Pronounce ‘it’ as Sis eee-eedah,but mind that, after emphasising the ‘I’ like the French do be aysy how you venture the ‘da(h)’.I should not like Mum to write & tell me, in her next long letter, that you are now suffering from a sprained jaw. You had enough I guess with that sprained ankle.
Honi soit qui mal y pense. (2)
Eliza: ‘Ow these women as dress hup loike Tommies, an soi ‘Sair’ win thoi parss each tother in th’stroit loike. ha! ha! ahem! hee! Mary Annquietly: ‘An’ Liza, ’av ya seed ’em sal(yoo)te t(y)oa?’ (3)
Also, before you make any attempt at looking at my ridiculous sketches, just inform you intention of doing so (that is if you wish to laugh) to the Dominant Dodger of May Day – on whom I count considerable confidence for approval. I trust you will make him a nice cake, like the one you sent me forSimnel Sunday(3), as a means of enticing him to use a little more discretion about attesting.
We are having another lovely sunny day, this making the sixth since Easter Sundayand I go back from the ‘abode of love’- I mean ‘perfumes of medicine’ – to the Batt.where I hope to again be within the brotherly atmosphere of Sydney.
I have had Cliff Hackett* with me since Easter Monday who has made the would-be quiet time into one of jollytude. He also knows the Overends*. – Who says those comic figures (on the back of this page) are like the Overends? My word if I catch him bending! Cliff used to tease Vernon enough to make them have frequent ‘scraps’. Oh yes I have kept up correspondence with Vernon, – & Cliff wrote too on the other page of my last letter.
Now do you want to know more aboot me sen? Well if ya ’av eyes to see can’t ya perceive I’ve tried to keep happy & so I am and I’m ‘tres bien mercie’.
Love to you all, your very affec. Bertie.
PS.My next letter is to Mother. I wrote to Basil yesterday.
Pte Bertie Hibbett was happy and very grateful for his quiet time with No 3 Field Ambulance, his ‘abode of love’, but was now on his way back to the Battalion. He salutes the idea of women soldiers & once again he warns Basil about attesting on his 18th Birthday (i.e. before he was conscripted).
(1) Cartoon: ‘Liza, It’sMaster Basil’s Birthday on the first of next month, what shall we get him?’Mary: ‘I can’t think of anything. I know! Let’s tell Master Bertie Esquire to send him a zeppelin and a helmet full of chocolates.‘
(2) Honi soit qui mal y pense: literal translation of Old French: ‘Shame be to him who thinks evil of it‘- in this case of Women Soldiers. Origin: Edward III Battle of Crecy 1346 (Order of his Garter).
(3) Simnel Cake: fruit & marzipancake taken by daughters home to their Mothers on Mothering Sunday (middle of Lent) & kept until Easter. Pre-17th cent. tradition for ‘daughter Churches’ to worship at the ‘Mother Church’. (From Latin ‘simila‘, ‘fine wheaten flour’).
(4) Eliza – ‘How these women dress up like Tommies, and say ‘Sir‘ when they pass each other in the street. ha! ha! ahem hee!Mary Annquietly –‘And Liza, Have you seen them salute you?
APRIL CASUALTIES:OFFICERS KILLED.1. WOUNDED 3. OTHER RANKS KILLED. 9. MISSING BELIEVED KILLED.6. WOUNDED 28.Slightly wounded remained at duty2. Self Inflicted Wound.1.
Signed:W.A. WISTANCE, Major Cmdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 3 FIELD AMBULANCE NORTH MIDLAND DIVISION: LETTER to BASIL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
Friday April 28th/ 16.
P.S. Trusting this reaches you none too late, if not ‘on the right’. (1)
Oh! Restless Child Wait & See Do not dare be wild – ‘They’ have need of thee.(2)
Mye Jollye Olde Dodger,
I can’t say in this what I mean by ‘they’, perhaps the censor would blush and perhaps do more than that if I ‘let out’, but you know that word covers a lot of reasons. Of course I don’t believe you were all that serious when you spoke of ‘attesting’. (3)
What think you on that?Of course do not dare to showDad, ’cause as you said we know what Dadis? (perhaps?) but I remember, when I lost my walking stick on the Moors at Goatlandsic (5) & had a poetic fit,how Dad behaved when I began to recite my ‘balmy ballad’.
Still these little bits of doggerel have their moral – for instance, althoughBertie blubbers(which is a lie) and Sydney swanks(which is true)? Basilmust learn from that:-to ‘Consider Mother before either brother’– and that I think puts the cap on’t.
Yes the Queen of Seasons, bright (6), she finds me still in the War Zone,but bless her, she has cheered us downhearted ones all up, by her gorgeous appearance since Easter began.
