2nd Jan.Embarkedon H.M.S. MAGNIFICENT. CASUALTIES: 7949Pte W. Dandyaccidentally injured. 9955Pte J. Steen; 9122L/ Cpl E. Pitcock; 8779Pte S. Pitt; 6876Sgt A. Stace;8758L/ Cpl G. Gibbs, accidentally injured, but able to embark. See Appendix II.
APPENDIX II:Details of ACCIDENT on EMBARKATION of 1/5th Bn South Staffordshire Regt. at Marseilles on 2nd January, 1916.
The Battalion embarked on H.M.S. ‘Magnificent’ at Marseilles, on the 2nd January 1916, being taken to the ship by tug and lighter.
While the lighter was taking her first load at the quay side, at about 9.0 am, a slight accident occurred. Some 150 men and several machine guns and other stores were aboard, when the girder supporting the hatchesgave way, with the result that about 50 men,the Machine Guns and the bulk of the baggagewere precipitated to the bottom of the lighter, a fall of 10 feet.
The men were in full pack and carrying rifles, and were thus handicapped in saving themselves.
Many complained of Bruises,Slight Cuts and Shock, but the only serious Casualties were:– 1 man with broken leg.(Sent to Hospital). 5 men injured about the head.(Proceeded on the voyage and were medically treated on board and returned to duty at the port of disembarkation).
Signed: J. LAMOND. Capt. & Adjt. 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.
2nd / 8th Jan: Voyage to Egypt. ALEXANDRIA.
9th Jan: Disembarked and entrained for SHALLUFA.
10th Jan:detrained and took overNo.5. POST No. 1. SECTION CANAL DISTRICT. 11/ 16th Jan: In Garrison at No. 5. POST.
17th Jan: handed over No. 5. POST to 1st Batt. Monmouthshire Regiment and encamped at the POST. 18/ 29th Jan: Battalion Training.
30th Jan: Entrained for ALEXANDRIA. CASUALTY: Pte A. White accidentally knocked off the train while in motion, by a piece of timber projecting from a passing goods train. He proceeded with train and was sent to Hospital at ALEXANDRIA.
SIDI BISHR CAMP.
31st Jan: Encamped at SIDI BISHR CAMP. Battalion Training. TOTAL CASUALTIES JAN. 1916. 2 accidentally injured sent to Hospital; 5 accidentally injured remained at duty.
Signed: Major Cmdg1/5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regt.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: ALittle Book of Words & Doings. 16th Jan – 31st Jan 1916. ‘At Isberque on coming out of Hospital. Joined Transport, from thence we entrained to Marseilles, Borelli Camp, where we had easy time. I went and had photo taken & passes to town. Embarked on ship Andania (one night only). Good grub in dining rooms & hammocks to sleep in. Did not budge an inch. Came off ship the next day. Up the Line again after a fortnight.’
The British Army had decided to concentrate its efforts on the Western Front after the disastrous Campaign in Galipolli. That the 1/5th South Staffords were ordered to leave Egypt after only one month indicates that the Suez Canal was considered to be under less threat from the German Ottoman Army than it had been at the Battle of Suez Canal: 26th Jan – 4th Feb.1915.
Photo Link: Suez Canal District <www.nzetc.victoria.ac.nz>.
NEW PAGE: My Memories of First World War & Battle of the Somme. The Revd A.H. Hibbett. 1967.
Serjeant SYDNEY HIBBETT, 8830 (A Coy) B.E.F. 5th S. Staffords London Rd Congreg. Sch. Derby (1): LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
Sunday(most likely 10th Jan. 1916)
My Very Dear Mother & Father,
I received Dodger’s card and Mrs Penning’s* letter on Friday.I shall not write to her yet. There is not much news this time, except that I visited our native town of Nottingham yesterday (Sat). I made up my mind at the last minute so to speak. We were finished parade at 11.30 yesterday morning so I went down the town & had a look at the trains. Then I thought that as I should have nothing to do till bed time I would try Nottingham. I came back & polished up & by that time it was late so I jumped for the tram outsideto theStation, just got into the 12.45 in time.
We went via Trent Junction& it was a fast train so I got out atMidland Sta. at 1.20 pm. I had a bit of lunch & a shave & then started out to find Miss Foster’s* house. Another tram ride & I found it (2). She was at home & delighted to see me. After I had told her about Bertie& you all at home, we got on another tram which runs from Radford & Lenton to Nott. Rd. We had a good view of the town & the Forest & went up Sherwood Rise & got out at Lantry Grove! (sic)
Well I didn’t recognise any of it, but we saw 95 (3) and walked round the back, but saw no big apple tree either. Lantry Groveis paved with setts now.Do the Giffords live any-where about there?
We walked back down the Rise and up Mapperley Rd & got on the car in Woodborough Rd.We came down that big hill &saw our other house & also Miss Foster’s*. Then we had a look round theMarket & then went in the car to Trent Bridge.
We had tea at Miss Foster’s house or rather rooms. After a good tea she took me to the Empire where there was a very goodpantomime ‘King Cole’. It was very pretty & also very funny.Then we walked round the foot of theCastleto theStation
& I went back on the9.25. Altogether it was a very enjoyable day and I was delighted with Nottingham. It was very crowded too.
We also saw Holy Trinity Church (4) where Dad used to play the organ. The fare to Nott. is only 2/- return from here.
Other evenings we are free after 5 pm, so I sometimes go to the Station & watch the locomotives on the Works near the station.
I have been to two diff. picture houses this week, one at Normanton about 2 miles away. There is one called ‘The Cosy Picture House’ in London Rd & its name suits it.I felt rather awful the first night I was here.
