RUE DES VACHES.
7-18th Platoon and Company Training.
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).
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,
. . . . . . . Continued Friday Dec. 10/ 15.
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 parcels. The 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 sent. I 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.
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 good. It 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 orderly. I 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.
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, MP & former postman (in association with the British Postal Museum & Archive) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine > Also https://www.youtube.com > 31st Jan.2014.
(1) A.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.
(3) Rumour that 1/5th Staffords were preparing for the Eastern Front. (4) Sydney’s whereabouts not yet known to Bertie.(5) Mrs A. Penning: Landlady, Pte Bertie’s Billet Gold Street, Saffron Walden. Letters: Dec.1914 – Feb. 1915.
NEXT POST: 14th Dec. 1915.