20TH DEC.1915: A GAS MASK & THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME?

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: DRAWING in a tiny envelope tucked in a Letter written between 19th – 24th Dec. 1915,  from Merville Casualty Clearing Station, where he had time & space to draw:

‘To Mum. My very Dear Mother. All Good Wishes for a HAPPY CHRISTMAS from her very affec:                                                        son, Bertie. 

GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT Dec.1915.
GAS MASK DRAWING on very thin see-through paper: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT. Dec.1915.

Front Page:  Drawing of ‘Bertie in his Smoke Helmet’ with little goblin-like figures and the words:They rose suddenly from the earth, wearing smoke helmets over their faces, and looking not like soldiers but like devils. 

Gas Mask p.2.Back Page:  A Christmas Joke. Yes or No. 

A Familiar of the Spanish Inquisition (1). Sinister eye pieces.  A Modern Hamlet’s Ghost (2). A Saturated Conglomeration of Chemical Affinity.  A Hooded Phantom (3) issuing forth from its Goblin tubal volcanic mouth. A Hissing warm breath.

Vegetable – no.  Mineral – no.  Animal – no.  Phantominical-like Like?  (4). Yes (of its like).  Bertie in his Smoke Helmet. The Ghost of Christmas yet to come 19 – ? (5). 

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Two-German-soldiers-and-their-mule-wearing-gas-masks-in-WWI-1916
German Soldiers & Mule in their Gas Masks. 1916. Rare Historic Photos website.
Canadian WW1 Gas Mask.
Canadian WW1 Gas Mask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

The first use of Poison Gas was on 22nd April 1915, by the Germans at 2nd Battle of Ypres against Canadian & French troops. The British used chlorine gas first at Battle of Loos Hohenzollern Redoubt, 24th September – 15th October, 1915.

First attempts at protection were crude: cotton pads in the mouth,  then came The Black Veil Respirator – chemical soaked mouth pads attached to a long cloth hanging over the face. In June 1915 came the Hypo Helmet – a mask made of chemical absorbing fabric to fit over the entire head. The Canister Gas Mask was issued in 1916, with a hose connected to a tin can containing absorbent material.  Many soldiers were overcome by gas, released by either side, because the masks were notoriously difficult to fit and warnings often came too late or not at all, when winds changed direction.  <www.firstworldwar.com>

‘Rare Historic Photos’ provide the poignant image above of the suffering endured by both men and animals in WW1.<https://rarehistoricphotos.com > See also detailed history of gas warfare in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_mask >

Pte Bertie’s drawing is on fragile see-through paper, which gives an added ghostly effect. His Questions reflect a popular Christmas Guessing Game: Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?  His Answers provide references to a variety of allusions to Mediaeval & Gothic terrors, apparitions and ghosts in literature & history. 

(1) Spanish Inquisition. 1478 -1834. Often brutal persecution of Jews, Muslims and Protestants as well as of Catholic heretics, in an attempt to establish a Catholic Kingdom in Spain.

(2) Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet‘,1600 -1601.  King Hamlet (father of Hamlet) appears as ‘Ghost‘ three times.  (3) Hooded Phantom. Most likely ref. to a hooded phantomlike a snow hill in the air’ in ‘Moby Dick’ or The Whale by Herman Melville. 1851.

(4) Phantominical: not in Chamber’s Dictionary but in use today in <https://m.flikr.com/photos >.  Similar meaning as ‘phantasmagoria‘ /phantasmagorical: ‘fantastic series of illusive images or of real forms’/ optical illusions/ of ‘deceptive appearance/ nightmare/ dream state. cf. Chambers Dictionary. A literary device to heighten drama, used frequently by Charles Dickens.

(5) Ghost of Christmas yet to Come: A Ghost Story for Christmas. Charles Dickens. 1843. 

NEXT POST:  24th Dec. 1915. Christmas Eve.

 

 

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19TH DEC.1915: ‘TAKING THINGS AS A MATTER OF COURSE BUT COULD DO WITH ‘A SNICE SMINCE SPIE.’.

