9TH APRIL 1915: ECOIVRES CONCERTS: ‘HOW TOMMY CLAPS & LAUGHS!’

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

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 WOUNDED2/Lt A.T. ShortmanOTHER RANKS KILLED: 9676 Pte G. Bate.  WOUNDED8833 Sgt A. Perry; 9248 L/Cpl G. A. Wentworth. 

AVIATIC -C.1became principal German Reconnaissance Aeroplane from 1915. 160hp Mercedes engine.  Max. speed 89mph; ceiling 11,480 ft.
AVIATIC – C.1  became principal German Reconnaissance Aeroplane from 1915.  160 hp Mercedes engine.  Max. speed 89 mph; ceiling 11,480 ft.

4th Apr. Tue:  Enemy Artillery very active 0.65 and 063 being heavily shelledA 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.

'Charlie Chaplin' dressed for Trrops Concert Party Ecoivres.
ECOIVRES Divisional Reserve: ‘Jock’ & ‘Charlie Chaplin’  dressed for Concert Party.  Kate  Chambers. <http://www.iwm.org.uk> 

5th, 6th -7th Apr. ECOIVRESIn Divisional Reserve. Battalion Training. 

9th Apr. Sun: Marched to Trenches in relief of 1.6th South Staffordshire Regt. 0.63. 0.64. 065 TRENCHES.

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Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings.

.Champion Ida Hibbett VAD Nurse.
Ida Hibbett.

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.

britishmilitarybadges.com CA Hut Fundimages
<http://www.britishmilitarybadges.co.uk&gt;

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.

Recreation Hut Poperingue.
Recreation Hut Poperingue<http://www.youtube.com&gt;

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

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 extraRest‘.

(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.

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2ND APR.1916: ‘3 MINES BLOWN UP – SHOOK US TO & FRO’.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT’S WAR DIARY:

‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’.

NEUVILLE ST VAAST 1916:  ‘3 mines blown up while up in our tour . . .  the one on Sunday April 2nd affected  me more.  Sunny all day.  Had offered Lieut. Wilkinson*(1) & Rowley*(2) a  Major Drapkins corkhoffe? cig at Stand To (3).  When mine went up shook us to and fro. I made for my rifle in support trenches. Burnt . . . carrying in exposed position. (4).

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Canadians at Vimy Ridge using crater as machine gun post.
VIMY RIDGE: Canadians using Bomb Crater as Machine Gun Post.
Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett 1965
Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett.

My Memories of the First World War. The Revd A. H. Hibbett. 1967.

I shall never forget my experience at Neuville St Vaast, . . . when I went with a party underground to listen for the enemy tapping their way in underground passages towards our Front Line.  It (was a) dark night which made it all the more ‘exciting’.  Whose mine would go up first, theirs or ours?  Our feelings were indeed tense. 

Pass the word down for Bomber Ford”, came the command from the officer in front of our column, as we lined up to throw hand grenades over the parapet. “Pass the word back I aint,” retorted Bomber Ford from the rearThe German mine went up first – and we tried to occupy the crater before the enemy advanced to take possession of it.  It is strange to think that I might have thrown one of my sister’s hand grenades at Neuville St Vaast. (5)

www.panaraio.com bomb craters at openair museum Zillebeke. hill 62.68330909
BOMB CRATERS,  Zillebeke Open Air Museum/ Hill 62.<http://www.panaramo.com&gt;

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB.

Researching 1/5th South Staffords and reading this experience of my father at Neuville St Vaast leaves me with nothing but compassion for those who died on both sides and incredulity that anyone could possibly survive such horror.

(1) 2 Lt J.W.H. Wilkinson was wounded. (2) Lt. Arthur J. Rowley: current Censor of Pte Bertie’s Letters.

(3) ‘Stand To’ was at dawndusk everyday/ when all soldiers must stand ready for enemy attack. Pte Bertie normally would have had had his rifle with him but maybe as one of a ‘Bombing Party‘ he was carrying hand grenades to toss into a new crater before rushing forward to claim it.

