Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER TO BASIL HIBBETT (enclosed with one to parents) 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
PS: My Dear Dodger,
I have just re-read Penning’s* letter (1). It is now raining miserably & into the tent & I am smoking a pipe of Miss Bore’s bacca to cheer meself up – somewhat like once – (well on the 18th of May I look in my diary, & see we were in camp. We returned from the trenches on previous Sunday night & it was Sydney’s birthday on the Monday we were in camp. As for the 29th of June we had a Route March & saw the pipers & spent most time in camp drilling in full pack).
Sir Stuart Wortley* (2) came to see the Reserves – (in which is Charlie Harrison*, who’s foot seems quite all right now).
We will keep a sharp look out & it will be a hearty hand shake. You will picture us looking up at him on his horse & us squeezing his hand – so if the palm of your hand itches you’ll know that I have nearly rung his hand off see (3).
PS Looking forward to Ida’s Champion chatty letter.
We are always marching, marching – went digging all day again on Thursday & saw Harold Hinde* who is in the Cycle Corps (sic). (4)
His brother Cyril*, who has been with us all day, has gone to a Rest Camp.
I will stop now – got a lot more correspondence.
I now think that this Postscript to Basil Hibbett (posted by me on 16th July 1915) better fits a Postscript to a Letter of 4th June 1916. The dates & places Pte Bertie mentions (when looking back in his diary) do not fit 1916. e.g. his brother’s Birthday in 1916 was on a Wednesday (not on a Monday as in 1915) – at Bulford Camp, Neuve Eglise. He is also looking back to a 29th June which is very unlikely in 1916!
Battalion Training at Lucheux at this time (as we have already seen) included marching, rapid digging, bayonet practice, and sniping – as well as wood cutting for trench hurdles. The 1/5th Staffords would also have practiced the coming Battle in a Model of the German Front Lines at Gommecourt Village & Park, which Pte Bertie’s sketches may have helped to create.
(1) Penning’s Letter: i.e. that of Arthur Penning’s father, Pte Bertie’s billet landlord at Saffron Walden (Dec 1914 – Feb 1915). Arthur Penning* was killed in action in Aug.1915.
(2) Sir Edward James Montague Stuart-Wortley. 1857 -1934. Kings Rifle Corps. Distinguished colonial service. WW1: General Officer Commanding (G.O.C.) 46th Midland Division. T.A. Kept King George Vth informed re activities of the Division. Controversially dismissed for ‘lack of offensive spirit’ 1st July 1916, Battle of the Somme. See ‘A Lack of Offensive Spirit’: Alan MacDonald. Iona Books. 2008.
(3) Horseback/ Handshake: i.e. Sir Stuart Wortley on horseback and his unlikely handshake rather than that of Charlie Harrison’s! Pte Bertie is joking.
(4) Charlie Harrison*: before War, one of Arthur Hibbett’s clerks in Education Office, Walsall.
(5) Cyclist Corps: chief role – armed reconnaissance & communication. See Website Old Sweats Centurion. Often used as manual labour & in Front Line.
NEXT POST: 6th June 1916. ‘When shall I go on Home leave – this year, next year, sometime – never!