Ah! my dear Loidies & Jellyfish (7) who write such pathetic & stinging epistles to the humble self! We have a vast lot to be grateful for although the War will be all over soon (America) (8). Just let your minds run(but take care you catch ’em again) across toAye joipt(Egypt)& think of those who have been besieged since Dec. 1915 & perhaps have never seen Home for two years or more (9).
The best thing I can tell you to do(the thought is not mine originally)is to do what Mum said to me in a past letter:- ‘When I feel ‘like that’ I go out for a walk, whether it is snowing, raining or what.’(Now methinksdat’s goot adtvice an’ it don’t cost yer even a ‘penning’ sic (10). Go, bathe thyself in the flood of Spring Sunshine and charm away thy dross feelings with the song of the lark’ – ahem!
My word! the Easter parcel was a ripper, everything that we could desire– an’ above all sent with your combined love. I did larf at the article in the QMS (11) & tried to read as much as I could, those you marked, before I left for the Field Ambulance, where I am still. ‘The hooters that hooted for their own mischievous lust!’
Sydney told me how you’d growed,that explains the meaning of you writing : ‘the expansion due to several causes’eh? – an’ I doubt not you’ve expanded both in height & width. My word, I can’t allow this! Sydneyalarmed me by adding thatyou were taller than me.I expect you will stand up on your bed on May 1st morning to see if you have gained another inch since you digested your Christmas pudding.
Well I will close now with my best love to Mother & Father & Sister – & Harold I guess: –
Vous avez Bon Native Jour, Je espère.
Votre beloved Bertie.
This Letter shows Pte Bertie Hibbett’s love of dialect, rhyming words and alliteration in his banter with his brother. It had a serious purpose – to persuade Basil not to attest on his 18th birthday – for the sake of their parents. He loved him for wanting to be with his brothers but raw experience had changed Bertie’s attitude to War since he volunteered in Aug.1914. The ‘Big Push’ Battle of the Somme was in preparation and the War might be over before Basil was conscripted.
(1) ‘On the right’ /‘on the right day’i.e.Basil’s Birthday,1st May. (2) ‘They‘ – their parents, not the Army.
(4) Doggerelwith nonsense rhyme,nevertheless with a serious note/ Bertie was very anxious that Basil did not join up until it was compulsory so as not to add to his parents’ anxiety.
(5) Goathland: North York Moors /near Whitby where Hibbett family went on holiday alternate years. Bertie’s ‘Goatland’ links with ‘giddy goat’.See definition, Hibbett Letter 18th Aug. 1915. (6) ‘Queen of Seasons’ i.e. Easter, from the Hymn‘Come ye faithful raise the strain’See Hibbett Letter 23rd April 1916.
(7) ‘Loidies & Jellyfish’: Ladies & Gentlemen. (8) America: hopes appear to have been high for American intervention but it took two years (after the sinking of the Lusitania by German submarine, 7th May 1915, when 128 Americans went down with the ship) before the USA entered the War, 6th April 1917.
9) B.E.F. Campaign in Egypt: April 1916 saw the building of a railway across the Sinai Desert to serve Allied advance on Ottoman/German forces at Battle of Romani 3-5th August 1916. See Long Long Trail.
(10) Walk to lift one’s spirits when restless/ down hearted/troubled.‘That’s good advice and it doesn’t cost you a penny’. (11) Queen Mary’s SchoolMagazine , April 1916 Number?
VERNON EVANS, 3/5th SOUTH STAFFS: LETTER (post marked Derby 6.30 pm 25th April) to Pte A.H. HIBBETT No 2 Platoon A Coy. 5th South Staffs, British Expeditionary Force. (1)
This is not going to be a letter as there is no news at all.The Bat. (2) left here on Wednesday& went to Yorkshire, a place called Richmond (3), &I hear it is a very rotten place, but good huts.
I was lucky enough to be left behind with a wiring party (4), our time is up on Thursday, but I think we are going to stop on longer as there is no one else to do the work. I hope we do.
We did not have any Easter holiday – 7 til 7 every day,Sundaysas well, but I do not mind it, it is worth it to stop in a town like this, & have a good time a night. We are allowed out till twelve every night.Vic. went with the Bat.
I enclose you a photograph which may interest you,we had it taken the other day,most of the men on it are B.E.F. men, Price*, Bussey* (Bursey?)Machine Gun Sgt.(who is very decent), most are old ‘A’ Coy chaps.
Remember me kindly to Sid, & all the others. Wishing you both the very best of Luck.