There are no Parks here but a very small Arboretum, and most of the people appear to work at the M.R. loco & carriage works (5).There are thousands of men there. There are a lot of very good shops indeed and a church or chapel at every corner. The tram service is also very good & frequent, but they do not run on Sundays. Usually we go on them to anywhere.
There are 180 wounded soldiers here from 1/5th & we are billeted & kept apart from the 3/5th – which is a very motley crowd –kids & old soldiers mostly.They are very jealous of us. We have no band but we can march much better than they.
The Fast Partyare those who can walk at the ordinary rate & carry a pack but no rifle. They go & do drills in the ordinary way. The 2nd party,nicknamed theIrishGuardscan walk all right but not fast or far. I am with those.We go a march about 6 or 7 miles round Alvaston, Allerton & Normanton. It is a very nice walk. We just wear the usual uniform & overcoats.
The 3rd party are the hobblers, the limpers, staggerers, dot & carry oners, as the people know them.They go hobbling along on sticks at 1/2 mile an hour & do about 2 miles. They are known as the Flying Column!In the afternoon the 3 parties go out again 2-4 pm.
We went to St Mary’s Church this morning and tonight I shall go to ElvastonChurch. I & another Sergeant walked round toNott. Rd Sta.,which I remember we used to pass going to Whitby.
Miss Foster* asked how you all are at Home: I expect she will write to you. Weather has been excellent so far. I got Mother’s letter this morning. I wish for some reasons I was with the 1/5th. I expect Bertie will write when he gets to Alexandria (6).
I will close now thanking you for you letter, dear Mother, & with best love to you at home
PS Hope you have sent the Confession Books (7) back to Evans*.
Serjeant Sydney Hibbett re-visits his birth place and makes his way by tram & on foot down roads familiar to me as a student at Nottingham in the 1960s. The old tram-lines (hazzardous when crossing Nottingham by bike)now support a fine modern tram service.
(1)London Rd Congregational School (closed before WW1) in 1916 a Soldiers’ Convalescent home/ billet?
(2) Lenton Sands: Miss Foster’s1916 home. (3) Bertie Hibbett’s birthplacewas95, Nottingham Rdon corner ofLangtryGrove (B682).Sydney Hibbett was born a year earlier at ‘our other house’ 168, Robin Hood Chase, a long road running between Woodborough Rd & St Ann’s Well Rd.
(4) Lenton Parish Church of the Holy Trinity, Nottingham. 1840: Arthur Hibbettalso played the organ at St Mary’s High Pavement.
(6) 1/5th Staffordsarrived in Alexandria 9th Jan. 1916. (7) Confessions? Could be religious but more likely WW1 soldiers’ diaries?
1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
2nd Jan 2 Embarked on H.M.S. MAGNIFICENT.CASUALTIES: 7949Pte W. Dandy accidentally injured.9955Pte J. Steen; 9122L/ Cpl E. Pitcock; 8779Pte S. Pitt; 6876Sgt A. Stace; 8758L/ Cpl G. Gibbs, accidentally injured, but able to embark.
2nd – 8th Jan. Voyage to ALEXANDRIA, Egypt. 9th Jan Disembarked and entrained for SHALLUFA.
NEXT POST: January 31st 1916. 1/5th South Staffords War Diary: Embarkation Accident, Voyage to Alexandria for Suez Canal.
Pte Bertie Hibbett’s January 1916 Letters are missing.NEXT POST:7th Feb. 1916.
New Page: ‘My Memories of the First World War’ (with account of first day of Battle of Somme 1st July, 1916). The Revd A. H. Hibbett. 1967.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER to MOTHER, Marie, Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. (1)
‘They shall obtain joy & gladness & sorrow & sighing shall flee away’.Isaiah Chap 35. (2).
New Year’s Day 1916. The Circumcision. (3)
I wonder if Sydney let the New Year In for you?If what he told me in his letter of Dec 23 was truehe ought to be with you now, & I hope you are all as happy as ’ole (sic). I think such a time would be a convenient opportunity for Harold & Miss Bore & Harold’s ‘Best Man’to have the ‘spree’ (4).
I can’t squeeze anymore to tell you, but I will conclude :– ‘Mrs Hibbett, do you take any pre-cau-shuns’ (said by someone in St George’s Parish). (5).
‘Patients are directed NOT to have their parcels& lettersaddressed to this Hospital’. I am anxious about any more parcels getting lost & letters too. So dear Mum I have been trying to keep you very busy reading my letters until I get somewhere, when you will be able to write to me.
I am better now & expect to be moved to my Battalion in a day or so. I can’t say whether the Batt. has moved yet (6).
Best love to all.
PS I have read for today the 35 Chap. of Isaiah (2). I wonder if by chance you have heard or read those comforting words lately or even today. And I wonder who keeps up the ‘Breakfast time Readings’.
I am just going to send a short letter with my Greetings to Mrs Jones*. M. A. is she?
1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
MARSEILLES (Santi Camp)
1st Jan: 1916. Battalion Training.
(1) This Letterwas in the same envelope as that of New Year’s Eve.
(2) Isaiah 35.10.8th Cent B.C. Prophet Isaiah (740 -700 BC) considered in academic scholarship to be author of Isaiah 1-39. Part of sayingalso found inIsaiah 51.11 (work of Deutero-Isaiah 6th Cent B.C. Prophet in captivity in Babylon author of Isaiah 40-55.
(3) The Circumcision of Christ.Luke 2. 21. Celebrates the Naming of Jesus and Circumcision – ‘ after eight days’, according to Jewish tradition .