Bertie Hibbett

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to his Father, Arthur Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall. On the back he has written: ‘To Dad. Poor Dad has no Christmas Card.’

ARTHUR HIBBETT: 56 in 1914.

Sunday  Dec 19/ 15.

My Dear Sir,

By next Sunday I guess you will have read my Christmas letters which I am writing today.

Last Sunday Mother & Basil wrote & were wondering what I was doing.  I am today in the Casualty Clearing Station, a Hospital, with sore feet, (suppose I left the comma out Sydney sais my letters to him are void of full stops, commas & all those things)but I have the advantage of writing & eating up the pages of a writing pad, one of the dry gifts I told Ida about.

Of course I was only joking, but I could do with a snice smince spienow, because itssnice, snice, so snice, especially one from Home. (1)

I s’pose I shall get another slice of jam & bread for tea.  I could do with a little plum cake for Sunday’s tea at any rate.  But then I am taking things as amatter of courseas you often advised me to do & I have the consolation that your parcels, if not already, will be appreciated by those in my section.  Poor Vernon had no less than half a dozen while he was away until I left the Batt. too.

All three of us are in Hospital now, & it seems that my wish I mentioned in your birthday letter will not be fulfilled. 

WW1 Casualty Clearing Station, Belgium.
WW1 Casualty Clearing Station, Belgium. Note stretchers for beds and Lucky Bags hanging by each soldier. cf Letter: 13th Sept. 1915.< https://easttextile.co.uk/onewebmedia >

I shall be very likely here for XmasI am comfy, we have stretchers to sleep on & books to read & meals found usI am dressed in blues again (2).

Well I could write till the New Year comes so will get on to other letters to other people.

Perhaps Dad thinks my letters, if he reads them, all of them, to each one, Mum, Ida & Basilthat they are whimsical & all bosh (3), well if so it’s my wish that by the time they have gone through the Hands of the Post & travelled so far they will give some enjoyment to you all, and my good wishes to Dad & all of you will be none the worse.

With fondest love from

Ber-TARFER.

PS  I’m sending Harold’s Letter separate as those I have already written will make the envelope fat enough for the censor.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Again Pte Bertie’s Letter to his Father shows a relationship of both respect & affectionate playfulness. He is doing his best ‘to take things as a matter of course’ but those stretchers for beds could not have been too ‘comfy’.

(1) ‘Snice smince spies – snice, snice so snice’: I can hear my Dad’s voice, as he must have heard his father’s every Christmas.

(2) Army Base, Rouen. No 12 & No 9 General Hospital. August to October 1915, where he was full of joy at the clean bright wards and comfortable beds. (3Bosh. Slang for nonsense/ empty of meaning. Wide etymology but most likely fr.Turkish.

NEXT POST: 20th Dec. 1915: Gas Mask & The Ghost of Christmas.

 

19TH DEC.1915: (3) GOD ‘WILL LET YOU SEE ME IN HIS GOOD TIME.’

Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

4th Sunday in Advent. The Coming of Our Lord.  Dec 19/ 15

Be careful for nothing. Rejoice in the Lord alway; The Lord is at hand.’ (1)

Dec-19th-4th-Sun-1915

My Very Dear Mother,

I received your very welcome letters dated Dec 11th & 12th (Sat & Sun) on Dec 14th & 15th (Tue & Wed) respectively & indeed did receive them with respect.  But on Thursday night your two Christmas parcels had not yet come & on Friday morning I was sent to the Field Ambulance with ‘Pyoremia’ (sic) (2) – don’t be frightened at that word ’tis not half as bad as ‘catarrhal j———-  oh! I don’t like to write it even. Tis only sore feet and a few other breakings out.

And so this Sunday finds me at the Casualty Clearing Station, a kind of Hospital (3).  Do not be sorry for me, I am sorry for you, but then again the contents of your ripping parcels will be highly appreciated among my chums & especially the other chaps in my section who have rarely had such luxuries as figs, dates & a rich plum cake.  I have told the Corporal* (4) over the section to divide the parcels among them; no parcel s have been forwarded to me.