I remain Your sincere friend. Vernon. (5)
* * * * *
Vernon Evans, Bertie Hibbett’s best pal, had been sent Home with trench fever and, like Serjeant Sydney Hibbett with his catarrhal jaundice, was attached to 3/5th South Staffords (Territorial). Sydney returned to the Front in April, whilst Vernon remained in the UK, possibly for the rest of the War. The Hibbett family was anxious for Bertie to apply for a Commission in the 3/5th S Staffs and also for ‘Sick Leave’, whichever would bring him Home. But it was not to be. The ‘Big Push’, the Battle of the Somme, was in preparation and too many men had his complaint.
(1) The number of Addresses & Postmarks on the envelope bear witness to the diligence of the Army & the Post Office in delivering Letters to its Soldiers.
Vernon’s Letter, posted in DERBY 6.30 PM 25 AP 16, did not reach Pte Bertie until December 1916, 8 months later. It arrived at the Front within 5 days, missing him by 10 days. He & the 1/5th S Staffs had left the Front on 21st April & were at Chelers, Battalion Training. It appears the Letter was then marked‘Hospital’(in pencil), stamped ‘Field Post Office 137 30 AP 16’ and sent to the RETURNED LETTER SECTION LONDON POSTAL SERVICE, where it was opened, ‘officially sealed’ and sent on to ‘Territorial Force Records LICHFIELD 14 DEC 1916’.
At Lichfield the B.E.F. address was crossed out with red ink and the Letter sent on, Post Mark WALLASEY 8-PM 15 DEC 16, to 8832 Pte A.H. Hibbett, The Cenacle. British Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton. From there it was forwarded to Ward D. 1st Western General Hospital, Fazakerley, Liverpool.
(2) 3/5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regt (Territorial). (3) Richmond on River Swale, Yorkshire Dales. Not a ‘rotten place’ at all Vernon but no match on Derby for night life!
(4) Wiring Party/ barbed wire contraptions/cheveaux des frises, to protect Front Line Trenches.See Top Menu: My Memories. A.H.H. & Hibbett Letters.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 3 FIELD AMBULANCE, NORTH MIDLAND DIVISION B.E.F. (1): LETTER to ALL at 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
Easter Sunday. Ap 23rd 1916
‘Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the Feast’.(2)
‘Now the Queen of Seasons bright With the Day of Splendour, With the Royal Feast of Feasts Comes the Joy to render’.(3)
My Very Dear People,
Bright, sunny weather greeted us all as we got up this Easter morning. I do so hope you too are having the same. But, queer enough, between the two great days it has rained somewhat heavily.
What a capital, ideal Easter parcel you sent dears – Mum, Dad & all. I went down to Sydney & we opened it, with another parcelfrom Miss Foster* to us both in front of us . How striking the beautiful Easter picture looked, the first thing that proclaimed itself as we took off the lid. The parcelscame just in time for Easter & before I left the Coy. for this place, No 3 Field Ambulance, North Midland Division, B.E.F.
This Easter morning, theparcelsarriving yesterday, Saturday,I took them down myself to Sydney.What a delightful brotherly feelingpervaded the air while I was with him,but now it has come my turn once again to leave him, for how long I can’t say. My case is not bad, it is prevalent among the majority of the men, my usual skin disease (4).
So eventually Easter Sunday finds me here, unable to ‘keep the Feast’ (2) as I should have liked, attendingParade Service, & Holy Communionwhich generally follows. But I have reaped a little consolation from Miss Foster’s little book ‘Wayside Memories’ (5 which I will send as soon as I get agreen envelope.There is a quotation which says:‘a little lifting of the Heart suffices – – – one act of inward worship, though upon a march & sword in hand, are nevertheless acceptable to God.’(6).
I was so sorry on reading that you thought of not going to St Paul’s today, if I was not with you.But, dear Mum, what does the title for the Easter picture for the soldiers say; ‘Lo, I am with you alway’ (7). Does Ida remember the Happy Easter morning when we all went to Communion (Choral) & sang ‘Jesus Christ is risen today, Allelluia’(8) and does dear Mum remember scooting off to Sunday School on the cycle?
Many thanks for the Hot Cross buns, cake, cigarettes & the Easter Egg.I left the sardinesfor Sydney, also the cocoa, milk & sugar. I have enjoyed a lovely day & ate the chocolate eggwhen Basil & his two brothers used to eat them – ie afterEaster dinner. I enjoyed a ‘nice’ tea with the cake today & pictured you allwith Harold & Miss Bore at tea.