(4) Harold’s wedding to Hilda Bore (delayed until 1917). (5) Family joke? re fussy parishioner in St George’s Parish, Walsall.
(5) 1/5th South Staffords Battalion’s expected move to Eastern Front.
NEXT POST: Sunday 10th Jan: Letter to Pte Bertie from Sydney Hibbett.
NB. None of Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Letters Home from 2nd Jan 1916 – 6th February have survived. See current Welcome Page: December – January 1916 Letters & Monthly Summaries Page.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: Letter to Mother, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd, Walsall.
(in same envelope as Letter of New Year’s Day)
Dec 31st 1915
‘Thy Kingdom come O God Thy rule, O Christ begin, Break with thine iron rod The tyrannies of sin. When comes the promised time that War shall be no more’. (1)
My Very Dear Mother,
In the little Chapel we held another evening service,the last in the old year, & thus were the hymns we sung, including the one 217A & M (2) which have very appropriate verses & brought happy memories ofFern Leigh Bible Class (3), whenIdaand I happened once to arrive LATE & had to wait outside ‘that’ door to hear all the verses through.
Yes. ‘Where is thy reign of peace and purity and love? When shall all hatred cease, As in the realms above’. (1).
‘Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven’,many people & I think especially soldiers & soldier’s mothers, will pray slower with more meaning & deeper sense, Our Lord’s Prayer this New Year’s Eve. ‘Thy Kingdom come’.
Our Chaplain has preached ,or rather given us little band of men who go to service each evening, some very simple yet inspiring addresses. Last night he spoke some beautiful words aboutheavenbeing on earth.‘A new Heaven & a new Earth – and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’. (4)
I send you a card which is one of many promised for us at Christmas (5) but they have arrived as late as this, yet I think them good enough & appropriate enough to send away now. I send too, one for Ida & one for your ‘bed chamber’. We all followed the prayers said by the Chaplain for our dear ones at Home & said Amen. Yes there is a great deal in an ‘Amen’. So let it be O Lord (6).
NB Letter was continued & signed on New Year’s Day, 1st Jan. 1916.
1/5th SOUTH STAFORDS WAR DIARY.
Dec 31st. Company & Battalion Training (for Eastern Front).
December 1915 CASUALTIES:- Killed 1. Wounded nil. Signed:R.R. RAYMERLt Col. Cmdg1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.
(2) A & M.Hymns Ancient & Modern. Product of Victorian Oxford Movement. Approved by Church of England in 1861. Several editions. Editor William Henry Monk, 1823 -1889. (Organist & choirmaster, composer of hymns & anthems).
(3) Fern Leigh Bible Class,held by Kathleen M. Brookes, Sunday School Superintendent, St Paul’s Walsall. (4) Revelation 21.1.
(5) Christmas cardsprovided by Army charity for troops to send Home? (6) Amen: a strong affirmation/ agreement: ‘Truly’ ‘So be it’: Aramaic/ Semitic dialect/ 1st cent. language spoken by Jesus / left untranslated in Greek, Latin & English translations of the Bible.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER to BASIL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. (Censor J.E. Fitzgerald* )
Dec 30/ 15
My Dear Basil,
So you will be having jolly old Sydney seeing you all again shortly – so I gathered from a ‘big surprise’ letter from the old boy the other night. How jolly if he lets the New Year in eh?
You see I can’t wait till New Year’s Eve. I must write now & fancy it will be none too early to let you have this important epistle, for very likely the ‘yeller boy’ (1)is with you now.
Ha ha!I can see him cracking a joke with you & Ida in the firelight, much to Mum’s especial joy. I was extremely delighted on hearing he would be Home before the end of the month & I am only too anxious that his leave will not be cancelled or postponed.
Now Dodger this, what I am going to tell you, must not reach the eye (drawing of eye)see, compris & must not reach the ear (drawing of ear), do you hear? of Mum, or any other, but Sydney.
Well then, don’t forget to re-member, to tell Sydney not to forget, but remember, not to say, by word of mouth or in any form whatsoever, that will cause Mum to be worried, anxious, perturbed, sick at heart or the like, of any before here mentioned, & tell Sydney not to say anything, with reference to my self that would cause Mum to be worried, anxious, perturbed, sick at heart, or the like of any before here mentioned. Compris.
Although I’ve joked somewhat about the matter, you will I trust see the imp-portance of it.Yes, ‘twould be rather impish of dear old Sydney if he did say anything not to my liking. But of course I trust Sydney, but just put it to you, for he, being only human,might in his much conversation with you allround the dining table or fireside, relating perhaps the Charge of 13th October (2) & other incidents, get ‘War fever’ and trot out a word or two which would work wonders, & leave a lasting impression upon Mum & Dad & you all perhaps.
Sydneymight be much put out by this letter, as if I could not trust him, but just console him that it is only a double securityin case of an exciting moment of forgetfulness.
‘Just break the news to Mother’ (3) that I look upon the present family affairs as Providential & I shall see you all in good time.Also tell Ida(I wrote her on the night I got Sydney’sletter, Ida’sBirthday),that I dreamt of you all again last night.I dreamt thatinstead of going on parade on foot we went on horseback & you, Basil, rode behind me. I felt I could ride capitally & could feel the sores on my legs as I trotted on the hoss. Then the scene changed & I was walking with Mother along a street, partly country & partly town. Mother kept changing into Mrs Evans* & then into Molly Evans*. I also dreamt of Harold & Father & Sydney too.
Another himportant matter, which you can let the others know by all means, is thatPatientsare directed NOT to have their parcels & letters addressed to this place. I have been somewhat anxious that Mum in her motherly way would be sending me not only letters but parcels, which would again get mislaid.
