South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


29th Nov. LORETTO ROAD. In Brigade Reserve ‘C’ Subsector Rest Houses.  CASUALTIES: 2 men 672 Pte S. Gee wounded by shrapnel whilst on working party. 9187 Pte L J.  Harper slightly wounded.

 TOTAL CASUALTIES NOVEMBER 1915: KILLED 1. WOUNDED 4.  Slightly wounded 4.

Signed: H. A. WISTANCE Capt. Comg 1/5 South Staffs Regt.


BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
20  in 1915.


Pater’s Buthdoi.    29/11/ 15.

A MORNING’S  X  Mum; X  Ida; X Dodger;  X  Harold; X  Sydney; X  Myself.

11.30 am. In a billet.

That our sons may grow up as the young plants and that our daughters may be as the polished corners of the Temple’. 30th Day. (1)


My Very Dear People,

Walter Crane: The North Wind doth blow.
‘The North Wind doth blow’. Walter Crane..

So you all tried the soft woollen helmet on, & fancied yourselves in a barn like the Cock Robin (Bertie)when he knew Winter was coming, to keep himself warm, he hid in a barn (2).

Well you will be happy to hear that the parcel came on Saturday when I was in the trenches, so I wore it that very same night – & luckily too it was the night I was able to get the most of the hours sleep since I was in; for the night before I was on sentry all through.

Oh how I did larf Champion –  at Father’s Nellie Grey (3). I had an idea you would send those poems out ofTroubadour’ (4), how good of you, you brick, to rip the pages out.  Forgive me, I was somewhat disappointed on seeing that the ‘The Highwayman’  was not in the parcel, it is such a fine poem eh?

Now you’ll all enjoy a good lunch, a good tea & tell me if Dad had bacon for breaker.  Also tell me if he gets to be N.U.B. (5) Also tell me if Dodger wants M.I.K. (6) also Mum tell me if Ida is M.Xant  –(i.e. Most Xtravigant) with the butterfood rationing WW!search

Also lastly tell me if you’ve adopted any Table Economy (7).

’Ello what’s this? I said to me sen as a letter addressed to Sydney from Mother was handed to me.  On the envelope it had ‘NOT AT BASE Try Front’.  So by that poor Sydney is of course not at the Convalescent Camp, but I wonder if he is on the way to see me or joined a wretched Entrenching Battalion (8). Forgive me, I took it into my head to read the letter and I will keep it for the dear boy.

Yes poor Vernon is still ill with a chill, woke this mornin’ and greeted me in a whisper, no improvement in his voice, but the voice of influenza is creeping o’er him.

Mum, I made some coffee on getting intobed’ last night& I saved Brewin* some for him to drink after going out on duty.  Brewin made some Porridge this morning & said it is the ‘finest thing one can have in the trenches’.

Dodger, you aren’t preparing for anything at Christmas at the Grammar School like you did at B’ham?  I am looking forrard to Christmas, no matter in what way it comes, how when or where.

Toodle oo,  

7381788Best love Bertie Arfer, Cock Robin. X X X X X.

PS  Auntie* sent me a letter, the longest she has ever written – on large foolscap She said she is knitting a pair of socks for Dad & also making a Cake for Christmas & is sending some to Sid & me.

Had a letter from Miss Foster* yesterday, a jolly letter, she wants me to tell her anything and everything and wants me to give her a description of a dugout, but oh my after knowing the result my letter of Sunday Nov 14th and the effect it had on poor Mum I could not tell Miss Foster, for she too was taken by a simple heading to one of my past letters to herWritten Within a Barn by Candlelight’.  She added that she was aware that we have to put up with worse things & I think I will leave it to her imagination.  She told me you had written to her about Sydney.

Well  Ta Ta.  Dad’s letter must not go without a PS.

Whit too whoo’ said the owl last night.

X Mum,  X Ida,  X Harold,  X Dodger, X Sydney, X Myself.

PS NB  Also tell me if Dad smoked a cigar & if he got my letter of Thursdayon right’. (9).



Pte Bertie draws a picture of how the Hibbett Family made their Father’s  Birthday/’Buthdoi’ special.

(1) Psalm 144.12. (Book of Common Prayer). Original Hebrew words used here are rare and difficult to translate into English. In some versions ‘sons‘ are ‘towers‘ rather than ‘plants‘ and ‘daughters‘ are ‘corner/foundation pillars‘ of a palace rather than merely ornamental statues. (Good example of how translators can perpetuate gender stereotypes).

Walter Crane.

(2) Nursery Rhyme ‘The North WindorThe Robin‘: The North Wind doth blow and we shall have snow and what will Cock Robin do then, poor thing. He will sit in a barn to keep himself warm & hide his head under his wing, poor thing. Last verseWhat will children do then, poor things?  ‘They must skip, jump and run until they have made themselves warm, poor things‘. Mother GooseimagesMother Goose: imaginary author of Fairy Tales & Nursery Rhymes. A Baby’s Bouquet 1878. Illustrations by Walter Crane.1845-1915. English artist/children’s books.

