1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
BATTALION TRAINING: OCCOCHES BILLETS
3rd – 5th Mar. In Billets. Battalion Training.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
I sent you a Green last Sunday.
The Next Sunday before Lent. Mar 5/ 16
‘I am very proud to think that the British blood is not weakening but growing stronger’. (1) ‘All our doings without CHARITY are nothing worth’. (2)
My Very Dear Mother,
You will be pleased to know I did get your handsome Parcel of the 11th Feb: addressed to the Notts & Derbys. If I ever told you that I suspected the men in the Batt. of keeping that parcel with ill intention I am ashamed of myself.
No, I could tell by their distinct manners & behaviour, of both officers & NCOs alike, that they would fain do such a thing.
All your letters & the parcel sent to the jolly, decent Sherwoods (3), (as they are called) have been forwarded to me & I did enjoy reading them too, & relished the Parcel immensely.
I got your letter of Feb. 28th enclosing Dodger’s scribbly one, but how excitable to read. Oh no, Basil, your detailed account was not monotonous by far, it really drew my breath. Again I emphasise that Basil, Harold & Sydney & Bertie have much to be grateful for to have such a brave & patient Mother. And I must not leave out dear, dear Dad. I put Mother’s calmness, during the raid (4), down to Dad’s encouragement & comfort shown towards Mummy, as they sat in the silent sternness by the fire, in the dark. Oh how my heart leaps to you dear Mum & how it touched me when I thought of the amusing incident of ‘Sentry Go’ by Ida & Dodger alternately. I pray that you will never have another alarm even, let alone a raid.
I received your parcel of Feb 28th. What a lovely, soft, warm shirt and thank you for the (Walsall) Observer which I read with interest, as you will tell by the cuttings I have sent you.
Yes I am of the opinion of our dear Bishop: “Was it not something of an honour that we, in what was a comparatively small way should share the pain & the sacrifice of the men who were laying down their lives for us“– (that underlined please note).
The raid, I might say, was not so comparatively ‘small’, in one sense of the phrase, as Basil also had the same idea as the Bishop. I think that the raid, to you, was more of a catastrophe than a bombardment is to us in effect. For you must take into consideration that we out here have been used to the sound of guns – like Ben Battle, in ‘Faithless Nellie Grey’ (5) – ‘used to war’s alarms’ whereas you at Home have not only lived without the sound of a gun, but have had to bear anxiety & many sleepless nights (poor Mum) for thinking about us out here. Yet to Dodger & Ida I guess the raid ’twould be most ‘dramatically bookish’, like a vivid story in a book put into practice.
Dearest Mum, I read the beautiful account of the loss of your Mayoress* & also the sad account of Ken Marshall* (6). I noticed you marked those columns with a cross, but you did not notice the marriage. I think you can mingle sadness with gladness don’t you? Did you notice the account of Pte. Robert Ball (7) that Queen Mary’s Scholar who was chums with Sydney & me & came to see you when we fired at Tame Valley Range (8)? He had a rosy complexion, Bob, & I faintly remember him telling you he too had relatives in Ashton under Lyne. (9).
My word I did like that currant batch loaf & was able to get some butter, but this tinned stuff is not so nice as yours.
Vernon was naughty for not using a little more discretion. I shall have to pull him up aboot saying he last saw me scrubbing a floor. I was ordered dear Mum, I did not offer or volunteer to scrub and you must know that an order from a superior in the Army is what we call a DOOTY dear Mum. And then again, can I console you, & bring matters straight betwixt me & you & the gatepost, by just repeating what I read in the Parish Magazine you sent me. – ‘The only undignified thing is scamped work. All work of whatever kind is dignified’.
Of course, dear Mum, that doesn’t mean to say I shall put myself in the way to do charwoman’s work.
I too have felt so, so happy after doing something for someone else, lending a hand to the Lambs (10) of the 3rd Line by carrying a rifle for my comrade marching on my right on a long, long, tiresome march. I knew what it was to have sore feet & so did Lieut. Robinson. (11). He amused me by struggling with 3 rifles when he should have carried one. (12).
