SERJEANT SYDNEY HIBBETT: LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
E 3 Ward 12 General Hospital, Rouen. Wednes. Nov. 10 th.
My Very Dear Mother and Father,
Here we are again still in Hospital and being well looked after by these kind sisters & nurses. I was allowed up for one hour only, yesterday, but when my temperature was taken I was ordered back into bed: it was only 100. 4.
Today I feel not so well but your letter and the Railway Magazine have bucked me up (1).
I don’t think I have rheumatism but I have had pain in my left thigh & knee joints and the doctor sounded me, especially my left side, several times.
My temperature lately has been very normal and I expect to be out of here in less than a week, perhaps by the time you get this I shall be in the Convalescent Camp, but it will be all right if you send me a few Turkish cigarettes and some milk chocolate to the above address. I shall get them if you post them as soon as you can, after getting this – the same day you must post them. Do you get me?
No, I don’t think I spoke in my sleep much: not more than the other patients at any rate.
I thought I told you how I got my cold: well, that week, before I went to hospital was very wet indeed – driving winds, flying clouds, bitter cold and heavy rains nearly every day and we marched from Allouagne (2), the pretty village, where we lay for 5 happy peaceful days, on Monday Oct 25th.
We were wet through before we started as we had to wait in the cold & rain for the rest of the Brigade and we were standing on an open moor road – in fact it might have been on the top of the wildest moors of Sutton Park (3).
So when we started marching we were glad, as the wet was cold & we soon got warmed, but the mud & water on the roads was churned up by the feet & the water soon covered the boots. The dubbin kept it out as yet, but when we arrived at our billets we were in a dry & comfy straw barn, but no drying apparatus.
Then you see I have to look after my platoon of 50 odd men & it meant a lot of walking to & fro & as the days went on & we had to march here and there to drill & practice for the King’s Review on Thursday, the water & everlasting wet mud on one’s boots soon made one’s feet wet & there you are.
After the Review it poured with rain – & also before it – & so you can guess how we all felt when he came: standing inches deep in mud & water for hours and the cold wind driving the rain in our faces so that our faces were like that of the elderly tea-drinking spinster with the red nose! (4).
The next day we motored in buses to Beuvry (5) (only ‘A’ Coy) to relieve some Notts & Derby’s at carrying things up to the trenches and I reported to the nearest doctor when I got there that I was ill & here I am.
I was very glad to get your letter today, dear Mother & also the magazines. We get very plain food indeed here & no luxuries. I shall have to feed up when I get out!
We have a gramophone in at times & it is very nice. There are 12 patients here. I have got the commission papers with me here and I went to see Capt. Moore*, the night before we moved (Thurs night) & he promised to see the Colonel (6) next morning, but we moved early next morning as I told you. I shall see him again when I get back. I must close now.
Have you seen Alan or Brown* at home yet? Send me the Observer please.
With Best love to you both
PS I have sent a PC to Auntie Pat telling her where I am, also Mrs Jones *(a letter) & have written to Harold too.
8th Nov. Mon: in Paradis Billets. 9th Nov. Tue: Marched at 10.0 am to REIZ BAILLEUL (9) and went into billets.
10 the Nov. Wed: REIZ BAILLEUL. Marched at 3.0 pm to (Neuve Chapelle) trenches; relieved 1/1st GURKHA RIFLES (10). Line held from BREWERY ROAD, S. 5. a.10. 6 to HILL STREET. 4th BATT. LONDON Regt on left; 4th BATT. KINGS LIVERPOOL on right.
Serjeant Sydney Hibbett plays down his influenza in order to allay his parents’ fears. It is a ‘cold’ caught by ‘getting one’s feet wet’ and he expects to be back in Line in a week. Meanwhile Pte Bertie marches north to relieve the 1/1st Ghurka Rifles at Neuve Chapelle.
(1) Railway Magazine: founded 1835 by Effingham Wilson & John Herapath. (record for longest unbroken published series). Present publisher: Mortons of Horncastle, near Louth, Lincolnshire. <http://www.railwaymagazine.co.uk>
(2) Allouagne: 1 mile E of Bethune.
(3) Sutton Park, 6 miles N of Birmingham, now a National Nature Reserve & SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest): landscape of open heathland, woodlands, wetlands, marshes & lakes.
(4) Character in ‘The Three Cutters’ ? Capt. Marryatt, R. N. Officer 1792 -1848 (real life sea-stories).
(5) Beuvry: 3 miles SE of Bethune. (6) Lt Colonel Sir Stuart Wortley*.
(7) Neuve Chapelle: 8 miles NE of Bethune. Battle 12th March 1915. ‘first set-piece offensive’ in trench warfare. <http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/othersneuve-chapelle> Site of The Indian Memorial to the Missing at Port Arthur.
(9) Rue Reiz Bailleul: a little road between the modern D 947 from Estaires to La Bassee – & the D 945 to Bethune. A march of 4.5 miles from Paradis. Total March from Fouquieres, Bethune to Neuve Chapelle Trenches: 12 miles approx.
NEXT POST: 11th Nov. 1915: QMS in Search of the Missing.