14TH NOV. 1915: IN THE SLOUGH OF DESPOND: UP TO MY EYES IN MUD MUDDY-MUD – & RATS!

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE CHAPELLE TRENCHES

12th Nov. FriEnemy very quiet. HILL STREET REDOUBT taken over from 1/6th Batt North Staffordshire Regt. and fire trench from HILL STREET to OXFORD STREET from 4th Batt Kings Liverpool Regiment.  CASUALTY: KILLED:  9308 Pte E Stevens.

13th Nov. Sat:  Enemy very quiet.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings : Neuve Chapelle Trenches. Listening Post.  Trench full of water; bay at end of Seat 6.  Corp. Brewin* in charge.’ 

LETTER to Mr & Mrs ARTHUR HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. 

24th Sunday after Trinity. Nov 14/ 15

‘Unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness’. 1st Epistle. Col.13.1.

My Dearest Brave Mother, and Ida, as well as Daddie and Dodgy,

Mud, mud, muddy, muddy – MUD & clay toonow laugh!  Up to my eyes in mud.  There are two Tommies squatting in a muddy, muddy, mud-hole trying to write letters HOME with our hands all over mud & clay, just like gloves Yes I am not going to be done inI am not going to break the record of Sunday letters, and today especially.  I received Ida’s letter & Basil’s enclosed yesterday & read them with jollification, they did make me feel happier afterwards.

Vernon & I – Vernon, I am fonder of him nowfelt awfully fond  of him last night when we had to do the work of impossibilityThe Slough of Despond – clear some thick clay out of a trench (1).

A parcel, the only one in the post, came this morning – a sergeant brought it up – it was MINE – I saw with delight Dad’s writing.  But I had to hurry & go on a working party from 9 – 12. 30 this morning so I opened it this dinner time.

Stop a minute while I just pop one of those lumps of toffee Mummy’s homemade butterscotch made with butter, treacle & sugar – what nice sugar it is in the parcel.  What lovely TOFFEE dears. I’ve just given Vernon a Chief of Whip Cig.  I don’t smoke on Sundays.  Aren’t I narrow minded eh!

Now I will answer & tell you about everything.  I could write lots & fill heaps & piles of note paper but have got only three left like this.  I read Mum’s & Ida’s letters in the parcelMum’s of Oct 31st.  and Champion’s long, interesting letter.  I vidided (sic) a lovely applethey are nice & juicyamong two other muddy Tommies because, you see dear Mum, I’m like you, you said you would have liked to be with me looking round the shops in Rouen, to share with the pleasure,  –  so I cannot, I could not enjoy your parcels if I eat all myselfI want others to see & taste how good the things are I have from Home.  I made some coffee out of the parcel you sent to Sydney & I did enjoy it. – – – –

Shall have to stop here, I have been called to the working party again to fill sand bags.  When we come back I shall have a good tea out of the currant bread & fresh butter.

10.30 pm.  Oh dearest Mummy I could say heaps & heaps.  Post came while I was on fatigue tonight & I got your letter dated Nov 10th, also another letter but I read yours first & cannot wait until I have read the other but I must finish this first.

Well Verny & I had a ripping tea out of the currant bread & butter, which he said he quite enjoyed, he also wants me to convey thanks to you for an egg I gave him – he loves eggs.  Also I gave him a hankie because we have been using an old rag this wet weather & poor boy he is longing to hear from home & get a parcel.  Hospital has upset such a lot.

WW1 brazier
WW1 Brazier. Ghosts of World War 1 <http://evangelineholland.com&gt;

The toffee was lovely & I wished I had taken some out on fatigue as I thought of doing, but decided to save some for an emergency. The jujubes are good too.  Oh of course I have not finished the tea, but I thought I would have a change & make some coffee.  We have been working all day & had very little time to fetch & boil water.

Vernon was giving up the idea, but I made up my mind to have a hot drink of some sort, so I coaxed a chap for the use of a fire & some water & consequently, with the timely aid of Mrs Hurst’s* milk, I made some Homemade Cafe de Luxe, better far than the Cafe au lait tinned you know. 

Dearest Mum, & all of you I’m afraid I shall have to conclude my Sunday letter, but must just have a word about rats.

