NEUVE CHAPELLE TRENCHES
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.
‘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. in ‘Daily 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.
Yes ’tis Advent, Christmas is coming & there are signs of it too in the weather – ‘freezing’ all day. Many, 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 socks. My 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 warrm (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 me – what 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 Advent. I 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 29th ‘My 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 Needs: H. Eastman. Publisher Rangoon. American Baptist Mission Press 1915. (appears to be still on-going publicaton).
(4) Trench Fever/ Pyrexia: 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.