Benjamin Hanby.

(3) Nellie Gray: popular 19th Cent. song against slave-trade. An African-American male slave of Kentucky mourns the sale of his beloved into slavery in Georgia. Benjamin Hanby, 1856.

(4) Poem The Troubadourappears in ‘A Magazine of Verse’. January 1915. Madison Cawein, 1865-1914.  American Poet (‘Keats of Kentucky’). His poem ‘Waste Land’, 1914, is said to have inspired Ezra Pound’sThe Waste Land‘, 1922, foundation of modernism in poetry. ‘Night they say is no man’s friend and at night he met his end … Hate crouched near him as he strode… Eyes of murder glared and burned at each turning of the road… And with Death we stood and stared… but he never looked nor cared.’ cf The Poetry Foundation.

(5) N.U.B: ‘Nigh to Bursting’. (6) M.I.K: ‘More in Kitchen’.

Illust LondonRationing-begins2(7) Table Economy: Food rationing was not introduced until 1916 but pressure was put on public to be frugal. 60% of food in Britain was imported. 300,000 tonnes of food shipping was sunk every day by German submarines. cf. The Illustrated London News. 

(8) Entrenching Battalion: temporary units to provide ‘pools of men‘ in a Corps from which to draw replacements in infantry battalions. See Wikipedia. Fuller details in Long Long Trail <https://www.1914-1918.net/entrenching.html >

(9) ‘on righti.e. on the exact day 29th Nov. ‘Pater’s Buthdoi’.

NEXT POST5th Dec. 1915.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


28th Nov. Sun: Quiet morning.  Considerable shelling from 2.0 pm to 3.30 pm. Centre of  SUBSECTOR whizz-banged heavily on front MOGGS HOLE (1) shelled with H.E. and part of 1/5th North Staffs caught, of whom 1 man was killed and 1 officer and 1 man wounded. Enemy shells blew in about 12 yards front parapet opposite BREWERY.  Relieved in trenches 6.10 pm by 1/5th Batt, North Staffordshire Regt.

CASUALTY: 8844  L/ Cpl C. A. Gurley wounded.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. Censor D.N. Robinson.

‘Sentry Duty’. Advent Sunday (2). Nov 28/ 15

‘My sons be not negligent, for the Lord hath chosen you to stand before him, & to serve Him’. 2 Chron. XXIX. XI. 29th Nov. inDaily Strength for Daily Needs’. (3).

My Dear Father & Mother,

I was almost afraid that this memorable Sunday would pass without me having time to write to you.

Picture No. 10847532
Picture No. 10847532

Yes ’tis Advent, Christmas is coming & there are signs of it too in the weatherfreezing all dayMany, many hearty thanks for the cozy sleeping helmet which I got yesterday & wore last night, & how queer, I did so soundly sleep, such a good sleep too, never had a better since I have been in the trenches after coming from the Base.

Don’t say I’m greedy, I was half expecting some of Mum’s Home-made toffee –  at any rate I scented the helmet,  some of Ida’s Heather Scent, & cuddled it on me & thought of you all having tried it on each of you. What lovely soft wool isn’t it?

I wrote to Dad on Thursday to give him my wishes on his birthday. Tell me if it gets to him ‘on the right‘. Miss Foster* wrote another nice letter which I got this morning & mentioned you had written about Sydney & (she) is sending me a scarf & mittens. She says ‘say everything and anything’  in my letters.

We have had our feet greased everyday, every 24 hours, & occasionally wash them & put clean socks on.  If your poor busy fingers (fisses) are not tired I should love another pair of socksMy feet – & all of us get our feet damp & cold after a day in the trenches.  Sentry is a cold slow job & we tried to keep warr(sic) by making a fire.  My relief almost burnt his boots, he kept his feet rested on the fire. We are going to billets I believe again this evening  & hope to have another 3 days comfort.

I saw Serg. Sanger* & he wishes to be remembered to you & sais he might come across Dad when he goes over for his Commission the Colonel has recommended him for – without any application on his part.  Sanger said he cannot give me any definite news with regard to Serg. Tim Fenton.  Poor chap, the general opinion with the men here is that he was killed in the Charge & never brought in or found.  I am exceedingly sorry my enquiries have been in vain (4).

Poor old Vernon has not yet found his voice; sounds queer at times for me to hear him whisper every time he talks to me.  I do think he ought to be where Sydney is, if not at Home.