 . . . . . .    Oh! rats, owls & cats.  Lean rats, fat rats, scrabbling rats, squealing rats, biting rats & gormandizing rats.  Muddy rats and  – oh! mice, little mice, wee mice, muddy mice & sprinting stealing, thieving mice & oh my! can you just picture a bright moon & a frosty night, an owl is seen to fly over the trench & our heads & gives its weirdtoo hoot’ & a stealthy pussy cat, a black cat, comes crawling on the top of the trench of sand bags after vermin.  . . . . . . 

Rats: & Rat catcher WW1.
Rats & Rat Catcher WW1. <http://www.digventure.com >

Such is the life, but  very VERY HAPPY & Jolly at times because of news from Home Sweet Home.

Oh Mum, & all of you I pray that you will comfort one another, especially Ida.  I think she is really splendid, her letters are so chatty & interesting, (of course I firmly believe she has no influence under or from Phyllis C* (2 ).

So Mr Henry Cozens* wanted my address.  I think this other letter is from him, let’s see.  Oh so it is & such a pleasant one too.  Yes, Capt. Tim*(3) made himself like one of the Privates when talking to us.  Sydney will be excused writing lengthy letters in Hospital, but I think I shall have to stop now.

Our late Capt L. (4) kindly asked after Sydney, but all I could say was that I had not heard from him yet, but read about him from a Sergeant who said he was having a ripping time,  ‘I hope he will have a still better one at Christmas if he stays there till then’.

 – – – I must not leave out the tinned cream.  How funny Mummy it goes well with fruit but not so with teaVernon had cream because of the fruit  – – –

You will not have had my letters so promptly & this one will be sometime for I am, as you will know by the nature of this letter, in the trenches.  I count it ‘Happy to Endure’ (5) & have had  speedy answers to my prayers when feeling or inclining to feel in the blues. 

War can be turned to a blessing & makes several differences in one’s character.  I am fonder of Vernon now.

Hoping you had a happy Thursday with H. & H. Bore* and a Happy Sunday.

Best love from Bertie.

PS  Got FPC from Sydney tonight as well.  He sais ‘I am quite well.  Letter follows 1st opportunity.’

PPS  I scented the lovely Khaki hankies with White Heather Scent (6).  The towel is a nice one.

********************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

The Hibbett family is brought poignantly close together when Pte Bertie receives Basil’s letter & Sydney’s posted on from Home and returns them with his own & the mud of a Neuve Chapelle trench.  My father’s blues –  and his emotional dependence on his family at this time  – can be seen in the family endearments & language of childhood  – and his delight in Mother’s Guy Fawkes Toffee.   

John Bunjan.
John Bunjan.

(1) ‘Slough of Despond’ – miry bog/swamp of despair into which Christian sinks under the weight of sin & guilt in Pilgrim’s Progress: John Bunyan’s allegory of a Christian’s journey through life. Written in Bedford Jail. 1678.  <http://www.chapellibrary.org >

The mud & heavy clay Ptes Bertie & Vernon had to clear would have been almost certainly contaminated with dead vermin, human waste and even parts of human bodies, missing on both sides since the offensive of March 1915.

Neuve Chapelle after Battle March 1915.
Neuve Chapelle after Battle March 1915.

(2Phyllis Cozens? sister of (3) Tim Cozens* Killed in Action 13th Oct. 1915. Battle of Loos/Hohenzollern Redoubt (cf Letter: 10th Aug. 1915). 

(4) ‘Late Captaini.e. not ‘dead’ but promoted to Major Cecil Lister*.

(5) James 5.11King James Bible. ‘Happy to endure’ (with the patience of Job). (cf  Col. 13.1. quotation above).

 (6) White Heather Scent from Whitby, sent by Ida to help cope with the stench of trench life. (See Letters: 29th Aug. & 6th Sept. 1915).

NEXT POST: 16th Nov. 1915. YMCA Postcard.

 

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11TH NOV. 1915: QMS IN SEARCH OF THE MISSING.

Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.
Basil Hibbett in 1916. Age 18  yrs.

BASIL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall: LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT on Active Service.

Sat 11 th 

Dear Bertie,

I shall have no time to write you a long letter I am sorry to say, but I want  to ask you to find out as much as possible all the news concerning Tom Fenton* who was at the QMS (1)

He was in that Charge (2) & obtained a serious wound, but no news has been received of his whereabouts.

Mr Powis (3 ) was asking this morning so I thought I would write & ask you to make inquiries among the men.  His people are naturally in a bad way. 

Write as soon as you know anything, there’s a good chap.

Your loving brother,  Dodger.

PS I am writing to Sydney too.

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South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

NEUVE CHAPELLE TRENCHES.