I let Sydney have the pencil as it is of more use to him, being one who has to make notes etc. After reading & digesting in little time to enjoy it as well, the Q.M.S. Magazine, those articles thatDodger earmarked, I left the magazine for Sydney while I brought the Parish (Church) Mag. with me. While squatting by his side I heard him give acclamations of sad surprise on seeing the photos of the OTC casualties, but the smiling face of Sergeant Fenton* reminds me of Sydney’s quick answer to Mother’s question which was his favourite hymn. ‘Rejoice again I say Rejoice’(9) – ‘being sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’ (10). I shall put in for sick leave when possible, so be not anxious dearies.
I see that you are having the Hallelujah Chorustonight, which I loved Dad to play.I hopeDadwill have a good rest this holiday & Mum will get well soon.Perhaps you will think this letter not such a nice one as my usual, but I have such a great thoughts of you I can’t express or know what – or how much to say.
I enclose some more silk cards (11), tell me if you get them, which I send for you Mum – & Ida if she would like one,& Basil,with my heart’s love to you all.I am writing to Harold, Ida & Basil soon.
With our combined love & wishes from
Your loving Bertie.
PSAm sending little book later – tell me if you get it, it will be in a Stationary Envelope (6).
Pte Bertie Hibbett may have felt that he could not ‘keep the Feast’ in the traditional sense of attending Church services and family gatherings but to me these Letters Home show how deeply my father understood the true meaning of Good Friday & Easter. Like Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, he practised the Presence of God in the midst of suffering & sacrifice, ‘As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’.
The Hibbett family sent a picture in their Easter Parcel with the message ‘Lo, I am with you alway’. The sight of it gave great comfort and strength to him & his brother, and I am almost certain it was the same picture sent toBandsman Thomas William Stubley, Killed in Action, 16th May 1916 – see Derby ChurchHouse website <http://www.derby.anglican.org>. Grateful thanks to Wendy Pockson & Dave Feltham.
(1) Field Ambulance: a Mobile Front Line Medical Unit (not to be mistaken for a vehicle), organised by the RAMC. Each Infantry Division had 3 F.As, each divided into 3 sections, each with 10 officers, a stretcher bearer & tented subsections. See The Long Long Trail <http://www.1914-1918.net/fieldambulances>
(2) ‘Christ our Passover . . .’: 2 Corinthians 5.7. St Paul Approx AD 57. cf Exodus 12/ Angel of Deathpasses over the houses marked with the Blood of the Lamb.(3) ‘Now the Queen of Seasons bright. . .’verse inEaster Hymn: ‘Come ye faithful raise the strain of triumphant gladness ‘: John of Damascus c 675 -749. Syrian Monk & Christian Priest/lived in Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery.English Transl. 1853. John Mason Neale1818- 1866. Anglican Priest & hymn writer/ Oxford Movement.
(4) ‘Skin Disease’: blood disorder/ boils that put Pte Bertie in Hospital, Aug -Oct 1915 & Dec. 1915-Jan 1916. cf Hibbett Letter 2nd Nov. 1915. (5) Godmother’s Little BookWayside Memories/ which Bertie sent on to his Mother in a green envelope.
(6) ‘A little lifting of the heart:Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. Practised the Presence of God’ cf Hibbett Letter 16th April 1916.
(7) ‘Lo I am with you alway even to the end of the world’: Matt. 28 20. c AD 85. (8) ‘Jesus Christ is risen today’: 14th Cent Latin Hymn ‘Surrexit Christus hodie’/author unknown. English Transl.John Baptist Walsh. Charles Wesleyadded a 4th verse.Music: ‘Easter Hymn'(Lyra Davidica).
9) ‘Rejoice I say . . ‘:Philippians 4.14. St Paul approx. AD 49 -51.(10) ‘Sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’. 2 Corinthians 6.10. KJV. St Paul AD 57 approx.
(11) Silk Cigarette Cards: See Hibbett Letters 14th April 1916; 18th June 1915.
NEXT POST:25th April 1916.(Letter, posted in Derby not received by Bertie Hibbett until April 1918).
21st Apr. Fri: ECOIVRES Battalion in Huts by 2.0. am.Marched to new billets at CHELERS(1)starting 10.0 am arriving 2.15 pm.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
Good Friday. Ap 21st 1916.
‘Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves’. (2)
‘Forgive them for they know not what they do’. (3)
My Very Dear Mother,
I do hope you too are having sunny Spring weather like we are having today:
I think the time must be about 11 o’clock soI am picturing you all attending St. Paul’s – the light of the sun is beaming through the windows & giving the interior a bright appearance. It lights up the pew that Mum & Dad, Basil & Ida are in.
As I listen to a thrush singing its lovely song in these budding trees it reminds me of you all singing together with the choirboys’ treble voices ‘There is a green hill far away’ (4) and‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ (5). All the bushes & trees are showing new life & the fields look beautiful in their fresh green coat. I send you some white flowers with a tinge of purple on the back of the petals; they remind me of the Passion Flower (6).
