor him.
(1) Hymn. Eternal Father. No 370 in Bertie’s version of Hymns Ancient & Modern. cf Letter 2nd Oct.
(2) Roly-Poly. Plum Duff. Traditional British suet puddings, one spread with jam and rolled up, the other with added raisins/ currants: early 19th Cent/ associated with school dinners. (3) John Bull Magazine. British Sunday Newspaper estab.1820. ‘ultra patriotic’. Wikipedia.
(4) Maconochies: tinned stew / for ingredients see letter 17th April. 1915. (5) Comic SongbyWorton DavidandJulian Mack. published Sydney, Australia. 1912. (6)St Paul’s Church, Walsall (now St Paul’s at the Crossing. See Letter 26th Aug. 1914).
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: No 6 GENERAL BASE CONVALESCENT CAMP ROUEN: LETTER to Marie Neal Hibbett & Ida Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
Saturday Oct 2/ 15
My Very Dear Mother and Sister Ida,
It is getting dark. I am squatting in the tent_________ I feel I ought to write at once to you___________ I was going todinnerwhen a chap out of my tent told me to turn back, there was an urgent letter waiting for me in a pile of rifles in the tent.When I saw it I suddenly thought of dear Sydney.I thought the letter was to say he had either been k_____d or wounded. I had heard that ourBatt. must have been in the General Advance&I thought he had been in the Charge (1).
But I have been praying for him,remembering him in my prayers& have alsothought more often of him likely being on the journey Home to see Mummy & Dad & all of you.I prayed that he may have a Happy & Safe Journey.
Do you know Mummy here’s another queer coincidence,I’m sorry I left it out in my last letter. When I went to Church in the S.C.A. Hut (2) in the Con. Camp we sang ‘Eternal Father strong to save’ (3) & my didn’t I let my voice go thinking ofSydney, & in mind of him going across the Channel, either that night or someday in the coming week & ain’t it funny, it was so (4).
I did laugh, I couldn’t help myself laughing after I read Ida’s lovely letter – especially as I read ofSydney & pictured him sitting with Mummy by the cheery fireside, in the sound of the guns no, no, but in the sound of Sister’slovely touch on the pianoforte. Ha Ha! I am as blythe & gay as can be & only hope that Sydney, deary me, is making the best of his Leave. And too I am sorry for him for it will be another wrench for him to leave Home.
So you got those lovely apples from Gaunt’s Farm (5) & the eggs were so creamy and nice again.
Oh Ida you did hurt my feelings – I mean to say I am really ashamed of the complaints in my past letters which put you all so anxious,why I was even bemoaning myself on coming away on the march from the drilling field this morning. All the T.B. men (6) went to a large field for training & as we came back we passed No 9 General Hospital where I had been for such a long time. I saw the men in blue & thought of the long letters I wrote home from there & those horrible complaints which made you so upset.Yes there’s no denyingI have grumbled, butdearest Mummy, it will teach &has taught me a lesson.I shall be able to bear greater pain should it come in the future.
I have had some pay today & there are several Canteens here. I hope to be able to take something for Sydneywhen I go up the line again for I am sure he will feel the reaction greatly & will want something in the way of luxuriesto help to graduate the sudden fall from Home comforts.I’m glad Mum will find a spare minute to scratch a line to Miss Foster*; it will help to make things clearer as I don’t care much to explain things myself.
It is too dark to write now & besides the post goes soon & I want to get this off. Perhaps it is likely that this letter will be in time to wish dear Sydney the Best of Luck & a Hearty Send Off,hoping he will cross in safety Motherdear.
Ought not we to be indeed grateful & thankful to those Higher Hands. I’m sure you are & do not worry an iota about me coming Home. I am grateful to say I am taking things as Dad wished me to take them – ‘as a matter of course’. ‘I will sing of the Lord because he has dealt so lovingly with me’ applies to both, eh Mum. (Psalm for this evening 2/10/15(7).
Best love to all, Bertie Arfer.
(1) Major Offensive: 25th Sept. 1915. (2) Soldiers’ Christian Association Hut.
(3) Hymn: ‘Eternal Father‘. Words: William Whiting.1825-1878 (Anglican, Head of Winchester College Choristers’ School).
The Navy Hymn/ Seafarer’s Hymn: 1st edition Hymn Ancient & Modern. 1861.Based on Ps 107 the hymn expresses a three-fold experience of the divine as Father, Son & Holy Spirit. References toGenesis 1.2: The Spirit of God (Hebrew: Rûach רוּחַ Elohim אֱלֹהִים/ wind/breath/spirit (feminine/ plural) hovered/ brooded over the waters of chaos like a Mother bird; Mark 4.35f: Christ Stilling the Storm & Walking on Water; also Acts 27-28: Luke’s eyewitnessaccount of Paul’s shipwreck off the island of Malta. Tune: Melita (Malta). John Bacchus Dykes, 1823-1876. Precentor Durham Cathedral 1849-1862.
(4) WW1 Home Leave varied in length (travel time included).Corp. Sydney Hibbett is logged as ‘Rtd‘ (Returned) on5th Oct., so a ‘10 Day’s Leave’ (if Bertie is correct & his brother sailed Home on Sun. 26th Sept.)
(5) Gaunt’s Farm. Sutton? (connection John O’ Gaunt,1340-1399 1st Duke of Lancaster?).
6) T.B.Tuberculosis. Pte Bertie includes himself here. The family did not know of this until 1960s when my father went into Boston Hospital for operations on his war-worn feet and was found to have T.B.scars on his lungs. His brother Harold was invalided out of the Army and died of T.B. in 1940.
(7) Psalm 13.6. (8) Ouderdom5 mile march. (9) Abeele, Poperingue, West Flanders: (Site of WW1 Military Airfield).
(10) Fouquereuil, village one mile SW of Bethune, Nord Pas de Calais: 40 mile train journey. (11) L’Ecleme near Lillers, 15 miles SW of Bethune. (12) Brigade Operation Orders (Staffordshire Regiment Museum, Whittington Barracks, Lichfield).
1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
RAILWAY EMBANKMENT DUG-OUTS NEAR ZILLEBEKE
1st Oct. Fri:In Brigade Reserve. Brigaderelieved by17th Division.The Battalion vacated the dug-outs about 8.30pmand bivouaced atTransport LinesnearOUDERDOM (8).
2nd Oct. Sat: At about11 am Battalion paradedand marched to ABEELE (9).
Entrained forFOUQUEREUIL (10)4.30 pm arrived6.15 pm.Marchedto billets at L’CLEMEnearLILLERS(11)arrived at 12.30 am3rd inst. Ouderdom. (See B.O.O’s d/1.10.15 attached) (12)
NEXT POST: 3rd OCT. 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.