11th Nov. Thur:  Enemy very quiet. CASUALTY: 1 slightly wounded, remained at duty 154  Pte W. J.  Pedley. 

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) QMS Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall.  No record of a Tom Fenton Killed in Action in CWGC  website. (T. E. Fenton was awarded the Vicar’s Leaving Prize cf  QMS Magazine, Dec. 1914). 

(2Battle: Loos-Hohenzollern Redoubt.    Charge of 13th -15th Oct. 1915.

(3) Mr Powis. Powis Housemaster. Retired in April 1922 after 43 years  service at QMS.

NB. Bertie used the back of Basil’s letter to write  Home on 18th Nov. 1915. 

NEXT POST:  14th Nov. 1915:  In the Slough of Despond up to the eyes in a Mud  Muddy Mud-hole – & a Word about Rats!

10TH NOV. 1915: KING’S REVIEW: HOURS DEEP IN MUD, WET THROUGH & THE WIND IN OUR FACES.

.

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.  220px-The_Railway_Magazine_October_1901_cover_688

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 indeeddriving 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 roadin fact it might have been on the top of the wildest moors of Sutton Park (3).

King George Vth's Review. 1914.
King George Vth’s Review. 1914. Pathe news.

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.

King George Vth Review. 1914.
King George Vth & Gen. Joffre:   Review. 1914.

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 magazinesWe get very plain food indeed here & no luxuriesI shall have to feed up when I get out! 

Pathephone Record Player.1916.
Pathephone Record Player.1916.

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

from Sydney.

PS  I have sent a PC to Auntie Pat telling her where I am, also Mrs Jones *(a letter) & have written to Harold too.

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South Staffordshire BadgeeA SHORT HISTORY OF SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGT.  ‘After refitting South Staffs had a tour in the line at Neuve Chapelle‘ (7).

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

PARADIS (8)

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.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

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&gt;

Map Bethune to Neuve Chapelle.
Map Nord Pas de Calais:  showing Allouagne,  Fouquieres  & Beuvry near BETHUNE –  and Paradis, & Lastrem  of MERVILLE & ESTAIRES.

(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. 

Marching in France(8) Paradis (near Merville): An 8 mile march north from Bethune. [NB site of massacre of 97 British soldiers 27th May 1940].

(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.

 

 

 

7TH NOV.1915: MIRACULOUS ESCAPE & GREEDY FOR PARCELS.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

PARADIS BILLETS. (Bn refitting).

6th – 7th Nov. 1915

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
BERTIE HIBBETT:
19 in 1914.

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

23rd Sunday after Trinity.  Nov 7/ 15

Send a candle or two so that I can write to you at nights.

Hope thou still in the Lord & abide patiently upon Him.’  Psalm 37 .7

My Dearest Brave Mother & Father,

I will write Home first.  Have heard from several people since I rejoined the Company (1) last night & they have all sent parcels, with the exception of the letter addressed by Ida, but the enclosure was written by one of my little scamps, much to my surprise.(2)

Vernon came back from Hospital last night & is now squatting beside me; we are both busy, very busy puzzling our brains on how to write interesting letters to all the people in dear old England who have so kindly remembered us.  Vernon had quite a bundle of letters on his return.  I got the comfy shirt & delicious toffee this Sunday morning & Mother’s nice letter of 29th Oct & Champion’s generous little gift of Turkish cigarettes, my word.De Reszke Cigs.

Poor Vernon, he has had a lonely time in Hospital, no cigarettes, no letters from Home, no anything of any sort So, Ida, I offered him a few of your superb smokes.  imgresAnd now, dearest people – do forgive me for I opened Sydney’s parcel as well, because they could not send his parcel without great risk of getting it mislaid.  So I am keeping the toffee & Chief Whip Cigarettes.

To have to break into his parcels is not at all pleasant & rather tends to make me unhappy, but I have to open them consequently, because I cannot very well carry so many parcels about with me.

Since I rejoined the Company things seemed to be making up for the time I have had with the Bombing Party(I can tell the difference so much, between the man who has been in the trenches & the man who has not, the former are so much sober than the latter).

I have had no less than four parcels, but of course one was for Sydney Auntie sent a parcel for us both, poor Sydney, never mind, I am saving him some of the thick Rowntrees chocolate Auntie sent, but could not very well save him some of the Parkin & applesAuntie Pat also sent some soap & I only want a nice towel now.