We moved to this C.C.S. this morning.  I advise you not to trouble writing to me until I get back to the Battalion again.  The doctor said I should take more than a week to get better, but then my address is not certain.  I cannot tell you anything more definite.

Pathephone Record Player.1916.
Pathephone Record Player.1916. cf Letter 20th August 1915.

I am very comfy here, there is a gramophone on and we have just had Eternal father strong to save’ (5 ).  That reminds me,  I wonder how Sydney is now.  I pray that he is having a quiet & happy Sunday, & you too, with Harold at Home, as he was last Sunday.

Your letter of last Sunday was a nice one & I knew as much that you & I  would be thinking of Sydney & one another.  By the time you get this, & the other of my Christmas letters to you all, it will be very much nearer the season.

From Left Motyer, bertie with hoop, Basil Ida & Sydney who did not like his photo taken.
Hibbett Family Photo  c.1906.  In Khaki Case. From Left : Mother, Bertie with hoop, Basil, Ida & Sydney ‘who did not like his photo taken’.

I have just had a look at you Mum & all of you in my  little Khaki CaseI am sorry I cannot send you a smile like I did last Christmas at Saffron Walden & a Card, so I send you Auntie’s (6) & it will partly be mine to you won’t it?  now I have parted with it. 

And, as Dodger said he would like to see me I have cut myself out & sent you a smile

What do you think of my ghost story in his letter?

As luck would have it Vernon, Sydney and I look far from spending Christmas together & the Trio is away from the Batt. too & we are all in Hospitalhow funny.  Vernon went to the Field Ambulance a week last Sat & left the morning I arrived, only a few hours before, so that I could not wish him the best of luck and a Merry Xmas.  I do hope dear Sydney will enjoy some Christmas fareHave you sent him a parcel? I do hope he gets his, but he will sure to of course.

You had better write to Miss Foster*as well as I don’t want another muddle in correspondence.  A. O. Jones* will very likely acknowledge my parcels.   He has got a stripe to enable him to get a CommissionEvery applicant must have had two months as an N.C.O. to get a Com I put the matter to my platoon Commander the other day before I left the Batt.  but did not see him again to hear his answer.

Yes, as you say, it will be Christ’s Birthday on the 25th & everyone can rejoice in the right way.  See Thessalonians 4th Chapt. from verse 13 to end Wherefore comfort ye one another with these words.

I am writing to Mrs Penning* (7) for Christmas.  God bless you dear Mother & He will let you see me in His good time.  I do like your conclusions to your letters, but don’t trouble staying up late to write.  I pray that you may have happy goodnight sleeps. 

May you have a Happy Home all together this Xmas.

Your very affec. son,  Bertie.

PSS on sides of pages:  Tell me when you can if you plucked the Turkey.  I think I shall be able to attend a nice service at Xmas as I shall be in Hospital a week, according to what I heard.  Have only been able to attend one service since I came from the Base. (8)

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett’s movements are clarified here. On 17th Dec, he was due to march from Rue des Vaches to Isqberque but because of the state of his feet he was sent instead to the Field Ambulance Advanced Dressing Station ADS (where he just missed his pal Vernon who had gone on to Hospital in Bologne with a similar complaint).  By 19th Dec. Bertie was at Merville Casualty Clearing Station (the next stage of the Divisional Casualty Evacuation Chain, organised by the RAMC. This Letter is typical of those he sent his Mother, a determined attempt to alley her anxiety for him with comforting words of the Christian Faith & the true meaning of Christmas.

(1)Philippians 4. 4-8. (2) Pyaemia: Blood poisoning (septicaemia) characterised by pus-forming micro organisms (usually Staphylococcus) in the blood /leading to widespread abscesses/ boils (fr Latin puon -pus /haima-blood.  A very serious condition in the absence of antibiotics. 

(3) Merville C.C.S. Casualty Clearing Station (approx 8 miles West of Estaires.  (4) A.O.Jones* recently made Corporal in preparation for Commission? (5Eternal Father Strong to Save. The Seafarer’s Hymn. William Whiting. 1860.

