1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
7th -11th June Sun: Divisional Reserve. Furnishing working parties.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
‘Evermore to rejoice in His Holy Comfort’. (1)
‘I will come to you’. ‘My Peace I give unto you’ (2) Collect & Gospel for :-
Whit Sunday. June 11/ 16.
My Very Dear Mother,
I cannot just lay my hand on your last letter with that most appropriate text you wrote at the top. Yes I am learning a lesson from that text today. It is not for us to know the times or the seasons. It is not for us to plan out the future but to take each day as it comes (3).
I am so sorry for not controlling myself that day. One of my comrades said I should follow him for Leave. I committed again a great folly, but as Sydney said I may go any day now.
Since that day he went on leave Leave has been reduced to one man a Battalion a day, excepting Sun & Mon when two go.
We went digging today & I thought of you all at Church & at dinner time. I understand it is the Sunday School Festival today (4). I wonder if you all went? I am writing on a pad Mrs Hurst* sent me in a parcel with some fruit, coffee, sardines & some homemade Queen cakes (5). She sent the bananas green, thinking they would ripen on the way – good idea?
Sydney heard from Miss Foster* today. He is keeping quite well & smart & always finds a cheery word for me, like Basil does for Mummy.
I hope you are not making elaborate preparations & putting yourself unnecessarily out of the way. Remember that I am coming Home just for a quiet time with Dad & Mum & brothers & sister. I shall not care for the bell to be kept ringing & Mum’s rooms & floors to be spoiled.
I just feel, after this fatigue, that I could have a real rest at Home with Home people; to have friends would cause me to exert mental efforts in the way of manners & habits.
As for meals – just those good wholesome puddings & plain teas will please me as well as anything.
I will close, hoping Our Lord, of whom we learn today is the Comforter, will give you strength & comfort to wait in hope. I trust He will send me Home in safety. Let us thank Him for all His mercies that He has bestowed upon us all these many months.
Vernon sends me the Observer (6) each week now apparently. I have had little time for writing.
Best love to all. Bertie.
PS This white carnation I picked from some growing by the trench. White for Whitsuntide.
Mentally & physically exhausted, Pte Bertie Hibbett longs for rest – & the quiet of Home. The news that Leave was restricted to one soldier a battalion must have been devastating. His digging ‘fatigue’ could well have been repairing the long & dangerous communication trenches, over the ridge from the Divisional Reserve at Souastre to the Front at Fonquevillers. Under close German observation these fatigues were conducted mainly at night.
Deprived of Church services, my father took strength from the Book of Common Prayer Readings & Prayers for the day – Whit Sunday, always a favourite festival for him. He took comfort from a white carnation picked by the trench and from the cheery word of his brother. His Mother’s advice ‘to take each day as it comes’, my Dad often passed on to me.
(1) Collect for Whit/ White Sunday/ Pentecost (50 days after Easter). Book of Common Prayer. 1662. ‘God who as at this time didst teach to hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them of the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things: and ever more rejoice in his holy comfort. . .’
(2) Gospel for Whit Sunday/ Pentecost: John 14.15f. Jesus’ Discourse on Resurrection & Eternal Life.
(3) ‘It is not for us to know the times and seasons’: Acts 1.7. Jesus’ spiritual answer to his disciples’ political question ‘Will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel’. i.e. Are you going to lead a rebellion against the Romans?
(4) St Paul’s Sunday School, Walsall. Bertie Hibbett had passed his Sunday School Teacher’s Examination in April 1914. Some of his class kept in touch with him during the War & sent him little gifts.
(5) Queen Cakes Patty Tins c.1890; recipe older than reign of Queen Victoria? cf Historic Food Website.
(6) The Walsall Observer.
NEXT POST: 18th June 1916.