I received your welcome letter of Friday 14th & Palm Sunday, yesterday(Thursday 20th). How funny that I too wrote to you on theFridayfollowingHarold’s Birthday& again onPalm Sunday & you, like me & Mr W.H. Cozens*,headed our Sundayletters by that familiar name.The Batt. came back to huts last night; I saw Sydney & gave him your letters to read as well as Harold’s, Basil’s & Miss Foster’s; he handed to me the shirt& the handsome three bladed sharp knife, for which I thank you very much dear Mum.
Sydney was inclined to be cross with me (and rightly too, I think too now)for telling you that I should be Home soon.Well I did hear I was included in the next six, but where ‘the STING’ of it all was I forgot at the moment Leave has the ‘knack’ of stopping anytime.
You will be thinking of Our Lord’s Heavy burden of the Cross and his long walk with it to Calvary (7).
The Batt: too are most likely on their long march in full pack of about 15 kilometres this morning. Grateful to say I came by Motor Ambulance – lucky beggar eh?So I am waiting here for them.
I will wait till Easter Sunday and enclose this in with that.Haroldtold me he, Miss Bore & a few friends were going to Stourport today (8); well I hope they will enjoy themselves, but it seems a pity Harold does not have more holiday to enable them to go on another day than Good Friday, eh Mum?
Having been behind them and away from the Batt. I have had some difficulty in getting off letters to Harold, Miss Foster etc.
I have heard that Leave starts again soon, lets hope so.Oh! I shall see you – so ‘bide a wee an’ dinna fret’ (9). I think of Our Lord’s saying on His Way to the Cross ‘Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves’ (2).
They said the enemy shook hands with us at Xmas (10); I think they should do so today & more so being Good Friday don’t you? & ‘Let us forgive one another’ for man doesn’t know what he is doing when he is at War.
* * * * * * * Continued on Easter Day.
My father’s Good Friday Letter is full of the language & imagery of the Passion of Christ – seen as an ever-present reality in his experience of War & the pity of War – with Nature the only sign of Life and hope of Easter.
(1) Chelers: villagenear Tincques, approx.10 miles (15 km) from Neuville St Vaast & 13 miles (22 km) from Arras. That Pte Bertie went by Motor Ambulance shows he was not fit enough to carry a full pack – 50-58 Ibs in 1914 increased to 70-90 Ibs by 1916 (included steel helmets, wire cutters, respirators & extra ammo).
(2) ‘Weep not for me. . .’ Luke 23.28. Jesus‘ words to women of Jerusalem on road to Calvary.(3) ‘Forgive them . . . ‘ Word of Jesus from the Cross/ central to the Gospel message. Luke 23.34. Both sayings (in Luke only) proclaim a universal Gospel of Good News/ show Jesus’ unprecedented concern for women, poor, sick & all outcasts of society.
(4) ‘There is a green hill’. Hymn. Mrs. Cecil F. Alexander. 1818-1895. Inspired by grassy hill outside Derry, Ireland & serious illness of her daughter. Published in Hymns for Little Children, 1848.
(5) ‘When I survey . . . ‘ Hymn.Isaac Watts 1674 -1748. Tune: Rockingham. Edward Miller. 1790. (Charles Wesley said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one).
(6) Passion Flower: I think he sent home a helebore, as illustrated above.
(7) Calvary. Hill outside Jerusalem city walls. Also called Golgotha ‘Place of a Skull’. (Greek transcription of Aramaic, Gol Goatha ‘Place of execution’. King James Bible translates Latin ‘Calvariae’ in Vulgate Bible as ‘Calvary‘).
(8) Stourport on Severn.Rapid industrial rise when Staffordshire & Worcester to Birmingham Canal built in 1768. Plenty of history & industrial architecture to interest HaroldHibbett & his friends.
(9) ‘Bide a wee an’ dinna fret. . .’ Leisure Hours. 1878. cf Hibbett Letter 27th March 1916.
(10) Christmas Truce 1914 & 15. See Menu Page.
NBI took a copy of this letter to Embrace the Base at Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp/ Cruise Missile Base. October 13th 1983. Hung at the Violet Gate celebrating world-wide religious/spiritual messages of peace. e.f.w.
16th Apr. Sun: NEUVILLE ST VAAST. In Brigade Reserve. Enemy artillery active at 7.15pm.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT on Guard Duty, Mont St Eloi Neuville St Vaast.
‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’: April. ‘At Mont S Eloi. ‘Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani’ (1).
LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT and BASIL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.Censor H. Chorlant.