Mr. W. H. Cozens* sent mewhat do you think? why about 40 packets of Woodbines 9 & 2 packets of bacca through the British Exped. Force.  Of course he intends me to distribute them among the men. So I will.  Twas jolly of him eh!  I thank Ida for her efforts in trying to find ‘The Highwayman’, it was in a Red Reader (5), one of Basil’s.  Perhaps it is in the TOP ATTIC.  Oh I shouldn’t mind enduring the cold of the TOP ATTIC now.

If I had five francs I would send it to you  to make some toffee Vernon is very generous, he generally has sent him a small Winter’s Malt Wheat Loaf  (6) & in the last parcel he had was a tin of Golden Syrup & with the Maltwheat it tasted grand.  We both share each other’s parcels.

Well I will close now.  Hoping you are all having a Happy AdventI can picture Dad this evening playing those Advent Hymns (7).

Best love to Dodger & Ida & Harold etc etc. 

Of course I shall write again tomorrow. I remember Dad always eyed anything in the way of rich cakes etc with dubious curiosity. It is not poison is it?’  So Mum, I know you will treat Dad, & you too Ida, make him receive that which is good & all enjoy a happy day with the King , the Gov’nor, the Pater,  AH! Dad. (8).

Ta Ta.  Love from Bertie.

PS  My text, at the head of my letter, I read in a book at the YMCA at the Base, a daily text book & I read all our birthdays.  I found this for Nov 29thMy sons be not negligent.  Vernon told me about the Matinee & Miss I. Cozens* went with Ida did she?  I wrote to you the Tuesday thanking you for the ripping Pork Pie & other good things.



(1) Moggs Hole Cemetery (begun during Battle of Neuve Chapelle, March 1915) now called Neuve Chapelle British Cemetery. Origin of name ‘Moggs’ unknown. 

(2) Advent Sunday: from Latin Adventus ‘Coming’. 1st day of the Church’s Year, month before Christmas.

(3) Daily Strength for Daily NeedsH. Eastman. Publisher Rangoon. American Baptist Mission Press 1915. (appears to be still on-going publicaton).

(4) Trench FeverPyrexia: raised body temperature (of unknown origin hence PUO). First reported summer 1915. Officially recognised summer 1916. Possible causes include body lice infection. See Journal of Royal Society of Medicine/Trench Fever article L.T. Atenstaedt. 450,000 British soldiers affected. Vernon was eventually invalided out of the army. See also National Archives Kew/medical records MH 106/446.

(5) Red Reader: pre-WW1 Book of short stories & poems to encourage young readers?  Open University Arts Research/ The Reading Experience Data Base (RED) 1450-1945 < https://www.open.ac.uk Arts/RED/publications > may solve this query.

(6) Malt Wheat Bread: John Rowlands, proprietor, The Central Stores & Bakery, Llangollen.Telephone No 8: placed advertisement: ‘Appetising & Nutritious Winter’s Malt & Wheat Bread. 3d’ in  Llangollen Advertiser & North Wales Journal 29th Oct 1915. (National Library of Wales Newspaper Collection).

(7) Advent Hymns my grandfather loved & passed on his family:- ‘Hark a herald voice is calling’: 6th Cent. translation. Tune Merton. W.H. Monk, 1823-1889. ‘Lo! he comes with clouds descending’: Charles Wesley, 1758. 18th Cent. English melody ‘Helmsley’.   Also ‘O Come, O come Emmanuel!: 18th Cent. tr. of Latin ‘Veni Veni Emmanuel’. (8) AH! & AHH!: play on initials Arthur Hibbett & Arthur Hubert Hibbett.

NB ‘fissies’ – See Letter: 19th Oct 1915.

NEXT POST: 29th Nov. 1915. Pater’s Buthdoi.



Centre: Sgt S. HIBBETT when training as a Sergeant.
Sarjeant Sydney Hibbett. 22 yrs 1916.

Serjeant SYDNEY HIBBETT: LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd.Walsall.

Convalescent Camp.  Rouen.                           Saturday.   Nov 27th/ 15.

My very dear own Parents,

I am feeling much better today and can safely say I am quite well. I came out of the special treatment ward today and am now with the ‘Z’ Company again (1).

There was a concert in the YMCA last night so I went over and enjoyed myself.  I don’t think I shall be here very long now as I don’t particularly desire it and want to get back to business.  I wish it was the old Works again though (2). Then there is my commissionI want to see how that is going on, though a sergeant has a lot of privileges, I find (3).

I am looking forward rather to the morning service tomorrow: it was beautiful last Sunday, though I was so bad I could hardly stand.  We have the Chaplain, a kindly old man, to play the harmonium & this, with all the band’s flutists, makes a most beautiful and tuneful melody.

