Saturday 12th Feb. 1916. (1)
. . . I came back from a Sniping Test (Note the Chart at the head of my letter).
A day or two ago I happened to do well at potting at a target & I think they must have mistook me for my brother Sydney (Good old Sydney comes in useful even in his absence & leaves his footprints behind in the sand). (2)
So I was recommended for a Sniper(3) & this morning I had an idea I was going to do badly, but of course hoped & tried to do well, with the result that I made 3 bulls, & inners within a bull, the size of half a crown – of course with a special sighting arrangement.
So my happiness went up, & was gradually going up, when I was dismissed from the range first & marched to billets with great expectations of enjoying the contents of the first parcel. What was my astounding, delightful surprise, on going up to this attic, than to see the Corp. hand me two more, similar parcels as the 1st. I then sat down to work undoing the stitches, not one by one, but — the few onlookers (the others were on parade) commented on the excellent way in which the parcels were wrapped (4).
The first contained the serviettes, chocolate, cigs – & now blow me I don’t know which was in which – at any rate I placed them all in front of me. What a fine show! ‘Onze’ (sic). Now for ‘Douze’ (sic) as I strode back for the second parcel hidden in my pack. ‘Douze’ contained the very excellently knitted khaki socks. I did admire them & could see the thoughts inter-twined in them.
Oh! I shall be especially thinking of you when I mange moi gateaux & pork pie. I was in ecstasy as I withdrew the currant bread, but I looked for the butter & was about to be disappointed when the thought came to me, the butter might be in the third THURD parcel so in half a jiffy I strode one big stride & was into Treize or Troi (sic) as these frog-eating people call ‘three’; and my hopes of enjoying the currant bread with butter from Home soon were satisfied & gratified.
Thank you again for this writing pad, a guarantee that I did really get your three parcels. I have never read such interesting & full, stock- full of news, as those enclosed in the parcels, especially Sydney’s long account of his doings. As for Basil’s, I shall have to write him a letter to read all on his owny own. And well, as for Mum’s letters, I am at first very touched & then I flop down & down & DOWN I go, & I shall have to conclude now I have reached THE LIMIT.
To be continued tomorrow Sunday.
SIDI BISHR CAMP, ALEXANDRIA. 1st – 4th Feb. Battalion Training.
H.M.S. TRANSPORT. 5th Feb. Sat. 9.15 am. Embarked en route for FRANCE.
H.M.S.TRANSYLVANIA (5). 6th -12th Feb. Voyage to MARSEILLES. MARSEILLES. arr. 12th Feb. Sat. 8.30 am. Disembarked and entrained en route to PONT REMY at 7.12 pm.
After so many weeks deprived of all contact with his family and not knowing whether they had received what little correspondence he had been able to send, Pte Bertie Hibbett was overcome with emotion opening his parcels and reading their letters. Counting in French obviously not his strong point!
(1)12th Feb. 1916 is the most likely date. (Continuation of letter is missing).
(2)‘A Psalm of Life’.1838. Henry Wadsworh Longfellow 1807 -1882. Collection: ‘Voices in the Night‘. ‘. . . In the world’s broad field of battle. In the bivouac of Life. Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife! . . . Lives of great men all remind us, We can make our lives sublime And, departing, leave behind us footprints in the sands of time . . . ‘
(3) The British Sniper was a trained marksman, alone or in a pair or sniper team: ‘to maintain close visual contact with a target and engage targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the detection capabilities of enemy personnel.‘ <https://www.en-wikipedia.org> <https://www.gunauction.com>
(4) A ‘parcel–wrapping’ compliment to his father.
(5) S.S.Transylvania: Cunard – Anchor Line. Torpedoed & sunk by German U-boat, 4th May 1917, whilst carrying troops to Egypt from Marseilles. 412 lives lost.
NEXT POST: 13th FEB. 1916. Pages 4-5 of Letter to Ida. NB Continuation of Letter of 12th Feb. is missing).
NB. NEW PAGE: ‘MY MEMORIES’ A.H.H. published 10th Feb. 2016 to mark centenary of the Battle of the Somme. 1st July, 1916.