I shall, at least I do hope I shall, be out of Hospital before the New Year. When I get settled I will let you know my address whether it is the Batt. or no.
Now don’t forget please.
I am your jolly old bhoy,
PS Sydney ran a great risk but his letter was a pleasant & delightful surprise, as it seems such a long time since I heard from Home. When you do write to me just refer to the dates & nature of letters so that I can tell if they have all reached Home.
1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
Dec 27th Arrived Marseilles (Santi Camp)
29th -30th Company & Battalion Training (for Eastern Front).
Pte Bertie was waiting to hear whether he must re-join his Battalion in Marseille, on its way to the Eastern Front or not. His main wish was to protect his Mother from the horrors of War her sons were experiencing.
(1) ‘Yeller boy‘ ref. to Sydney’s jaundice. (2) Charge of 13th Oct.Battle of Loos-Hohenzollern Redoubt. (3) ‘Just break the news to Mother’ ref. to gramophone song. Letter: 24th Dec. 1915.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd, Walsall.(Censor 934 J.C. Fitzgerald) (1).
The Innocents’ Day (2) Dec 28/ 15
‘I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone’.Miss E. Cavell. (3)
My Dear Sister Ida,
Dreams. Yes I’m on dreams again. I hope you don’t think it is a sentimental, sloppy beginning to my letter to you on your birthday, but do dreams come true to a certain extent? I think so.
I have had such a happy surprise tonight,which not only caused me to write to you after all today(I was thinking of waiting till New Year’s Eve for my vocabulary was exhausted)but it ‘broke my dream’ of one night last week. I was washing up in the kitchen of the Ward – ‘Hibbett’ – I scooted to the caller, thinking he wanted either to dress my foot or order me for something – ’What Regiment are you in?’ I told him, forthwith a chap by him handed me a letter – from England – from Sydney.I have never expected a letter or anything while I have been here& I was indeedbemoaningmy disadvantage in this way only this afternoon,thinking when I should hear from Mum again & if Mum had been writing in vain to me while I am here. Of course I read the letter with deep interest & looked out to see if he had seen you all yet.
Now to explain matters on the subject of dreams, (I must ‘perforce’ enclose Sydney’s letter, otherwise I should not send you all of it, if not at all, for there is something in – which is personal). I can remember that ‘particular’ part of the dream quite plainly now. You, Ida, were very cross with me for some reason & I ran away & after some time the dream changed & a nurse came to me & said something to the effect that Sydney was much better, or such news that I was overjoyed& all of you (Mum I could see) were also delighted. The scene in the dream then became faint & I cannot tell you anymore for fear I encroach upon untruths or a ‘make-up story’.
Now just compare my dream with Sydney’s letter.I did not tumble across it, that my dream was ‘broken’ until after, when my thoughts were about his letter & Sydney himself.1st he said – ‘A few of us went for another walk – round the country lanes’. In my dream I was in the country & I ran up to a pump when a nurse & some other people (came), I believe Mother & Basil were among them, but the nurse with glasses & smiling face was most prominent for she was the bearer of the good news. Before I go any further I must say that the weather in my dream was sunny & bright green fields fresh.
Notice next thatSydneysais ‘I am almost entirely recovered’. Perhaps the nursein my dream said those very words, they were certainly to that effect, for Mum & Ida & all of you were so glad & I was in ecstasy. ‘A nurse always goes with us & any sergeant with the party’ – I saw a party in my dream & a nurse, but I did not see Sydney. Sydney seemed to be somewhere else in my dream. I felt, just as I feel now, with regard to where Sydney was in my dream – out of it.
The climax or the points that broke my dream was Sydney mentioning‘I am almost entirely recovered’ & ‘a nurse goes with us’ and ‘a party’.
Have you ever read that striking article in the London Magazine about the Transmission of the Mind (4)? Am I superstitious, I hope you don’t think I am,but I believe, to a certain extent, through thinking about other people, especially those dear to you(we speak of one dear & near to another)one’s thoughts carry themselves into their dreams.It is all to do with the mind.And then again I say I don’t believe in superstition and I often ignore all such tomfoolery & go slap bang into a supposed superstition – say if it is walking under a ladder or crossing knives – I absolutely ignore it, & when I do that, I find nothing whatever happens afterwards, as would be foretold by a superstitious believer.
I say, if I don’t believe in superstition, the case must be one in which Providence was with me.
I believe in Angels, & I much admired what Mum has said in her letters to me referring to angels.I believe that an angel was with me whenever I dreamt of you all at Home. Now believing in angels is not superstitious. ‘I believe in the Communion of Saints’ (5) we say, well then,those relatives & friends we loved while on earth, are they not communicating with us? – & trying to keep us happy & acting as God’s Messengers?
Although Sydney ran a great risk of having his letter mislaid, it has wrought a happy result & broke my spell of melancholia ,which I had slightly this afternoon, owing to the reaction – it is so quiet here sometimes & strangers about. I looked at your photo of you sitting on a camp chair with a book on your lap outside the Study window & tried to think of all your good advice.
I trust you have had a Happy Birthday. I went toHoly Communionthis morning & a lot of RAMC patients were there considering. We went to pray for the wounded that came in on Monday evening. I asked one of the casualties what sort of time he had on Christmas day in the trenches & he said ‘we had nothing, but we went over the top to shake hands with the enemy’ – a fact confirmed by the Chaplain when he came round with the cigs that night.The British were the first to go over & the 1st to resume fighting. The enemy also came over to play their band.Do you blame our side? I don’t, so far as shaking hands goes,for what does the Collect for St Stephen’s Day say? (6).