The big YMCA hut is crowded with convalescents and we have a very similar service to the Matins at home.  You know I delight to hear &  sing the Psalms & a service without these & the Venite is no service to me (4). But last Sunday reminded  one very much of the service at St Paul’sSt Paul's Interior Walsall

Ah yes! be happy that you have a good church and a nice service to go to on a Sunday;  I think of it you know & can see you all in church in my mind’s eye: the familiar, well known people, the Farringtons, Fentons, Middletons, the Miss Hills and Co and so on.

St Paul's at Crossing
St Paul’s at Crossing.

They all perhaps think – ‘same place, another Sunday, same people, the same old round’.  How I enjoyed the service that morning I went when I was on leave!

Tell Harold I wish him the best of luck and hope he won’t be forced to join the Army. The way some of the crippled soldiers have been treated by the War Office is enough to deter anyone from joining the Army.  What will become of a great many of the poor fellows who are not able to help themselves, I don’t know:  I shouldn’t like it. (5) 

Yes next time there’s a War I shall stand on the footpath and shout Hurray! and wave my hand to the passing troops & stay at home – & send them cigarettes!  And that is as far as I shall go.

Tell old Hal (6) to write me a line as he owes me a letter.  Jolly old boy.  Hasn’t poor old Alan been home yet?  Perhaps he will be in time for Xmas.

I suppose you are having one of your usual Saturday afternoons again  – nothing much to do and Hal is over at Sutton I expect,  and Dad is reading his Times in the red chair by the fire and I hope you will both be going a walk soon.

What does Dodger do on a Sat.  I suppose he kicks a ball about up at the old field, but I forgot, they have a new ground now (7). Ida will be making bombs perhaps, good old sort.

Well there is not much to say now it seemsthe fellows are off to the pictures in Rouen & are marching down with the band.  I never go myself. I think I will close now: the next time I write will probably be at the Base, we shall see.

Goodbye, dear Mother and everyone, and I hope you have a nice SundayKeep Harold at Home & don’t let him be in a hurry to join.

Best love from Sydney.

PS  I had a letter from Miss Brookes* (8), a very nice one too.  What about my watch?


South Staffordshire BadgeePte BERTIE HIBBETT & 1/5th  SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


25th Nov.Thur:  Relieved the 1/5th Batt. North Staffordshire Regiment in ‘C’ SUBSECTOR trenches at 6.40 pm.

26th Nov. Fri: Quiet Day. Enemy placed considerable number of H.E. around BREWERY. CASUALTY: 8646 Pte W. Edwards wounded by shrapnel.

27th Nov. Sat:  Quiet morning. About mid-day enemy whiz-banged field West of BATTALION HEADQUARTERS.  At 10.0 pm slightly increased activity of hostile gun and rifle fire.


SYDNEY HIBBETT 20 in 1914.
Sydney Hibbett QMS Cadet.
Elizabeth Hibbett Webb

The young Queen Mary’s School Cadet is now an experienced soldier and this Letter is that of a man who has fought his way for 2 days or more – along Big Willie in the Battle of Loos-Hohenzollern Redoubt.  However sad, however disillusioned with the Army and the War Office he may appear to be, there is no question that Serjeant Sydney Hibbett knows his dutyhe must get wellfurther his commission and get back to the Front to look after his men.

(1‘Z’ Company of Royal Engineers: a special unit specialising in use of gas & flame projectors (to create walls of fire) came into being  in response to German gas attacks, 22nd April 1915. (Long Long Trail/ Royal Engineers/ website).

(2) Mining Engineering Works/Old Park Works,  Wednesbury, Staffordshire.

(3) Serjeant (official spelling in WW1).  2nd in Command of a troop or platoon (50 men). Privileges: presumably these included exemption from censorship of letters ? 

(4Matins: common name for ‘Morning Prayer’ in Church of England Book of Common Prayer.1662.  Originally a monastic liturgy at cock-crow/ also called ‘lauds’ (from Latin meaning ‘praise’). Oxford Dictionaries: Origin of word ‘matins’: Middle English from Old French ‘matines’, influenced by the Latin ‘matinutae’ (morning prayers), from Mutata/name of the Roman Dawn Goddess. Nice!

The Venite, Exultemus Domino ( ‘O Come, let us Sing unto the Lord’) is the 1st line of the opening Psalm 95. The Psalms Sydney loved (he probably knew many by heart) would be those of the Psalter in Book of Common Prayer (ordered to be read or sung through once a month) rather than those in King James translation of Old Testament Book of Psalms.

(5) Crippled Soldiers: 30% of British Soldiers were wounded in WW1. Before 1915 they relied on Soldiers & Sailors Help Society. The State reluctantly began to take some responsibility and Pensions were introduced. But many of the disabled & their families suffered great hardship. Those with ‘shell-shock’ were ignored or treated with suspicion as ‘malingerers’. See Jenny du FeuFactors Informing Rehabilitation of British Soldiers of WW1‘. <https://www.medicinae.org >

(6) Hal: Sydney’s abbrev. for elder brother Harold. (7QMS New Sports Ground: in same place as today?    (8) Miss K. Brookes*: family friend & well-respected Sunday School Superintendant at St Paul’s Walsall.