Palm Sunday (2). April 16/ 16
‘Ride on Ride on in Majesty – With palms and scattered garments strowed‘. (3)
‘A little lifting of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship, though upon a march, and sword in hand, are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless acceptable to God. Brother Lawrence. (4)
‘Look one step onwards and secure that step’. Wayside Ministries (5)
My Very Dear Mother,
I wrote you last Sunday & Friday.Thursdaywas Harold’s Birthday & I trust he had a happy one & that the next 13th April we shall spend the day together in peace. Being Thursday I wonder if he spent sometime with you?Although I have worried several people to do with the Post I have not yet received a letter or anything. I heard this morning that we are on this duty until Thursday 20th.
* * * * * * * * * * * ← You know what these things are eh!Well it means that a sudden round about turn has to be made. I began this my usual ‘Sunday Letter’ before dinner & on finishing my ‘dish’ – beef steak of my own cooking – the rations came in & they brought a shoal, a neat little pile of letters for me.So that is the cause of me round about turning.
Just read Dodger’s most delightfully homely & brotherly Epistleafter reading those fromVernon*, Harold, Miss Foster*, Mrs Hurst* and a Sunday School Scholar respectively. I thought I would read Dodger’s last in more comfort & also it would help me to make my letter fuller. I gave dear old Sydney your letter, Basil, as I met him going to the trenches last Sunday night;most likely he has written to you since.
The photograph of the Raid (6) which I think was genuine, interested me & it was your idea of sending it I thank you for. How queer! –only the other day I was sketching to illustrate the incident Miss Kathy Brookes* (7) put in her letter to me of the lady who wrote to her officer ‘bhoy’ saying how dreadfully the ruins of the Raid looked – ‘you can’t imagine it!’ & the officer was doing all he could to shelter himself from the shells amid fragments of stones!
Dodger! Dodger! Dodger! – so have I!an all conquering desire (my word what a swanky phrase) to be on the write – to you all at Home & the question is,now I have had the fruits of my worrying the Transport Orderlies about The Post,I wonder if you will get my letters I have written to you since I was on this quiet Post Duty.
Ha! ha! ha! Poor jolly old Basil wants to be in touch with us every day. I love you for such a thought, but do please think more than twice over your joining, – to serve can’t you go out to a Munition Factory? Most probably you would never see us if you came out; you know that Vernon&Sydneysaid they did not like their associates in the 3/ 5th S Staffs (8); & then look at your education – all in vain practically eh? You needn’t think that I shall be happy for you to come out,I shall be inclined to poke my head a bit too high above the parapet!
Yes! Sydney showed me the F.P.C. (Field Post Card) he sent to Mum, saying – ‘I have not received a letter from you lately – for a long time’. I said to Sydney, in surprise, – ‘are you going to send that! – – – I have never missed (crossing out) those two lines have I Basil?I don’t care about informing you at Home that I have not heard from you for so long. I think those two lines are slightly inclined to give an indignant impression, let alone make one sad – as you were naturally when Sydney sent it. Of course he knew the circumstances, he had been moving about from place to place since he arrived.
Vernon wrote & said he was sorry he did not visit you when he had his 48 hrs Leave (9) I suppose you will have been introduced to Leenah*, Basil, by now? as this is, I guess, the Sunday they were to come.
The weather is lovely out here, sunny and bright, it is getting on for four o’clock & I shall be picturing you all at tea.
Oh! that reminds me – I was doubly glad on reading Harold’s letter. He said he & Hilda were going Home on Thursday(13th)so I hope they had a good time with you. That half answers my wish in my letter on Friday & 1st part of this.
Yes it is rotten to have the Houses changed (10). I should second the resolution that not only should School House retain its old name but Thomas’s and Davies’&all those whose Bosses have joined to serve their King & Country. Just put that in the Mag for one from the Front who has not lost interest in the QMS.
I think those lilies, Dodger, have been growing the other way & have come out up here in the guise of daisies. I will send you them back.Springhas come out here,the grass is fresh green, the lark sings its glorious song, in spite of the sound of guns & the hawk is as keen as ever to get her prey; the buds on the trees are quickly turning into fresh leaves.
Well I never!Do you know I was only the other day thinking of sending you some cash to buy some seeds& you could set them for me as a sort of curio. I was regretful that I had no money in pocket, but, as a sort of unique idea, could you get some seeds of a nice flower or plant & I will send you a franc or so when I get it.I wish I could have got some seeds from last year’s flowers but I was not in the vicinity at the time.It would be nice for you to have some French flowers growing.
Yes I do know what Dad is like,but I do not in the slightest mean any hurtful thought.
My order forpipes is onejust like those two you sent Sydney and me at first – my word and that is nearly a year ago since I started to smoke. A cherry wood I believe you sent. Also I have a new mess tin & the need of some Monkey Brandis my next request.