Well I dare say you will get this letter early enough to wish you all again a Very Happy New Year.I shall see you all in God’s good time.
I sincerely hope Sydney will have his 7 -10 days sick leave. Hurrah& I hope he will have another good time, and let every day, as it comes & goes, be blessed, & then Hurrah he might be in England for such length of time as to have leave & see you again & again.
Am I superstitious? Really, you don’t say so, – never mind.
I am always your loving brother,
PS Patientsare directed NOT to have their parcels & letters addressed to them at this Hospital, so I advise you not to take the risk Sydney did. Wait till I get back to the Batt.
1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
MARSEILLES (SANTI CAMP).
28th Dec. Company & Battalion Training continued (in preparation for Eastern Front).
TOTAL CASUALTIES for DECEMBER 1915: KILLED: 1; WOUNDED: nil.
Signed:R.R. RAYMERLt Col. Cmdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.
This Letter is interesting in the evidence it gives of a Christmas Truce in 1915 (as well as Christmas 1914) when the enemy came over to ‘shake hands’ and ‘to play their band’.
In the loneliness of Christmas 1915, Pte Bertie Hibbett’s belief in Providence, the presence of angels, protection of saints and answers to prayers, and the comfort he receives from dreams and coincidences, is clearly becoming stronger. It was a search for meaning in the face of death that he appears to have shared with many soldiers in WW1.
(1) Censor: J.C.Fitzgerald*. Army Chaplain.Pte Bertiemet him again when training for the Anglican Ministry at Lichfield Theological College, 1918+. (2) The Innocents’ Day:commemoration of Massacre of Male Infants by Herod the Great. Mtt. 2.16. cf Letter 24th Dec. 1915.
(3) Edith Cavell :Britishnurse during First World War/ saved lives of soldiers from both sides/ arrested for helping 200 allied soldiersescape from German-occupied Belgium/ court-martialled, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death/shot by firing squad, 12th Oct. 1915. Worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage. Notes from Edith Cavell Trust website. See also Page: Christmas Truce 1915.
Full Quotation reads:“I have no fear nor shrinking. I have seen death so often that it is not strange or fearful to me. This I would say, standing as I do in view of God and eternity I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”
(4) ‘Transmission of the Mind’. Not easy (without sight of article) to understand what my father meant. In Zen Buddhism the term refers to a ‘flash of insight’/intuitive rather than rational. Here however he seems to be talking more about telepathy and transference of thought from one person to another through dreams. cf Note on The London Magazine. Letter 26th Aug. 1915.
(5) ‘Communion of Saints: Apostles’ Creed. Evening Prayer. Book of Common Prayer. 1662.
(6) Collect St Stephen’s Day: ‘to love and bless our persecutors‘. Book of Common Prayer 1662. Letter 26th Dec 1915.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
‘Yesterday with exultation Joined the world in celebration Of her promised Saviour’s birth’. (1)
Having no calendar I conclude from the above words that today is – – – – – –
St Stephen’s Day, Sunday 26/ 15.
‘Being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love & bless our persecutors by the example of Thy first Martyr, Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers.’ (2).
My Very Dear Sister,
How grateful I ought to be that I have had such an enjoyable & happy Christmas Day, to think of those who are worse off than I was, I am speaking of those in the trenches. Yes, I believe, at least some of them were quite as happy as we were, and we were as happy as those at Home, for inspite of all the delicacies of the Christmas Menu at Home, you know ye olde proverb goes, as Mum often told me when I was greedy or sullen:- What the eye never sees the Heart never grieves.Compris? And so we wereHappy & for many reasons too, one being:-
Oceano divisi Eclesiastia conjuncti (sic) (3). Compris? No – well ask me pater and you will be happy on hearing his interpretation thereof. Results of the above solution of the aforesaid to be sent to me when I am in that station of life to be writable to by persons.
Well the concert was fine and its Homely handmade get up reminded me of you & The Ghost, – that Pickwick Club affair (4).You know how men shape when there’s such a thing as decorations to be done, – why, me dear, they who decorated the Concert Hall made as good an effort as any feminine worker.
– – – We all stood up as the orficers (sic) came in & sat themselves down in the front seats, basket chairs, and the orficers all stood up as the nurses came in at the stage entrance. They looked soChristmassyin their red & grey uniforms. Then the concert began. The stage was admired by the audience & ‘oo oo’ said weas we saw the successful scene – a room with a table on one side with a red cloth & shaded lamp, two basket chairs, a piano & modern water colour prints of the American style of girl hanging on the wall. The Programme was topping & nearly every item encored, & nearly every class of person in the Hospital, except patients gave a turn. Anurse was greatly clapped as she appeared on the stage to sing us a song, a good song too it was, & well sung too. She sang the epilogue and then all of us men joined in the chorus:-
Keep the Home fires burning While our Hearts are yearning. Though the lads are far away They dream of Home. There’s a silver lining Through the dark cloud shining.Turn the dark cloud inside out& show the lining (5).
And then we allclapped & clapped & clapped & stamped & shouted‘Encore, Encore, Hurray’.
Alas alack I am undone, this is my last sheet of paper.Verily, indeed, whateffer, I have indeed devoured all those sheets of paper that have been sent me. And I hope they have found & warmed up the hearts of those I’ve sent them to.
Well the Programme was varied, just as we liked, comic songs there were, & there were sentimental ones, & there were sketches, original too.The Last one ending in a Tableau was absolutely ripping, topping. Hurrah. It was a grand homely affair. Some show not ’arf – ‘and so the poor man died and she – married the barber!’