(6) Auntie Pattie* of York’s Xmas Card.  (7) Mrs Alice Penning*: Bertie’s billet Landlady, Gold Street, Saffron Walden, 1914. Lost her son, Arthur Penning, K. in A. August 1915. (6) Base: the Brigades’ ADS Advanced Dressing Station. cf Letter: 14th Dec. 1915.

NEXT POST: 19th Dec. 1915. No 4. Letter to Father. ‘Taking Things as a Matter of Course as You Advised.’

 

19TH DEC.1915: (2) NO CHRISTMAS PARCELS ‘FOR THE BOY WHO WOULD APPRECIATE THEM BEST’

Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall.

Sunday Dec 19/ 15

.Champion Ida Hibbett VAD Nurse.
‘Champion ‘ Ida Hibbett VAD Nurse.

My Dear Sister Ida,

My sincerest apologies for inability of sending you a proper Christmas Card. Yet I know happily enough that Champion will be chivalrous enough to accept my very best wishes, which are not any the worse than mine of last Christmas, rather better this year.  I did so much want to send you something in the way of a card & being therefore on the ‘que viveI send this rather than ‘leaving it behind me anywhere (1).

Putting all joking aside I do feel sorry for you, Mum & all of you that such good Christmas luxuries have not arrived for the boy who would appreciate them best. I can picture you all packing those two parcels & imagining all sorts of happy results. My shining face on seeing the cake, almonds & raisins, choc. figs & dates. Yes, I remember all the things Dodger told me in his letter, how ‘wicked’ of him to mention them, it has had a somewhat Tantalising effect upon poor I. 

Oh not so much that I careI’m thinking of you all & of course – – – ha hem I’ve forgotten what I’m going to say (pons assiniorum (sic)  – just bin’ to be ‘dressed’. (2)

So I’ve missed my eatable part of the Christmas gifts. Everyone who has sent me gifts so far must have thought I should get quite enough to eat & so they have sent such DRY stuff, a Stationary & Cigarette case & cigs. Of course –  I’ve got it now – I can eat the pages of writing paper by writing long Christmas letters, as for the cigarettes if I can’t eat them I can heat ’em can’t I? & smoke everyone’s health at Home, sending warm fumes from each cig  I smoke & too I can verily heat up the pages of writing paper with Warmest Wishes for a Merry Christmas.

I am away from my Batt. of course now I’m in here & shall very likely miss another little Sing Song.  I guess you will enjoy your sens (3) with fireside sing songs in the Study & Basil will of course lay aside all swat for the evening – the Eve of Christmas I mean.  I can hear that usual party of voices singing on Venables’ lawn (4).

– – – ‘Ben Battle was a soldier bold And used to war’s alarms But a cannon ball took off his legs So he laid down his arms. (5)

(Yes, I, with my septic feet, have laid down my arms, but I shall have to wash my limbs all the same)

And now I cannot wear my shoes Upon my feet of arms. (I’m wearing big white woollen socks, something like bed socks.)

So round his melancholic neck A bandage  did entwine. (Sores on my neck again). So they buried Ben at the four cross roads With a stake in his inside.’ – – –

I wonder if I shall get pontoon for Christmas dinner. 

I shall finis now with my congratulations to you for your good work at Munitions (6), hoping you will get your full reward by having a really good time at Christmas.

Your vewwy affwec bwuvver,  BerTRUM.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

In his letter to his sister Ida, Pte Bertie gives a delightful picture of how the Hibbett Family & Friends enjoyed Christmas. He hides his misery and serious condition with classical references & humourous poetry but I think Champion Ida, VAD Nurse, would not be fooled. 

(1) A Paper Cross/ Bookmark given him by Merville Hospital Chaplain? (mislaid at present).

Euclid imgres(2) Pons asinorum. Latin lit. ‘Bridge of Asses’. Name given to Euclid’s mathematical theorum – (5th proposition, 1st Book of Elements) -‘that the base angles in an isosceles triangle are equal’.  ‘Asses’ Tag applied to ‘Medieval schoolboys who . . . had difficulty understanding the proof – or even of the need for the proof’.  An alternative name (which better suits Pte Bertie’s painful situation in Hospital) is Elefuga  ‘escape from misery‘ which Roger Bacon in c. AD 1250 derived from the Greek. < http://www.britannica.com/topic/The Bridge -of-Asses >. 