NEXT POST: 28th Nov. 1915.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


22nd Nov. Mon:  V. Quiet day. Enemy shrapnelled Communication Trenches. Relieved by 4th Batt. KINGS LIVERPOOL Regt from LIVERPOOL STREET to CHURCH ROAD.  1/5th Bat NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE Regt took over trench NORTH of CHURCH ROAD. 1/6th Batt. SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE Regt took over trench SOUTH of LIVERPOOL STREET.

23rd Nov. Tue: LORETTO ROAD.  In Brigade Reserve in  ‘C’ SUBSECTOR Rest Houses.


BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
19 in 1914.

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95  Foden Rd Walsall.

Tuesday Night. November 23/ 15

A Merry Party of Tommies.

My Dearest Mum, Dad & all,

What  really ripping parcels you have sent lately, and the best of it  – they have really come at a very happy & convenient time.  The one & the only one which was brought into the trenches that day. Indeed the towel came also very timely  to cleanse my very dirty black fuzzy wig & the toffee too came at an acceptable time,  a rough time, a cold time, a time when my tummy felt cold & frozen, a nightly time. 

Zebra Polish Tin c. 1930.
Zebra Polish Tin.  c.1930.

And oh the handsome Zebra Polish tin, – so neatly packed with rich, delightful, delicious, appetising confectionery – came at a most welcome time & a jolly time.

We came out of the trenches yesterday & after a long tedious march through the long. . . (censored). . . with our packs & overcoats on as usual, we settled down for the night in this barn where I am writing  – or trying to write a letter of thanks, expressing my heart’s love to you for such good, homely comforts.

Round the barn are seated Tommies & in the centre is a blazing warm coke fire.  Such a comfy sightA sight which has set our hearts aglow and which had made us feel like having a sing song of some sort.  At length the Corporal proposed a little concertAfter much persuasion I volunteered to give them one.  I only wished ’’The Highwayman’ (1) had come timely too, at any rate the recitation I gave these men was fresh to them.  Oh how they clapped & how their attention was drawn, they listened with keen interest & all was quiet.

Mum, the Pork pie came ‘at the right’ as Dad puts it.  The Parcel came by the second post when we were all laid down to sleep, but with the help of the candles, thanks so much for them, I laid the parcel outVernon, I am glad to say, got with me for the night & we enjoyed a slice of pork pie eachEverything in the parcel came in nicely, something suitable for each meal of the day; the pork pie & a hot drink of coffee with the milk you sent for dinner, those tasty crisp flat cakes for a sweet after breakfast, the wholesome fancy bread loaf & butter for tea, the apples, one each eaten on waking up this morning. 

Sllep Trenchese93063fb23c8b5fbd33cccfeb68c38a2
Poor Vernon had caught his chill & lost his voice sleeping in trenches like this. <https://www.pinterest.com&gt;

I could only find Vernon’s nose to rub the cold little apple on, he had huddled himself in the blanket overcoat & had his sleeping helmet on, his head was buried in his clothing.

The thick lovely chocolate came nicely between meals & a lump helped to stay Vernon’s coughVernon, poor chap, has lost his voice again & has a cold the same one he had at Saffron Walden (2); don’t say anything to his people, he would be huffy with I – oh my!

Mum, it was a homely tea.  I toasted the two slices of the lovely loaf & spread some of the lovely home butter on & then, Mum, I had that which you love, Damson Jam on TOP of the jolly lot.  Then I had some of the simply superb Genoa  nut cakeVernon said it was very nice & the bread too.  But, poor boy, he could not enjoy a second or rather as much pie as I offered him.  It was fine & he did enjoy it all the more.

Don’t be, I hope you aren’t, anxious about your long & many lettersyou have so laid your spare time, yes & even taken some of your time for attending to domestic affairs.  How my heart leaps in gratitude to you when you talk of being busy in making things for Xmas time.

Just had a most jolly letter from Sydney, he told me not to send it Home it was so childish.

9.0 pm. The conclusion of this letter has been delayed through fatigue duties  & V & I have been transferred from comfy billets to next door where there is no fire

Well Ta Ta.  Goodnight pip, pip.  I pray you will have a good night’s sleep, although you might get this in a morning.

Best love to all, will write to Dodger soon & send a Boomerang to Champion in reply to her champion epistles.

What oh! Jolly old Flo.

Bertram Arfer.

PS   Nil.  Napou.  Finis.  Oosh Cha. (3)

I will gollop down the last piece of bread & butter with cake betweenand Verney will share in & we are both settling down to sleep the night through.