You like the pictures do you? I know you do. But the disadvantage of them is there is no frame for them.A present of a picture alone invites the recipient to buy a frame, rather insinuating ain’t it? Well if you like the picture, Mum& I give youthe one I sent Mum. I did not know who to send it to. I thought of Mrs Penning, but I must confess, at the time of sending it off I forgot you. The Chaplain of the C. of E. gave me a Souvenir as he called it, a little cross .I cannot find any other gift I can send you.I make it my resolution that if I can possibly send anything in the way of a gift I will do so.
The cross will serve as a bookmark for your Bible. The Latin inscribed on it means ‘By this sign you will gain the Victory’.(6)
Hoping you have all had a very Blessed & Joyous Christmas Day& you have felt the reward of your good & preserving effort in munitions.
Wishing you a Bright & Prosperous & Peaceful New Year.
Your loving brother, Bertie.
PS NB Tell me if Mum & Dad visited Sydney. Yes they dream of Home & wedo more than that – if I am not encroaching upon self- commendation I have dreamt of you all – how queer ain’t it?
1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
25th/26th Dec. Entrained for Marseilles and arrived on 27th(en route for the Eastern Front).
(1) ‘Yesterday in exultation’(Heri mundus exultavit): Hymn to St Stephen, first Christian Martyr (stoned c. AD 34). One of The Seven/ Deacons appointed to supervise fair distribution of welfare to the poor/ widows in the Church. cf. Acts 6. Text. Adam of S. Victor(d. AD 1192). Translation, John Mason Neale1818-1866.(Hymns of the Eastern Church).Music: Walter Cecil Macfarren1826 -1905.
(2) Collect for St Stephen’s Day. Thomas Cranmer.Book of Common Prayer. 1662. (3) ‘Oceano divisi … ‘. ‘Though the ocean divides us the Church unites us’? cf. Christmas Day 1915 Letter: ‘Though the oceans & lands divide us we think of each other at the Holy Eucharist‘.
(4)The Pickwick Club. Childhood Club for adventures/ literary observations. Formed 1905. Ida Hibbett editor.cf Hibbett Letters: 23rd April 1915; 7th Sept. 1915; 13th Sept. 1915.
(5)’Keep the Home Fires Burning‘/‘Till the Boys come Home’. 1914. Music:Ivor Novello. 1893-1951. Welsh Composer.TextLena Ford.
(6)‘By this sign you will gain the victory‘. Latin ‘In hoc signo vinces’. Constantine the Great AD 272-337 (first Christian Emperor) saw the Chi Rho sign in the sky before the Battle of Maxentius, AD 312 and heard these words. In Edict of Nantes AD 313 Constantine proclaimed religious freedom throughout the Roman Empire: ‘With free minds all are to worship their Gods’ . (Source: Eusebius c. AD 260 -340 (Bishop of Caesarea/ Early Christian Father & Historian).
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER HOMEfollowing straight on from Christmas Eve Letter.Enclosed in envelope addressed‘To Mum, My very Dear Mother. All Good Wishes for a HAPPY CHRISTMAS from her very affec. sonBertie.
Christmas Day. 7-30 am approx.
Christians awake! Salute the Happy Morn, Whereon the Saviour of the World was born. Rise to adore the Mystery of Love Which Hosts of Angels chanted from above.(1)
Although we did not have a hymn at Holy Communion, (which I always like on Christmas Morning) the Chapel was prettily decorated with holly & evergreen & was made the best out of it.Candles burning in between the evergreens looked Christmassy. We had a few nurses with us this morning, yes, to see men, men, men,everywhereit was especially reminding of Home to see the other sex& it felt more what it should be atChristmas.
‘A Merry Christmas’ we all greeted one another on waking, ‘And the same to you’ came the reply to everyone I greeted on the way to wash, & to the Chapel. At the doorI met a sister & the Chaplain – ‘the same to you’. And why shouldn’t it be Merry? ‘Rejoice again I say Rejoice’ (2). Those who have lost their lives for their country are numbered among the Hosts of Angels which chant above.
I dreamt(dreams are so hard to remember)but I do believe I dreamtof you all, certainly I dreamt of Mother & Ida & Dad & now I come to think on’t Basil too.I could see Ida as plain as a pike staff. And I dreamt of Sydney too& we met a nurse, I believe, who told us he was much better, at which we were all so glad. I have dreamt of you all at one time or another these nights this week how queer – will it be a coincidence? Well I will leave off till after the dinner now.We get cold ham for breakfast.
From breakfast till Church time I read a Christmassy story I came across accidentally & only began to find out as I read along. You must know that this Hospital, so I’ve been told, was once a monastery & it looks like one too – all the more happy to imagine Ye olde Christmasse TYMES with the monks & so I read a Monk’s tale about Kings & Dukes & Princesses. The story also introduced York – ‘then as Winter came on quickly, withdrawing himself to his good old town of York to keep his Christmas, rest his men, etc.’ Then again, ‘he’, referring to theKing of England, now the King of Scots. ‘So at last about Xmas time the snow being very deep, the King of Scots sat down behind the wattles of his trenches, saying ‘if we cannot burn them out or cut them out, we will starve them out’ – and so with the G——nseh!
While I was reading several orcifers (sic) with their orderlies & a whole retinue of NCOs came to decide if our decorations deserved Ist Prize.Then the orderly made us all go to Church.
The service,which I have just come from & set to write you about, was as Christmassy as possible & again I guesswe all thought of our Homes, & others, their sweethearts & wives.The sermon was the old story of the Inn & the Shepherds and the Saviour. Though the ocean & lands divide us we think of each other atHoly Eucharist, so the old Latin text goes interpreted.