Miss Foster* is( I don’t know if she is strictly serious)almost hurt that I do not ask her for anything in my letters of late (don’t say anything to her).
I believe I told you in my last letter that Leave has been suspended again for an indefinite period, but we are going for a Rest in Reservesoon. I do not at all like telling you for Mum’s sake & Dad’s, but I eventually thought it best to tell you everything that comes to hand as Mum told me to.
I will close this my ‘long’ Active Service Epistle. I hope it gets through to you, let me know if so.
With my heart’s love to you all.
Your ever affec. Bertie.
To be standing guard on a green Mont St Eloi during Holy Week & Easter is highly significant to Pte Bertie Hibbett, reminding him as it did of the Passion of Christ and the Words from the Cross. His cartoon indicates how difficult it was for families at home to imagine what their sons were being asked to endure.
(1) ‘Eloi Eloi…’ Mark 15.34. Christ’s words from the Cross. ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me? King James Version retains the Aramaic/Jesus’ native language. cf Psalm 22.
(2) Palm Sunday: Sunday before Easter/beginning of Holy Week/ commemorates Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem/waving of palms (symbol of victory).Mark 11. 1-11.(My father used willow branches in Palm Sunday processions).
(3) ‘Ride on Ride on.. ‘. Hymn: Henry Hart Milman.1827. Mark11.1-11(AD 64) has Jesus riding on a ‘young donkey‘. NBPietro Lorenzetti’s painting above follows the text of Matthew (AD 85) which emphasises the fulfillment of prophecy by interpreting the poetic lines of Zechariah 9.9 literally, as if there were two animals i.e. a mother ass/donkey and her foal/colt (terms interchangeable).
(4) Brother Lawrence (born Nicolas Herman, Lorraine),1614-1691. French lay-brother, Carmelite Monastery, Paris. Given name ‘Lawrence of the Resurrection’. Known for ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’.
(5) Wayside Ministries. Pamphlet with words of wisdom & comfort sent by Pte Bertie’s Godmother, Mary Foster/ frequently quoted in his notebook ‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’ (the first being ‘Pray to God in a storm but keep on rowing’).
(6) Zeppelin Raidon Walsall. 31st Jan -1st Feb. 1916. Observer photo? (7) Kathy Brookes: superintendent St Paul’s Sunday School/ family friend. (8) 3/5th S. Staffords: Territorial Battalion/ served in UK.
(9) Vernon Evans had returned to the UK on sick leave and (along with other sick/ returned 1/5th S Stafford soldiers) was attached to 3/5th S. Staffords, Territorial Battalion.
(10) QMS Houses:School House; Dellow’s House; Powis’ House; Frith’s House, (the last three named after their House Master). From a letter asking for a Magazine subscription, signed S Powis /dated July 24th 1917, I assume my father was in Powis’ House & the move to alter House names failed. NB Was there a Davies’ House & a Thomas’s House at QMS?
11th Apr. Tue: V. Quiet Day. 12th Apr. Wed: Enemy shelled Support/ Communication Trench. Trench 063 Grenade and Aerial Torpedoed (1).
14th Apr. Fri: Snipers claim to have hit man looking over parapet behind B 4. Otherwise all quiet.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT’SWAR DIARY: A Little Book of Words & Doings.
April 13th. ‘First Birthday (2), Harold’s, Thursday at Mont S Eloi ruined Monastery looked very picturesque with Spring plumage. On MP duty Arras Rd. Wrote home Sunday previous & hoped Harold would be at home for his Birthday & so it turned out’.
LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT & BASIL HIBBETT. Censor H. Chorlany.
Friday April 14/ 16
‘Protect & preserve the soul of Thy servant amidst so many dangers of the corruptible life, and, by Thy grace accompanying, direct him in the path of peace, to the land of everlasting brightness. Amen’.Thomas a Kempis (3).
My Dearest Mother & Basil,
And of course all of you really.Although I intended this, my next letter, to be for Basil I have changed my mind owing toHarold’s Birthday. I meant to write yesterday, so sorry, but time seemed to have gone short after doing duty. I wrote to Harold though, but could not find much to say. Alas! another 13th of April finds us in the land of the lily (4). Leave also has stopped for an indefinite period.
I have a notebook (5) in which I wrote the above prayer in Rouen. I thought of Harold when I read it yesterday. I hope he had a nice birthday & being Thursday I wonder if he went over to see you? Next Friday (6) you will be ‘manging’ Hot Cross Buns eh! We are having typical Aprilweather with perhaps a little above the average rainfall & wind.
I am on duty behind the line while the Batt. is in the trenches (7).
