South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


6th June Tue: Marched to new billets at SOUASTRE , arrived at 10.pm.


Bertie in Uniform


Hand delivered in envelope addressed: ‘To Dearest Mummy from her loving Bertie’.

I had another volunteer to pose for me for this. Drew it in less than 10 mins.

Cartoon This year
WHEN SHALL I GO ON HOME  LEAVE. Cartoon:  Pte A. H. HIBBETT, 1916.       

                                                                                  Tuesday June 6/ 16.

WHEN SHALL I GO ON HOME LEAVE ? This year? Next year? Sometime? Never?  Nearing the Top. (1)   

My Very Dear Mother & Father & all of you,

Your ripping parcel came this dinner time. I have just read the letter.  Am sending this letter with another comrade out of ‘A’ Company who is going today on leave. Remember me writing at Easter sayingLet us hope (D.V.) that I shall see you at Whitsuntide(2). 

All my comrades & Sydney say I shall be going Home this week. The boy who is going today says I follow tomorrow. He lives near Home & said he will take it to my Home if he does not post it. He will most likely tell you I am following him on Leave tomorrow.

You had an idea we were about to go to the trenches!  Well as a matter of fact we move from this Place of Rest towards the line today. Time was getting rather anxious about Leave. I have washed a shirt, that comfortable shirt you sent last, so that I can wear it for when I go.

I might go to have tea with Sydney this evening, but on these ‘moving’ days we are busy packing up etc.

I will conclude now. I think I have said too much with regard to Leave. Sydney’s Leave came suddenly but as you seem to be anxious for news of my Leave I have told you as much as is wise to.

Battle of Jutlasnd
Battle of Jutland, off Coast of Denmark. 31st May -1st June 1916. <http://www.britishbattles.com&gt;.

We all know of the Naval activities & I am pleased we won (3).

Goodbye for the present. Thanking you all again for your kind wishes.

I see Dodger had a go at printing the label this time.

Your affec.  Bertie. 

PS Send Ida this month’s Pickwickian Leaflet (4).



The tension & anxiety for Pte Bertie Hibbett must have been almost impossible to bear a hundred years ago – on the move but not knowing where  – to ‘Leave Parade’ & Home  – to the Front & Battle with always the thought that he might never see his Home again. He plays a childhood game, does a sketch & washes a shirt; homely comforting activities.

(1Nursery Counting Game: Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief.  Fortune-telling Song counting plum stones, daisy petals or grasses etc. to answer questions: What will I be when I grow up?  or When will I marry? ‘This year, Next Year Sometime, Never‘.  Rould Folk Song Index No 802.

‘Nearing the Topdouble meaning here for Bertie – ref to nearing the top of the grass and ‘Going over the Top‘ into No Man’s Land and to Battle.

 (2) D.V.  Deus Vult Latin ‘God wills it’/ ‘God willing’  Whitsuntide: 50 days after Easter (Pentecost/ ‘pente’ Greek for fifty). Major Christian Festival. Celebrates the Gift of Holy Spirit on disciples of Christ. Acts 2.1-31. 

John Jellico Admiral of the Fleet.
Admiral of the Fleet, John Jellicoe.

(3) Battle of Jutland: North Sea off the coast of Denmark. 31st May -1st June, 1916. Largest Naval Battle of WW1, Both sides claimed Victory, with great loss of life.

Royal Navy, under Admiral John Jellicoe, lost 14 out of 28 battleships and twice as many lives as Germany (which lost 7 out of 16 dreadnought battleships) but British achieved long-term aim to prevent Germany gaining access to Britain & the Atlantic. 

Pickwickian Leaflet.
Pickwickian Leaflet. May 1916. A.H.H.

(4) Pickwickian Leaflet for June 1916 has not survived.


NEXT POST: 11th June 1916.



Bertie in UniformPte 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 campWe 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).

Edward James Montague-Wortley.
Edward James Montague-Wortley.

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, marchingwent digging all day again on Thursday & saw Harold Hinde* who is in the Cycle Corps (sic). (4)

Army Cyclist Corps Badge.
Army Cyclist Corps Badge.

His brother Cyril*, who has been with us all day, has gone to a Rest Camp.

I will stop nowgot 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.

Sir Stuart Wortley.
Sir Stuart Wortley. <http:// http://www.en-wiki.com&gt;

(3) HorsebackHandshake: 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!



South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


1st – 4th June.  In Rest Billets. Battalion training.



‘The end of all things is at hand’.  (1)

‘. . . ye remember that I told you of them’. (2) Epistle and Gospel for:-

Sunday after Ascension Day. June 4/ 16

My Very Dear Mother & Father & Basil,

I picture you three this time; I fancy Harold does not go Home and spend tea with you every Sunday. I went to see Sydney this afternoon at his billet; he was however in a field opposite, writing in answer to a long letter I asked him my usual, i.e. if he had had anything in the post, & he gave me Dodger’s most jolly letter of 28th May (last Sunday).

Dodger, you did make I larf & Sydney too smiled when I repeated what you said about that incident at Abergele (3). Sydney also showed me several PCs, one was a photo with Vernon, oh how his old face came back so. By the by Norman* is not at all a bad letter writer & he too can send long epistles.

James & Finley Bell Ltd, Glasgow. Empire Blend. 2 oz tin.