‘O Come all ye Faithful’I can hear you singing, the very words we have too (3). And we had the Hymn for absent friends ‘Keep them ’neath Thy care’ (4). I used that little Red Prayer Book in which you put my name & the text, ‘Be thou faithful unto death’ (5).It is much dilapidated now but for all that it brought back memories of Xmassesgone by when I used it. (6)
I will leave off now till after dinner else I shall not have paper to finish.
Christmas Dinner. ‘A goodly feast forsooth’. Asight which reminds me of the words in the story I read this morning:- ‘All was done in noble order, with abundance to eat (& drink), with minstrels in the gallery, dogs under the tables, a fool in a corner and silver trumpets at the buttery door to cry the courses’.
Yes, the officers waited on the men & the Chaplain served us too; as for the courses, the first was beef, haricot beans & spuds, the second was plum pudding with white sauce(I put in some almondsfrom a dish of fruit just by). Then jellies of all kinds & chocolate blancmange Ida, yes. The room, which was downstairs, held all the patients, numbering 200 in all. We were greeted by the Chaplain who wished us all a Merry Christmas & told us that those who ate too much would be sent to the Base immediately, Yes, get C.B. – not Confined to Barracks but Condemned for the Base.
Let’s see Mum, when was it I had that big BURD for dinner – nine – teen – fif – er- no – nine-teen -THUR-TEEEN.Oh my poor napper. Let’s crack a bon bon, there were those on the table & those paper serviettes in pretty patterns. Also raisins & almonds, walnuts, chocolates, toffee& the Chaplain came round with cigarettesagain. So we have had abitof Christmas & Santa Claus is coming at 4 o’clock.
Oh I’m full, full inside, & the officers have stuffed our pockets with nuts, chocolates & all those things I’ve said.Eight volunteers for washing up. I was one.
Ta Ta till after tea. I am at peace with all the World, so said Dad once,& I hope you have all had a good dinner too.I’m at peace with Ye K——r!
The afternoon passed in a happy, lazy way.I read the story of the little Child leading the King of Beasts, the tiger & all the other animals in Isaiah, Chapter 11, verse 6 . ‘The Wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, & the leopard shall lie down with the kid & the calf & the young lion & the fatling together, & a little Child shall lead them’. How typical of the Hun & the Peacemakers. The K——r,so apparently hated by some people, will find blessing from God. All the nations at war with one another shall live in peace & love one another in God’s good time. And a little Child shall lead the nations. Reminds me of the Victor on a White Horse, leading his Hosts in white, in Revelation (7).
For tea we had jam & bread, but we did not open the tins, some iced cake & gingerbread came in & the iced cake vanished first.
‘Poor old Bertie will not have any of our Christmas gifts!’
Best love, Bertie. X X X X X
1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
25th Dec. 1915: Entrained at BERQUETTE STATION for MARSEILLES, and arrived there on the 27th. (en route for Dardanelles Campaign begun 25th April 1915).
My 20 year old father, Pte Bertie Hibbett, is determined to be happy, and to convince his Mother that he is happy, spending Christmas in Hospital, sleeping on a stretcher, denied letters and parcels of Christmas Cheer from Home, separated from his brother & his best pal Vernon Evans, all three now in Hospital.
From Merville he would have heard the sound of guns at the Front. He knows the rest of his pals in 1/5th South Staffords are preparing for the Dardanelles /Gallipoli Campaign and he must soon be joining them. All he has to hold on to is his heightened awareness of the true meaning of Christmas, the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy – and the Army’s ‘Goodly Feast!’
(1) Christians Awake: Hymn. Text John Byrom 1691-1763. Tune: John Wainwright 1723-1768.
(2) Rejoice again: Philippians 4.4.written by S. Paul in time of persecution, AD 49-51.
(3) O Come all ye faithful/ Adeste Fidelis: John Francis Wade, 1711-1786. Translated from Latin byFrederick Oateley,1841. (4) Neath thy Care:Isabella S. Stevenson,1869. ‘Keep our loved ones now far distant, neath Thy care‘; (written when her brother was sent away to S. Africa for his health).
(5) ‘Be thou faithful unto death & I will give thee the crown of life’. Revelation 2.10.(6) Confirmation Prayer Book, a gift from his Mother. Confirmed Sunday 12th March, 1911 (16 yrs old).
(7) Book ofRevelation: the only apocalyptic /prophetic document in the New Testamentcanon (dealing with Christian eschatology i.e. interpretation of the End Time). Written AD 81-96, in the form of a letter to all the churches during Emperor Domitian’spersecution of Christians/ a poeticallegory of the ongoing struggle between good & evil.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station, North France: LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
Christmas Eve 1915
Bless you my Mother. Bless you my Father. Bless you my Sister. Bless you my Brother.
My Very Dear Mother & all of you,
I have just come from a very pleasant little service in the Chapel. Our C. of E. Chaplaincame round rallying us all to go to the service on theEve of Christmas& how they all flocked down the stairs & through theCloisters – & the littleChapel, no larger than theLady Chapel at St Paul’s (1) wascrowded.
We all sang ‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night’ (2). I doubt not that everyone was thinking of theirHome, his dearFather&Mother, & if they had any brothers and a sister like me. The Chaplain himself said we shall all be thinking of our relatives & friends, no matter how far away with foreign countries between & the deep & the spacious ocean too, in spite of that our hearts will be as near as if we were with you.
Yes dear Mummy, you & Dad an all of you are as close to me & my heart is as warm towards you as if you were as plain as my comrade on the next stretcher here to me.