I met Sydney with the Coy. last Sunday night carrying a parcel from Harold. I also had one from Miss Foster* containing Pear’s Soap, Cigsand a Boots Heater (8).
How queer! – I dreamt a vivid dream of Miss Foster* last night& in that dream the memory of my ill manners & behaviour I had, while she came to visit us last time, came back to me. I dreamtI wasvery ill mannered, but in spite of itmy Godmother seemed to overlook my behaviour & she was most sympathetic.
Let us hope that if she comes to Walsall when I have Leave I am more of a gentleman (9). After 13 months of this life here it frequently comes across me, very suddenly, that I am very low off the mark of good manners.
Ah! now I see there was more than I thought in Vernon, although he went about it in a strict way of correcting me. I ought to have reaped out the good parts in his correction.
I have been looking out for your parcel, the transport passes our place, but I shan’t be disappointed if Sydney gets hold of it, he has been a long time without a parcelfrom Home,although he has had something fromMiss Thacker*often of late, &Mrs Hurst*.His photos are tres bon & I like the carbon.
I will close now & try to get this off today; enclosed you will find some more silk cig. cards (10). I was thinking of making a wax taper holder by stitching them together, it would make a unique ‘Easter Egg’, but I am short of cotton& needles.
Oh! by the by, that reminds me – could you please send me aHousewife(11) & some brown wool to mend your woollen gloves dark brown. Yes, I have them still & needed them these last two or three mornings, the wind was so cold.
Best love & wishes to all.
Basil – you mustn’t attest on May 1st. I shall have to talk the matter over if I see you before then.
Ta ra Bertie.
Pte Bertie Hibbett wants his brother Basil to wait until he is conscripted rather than attesting as soon as he is eligible (i.e. on his 18th birthday).He wants to ‘protect & preserve’ his brothers from all the dangers of War. He cannot do this in a letter which his Mother might read and the censor might destroy but he can warn about War’s corrupting effect on character. War has made Pte Bertie feel ‘very low off the mark of good manners’.
(1) Aerial Torpedo:a ground to air missile as illustrated above, rather than one dropped by plane over water. See <http://www.flikr.com>
(2) First Hibbett Birthdayof year: Harold, 13th April.Basil,1st May 1916 when he would be 18 and could attest as a volunteer in the Army.
(3) Thomas a Kempis: 1380-1471. Dutch writer, (named after Kempera his home-town in Germany) – copyist (of Bible 4 times). Known for popular devotional work:‘The Imitation of Christ’. ‘I have sought peace & found it not save ‘in a little corner with a little book’ (Latin/Dutch mix: in angelio cum libello).
(4) ‘Land of the Lily’ –fleur de lys –stylised lily /iris: national flower of France.
(5) ‘Notebook’ i.e.A Little Book of Words & Doingsbegun when Pte Bertie was in Hospital in Rouen, Aug – Oct 1915. (His original War Diary ‘lost in the straw of a barn 1915’ cf Hibbett Letters 17th March 1915. (6) Good Fridayhomemade Hot Cross Buns.
(7) Mont St Eloi:a ruined monastery near Neuville S.Vaast. Tower used as observation post over-looking Vimy Ridge. German shelling reduced its height nearly 30 feet from 173 -144 ft. (53m – 44m). (8) Boots Heater:cf Hibbett Letter 18th Nov.1915. <http://www.frontlinecrates.com>
(9) Good manners.Dictionary of Etiquette. Compiled by Marjory Luxmore. 1914. Pte Bertie’s Quotations front & back: ‘Manners maketh man’William Horman,Headmaster of Eton & Winchester. 1440 -1535; ‘None as great as gentleman soldier’:originunknown;‘Endure hardness as a good soldier of Christ’. 2 Timothy 2. 3-5. ‘Follow the examples of General Gordon & Earl Roberts, Wellington & Nelson.’ Pte Bertie’s advice to himself before embarkation to France? Inscription names Colonel Crawley & Capt C. Lister and gives details not found elsewhere e.g. Pte Bertie Hibbett ‘No 1. Section. ‘D’ Platoon’ in 1914-1915.
(10) Silk Cigarette Card: ‘small piece of printed/woven ‘satin’ (rarely silk) given away free in cigarette packets, sometimes on a backing card’ cf ebay: Military & Regimental Cigarette Silks of WW1.
(11) ‘Housewife’ /’Husif‘: Sewing Kit. My Dad was good at sewing and once made me a pencil case out of a date-box which he covered with material carefully stitched together & labelled with my name. A holder for spills/ wax-tapers (for lighting candles) would not have been beyond him.
NEXT POST:16th Apr. 1916.
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.