(3) ‘Sens‘ – selves. Black/ North Country dialect.

(4) Venables’ lawn. Next door neighbours in next street off Foden Rd/ parallel to Rowley Street, Walsall.  Arthur Venables was to save Bertie’s life. 1st July 1916. Battle of Somme. 

thomas-hood
Thomas Hood 1799-1845.

(5) A Pathetic Ballad. Faithless Nellie Grey by Thomas Hood. 1799-1845. English Port & humourist.  Adapted by Bertie to fit his trench foot misery.  cf Letter: 29th Nov. 1915/Father’s Birthday.

(6) Munitions: Ida Hibbett’s bomb-making was most likely in a small converted workshop in Walsall.

NEXT POST: 19th Dec. 1915:  No 3. Letter to Mother. ‘God will let you see me in His good time’

19TH DEC.1915: (1) TRENCH FOOT AGAIN: ‘GRIN & BEAR IT’.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

RUE DES VACHES.

15th -18th Dec 1915. Platoon & Company Training continued.

19th Dec. Sun: Marched to billets at ISBERQUES sic (1).

Bertie in Uniform

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

Sunday Dec. 19/ 15

My Dear Basil,

Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.
Basil Hibbett at 18 yrs. 1916.

How dare such a reflection of trench life reach as far as you on the muddy footer field, larst SaterdiHad you waders (2) on any of you?  For us there were not enough to go round so some had to ‘grin & bear it’.  I was one on ’em & so in conseq: but chiefly through the march that Sunday (3), the day after we left the trenches, this Sunday finds me in Hospital with sore feet & other sores.  So that answers your first request in your jolly delightful letter of last Sunday.

Sydney, Bertie and Basil.
Sydney, Bertie & Basil in tent on Abergele Beach.  August 1914.

I wonder where you are at this very minute. I am sitting in a sunshiny room at a table in the centre & trying to scribble you some enjoyable Tosh (4)

All your letters have been delightfully interesting and full of jollityMy word, Basil, you write as good & as bad as I do, so Q.E.D.  I can read them delightfully well, but poor Sydneydon’t joke about him beingyeller’ (5), yet of course I quite see you took it in all good humour.  Your other request was a smileso I cut myself out of the photo of us three taken in the tent at Abergele (6).

Yes, the Trio (7) that kept so long together at Luton, & out here, are parted for Christmas & I am sorry I could not convey your kind thoughts to Vernon.

Alladin Lamp gas mantle.
Alladin Lamp Gas Mantle.
American Wall Gas Lamp.
American Wall Gas Lamp.

Again to your jolly letters, I shan’t forget your dream of Dad, Mr Boothroyd* & the Gas mantle (8).

 

One of my good wishes to you this Christmas is that you have happy dreams without disappointing awakenings.  Don’t grind your teeth – Dodger dreams a dream on New Year’s Eve, he walks down stairs & when he gets half way he sees a masked phantom (9) within the porch.  In the dining room Mum is writing one of her usual long letters (at the late hours of the night) to one of her boys at the front.  She has written  . . .      (end of Letter is missing)

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

This is the first of Four Christmas Letters Pte Bertie wrote to members of his Family whilst in Merville Casualty Clearing Station. The trench foot & boils that had kept him in Rouen from August to October had returned (probably had never gone away). All three of the Trio, Sydney, Vernon & Bertie were now in Hospital and separated for Christmas. The disappointment must have been intense, with not even the hope of a Christmas Parcel or Letter from Home to cheer him. In his Letter to Basil he hides his misery and his serious condition with banter, dreams and a ghost story. 

(1) Isbergues. Isberques: 10 miles (19 km) NW of Bethune. Connected to the English Channel & North Sea by Canal d’Aire. Pte Bertie must have been judged unfit for this march of 11 miles from Rue des Vaches and sent straight to the Brigade’s Casualty Clearing Station.