Mum, although I have no pleasures of Home with you,I have had a very pleasant afternoon & Eve. We have had a gramophone on this afternoon & one record touched ours hearts so much we had it on again. The records aredouble sided, as you know, & one record had two songs about ‘Mother’ – ‘When did you write to Mother last?’ & ‘Break the news to Mother’ (3) It was the first one we were so taken by.
We have a table in the centre of the room (which is now crammed with decorations)& a red blanket serves well for a table cloth. Well there I sat at this table with my head between my hands, resting my chin on the palm of my hands & I listened as the words sang ‘Just think of all the things she did for you’ and then the other song – ‘There’s not another Can take the place of Mother. Then say to her how I love her And break the news to Mother’.
Then we had the other records dealing with Christmas, but they did not get an encore like the songs of Mother did.
Yes, we have books to read& I was admiring a picture inThe Graphic (4) of ‘An Ideal Christmas’. ‘The return of the First Born from the Field of Battle’. There in the firelight was the eldest son with his two little brothers eagerly listening to his adventures, the Father was on the sofa with his head turned from his paper to his eldest boy, & Mother too, whilst his eldest sister had stopped playing at the piano.
How do you like the picture I sent you on Thursday?I did not know who to send it to, but whenever I see anything beautiful I think of those at Home & think they will appreciate it more than anyone else.
So Mum, I believe I am not wrong in guessing that it will be Ida’s Birthday on the 28th& I believe it isInnocents’ Daythen (5). Sorry I cannot find anything so far to send her, but if you wish you can give her that picture, Ida being a lover of pictures, and say that it is a present from Mum & me.
Yes, I shall be thinking of you tomorrow – The Day, the Birthday of Our Lord– early in the morning at 6.45 amat Holy Communion – & very likely Sydney will too. The Chaplain sais there will be dinnerfor all the patients at 1 pm& Father Christmaswill visit the wards at ‘Blind Man’s Holiday’ (6) i.e. 4 pmso we shall have a bit of Christmas out here.
Part the Second.
I shall put up my stocking for fun tonight.The Chaplain comes round with cigarettes every night when we are about to go to sleep.
Goodnight to you dear Mum & all of you, may you have a sound good sleep,St Benedict (7) to keep away the evil goblins and a happy, a very happy awakening on the morning of Christmas Day – heralded by a carol – ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ (8) . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I will leave my letter to finish tomorrow.
1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
ISBERQUES: 20th-24th Dec.1915. Platoon & Company Training.
A poignant picture here of Pte Bertie Hibbett thinking of Christmas at Home in Walsall (note service at 6.45 am!), making decorations and head in hands listening to gramophone songs about ‘Mother’ with other young patients.
(1)The Lady Chapel remains as my father would have remembered it, with its intricate domed-ceiling of inlaid-veneer. The rest of St Paul’s was wonderfully transformed in 1994 -1995; now called The Crossing at St Paul’s (a Christian Centre for Social Justice & Place of Worship) it serves the industrial & commercial centre of Walsall , the Old Butts & the Chuckery. See Hibbett Letter: 26th Aug. 1914 for further details.
(2) While Shepherds watched. CarolText based onLuke 2.8-14 byNahum Tate 1652-1715 (Irish Hymnist/Poet Laureate to Queen Anne.Published by Tate& Nicholas Brady in ‘Supplement of New Version of Psalms of David.1696’ . MusicOld Winchester. The only Christianhymnauthorised to be sung in Anglican Churches. (Before 1700 only Psalms could be sung).
(3)Break the News to Mother. Chorus: Just break the news to Mother, She knows how dear I love her, And tell her not to wait for me For I’m not coming home. Just say there is no other Can take the place of Mother, Then kiss her dear sweet lips for me, And break the news to her.Tragic ballad of boy soldier who died ‘saving the flag‘ in Spanish-American War, when United States intervened in Cuban War of Independence. Treaty of Paris, 1898, marked the collapse of The Spanish Empire & allowed U.S. temporary control of Cuba. (NB Can find no reference to the first song).
(4) The Graphic: British weekly newspaper, published 4th Dec.1869, byWilliam Lucas Thomson (Artist/ wood engraver/social reformer), angered by treatment of artists in The Illustrated London News.
(5) Holy Innocents Day, 28th Dec.commemorates story of Massacre of the Innocents by Herod the Great (died 4.BC).Story is peculiar toMatthew 2.26, where Jesus is presented as the Jews’ Messiah and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Not found inFlavius Josephus AD 37 -100 (Romano-Jewish scholar, historian & hagiographer).
6) Blind Man’s Holiday:time between daylight & candlelight (i.e 4.00 pm in December) when a partially sighted person could not be expected to work. cf Webster’s Dictionary.
(7) St Benedict, AD 480- 543. Italian. Patron Saint of Europe. Called ‘The Founder of Western Monasticism’. The Rule of St Benedict was renowned for its ‘spirit of balance & reasonableness’ & adopted by many religious foundations. Can find no specific connection with hobgoblins (mischievous imps, spirits, bogies, evil trolls, traditionally associated with Halloween & Christmas Eve).
(8) Hark the Herald Angels Sing.1739. Text:Charles Wesley,(brother of John Wesley founder of Methodism) , adapted byGeorge Whitfield.Music: Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-1847,adapted byWilliam Hayman Cummings1831-1915(English musician, tenor & organist at Waltham Abbey. Chorister under Mendelssohn’s baton.
NEXT POSTS:25th, 26th, 28th, 30th, 31st Dec.1915will be published as soon as possible.
The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.