NEUVILLE ST VAAST.
3rd Apr. Mon . Enemy quiet except for sniping. A 10 pm enemy exploded a mine in front of the 51st Brigade. Artillery fire for 15 minutes very heavy, our support and communication trenches being in some places considerably knocked about. Our trench mortars and artillery kept up a continual fire all night on the enemy’s trenches.
CASUALTIES: OFFICER WOUNDED: 2/Lt A.T. Shortman. OTHER RANKS KILLED: 9676 Pte G. Bate. WOUNDED: 8833 Sgt A. Perry; 9248 L/Cpl G. A. Wentworth.
4th Apr. Tue: Enemy Artillery very active 0.65 and 063 being heavily shelled. A whiz-bang exploded in O.S. 65 killing 3 and wounding 6. Our artillery replied effectively and enemy’s shelling ceased. At 10.20 am enemy aeroplane fell on left of Battalion Headquarters. Battalion relieved by 1.6th South Staffordshire Regt., relief complete 9.15 pm. Battalion in Rest Huts by 12.15 a.m.
CASUALTIES:- KILLED: 554 L/Cpl L. Sutton ; 9254 Pte A.H. Price; 938 Pte S. Bates. WOUNDED:-7519 Sgt F. Madeley; 8236 Corpl A. James; 9147 L/Cpl L.T. Morgan; 1005 Pte E. Badger; 1023 Pte R. May; 7761 Pte A. Gould; 1123 Pte J.H. Perchase.
5th, 6th -7th Apr. ECOIVRES. In Divisional Reserve. Battalion Training.
9th Apr. Sun: Marched to Trenches in relief of 1.6th South Staffordshire Regt. 0.63. 0.64. 065 TRENCHES.
Treasured Sayings in Letters from Home: Mother re The Mines:
‘God keep you under the shadow of his wings (1). I will let Miss Foster* know you are safe & sound’. Ida. ‘How thankful we are to have your precious letter this tea-time.’
LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT & ARTHUR HIBBETT. FPO A 13/ AP 16. Censor J. T. Douglas.
5th Sunday in Lent. April 9/ 16
‘Next to the Sunlight of Heaven is the cheerful face’. Wayside Memories.
My Very Dear Mother and Father,
Our short but enjoyable Rest is soon o’er and we, or rather the Batt, goes into the trenches again tonight for a short time. I & five others are doing guard behind the line for a ‘Rest’, so dear Mum you have less to be anxious over.
Most likely your parcel you promised to send last Monday will reach the Batt. today. Should Sydney find it a little difficult to get the parcel to me I have told him to have the contents himself & only keep such things that will keep in a convenient space. I had a parcel from Aunt Pattie* on Friday & a letter on Saturday.
I admired Sydney’s Photos very much; the carbon tint gives them a High Cla(r)ss effect. I am so sorry I spoilt the only surviving photo of myself & the Sikh during the ‘Bust Up’ (2) – I was going to send it to Miss Foster* if you thought the ‘wee sad look’ would not impress her much.
It is Harold’s Birthday on the 13th is it not? I suppose my letter, which I wrote him today, will arrive too late, but never mind, better late than never. They say I am in the next six for Home Leave so take things in patience & hope & D.V. I shall perhaps spend Easter with you (3).
I will close now, with Best love to all.
I hope you have had my letter in answer to your combined one from Ida & Basil & Mum. My next will be to Basil.
Ta ta. Bertie.
PS. We found a Recreation Hut rigged up when we returned from our tour & we have had Sports & Concerts.
You should see the ‘frog eaters’ do the Tango in time with our Band & they do appreciate our Sing Songs – so much that one or two gave us a song in their language; they use more action with their arms & limbs than we do & how Tommy claps and laughs.
In April, Pte Bertie Hibbett’s ‘Rest’ was Guard Duty at Mont Eloi Monastery behind the Neuville St Vaast lines and later M.P. Duty on the Arras road.
Reading between the lines: – though not recorded as ‘casualties‘ he and the ‘5 others’ down for Home Leave were probably kept back from the trenches on 9th April because they showed signs of ‘shell shock’. In his War Diary 2nd April, my father admits the explosion of German mines underground affected him deeply. He had felt it his duty to be cheerful and to comfort his pals but the strain had taken its toll – that and his trench foot may have earned him his extra ‘Rest‘.
(1) Psalm 17.8 & 91.4. ‘Under the shadow of thy wings’ An image of God as a Mother Bird (favourite saying of my father); image also in Genesis 1.2 ‘hovering over the face of the waters’ at Creation and in Mother Hen Parable of Jesus, Matthew 23.37 & Luke 13.34: ‘How often have I longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood’. A pre-Bronze Age divine image of the Great Mother, before devaluation by patriarchy & the rise of the ‘male‘ God in world religion & mythology. cf The Myth of the Goddess. Evolution of an Image. Anne Baring & Jules Cashford. Viking 1991.
(2) ‘Bust Up’: German Mines 2nd – 4th April when Pte Bertie lost the remaining photo of his pal Bukhshee Ichbye Singh Waltu in bombed Support Trench. (3) D.V. Latin Deo Volente. ‘God willing’.
NEXT POST: 14th Apr. 1916.