23RD APRIL 1916: EASTER FINDS ME ‘UNABLE TO KEEP THE FEAST’.

Bertie HibbettPte 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 parcel from 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 parcels came 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, the parcels arriving yesterday, Saturday, I took them down myself to Sydney.  What a delightful brotherly feeling pervaded 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, attending Parade Service, & Holy Communion which 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 a green 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).

Easter Dawn. Postcard sent to soldiers from St peter's Church Paddington. 'At our Easter Communion we are Praying for You.
Easter Dawn. ‘Lo I am with you alway’. 

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 sardines for Sydney, also the cocoa, milk & sugar.  I have enjoyed a lovely day & ate the chocolate egg when Basil & his two brothers used to eat them –  ie after Easter dinnerI enjoyed a ‘nice’ tea with the cake today & pictured you all with 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 that Dodger 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 hymnRejoice 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 Chorus tonight, which I loved Dad to play.  I hope Dad will 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.

Silk Cigarette Cards: belgium & Serbia.
Silk Cigarette Cards: Belgium & Serbia.

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.

PS Am sending little book later – tell me if you get it, it will be in a Stationary Envelope (6).

**********************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

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 to Bandsman Thomas William Stubley, Killed in Action, 16th May 1916 – see Derby Church House website <http://www.derby.anglican.org&gt;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> 

John of Damascus.
John of Damascus.

(2) ‘Christ our Passover . . .’: 2 Corinthians 5.7. St Paul Approx AD 57. cf Exodus 12/ Angel of Death passes over the houses marked with the Blood of the Lamb. (3) ‘Now the Queen of Seasons bright. . .’ verse in Easter 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 Neale 1818- 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 Book Wayside 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 Wesley added 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). 

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