Picture No. 10847532

If Harold sends us both a Sleeping Helmet, I shall be much obliged to him, but I should treasure a Home Knitted one & would like to feel the home knitted wool round my cheeks at night; I should conjure up jolly thoughts of Mummy & you all (3).

Mrs. Hurst* also sent me a parcel – inside were many different sorts of luxuries, Nestles chocolate (plain & nut), tin milk, stationery this I am writing on ——-

Broke off here for a bath, then put on the comfy shirt you sent.  Arthur Brown* showed me one exactly like it last night & made of the same lovely soft material;  as you told mevery likely from Mrs Venables*’ Sale (4).

Don’t you think I’m greedy for parcels?  What a time I’ve had with the Bombers (5) & it seems as though the parcels came ProvidentiallyBut I’m so sorry Sydney is not here to share, not only the luxuries, but the happy thoughts And you will forgive my inquisitiveness in reading Mum’s letter to Sydney which was a beauty.

Oh how glad & happy I felt when Vernon quoted from a letter from Mrs Evans*  saying you looked very well.  Yes the inward thoughts and temperament are reflected in the outward manner & appearance –  ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.  ‘The Lord knoweth them that are His’ (6).

Army life is a jolly, jolly life if one suddenly has a surprise of a few parcels.  I was not thinking Sydney would be so long away.  I suppose you will have heard from him.  I have not heard yet since he went.  I hope it has not upset affairs regarding his Commission.

Sorry the time has come for me to conclude the rotten part of a letter, just the same as the rotten part of Home Leavele Finis.  Hoping you are spending a Happy Sunday again. I guess Okoo is with you. I wrote to him on the 5th.

Bestest love,  Bertrum.

******************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

It is clear that Pte Bertie does not realise the severity of his brother’s illness. 

(1) ‘A’ Company.

(2) ‘Little Scamps’: Bertie Hibbett’s Sunday School pupils, St Paul’s Church, Walsall.

(3) Sleeping Helmet: soldiers suffered particularly from cold & wet in Winter of 1915-1916. Pattern ‘Knitting for Tommy’ <https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk >

(4) Mrs Venables, (mother of Arthur Venables* who was to save Bertie’s life) held one of Walsall’s fund-raising Sales for Soldiers. 

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.

(5) Bombing Party:  A Little Book of Words & Doings:  ‘Bombing Course. Oct – Nov 1915:  Marvellous escape after 4 bombs, one dud, dropped by feet of Chester Robinson*, unhurt.  Ida writes from Home she is making springs for bombs & complemented on by manager.‘  cf  The West Spring Gun. A bomb-throwing catapult ‘designed to throw a hand grenade in a high trajectory into enemy trenches’. <https://www.en.wikipedia >

(6) Mtt.7.16  & 2 Tim 2.19. 

NEXT POST:  10th Nov. 1915. The King’s Review: waiting inches deep in mud & water for hours.

 

5th NOV: GUY FAWKES NIGHT IN THE TRENCHES & A GRENADIER SINGSONG.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

FOUQUIERES

3rd – 4th Nov. In Rest Billets. (Refitting Bn after Battle)

5th Nov. Fri: Marched at 8.30 am to PARADIS  near MERVILLE  and went into Billets.

Map Bethune to Nevee Chapelle.
Map Bethune to Nevee Chapelle.

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

GUY FAWKES DAY. 5 th Nov/ 15

My Very Dear Mother,

parachuteflare
PARACHUTE FLARE.

Another coincidence MumToday, or rather tonight, will be the unique Bonfire Night.  For the purpose of seeing the enemy’s movements at night star lights (1) are used & these lights have been improved & there are many different kinds, some giving off an illumination like those of the Flower Show (2)  Indeed every night in the trenches is a Guy Fawkes  affair, what with shells & star lights.

And again another feature, which is all the more unique, is that I am undergoing a course in bombing.  I was examined in the oral part yesterday (3).

The Batt. has moved further away todaySydney I’m partly sorry to tell you is in Hospital with influenza, but I think it is the only way of obtaining a rest, – as the Doctor put it alsoThirteen went including Arthur Brown* who came back, I think on Wednesday, after 3 or 4 days.

I hope you aren’t giving up making toffee on this bonfire night  & I hope Dodger will enjoy a lump and not deny himself a second piece either. I was not able to see the Observer  about the attack, (Vernon having gone to Hospital when your letter of  Tues 26th arrived, about the Bishop at St Paul’s) – but never mind I am not the worse off. 

