1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
NEUVE CHAPELLE BRIGADE RESERVE: LORETTO ROAD .
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.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to HIBBETT FAMILY, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
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)
ALAS! I HAVE NO CIGAR TO SEND HIM WITH MY HEARTS LOVE
My Very Dear People,
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 of ‘Troubadour’ (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 butter.
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 into ‘bed’ 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.
Best 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 her ‘Written 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 Thursday ‘on 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).
(2) Nursery Rhyme ‘The North Wind‘ or ‘The 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 verse: What will children do then, poor things? ‘They must skip, jump and run until they have made themselves warm, poor things‘. Mother Goose: imaginary author of Fairy Tales & Nursery Rhymes. A Baby’s Bouquet 1878. Illustrations by Walter Crane.1845-1915. English artist/children’s books.
(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 Troubadour‘ appears 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’s ‘The 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’.
(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 right‘ i.e. on the exact day 29th Nov. ‘Pater’s Buthdoi’.
NEXT POST: 5th Dec. 1915.