(2Trench Waders Imperial War MuseumGhosts of 1914. <https://www.ghostsof1914.blogspot.com&gt;

Trench Waders.
Trench Waders.

(3) 5th Dec. 1915: 6 hour waterlogged March from Neuve Chapelle to Rues Des Vaches. (4) ‘Tosh’: nonsense/ rubbish’. 

(5Sydney’s ‘Yeller’ (yellow) skin caused by Jaundice/ infection of the liver (Catarrhal Jaundice).  (6) Abergele Holiday Photo. August 1914. 

(7) ‘The Trio’: Sydney Hibbett, Vernon Evans & Bertie Hibbett. cf. Letters from Sept 1914 to end of Feb. 1915/ Training in Bedfordshire & Essex.

(8) Gas Mantle. Gas Lamps had fragile mantles, lit by matches. (9Masked Phantom: possible ref. to gas masks just issued. See Drawing 20th Dec. 1915.

NEXT POST: 19th Dec. 1915: No 2. Letter to Ida Hibbett.

 

 

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14TH.DEC.1915: PTE BERTIE TO BOOTMAKERS. QMS PAL VERNON TO FIELD AMBULANCE.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

RUE DES VACHES BILLETS, north of BETHUNE.

11th -14th Dec. Platoon & Company Training. 

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

Tuesday Dec. 14/ 15  –  am

 

My Very Dear Mother  –  5 pm

I wrote the date this morning & was about to continue when I thought I should in all probability receive a letter from you tonight.  I went to the post myself this afternoon on my way back from the bootmakers (1).

WW1 British Boots B 5.
WW1 British Boots B 5. 

Yes, poor Sydney, you will get my letter of Sunday (2) saying I had his long letter telling me how he got to dear old England. Sydney told me I need not send it Home but I am, as Mum wants me to.

I daresay I shall get your parcels tomorrow night (Wed)I also got another parcel for Vernon, which makes the fourth since he left us on Saturday 11th for the Field Ambulance (3).

gpembertononline.coukLegionww1Wounded.html FieldAmbulancePoor old Verny, how very unfortunate he has been for parcelsLast night (Monday) he had his Xmas parcels from Home oh dear  – & I was away when they came to our billet & when I came back the Platoon Serg. had opened them & was about to distribute them among the Platoon. The contents would not keep until Vernon came back as they were, so I put a sample of everything in one of the tins & am keeping them in high hopes that Vernon will return very soon & enjoy some of the Xmas fare.  There was his Christmas cake above all too! 

I wrote a letter to Mrs Evans & from the beginning to nearly the end it was a very unpleasant undertaking. I said nearly because I had to FINIS happily to wish Vernon’s people a Merry Xmas.

I hope you have enclosed some candles; excuse me saying so, this candle is nearly ‘na pou’ finis, so I shall have to close soon (4). This morning I took the opportunity of acknowledging a handsome Christmas gift from Miss K. Brookes* , a Cigarette Case.  I suppose she thought I shall receive enough eatables to satisfy my appetite, well quite right too.

Hackett orderly.
Captain W. Hackett.

I heard from Hackett* (5) . . . (censored but ‘Capt. Lister’s orderly’ can be discerned) . . .  that no person can obtain a Commission without having been an N.C.O. for two months.  I shall put my case forward tomorrow or in a day or two.

Forgive me, dear Mum, but I shall relish the mince pies  – if there are any coming & I am wondering if Champion has made an attempt at a cake.

Lights out – I mean the candle – ’tis not 6 yet Let’s see. I shall want about four dozen Xmas cards from Boots Park St – I shall leave the billet & go my shopping down Walsall Town.

I was puzzled on reading what Vernon’s brother told Basil about him not hearing for 3 weeks.  I felt it my duty as a friend to be faithful to Vernon & take care of his parcels, but I do not at all like it.  He said he thought he would be back in three days.  I will wait either till tomorrow night (Wed) or keep patient till we move.  I might try to carry some of his parcel from Home in my valise. I should like you to converse with his people about it.

