5TH MAR. 1916: ‘BRAVE & PATIENT MOTHER’ ON ZEPPELIN ‘SENTRY GO’.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

BATTALION TRAINING: OCCOCHES BILLETS

3rd – 5th Mar.  In Billets. Battalion Training.

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 Bertie in UniformPte 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)

Mother at Tea.
Mother at Tea.

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.

Bishop of Lichfield
John Kempthorne,  Bishop of Lichfield and his daughter.

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 marriageI 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.

www.northeastmedals.co.uk queens_royal_west_surrey_regiment_badge2
Queens Royal West Surrey Regt. Badge. <http://www.northeastmedals.co.uk&gt;

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).

Form E536.
Form E536.  Application for Commission in Territorial Force.  Held in National Archives.

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.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
Elizabeth Hibbett Webb.

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.

thomas-hood
Thomas Hood.

(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.

(6Mayoress 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.

Lamb & Flag Badge of Queen's Royal Surrey regt.
Lamb & Flag Badge of Queen’s Royal Surrey Regt.

(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&gt;. 

Le Petit Par
Le Petit Parisien. 1902.

(15) Le Petit Parisien. French broadsheet newspaper. 1876 -1944. Largest circulation in world in 1927/ published WW1 propaganda posters.

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NEXT POST:  13th MAR. 1916.

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2ND MAR. 1916: ‘FORCIBLE LETTERS’ RE ‘A COMMISSION IN 3/5TH STAFFORDS’.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

PROUVILLE.  

29th Feb. Mon: 9.30 am. Battalion marched  to new billets at OCCOCHES (1).  1st Mar. Wed. – 2nd Mar.Thur.  OCCOCHES BILLETS:  Battalion Training.

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Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to ARTHUR HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall. (2)

In the Field.  2/ 3/ 16.

My Dear Sir,

Yesterday I handed in my application form for the Com. in the 3/ 5 South Staffs Regiment (3). I told the Captain you would see to the other form signed by the C.O. of the 3/ 5. (4). I was also told I needed my Birth Certificate.  Of course I guess you will be only too eager to attend to any other necessity.

This morning I carried away the Platoon’s Post; quite a shoal of letters, but they were all of an early date being those addressed to the Notts & Derby’s.  I thank Ida for her very kind letter of Sunday 14/ 2 /16 and the one dated the Friday following (5).  I also received Mother’s of Feb 14 and her’s of New Year’s Day. 

en-wiki200px-Edward_George_Villiers_Stanley,_17th_Earl_of_Derby_by_Sir_William_Orpen
Edward George Villlers Stanley. 17th Earl of Derby 1865-1948.

I was especially pleased to have a letter from Harold, (Feb 16). I was uncertain about his address, I see that he is still at ‘Penarth’ (6).  On reading that he was attested under Lord Derby’s scheme for the R.G.A. I was keenly interested; but hopes of seeing him, after he has joined the R.G.A, were vague. (7)

I will reply to Ida’s & Harold’s letters at my first opp.  (We are on the move again).

Every success to Sydney’s Commission & Best love to all. 

Bertie.

See Over –

PS  You all want me to say more ‘aboot me sen’ Well all that I can say is that Je suis tres bien portent et tres heureuse beaucoup.  Compris? My handing in the form was partly due to Mum’s forcible letters.

I will send those letters of Sydney’s, which Mother sent me in the parcels, in my next green (8).

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

My Grandmother’s ‘forcible’ letters were the result of months of anxiety over the health and whereabouts of her two sons.  By March 1916, Pte Bertie Hibbett had been at the Front without Home Leave for a year. Since enlistment he had been in Hospital several times with ‘trench foot’ and ‘blood disorders’.  She must have argued that a Commission in one of the Reserve Battalions at Home would take him out of the firing line, improve his health and give him work more suitable to his abilities & background – and importantly, of course, give the family a chance to see him. 

My father had already informed his family that he felt the life of an Officer was not for him.  His reluctance to apply for a Commission appears also to have been influenced by a sense of loyalty to his pals at the Front and his wish to be near his brother Sydney until the end of the War.

(1) Occoches: a village commune in Picardie, Somme. An 8 mile march from Prouville.

(2Pte Bertie addressed important news, such as this application for a Commission, to his father, as a matter of course,

(3) 3/5th Bn & 3/6th Bn South Staffordshire Regiments were formed at Home Bases in 1915 as ‘third line’ units. On 1st Sept 1916, they were united as ‘3/5th Bn.’.  Interestingly (in view of my father’s later connection with Lincolnshire), in 1917 3/5th Bn moved to Lincoln & Mablethorpe; in 1918 to Lincoln again & Sutton on Sea, ending the war at Mablethorpe, November 1918. 

(4) Name pending. (5) Date on envelope rather than on letter as Sunday was 13th Feb. (6) Penarth. A Victorian resort in Vale of Glamorgan, 5 miles south-west of Cardiff. 

(7) Lord Derby: Secretary of State for War 1916-1918. Lord Derby’s Scheme. The National Registration Act for Military Service was initiated by Lord Derby, and passed on 15th July 1915.  It  required all men, between the age of 18 and 65 years, to register their residential location on 15th Aug.1915.  See Hibbett Letter, 21st Oct. 1915. Ida Hibbett was an admin volunteer in Walsall. See also: <http://www. 1914-1918.net/derbyscheme> and < http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/derbyscheme.htm&gt;.  R.G.A. Royal Garrison Artillery.

ENVELOPE(8) Green Envelope. Official envelope/Army’s attempt to speed up censorship of letters sent home in 1915. Soldier signed on backI certify on my honour that the contents of this envelope refer to nothing but private and family matters. See esp. Hibbett Letter: 17th April 1915. 

NEXT POST: 5th March 1916.