1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
14th-16th Tue & Wed. Mar. Battalion to Divisional Reserves. 3 Lewis Teams and Guns relieved 3 Lewis Guns and teams of 5th North Staffordshire Regiment in the trenches.
17th Mar. Fri. Battalion in Divisional Reserve.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to IDA NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
St Patrick’s Day. Friday Mar. 17/ 16
Psalm 131 verse 4 & 5 ‘. . . Let the righteous rather smite me friendly and reprove me.’ & v. 7 ‘But let not their precious balms break my head. . .’
‘Though he fall he shall not utterly be cast down.’ (Psalm 37.24) (1)
‘Forgive and Forget.’ ‘The reproof of a good man resembles fuller’s earth’, it not only removes the spots from our character, but it rubs off when dry.’ (2).
‘It is sorrow which makes our experience, it is sorrow which teaches us to feel rightly for ourselves & others. We must feel deeply, before we can think rightly.’ Wilkinson’s Wayside Ministries. (3)
My Dear Sister,
You have written me some most advisable letters which have, as Miss Foster* once termed it, ‘dressed me down’. But I felt a wee bit hurt about this last one of yours; now deary, don’t be alarmed for it was much for my own good.
You raked up past memories of the petty quarrels Vernon* & I had. Those were in England before we came to face the seriousness of life more – in the fighting line.
Forgive and Forget, I say. Yes, dear Ida, there is a great deal under that exterior, so quiet, of his. I will not say anything in criticism of that, I will practice to be broader minded. I may rightly say ‘the waters have come over my soul’ (4) – and they are like a cataract or torrent, for I had a letter from Vernon yesterday & although he said something ending up with ‘between ourselves’ I will let a little of the secret out to you. I told him I should have to pray hard for humility & now, after reading your letter which I got at ‘Tattoo’, I feel more uneasy, –but, as the old saying goes, ‘peace will follow storm’ (5).
So I hope that the morning will bring freshness & a good resolution to rise, for I had nearly fallen to the lowest when in England with Vernon. But WAR has proved a blessing to me in more ways than one.
Now I must say something about each delightful item in your jolly letter.
Poor Sydney’s departure made me feel sympathetic for him, & you all, yet I could not help thinking of Miss Foster’s* comic postcard – ‘Which shall it be ‘Onward Christian soldiers’ or ‘Abide with me’?’ I enclose her PC.
I wrote Vernon a long letter last night in reply. I had not written to him since I left the Batt. because I thought my writing to him would be an insinuation & he would ‘Break Out’ in his generosity to send me something, he being in England.
Harold puzzles me. Mum, in one of her past letters, told me how he was cross with Sydney for not acknowledging his parcels etc. Well, I wrote to Harold, about the time I wrote to you, Mar 3rd, in reply to his letter of Feb 16th, addressed to Notts & Derbys. In that letter of his he said he had some things waiting for me & he would send them as soon as he knew I was settled & heard from me. This, your letter of Tue. Mar 14th, has come in 3 days. I don’t know whether to inform Harold or not. Should he have sent me his promised parcel, & it had gone astray, he will think I, too, do not appreciate his parcels & am lacking in consideration, for if I find time to write to you & other people I have time to answer his parcels. – But – How Tantalising he is. I have been looking out for his parcel as day comes & goes, just as Mum told me to do with regard to hers, & have been disappointed, in a sense, each time.
I have not yet written again to Harold. I don’t like to, but I am waiting, – waiting for a result. I guess I shall hear of something TOMORROW.
I knew you would go to St Paul’s and how did you & Mum like Mr Darling’s* sermon (6)? By the by, that reminds me, he told me not to write a long letter but ‘just send me a line with your address’. I wrote the ‘line’, but forgot my address; could you give it him at your earliest opportunity please?
Although I shall be pleased to see Sydney, I was hoping and still hope his ‘little business’ (7) will soon come to settlement. I dreamt last night I saw him, & Basil came as well.
Your letter, with reference to the photo (8), also did me good after all, for I can’t be TOO CHEERFUL with the right sort of CHEER, but I do not think I shall send Miss Foster* a duplicate of the one I sent you. I shall wait until I can send her a Cheerful Face.
Best love to all, Bertie.
Remember me kindly to the Overends* & Evans.*
This Letter is an example of family relations under strain – and how hard it was for Pte Bertie Hibbett to explain – and for those at Home to imagine, let alone understand, exactly what it was like for their loved ones fighting at the Front. Ida Hibbett had obviously taken Pte Bertie to task for being annoyed with his pal Vernon (for telling the family more about himself than he wanted told cf Letter of 5th Mar.). This upset him but true to character he accepted the ‘dressing down‘. He also realised that the War had made him understand how he must ‘forgive & forget’.
(1) Psalms of Penitence for Lent most likely quoted in Walsall Church Magazine. (2) ‘The reproof of a good man’. The Biblical Illustrator. Commentary on Titus: Joseph S Exell MA 1819 -1887: Methodist Minister/ onetime served in Walsall.
(3) Wilkinson’s Wayside Ministries. American Missionary. (See previous Letter).(4) ‘The waters have come over my soul ‘. Psalm 69.1. Lamentations 3.54.(5) St Francis de Sales. 1567 -1622. Introduction to the Devout Life. Ch XIII.
(6) The Revd E. More Darling, Vicar of Walsall’s retirement sermon.
A Little Book of Words & Doings. Treasured Sayings in Letters from Home: Mother re Rev. Darling’s Farewell Sermons. ‘When Mum got up to go to Holy Communion with Basil & Ida. Raining. “I enjoy walking in the rain. We got up in good time & had a good breakfast & then we all went off to Church again & locked up the house. Mr Darling has taken all the services today. I am sure he must feel very tired tonight & with the strain of saying goodbye, but I hope we shall often see him.” ‘
(7) ‘Little business’: Sydney’s Commission application, if successful it would mean training in England.
(8) Photo of Pte Bertie Hibbett with his Hindustani Sikh friend Buckshee Ichbye Sing Waltu, Marseilles.
NEXT POST: 26th MAR. 1916.