Pte Bertie’s jolly rhymes & school-boy jargon reflects his happy mood at the success of his Concert party-piece, despite the move fromcomfy billets&blazing coke fire‘ – on which he had no doubt made his toast

(1) The Highwayman. Alfred Noyes: 1880-1958. cf Letter: 5th Nov. 1915.  (2) Saffron Walden, Essex. Training. Letters: Dec. 1914 Jan 1915.

(3) Nil (Latin ‘nothing more‘); Finis (Latin ‘the end’); Napou: soldier French for ‘finis; Oosh cha: a tea-time cheer?/ from Hindi cha/tea?  Ta Ta/ Pip Pip are cheery farewells; but what is ‘Jolly old Flo’?

NEXT POST:  27th Nov. 1915.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th  SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


19th Nov. Fri: Relieved 1/6th Batt North Staffordshire Regt in the ‘B’ SECTOR trenches at 6.45 pm.  20th Nov. Sat: Enemy working parties heard knocking in stakes and revetting sic (1).  Enemy shrapnelled right of SECTOR 55. CASUALTY: Pte S.W. Clarke wounded.

21st Nov. Sun:  Quiet day. Enemy shrapnelled Fire and Support Trenches, slight damage. Officers Patrol commanded by 2nd Lieutenant S.P. Smith penetrated enemy’s work opposite the NEB and found it unoccupied.  It had evidently not been occupied recently as it was waterlogged and in bad repair.  The G.O.C. commended the officer in charge for the good work of his patrol. CASUALTIES: 8827  Sgt S .J. Hattin slightly wounded; 8741 Cpl S. Gee slightly wounded.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to  Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

Stir Up Sunday (2).  Nov 21st/ 15.

My Dear People,

I guess you have thought my letters a long time in reaching you.  It is because we are in the trenches & I have been ‘on the go’ all day long.  You will have heard by now how I got that large parcel with the towel & hankies in. (The hankies I scented with the White Heather Scent).

Vernon has been most generous with his parcels & to think he has been without for such a long time. Vernon said that A. O. Jones* went to see his people& Father went when he was there.

Could you send me another indelible lead and also some more notepaper & envelopes.  You see I do not mean to stop writing my Sunday letters.  I know Mum is thinking of us especially today & wishing that this War would  STIR UP & get finished, instead of sticking in old Mother Earth & wasting valuable time.

Players Navy Cut Tobacco.






I have sent Sydney some of Miss Foster’s* Player’s Cigs & the rest I filled the tin with the Chief Whip.  Miss Foster sent a small tin of bivouac cocoa (3), three packets of biscuits, Cadbury’s Choc, toffee & apples.

I am enquiring after more definite news of Serg. Tim Fenton – so far I am very sorry I have heard nothing of him (4).

 I am just puzzling my brains on what to send Dad for his birthday which I believe is the 29th.

Guess what I had for second course today? Tapioca Pudding made with the milk from a little of Vernon’s cookery His people seemed to have, by some mysterious means, got to know all I have previously told you.  Another thing which would come in beautifully for breakfast this winter is a packet of Quaker Oats (5). 

Oxo Tower London.
Oxo Tower, Riverside Wharf, London. 1930.

That reminds me, on sentry last night & this morning we had brought round to each sentry, some Oxo (6) at 12 & some Rum & coffee at 5  – & we needed it too (7).  

Well I will close.

Sorry Sydney ’s letter got muddy like this one is getting, there’s mud everywhere.  Hoping & trusting you are enjoying a Happy Sunday.  I guess you have Harold & Miss Bore* with you.

Ta Ta,  Bertie.

PS Monday Breakfast:  Toasted cheese, bacon, & cafe au lait (Vernon’s).

I was on sentry last night again.  I only wished I had had a lump of your home-made toffee in my mouth.  I can’t say where Sydney is now.  I was only wondering whether he was on his way to England the other night. 

Many thanks for the Parish Magazine. I read that article which you marked in ink, very good advice, but dearies, such references to ailments such as LUMBAGO, RHEUMATISM, BRONCHITIS, INFLUENZA, ELEPHANTITIS  – & coughs in heads, coughs in ya toes & coughs everywhere tend us to dread them.

We have lately had our feet greased & fresh socks issued (8). I am afraid I shall be asking you to do too much (in the way of knitting) if I ask for another pair of socks.  Perhaps Auntie or Mrs Barrans* could send a pair.  At any rate I am looking forward to the parcel you told me to look out for in your letter of the 12th & also am picturing you knitting busily away at the Helmet.

Horlicks Bottle c .1915.
Horlicks Bottle c. 1915.

I think Harold could send the Horlick’s Malted Milk Powder & the St Ivel Cheese,  if you send the Quaker Oats, sugar etc.

Quaker Rolled Oats.
Quaker Rolled Oats. 1915.