Greys Major Drapkin Tobacco Cigarette Tin.
Greys Major Drapkin Tobacco Cigarette Tin.

(4) ‘Burnt’: text here is indecipherable/ not clear whether he or his rifle was burnt in ‘exposed position’. Could be ref. perhaps to the wound Lt Wilkinson received?

(5) ‘My Memories’: Neuville St Vaast. This was one of the very few stories of the War my father told me as a child.  Compare Hibbett Letters 20th -31st July 1915 & ref. to 172 Tunnelling Company. R.E. See also website ‘The Long Long Trail’. The Tunnelling Companies RE.  Photo: Vimy Ridge Bomb Crater Machine Gun Post.<http://www.pinterest.com&gt;

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South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

TRENCHES 063. 064. 065.

1st Apr. Sat: Very quiet indeed.

2nd Apr. Sun: 6.50 pm.  The Enemy exploded a mine on the south side of B4. This was immediately followed by a second explosion  S.W. of the same crater. The Platoon standing to at the North end of 0. 63 immediately rushed up to where the SW entrance to the crater had been but found this blown up and the bombing post there buried.

The connecting trench W. of the crater to 0.64 had also completely disappeared. The fumes from the crater were stifling2/Lt Knowles, who led the Platoon which reached the crater lip, found it impossible to enter and several men were in a state of collapse, so he lay down with his party and bombed into the crater.  The enemy opened heavy fire with rifle grenades and trench mortars from sap on the right side of the crater, also a machine gun from the direction Point 5.   We then established a bombing post and a Lewis gun on the N. lip of the crater and dug a communication trench round to 0.64, establishing communication with that trench the passage of which is very difficult at present by day.

The platoon Standing To at S end of 064 when the explosion occurred rushed along PAYERNE but found the end of the crater blocked and a heavy fire of trench mortar and rifle grenades directed on this point.  The Y sap in the WINDOW was attacked by grenades but the enemy could make no progress there. This part of the line was much troubled with trench mortars and a machine gun from the direction  of B. 6.  The artillery put up a very effective barrage, after half an hour the rate of fire was reduced and everything was quiet by morning .

La Targette British Cemetery.
LA TARGETTE. BRITISH Cemetery, Neuville St Vaast.

1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS CASUALTIES:

OFFICERS KILLEDLt A. A. Smith. (Author of War Diary Appendix 4. March 25th).  WOUNDED2/Lt J. W.H. Wilkinson.

OTHER RANKS KILLED: 9871 Pte l. Medlicott; 976 Pte J. Wooldridge; 886 Pte J. Mc.Neil9004 Cpl J. T. Knight; 95 Pte J. Dawes.  MISSING – BELIEVED KILLED:-  9006 L/ Cpl B. Hopley; 9013 Pte W. H.Turner; 1180 Pte J. H. Bird; 9048 Pte A. J. Belcher; 9702 Pte L. Smith8478 Pte H. Ball.

OTHER RANKS WOUNDED:- 8016 A(cting) C. S.M. Burton L.F.; 6443 Sgt. J. Williams; 8833  Sgt W.H. Perry; 9248 L/Cpl J. Wentworth; 7820 L/Cpl F. Fisher; 742 Pte  R.G. Collier; 926 Pte C. Hathaway; 8187 Pte T. Rotton; 615 Pte E. Wilkins; 819 Pte F. Bishop; 941 Pte  T. Homer; 428 Pte B. Brooke. 819 Pte W.H. Thompson; 9031 Pte A. Holmes.

SLIGHTLY WOUNDED remained at duty:- 982 Pte J. Powell.

German cemetery, neuville St Vaast.
WW1 GERMAN CEMETERY Neuville St . Vaast. <http://www.alamy.com&gt;

NEXT POST: 9th APR. 1916.