Serjeant SYDNEY HIBBETT: LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
E 3 Ward, 12 General Hospital, Rouen. Nov 2/ 15.
I am in this Hospital with influenza and am going on quite all right. Everyone is most kind and the ward so clean & nice that it is a rest to look at it. I have been here since 5 am yesterday, not a long time really but it seems a week. I have been in bed, or at least in blankets, since Friday 11 am when I reported my illness at the nearest nursing station up near the line.
Our company was detached from the Battalion & sent some distance to act as carrying party up the trenches. This was early on Friday & I felt really ill all the way up so I thought I would go ‘on sick’ for once. Temp. 103. 6 & put into bed at once. I was taken by Motor Ambulance to a Clearing Station some miles back that night & I have been on my back ever since, an unique experience for me eh?
I left there by Red Cross train 11 am Sunday, when you would be in church I know, and stayed in it till we arrived here at 4. am Monday – some journey!
I may say that I don’t think I have been in so fine a train – it was a perfect wonder of design and a miracle of comfort & easy running & of course built by L.N.W. (1)
I see that I am at the bottom of the letter so will dry up.
Fancy me in Hospital! I don’t know how long for. I expect your letters & parcel are up at the line. I am on a milk diet and I can sympathise with jolly old Hal & Ralph (2) having to drink those 2 pints once. I can also understand Ida’s troubles at Leicester in the wards. Bert is somewhere up in the line, but not in the trenches I believe. Vernon is in Hospital also but I don’t know where – with Bertie’s complaint (3).
Must close now. With every best wish to you all from
I sleep in a perfect fine bed, clean sheets & blankets & pillows, beautiful after the mud of the firing line.
27th Oct – 2nd Nov. In Rest Billets.
CASUALTIES FOR OCTOBER: OFFICERS KILLED 5; WOUNDED 6; DIED OF WOUNDS 2. OTHER RANKS KILLED 41; WOUNDED 213; WOUNDED & MISSING 52; DIED OF WOUNDS 3.
TOTAL CASUALTIES:- OFFICERS 13. OTHER RANKS 309. (4).
Signed: R. RICHMOND RAYMER, Lt. Col. Cmdg 1/5th Bn. South Staffordshire Rgt.
Serjeant Sydney’s Letter is written on an opened-out white envelope and is covered in mud. His Mother sent it on to Bertie to read & return – so maybe that is how it got so muddy!
Sydney’s journey from a Front Line Clearing Station to Rouen Hospital took 3 nights & 2 days.
(1) L.N.W.R. London & North Western Railway (1846 -1922) ‘The Premier Line’ was the largest joint stock company in the world. Illustration: Ambulance Train headed by a 4-6-0 Whale Experiment Class, built at Crewe. 1905-1910. ‘Ever increasing need for this type of train in WW1’ cf World Transport History. <https://www.transpressnz.blogspot.com> NB Sgt Sydney’s appreciation is that of a Walsall engineering apprentice before the War.
(2) ‘Hal’ could be Harold Hibbett. Ralph unknown as yet, could be a cousin. (3) Trench foot complaint rather than Bertie’s blood disorder & boils I think.
(4) CASUALTY numbers are out of a Total Battalion complement of 28 Officers & 827 Other Ranks. Totals: 855.
Field State October 12th 1915 was reported as:- Available for Trench Duty 13.10.15 : 24 Officers & 721 Other Ranks. Transport & Stores: 2 Officers & 56 Other Ranks. Details: 1 Officer & 20 Other Ranks. Sick 1 Officer & 20 Other Ranks (including Pte Bertie Hibbett).
NEXT POST: 5th Nov. 1915. Posts for November may be delayed by a cataract operation.