Vernon & I, in fact all of us, are so indebted to those who send us good things that we find it pretty difficult to express ourselves.  Vernon cannot find anything else to say but ‘Many Thanks’, he is always saying that.  Now don’t go & tell his people because I happened to have a chance glance at his letters. Ho Ho!

Well ’tis cold for writing so will stop now. This is another Sun: Monday letter.

Best love to all, Bertram.

PS  I have received all your letters since Oct 31st – so many there are that I missed reading the one on the 3rd & found it after I had written my rig-ma-role of a letter of Nov 14th Sunday. I will be more direct & to the point in future dearies.   B.



(1) Rivetting: fixing a metal pin to hold two pieces together i.e. when building /repairing a trench or fixing wire stakes (the kind of noise my father would be listening for on Listening Post duty – and no doubt trying to differentiate it from sounds of underground mine-laying). 

(2Stir Up Sunday: Sunday before Advent, (the beginning of the Christian Calendar)  – Collect for 25th Sunday after Trinity, Book of Common Prayer, 1662 :- Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people: that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Traditional time to stir Christmas puddings & fruit cakes and make a wish). 

(3) Bivouac Cocoa: compressed cocoa.  

(4) Serj. Thomas Fenton.  At 19 yrs of age he was one of the Army’s youngest NCOs.  Killed in action Battle of Loos-Hohenzollern, 13th Oct 1915.  Andrew Thornton <https://hellfirecorner.com&gt;. No record on Commonwealth War Grave website.

(5) Quaker Oats: registered  as ‘Figure of a man in Quaker garb’ at US Patent Office, 1877. (‘Symbol of good quality & honest value’ /at a time of adulteration of cereals). First trademark for a breakfast cereal.<https://www.quakeroats.com >

(6) OXO:  Meat extract (liquid) created by Justin von Liebig, 1840, /a solid cube in 1910.  Original 1915 OXO Tower at Riverside Wharf, London; now design studios. <https://www.oxotower.co.uk&gt;  

(7)  Army Rum Ration: Tot of rum issued from gallon stoneware jars to troops in trenches each morning at ‘Stand To‘/time when enemy most likely to attack. First mention of rum in Hibbett Letters/ issued to sentries. Evidence differs: cf The Role of Rum. Great Forum The Long Long Trail ‘Old Sweats’: General 23rd Jan. 2009. <https://www.worldwar1postcards.com&gt; and <https://pointsadhblog.wordpress.com&gt;.

daily mail mud in trenches.images

(8) Trench Foot/ feet greased: 20,000  British soldiers (including my father & his pal Vernon Evans) were treated for trench foot between 1914 -1915.  Cause: ‘cold, wet & insanitary conditions’, ‘standing in water-logged trenches for hours on end’, ill-fitting bootsdistinct risk of gangrene & amputation.  Army ordered each soldier to have 3 pairs of socks a dayboots dried every 4 days in Rest Camp and to grease their feet with whale-oil.  Each Battalion used an average of ten gallons of whale-oil a day. Situation improved with better drainage of trenches.  <https://www.spaticus-education.com&gt;.

The Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett.
The Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett. 1960s.
Unsuccessful attempt to straighten his feet.
An attempt to straighten toes with steel pins.  A.H.H. drawing.

NB. Forty years on, my father had an operation in Boston Hospital to try to undo WW1 damage to his feet.  It was painful & unsuccessful but true to character he made a joke of his ‘pins’.

NEXT POST: 23rd Nov. 1915.





South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


17th -18th Nov:  Brigade Reserve as on 15/11/15. (Pte Bertie on Bombing Course).

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. 

Thursday Nov 18/ 15

My Very Dear Mother,

I had the letter of the 11th when I returned from the Bombing Course for the last time, tonight & I have read Sydney’s dear letter of Nov 2nd & will send it back to you in this.  Also read Dodger’s small, but welcome letter & quite understand his circumstances (1).

Have now Mother’s letter at hand for reference.  Sorry I cannot say as much as you or I could wish to say owing to the limit of my stock of paperThis I have had just from old Vernon in the trenches – Vernon of course, he is again squatting by me in this dugout & we are both writing Home & exchanging wishes.

Vernon thanks you for your kind Remembrance.  He had the reward of his patient waiting last night, 17 th, by receiving, bringing into the dugout two huge parcels & a small one on the top of them, which were almost as big as the dugout itself & he had a good spreadI would insist on refusing & telling him I would not have anything, but the result was that he got awfully huffy & cross & so I gave in, after much persuasion on his part, to have a little of the Wedding Cake (2) – the last bit his people had saved.

Hudson Soap box.Yes, the large Hudson Soap Box parcel with the towel, hankies & eggs etc came, or could not have come at a more acceptable time, in the trenches.  I could not say whether I was favoured or what, but it was the only one that came that day to a platoon in the firing line.  I have not ’arf relished the apples you have sent lately – what beauties.