The bombing party will go near the Batt. tomorrow.  I am afraid this letter will not be accepted here.  I shall have to keep it until I get to my Company.  I shall be rather glad when I get back to my platoon again.

Mrs Evans sent a parcel to Vernon when he was in Hospital, the parcel went to the trenches & I had a letter from her saying the contents were for Sydney, myself and pals.  Wasn’t it jolly good of her to think of us.  We must bear in mind it is not so much the gifts as the thoughts, especially nowadays.  I am looking forward to a parcel from you as I expected one today if the Batt. had not moved.

I suppose all the little boys in Walsall will substitute the dummy of Guido for William eh! 

News in the papers has somewhat surprised us out here.  Oh! that reminds me, we Grenadiers (4) had a bit of a concert in the barn here on Wednesday last & I gave the men an effort of mine.  We shall very likely have another soon. When I entertain any party I like to give them a really good piece of recitation or a jolly good song.  So I wonder if you could try & send me that poem Ida loved so much ‘The Highwayman came riding, riding, riding up to the old inn door’ (5). I should be delighted if you could.  Don’t think that I am absolutely theatrical with the men, but I have come to the conclusion that one cannot get on with such a crew of chaps like these without chumming up & being merry with them.

Any other humorous poem you’ve got just send along by return post & obligeIda loved to gather us around the study fire & have a little ‘Sing Song’.

Well, what think you of these two I’m enclosing? Laddie in Khaki’ (6) was sung by a lady (of means) in the YMCA at the Base when I was thereIFSL01532

As for the other it is appropriate for a fireside song & reminded me of the singsongs we had round the fire at Home Sweet Home, the Little Grey Home in the West.

Best love to all,  Father and bestest love to Mummy, 

Bertie Arfer.

*************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) “Star shell”: artillery shell for illuminating Battlefield & No Man’s Land at night, to catch enemy patrols or wiring activity.   Fuse burst at a given height igniting a magnesium flare which burned while the shell, with parachute, gradually fell to earth. Multi-coloured flares used for passing signals. <https://www.firstworldwar.com&gt;

(2) Flower Show: Aldridge near Walsall held a annual Flower Show and no doubt Mr Frank O. Bates*,  exhibited his roses. cf. Letter: 12th July 1915.

53px-N°23_MkII-Version_Fusil(3) Bombing Course: Training in throwing  & firing Mills grenades: stick attached extended their throw.  Used effectively in Battle of Loos/Hohenzollern. See Post 13th Oct.1915. Also 20th -31st July 1915.

Alfred Noyes. 1880 -1958.
Alfred Noyes. 1880 -1958.

(4) Grenadier: (from French ‘grenade’) ‘bomb thrower’ from 17th cent.

(5) Alfred Noyes: 1880-1958. English poet, short story writer & playwright. Born Wolverhampton. The Highwayman: ‘best narrative poem in existence for oral delivery‘. Voted 15th in The Nation’s Favourite Poem. BBC poll. 1995. Film made.

The Highwayman: The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.  The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.  The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   And the highwayman came riding—Riding—riding—The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard. He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.  He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, Bess, the landlord’s daughter, Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair. (Part I verse 1 & 3).1906.

(6) Laddie in Khaki: Ivor Novello. 1893 -1951. Words: James Edward Myers. 1915.

There is a girl who waits at home Who’s full of charm and grace.  Tho’ her heart is saddened She keeps a smiling face. Ask her whom she’s thinking of All the livelong day With a smile that lights her face. She  will softly say: ” Laddie in khaki I’m waiting for you. I want you to know That my heart beats true.  I’m longing and praying And living for you, So come back little laddie in khaki!”.

NEXT POST: 7th Nov. 1915.

2nd NOV.1915: KING’S REVIEW INFLUENZA: ‘TEMP. 103. 6 & PUT TO BED AT ONCE’.

Centre: Sgt S. HIBBETT when training as a Sergeant.
 SYDNEY HIBBETT.

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 rightEveryone 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?

London & North Western Railway. 1915
London & North Western Railway.  Ambulance Train.

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 trainit 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. 

Nov-2nd-1915-x-2.Have found a green envelope so I will write a bit more. 

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 believeVernon 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

Sydney.

I sleep in a perfect fine bed, clean sheets & blankets & pillows, beautiful after the mud of the firing line.

**************************

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

FOUQUIERES.

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.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

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.

London & North Western Railway Company Badge.
London & North Western Railway Company Badge.

(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&gt;  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 RanksTransport & 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.