I said my next letter would be to Basil & Ida, but dear Mummy has had to have first attention lately.  I shall write my Christmas letter to you all either next Sunday or Monday the 20th, or I might write it when I get the parcels

Dost thee remember my Christmas letter last year at Saffron Walden?  Drawing to the end of November we shook hands with our old Colonel, who came to give us a surprise visit (7): when at Saffron Walden he hoped we would spend next  i.e. this Xmas at Home, which I am hoping to see about.

Ta Ta.

Best love to all hoping & trusting you will all keep in the best of health & good spirits to enjoy a Happy & real Christmas.

Your very affec. son

Bertie.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett’s feet & those of his pal Vernon Evans suffer the consequences of the waterlogged march from Neuve Chapelle trenches to Rue des Vaches Billets, 5th Dec.1915. Bertie appears to be about to visit a local French bootmaker to repair or replace his boots and Vernon has gone to The Field Ambulance to be passed up the Casualty Evacuation Chain see (3) below.

hobnails images
Hobnails <https://www.1914-1918invisionzone.com&gt;

(1)Bootmakers: British B5 Boots. Soldiers of WW1 & WW2 marched in Northampton boots as did Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army (Roundheads) in the Civil War, 1642-1651.  70 million pairs of boots & shoes were made in WW1 (50 million in Northampton).  Crocket & Jones Factory made 3,493956 pairs for officers in WW1.  https://www.crocketand jones.com>. Interesting blog photos re history of bootmaking at Stony Middleton. <https://www.loomstate.blogspot.com/…/william-lennon-factory- >

(2Not extant.

(3) The Field Ambulance (not a transport vehicle as today but) a RAMC organised Casualty Evacuation Chain attached to each Division: consisting of Bearer Relay Posts immediately behind Regimental Aid Posts in the Front Line, further back the Brigade’s Advanced Dressing Stations (ADS) & further back still the Divisions Main Dressing Station (MDS). WW1 postcards.comimagesThere were also Walking Wounded Collection Stations, Rest Areas and  Sick Rooms. (Regimental Aid Posts could be in a dugout, communication trench, ruined house or deep shell hole).

See The RAMC in the Great War.  https://www.ramc-ww1> Also The Long Long Trail. <https://www.1914-1918.net/fieldambulances&gt;.  Each Field Ambulance had 10 Officers & 224 men (no weapons or ammunition). Each Division had 23 wagons & 3 water carts and 10 ambulance wagons for transport/ mostly pulled by horses but some motorised ambulances.

(4) ‘na pou’/slang for ‘finished’, ‘no good’. 

(5) William? Hackett’s* application for Commission was successful, he eventually became a Captain. (Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, 1900-1905). Interestingly his training as Captain Lister’s* Orderly involved attendance at Army Servant School. (He died in 1918 in Scotland, reason as yet unknown ).

(6) N.C.O: A private must have had some experience as a Non-Commissioned officer (Lance Corporal/Corporal/Serjeant) before acceptance for Officer training & Commission. 

(7) Colonel Crawley*. See A Little Book of Words & Doings. Letter: 5th Dec. 1915.

NEXT POSTS: 19th Dec. 1915. Letters to all Four Hibbetts: Basil. Ida, Mother & Father, to arrive for Christmas.

9TH/10TH DEC. 1915: ‘A WORK OF A MAGICIAN WAS THE SCARF’. PTE BERTIE HAPPILY PLAYS POSTMAN TO HIMSELF.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th  SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

RUE DES VACHES.

7-18th Platoon and Company Training.

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

This Letter was begun on Thursday 9th Dec. but the next day Pte Bertie found he had lost the first half so he pieced it again with the note: ‘Lost 1st half . . .  Brewin* has gone for his Com. (1) –  went Thursday 9th. (Brewin* and A.O. Jones*).’   

. . .  . . . . . . . .    A work of a magician was the scarf.  I shall be delighted to show you it, such a long & thick & broad one; absolutely puzzled me however it was made in the time & do you know – I don’t know whether you have told Miss Foster* or no, but she had put a bag of lavender in (2).  The other articles were a small bottle of Horlicks & some Macintosh’s Mint Toffee de Lux & three apples & a pad of writing material; so I shall be set up for some time with letter writing.