Some NCO said there was a letter for me from Sydney, but Vernon looked after my letters while I was away today & I have not yet heard from him by letter, just a PC saying ‘am quite wellso what can his temperature be eh! – a problem for you.

Shall I tell you what I should like in a parcel at this time of year?  Why some more sugar, but ’tis dear isn’t it Mum, some of that brown you sent?  You see I am on the que vive, the alert for something HOT.

Horlick’s advert. c. 1915.

Other things are: –  another of those fine batches of currant bread, and another of those pats of butter & could Harold send me a bottle of Horlick’s Malted Milk in powdered form, it just wants HOT water adding & makes a nourishing drink (3). The sugar is to go with cocoa or coffee, which friends send & don’t think of the sweetening.

Miss Foster* sent a delightful little parcel for Sydney to share in as well.  I have told her where he is & given her the address, thank you for itJust another article to make the parcel complete  – some St Ivel cheese or cream cheese, if you do not think me extravagant.  Another pencil & paper etc.  That’s all. 

So grateful to you, Mum, for the Helmet that is on the make.

Good wishes to Basil & all.


PS  I shall have to write my PS on the back of Dodger’s letter.  

Brit WW I Tommy Cooker 2
British WW I  Blackie Brand Cooker.  ‘Reprorations’ website.

I meant to tell you that Vernon had sent to him a patent stove for making a handy drink HOT or frying cheese & ration of baconDo you think you could send me one & it would do for Sydney (when he comes back) – they are in the shape of a Boot Polish tin & contain a certain composition which, when lit, goes liquid & gives off heat of course & turns solid when cold Just handy So it will alter my next parcel.

Tommy's Cooker.
Tommy’s Cooker. <http://www.frontlinecrates.com >

I will put what I want plainly here:-  1. Stove.  2. Batch of currant bread. 3. Pat of butter. 4. Horlick’s Milk (powder form). 5. Sugar. 6. St Ivel Cheese.



Pte Bertie’s longing for something hot to drink & warm to wear reflects the bitter cold & wet Tommies had to endure in the winter of 1915 -16.  

(1) Basil’s Letter of 11th Nov. 1915 requesting information about 19 yr old  Serj.Tom Fenton, missing since 13th Oct.1915.

(2) Norman Evans’ Wedding, Walsall.

(3) Horlicks Malted Milk created by James & William Horlick, Chicago. USA. c. 1875.  A safe, easily digested milk powder for children & invalids; widely used as a nourishing drink in WW1, on the Front & at Home.


< http://www.oldglassbottles.blogspot.com >

NEXT POST:  21st Nov. 1915:



South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th  SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


13th-14th Nov. Enemy very Quiet.  15th Nov.  Mon:  Relieved by 1/6th Batt North Staffordshire Regt. Three Companies went into Brigade Reserve at LORETTO ROAD (1) and one Company into LANSDOWNE POST (2).

16th Nov. Tue:  Loretto Road, Brigade Reserve. 

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
19 in 1914.

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: Y.M.C.A. POSTCARD to Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.   


You will not get my letter of Sunday 14th for some time, owing to circumstances (3).  I am sorry because I know you are anxious as to whether the lovely large parcel of Oct 31st got safely through.

Poor Vernon  – he was expecting a parcel tonight, he has not had one for so long.  Had a nice one from Miss Foster (2) & such a nice letter.

Will write later.  Am run short of paper.



(1) Loretto Road: trench named after road in Manchester by Manchester Regt.?

Lord Lansdowne
Lord Lansdowne

(2)  Lansdowne Post: trench possiby named after Henry Fitz-Maurice 5th Marquis of Lansdowne.  British statesman, Secretary of State for War, Foreign Secretary, served in both Liberal & Conservative & WW1 coalition Cabinets. Lost favour with publication of The Lansdowne Letter 29th Nov. 1917, calling for Britain & France to negotiate peace with Germany during the War. 

(3) ‘Circumstances’?  Pte Bertie’s Letter might have been delayed because:- The Post was not collected from Neuve Chapelle Trenches that day or his Bombing Course had taken him away from his usual Listening Post duties or  perhaps this was the day of the miraculous escape’ when ‘Four bombs & one dud … dropped at Chester Robinson’s feet’. (‘Little Book of Words & Doings‘ – but no record in Staffs War Diary or in Bertie’s letters).  

NB ‘Bombs’ : Hand-grenades most likely – which did not explode when they fell through the bottom of their box?  – or were picked up and thrown before exploding?

Women carrying boxes of shells 1914.
Women carrying boxes of shells. 1914 -1918.






(4) Miss Mary Foster* Nottingham Godmother.

NEXT POST:  18th Nov. 1915. On the qui vive for something HOT.