The title of the Frontispieces of the Feb. Mag. struck me as the one you wrote in my prayer book in February 1911 – ‘Be thou faithful unto death & I will give you a crown of life’. (13)
My letter this Sunday is getting long. I could fill all the pages of note paper you have sent me but I must now be on the close.
Did you read that Ken Marshall* did not wish to apply for a Com: he humbly left that responsible position of an officer to another who was more capable. I agree with him three parts of the way; the fourth part was responsible for my handing in the form you sent – E 536 (14).
I wrote to Dad, at his office, saying I needed a Birth Cert. & the other form. Then, when we have gone a little ‘forrarder’, all we shall do is to WAIT & SEE.
I am waiting patiently in high hopes for a speedy conclusion of Sydney’s application & shall be proud to see him in his TOGS. I wrote to Harold the night before I got the shirt, and to Miss Foster* some few days ago. Did you send her a stamp of mine? – hers is a pretty one.
Hoping you are spending a typical Sunday.
Best love to all, Bertie.
PS Did you get the Petit Parisiene (sic)(15) with that photo – or did the Censor take it out ? I am replying to a parcel from Miss Brookes* now.
Whilst Pte Bertie Hibbett was applying for a Commission in 3/5th Territorial Reserve Bn in UK, Serjeant Sydney Hibbett was applying for a Commission in 1/5th South Staffords, which would keep him out on the Western Front.
(1) Unknown Quotation. (2) Collect for Quinquagesima Sunday/next before Lent: Latin, literally ‘fiftieth’ day before Easter. Book of Common Prayer 1662.
(3) ‘Sherwoods‘/ The Sherwood Foresters i.e Notts & Derby Regt. Pte Bertie Hibbett possibly attached to ‘Transport’ in 1/5th Bn Sherwoods Territorial Force which became the 139th Brigade in 46th Midland Divison.
(4) Zeppelin Raid on Walsall. 31st Jan -1st Feb 1916. (5) A Pathetic Ballad. Faithless Nellie Grey byThomas Hood. 1799-1845. English Poet & humourist. Adapted by Bertie to fit his trench foot misery. cf Letter: 29th Nov. 1915/his Father’s Birthday and 19th Dec 1916.
(6) Mayoress Maria Julia Slater* killed in Zeppelin Raid & Ken Marshall* missing/wounded? cf Hibbett Letter 27th Feb 1916. (7) Pte Robert Ball. QMS friend. Ref. account of his marriage in Walsall Observer? cf Hibbett Letter: 17th Dec. 1914.
(8) Tame Valley Range. Army Firing Range near Walsall. (9) Ashton-under-Lyne: Marie Neal Hibbett’s (Yoxall) family home.
(10) Queen’s Royal Surrey Regt. had a Lamb & Flag badge (symbol of Christ’s Sacrifice & Resurrection. Many refs to the Lamb of God in John’s Gospel & in Revelation).
(11) Lieutenant P.W. Robinson recently wounded in Bomb Accident. See Hibbett Letters: 28th Feb.1916; 9th Dec. 1915; 28th Nov. 1915; 16th Nov. 1916 (A Little Book of Words & Doings); 13th Oct. 1915. (refs to Captain Robinson of 6th Bn Sherwood Foresters & to a Chester Robinson/family member?)
(12) Rifle Rules/story/ training in Bedfordshire. Hibbett Letters: Sept – Dec. 1914. (13) Faithful unto death. Rev. 2.10. Prayer Book given to Pte Bertie at his Confirmation.
(14) Form 536. Application for Commission in Territorial Force. The Long Long Trail. <http://www.1914-1918.net>.
(15) Le Petit Parisien. French broadsheet newspaper. 1876 -1944. Largest circulation in world in 1927/ published WW1 propaganda posters.
NEXT POST: 13th MAR. 1916.