The scarf can go round the neck, cross the chest & round the waist –  but ’spose we go to India! – never mind there will be many cold days for us before we set sail for hot climates (3).

WW1 Post censor & colletion.
WW1 Post being sorted  & censored while Postmen wait. Horsham Camp. 1914.

Yes – tis rather a pity now we are out of the trenches & will . . . (censored) . . .  the toffee & milk, porridge & woollens would be more serviceable in the trenches. The toffee to munch while on sentry, the scarf & mittens (Miss Foster* also sent two pairs of mittens for fear one pair gets lost I guess) to wear & keep out the biting wind, the porridge for a hot tasty ‘brekker’ etc.

A. O. Jones* is with us again & appeared in new clothes, but muddy through marching.  Our Captain* inquired after Sydney this morning. I wish he was with me for one reason i.e. to give me advice on the Com. (4).

How is it that I do not hear from Harold often? You said now he is in Wolverhampton I should hear from him more often.

I shall have to close now as no one seems to have a sharp enough knife to sharpen this pencil.  Hoping you are all keeping happy & well & may Those Heavenly Hands keep my dear Mother & Father in cheerful patience & bring Peace shortly, –  a lasting & abiding Peace to the advancement of His Kingdom & for His Glory.

Best love to Ida to whom I will write next & to Basil,

Yours, Bertie.

. . . . . . . Continued  Friday Dec. 10/ 15.

Mother at Tea.
Mother at Tea.

My Very Dear Mother, 

I wrote to you yesterday but lost the first half of my letter so I will have to piece it up as best as I can. 

Your welcome parcel came as a surprise on Wednesday night (you will have got my Field Postcard by now)I was picked for ration party & told off to carry the parcelsThe bag was heavy, but I trudged happily along the lanes for within the bag was a parcel from Home and another I found out to be from Miss Foster* – the largest parcel she has ever sentI should love to show you the scarf which made the parcel so large The other things – I see I mentioned that in my last half of yesterday.

WW1 Post to the Front.
WW1 Post to the Front.  NB Size of bags.

Yes I read your nice letter of Saturday. We came out of the trenches that day & we had the weather wet too, but it managed to keep off raining until we arrived in billets, then it poured I opened my parcels in a little group of chums in this loft.  I did enjoy a slice of brown bread & butter & I gave some toffee to Vernon who said it was very goodIt is jolly good too.  I love it – so lasting too.  I’m sure Vernon’s voice has improved wonderfully & put it down to the toffee & last night (Thurs) I made some porridge for supper, it came out a treat & I put some Horlick’s Milk with it & offered Vernon some, he always liked porridge and when at Saffron Walden bought some for Mrs Penning (5) to make.  He did enjoy the porridge & said it was excellent.  I have made some for breakfast one morning I was on guard here.

We don’t think we shall see any trenches this duty  . . . censored . . .  I trust we shall see you before we go elsewhere.

Lieut. Robinson* who said he knew Dad, is on Leave & his orderlyI may go to him re Com.

Yes the parcel came as a surprise because you said the next would be the Xmas parcel I must send this letter off now else I shall miss the post, he is shouting for the letter.

Ta Ta.  Bertie.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett plays Postman, happily trudging down the lanes with his heavy bag of parcels & letters. For answer as to how 12 million letters reached WW1 soldiers each week see informative article by Alan Johnson, MPformer postman (in association with the British Postal Museum & Archive) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine > Also https://www.youtube.com > 31st Jan.2014.

(1A.O.Jones* (and Arthur Brown/ Brewin*) must have gone for a Commission interview at Divisional Headquarters before being accepted & sent to Sandhurst, UK.

(2) Godmother Mary Foster had heard that Bertie would love something sweet-smelling to mask the smell of the trenches.

(3Rumour that 1/5th Staffords were preparing for  the Eastern Front.  (4) Sydney’s whereabouts not yet known to Bertie.(5Mrs A. Penning: Landlady, Pte Bertie’s Billet Gold Street, Saffron Walden. Letters: Dec.1914 – Feb. 1915.

NEXT POST: 14th Dec. 1915.