I had a very kindly & most lengthy, extraordinarily lengthy letter from Miss Foster*, with some toffees & a Tin of Three Nuns Tobacco (4). Alas! I have not a decent pipe, but you need not send me a pipe as I m-m-mi-ight be Home next week at this time.


I wrote to Miss Foster yesterday but forgot to mention the Colwick Cheese (3). Miss Foster was told that the Colwick Cheese would turn veryhigh’ & she did not wish the Regiment to be wiped out just by a Colwick Cheese.  She wanted to know if I knew of anybody receiving a cheese that smelt; just write & tell her in your next that I have not & I will give up the expectation; Miss Foster can cancel the idea & tell her we shall not need a Colwick Cheese to make us run.  Tell her that the jokes about the cheese made me nearly split with laughing.

Five Franc Note 1916.
Five Franc Note. 1916. Selling now on ebay $159/£109.

Sydney, knowing that I had ‘petit d’argent’ & my unexpected Home Leave coming any day now, generously presented me with a handsome note, five francs; which is, in English money, 3/7d. (5)

What a lot of fuss & talk etc in the papers & by people at Home over this Daylight Bill (6).

William Willett 1856-1915. Property developer eg Sloan Street, London 1880s.
William Willett. 1856-1915. 

Punch (7) has  a great deal to say about it and chaps from Leave have said how puzzling it was, the clocks had not been altered & they were all giving different times.

Latest news of Leave is that I am leaving the Batt. on Tuesday – if all goes well & Leave is not stopped.

I will close now with Best love to all.

Always your affec.  Bertie.

PS: Should I have the luck to go Home next week, I wish to have just a quiet time with you at Home. I shall not put myself about to speak to friends, only keep my promise of invitation. I feel that I couldn’t bear to have the bell ringing everyday with people to see me, a Private Buy in no extras. Take things as a M of C. (8).

Please, thank you, dear Mum, I had rather wait till I see you before you give me a prayer-book (9). I am trying to make this one last the record. Nice letters of the Evans aren’t they? 



The apocalyptic language used in this letter indicates how well an ordinary soldier like Pte Bertie Hibbett understood that a Major Battle was about to take place on the Western Front and that great loss of life was inevitable. For him there was no way out. Even if he got Home Leave it would be very short and he would have to return to the Front. His longing is for a quiet time and the comfortable commonplace of Home.

Emperor Domitian. AD 81- 96. (born AD 51).
Emperor Domitian. AD 81- 96. (born AD 51).

(1) ‘The end of all things is at hand’ 1 Peter 4.7: . . be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves’. Possible date: Roman Emperor Domitian’s persecution of Christian Church. AD 81 -96.

(2) Sunday after AscensionGospel: John 15.26. Ye remember that I told you’.When the comforter is come, he will testify of me. . . the time cometh that whoso killeth you will think they do God service . . . When the time shall come ye may remember. . . ‘

(3) Abergele Holiday Aug 1914 when someone sent the family a very ripe cheese?  Colwick Cheese: a soft curdy cheese bowl-shaped for sweet or savoury fillings/ 17th Cent). Colwick: a village south of Nottingham.  

Amazon.com-Original-Vict-print-1916.81j8A9KuMhL._SY450_(4) Three Nuns Tobacco: Advert reads: ‘Philosophy, under the most trying conditions, is to be found by distracting the mind from the contemplation of immediate disaster. Give a man a pipeful of Three Nuns – the familiar fragrance woos back the mind to the comfortable commonplace . . . puts fresh heart into a man and gives him assurance that there’s a good time coming’. NB. It took my father until the 1950s to give up smoking.

(5) Five France Note worth 3/7d  (i.e. 43p today). Selling now on ebay for $159/£109.

(6) The Daylight Bill 1916: pioneered by William Willett 1856-1915. (Property developer Sloane Street, London 1880s). An attempt to aid economy/farming by increasing daylight hours. Greenwich Meantime was advanced one hour in Spring & put back one hour in autumn.(i.e. 21st May & 1st Oct 1916).

(7)  Punch 1916: ‘So simple and successful has been the progress of the Daylight-Saving Scheme, under which the clock is to be put forward an hour during the summer months, that a movement is on foot to help the War Office prophets by putting the War back a couple of years’. NB 1914 prophets had said ‘The War will be over by Christmas‘. 

(8) The Book of Common Prayer. 1662from which Pte Bertie appears to have taken most of his biblical quotations. He knew & took comfort from the fact that his family would be reading the same passages designated for the day.

NEXT POST: 4th June 1916. Enclosed Letter to Basil/ Dodger.



Rise and not Rest, but press To Heaven’s height, far & steep.’ Robert Browning. (1)

Ascension Day. The Glorious First of June, 1916. (2)

My Very Dear Mother,

Another queer coincidence. I received your delightful letter with the one of Dad’s enclosed, at the same time as Mrs Evans*’ kind letter, with Norman’s* enclosed. And you & they were thinking of each other in all the letters – ‘compris’?

Wild Arum or 'Cuckoo Pint).
Wild Arum or ‘Cuckoo Pint).

I thank you immensely for the lilies although they looked the worse for wear the chief thing was that they were sent from Home with your heart’s love.

Norman* told me that Sydney would return to the Batt. on Wednesday, that was yesterday, and so he did My word he looked all the smarter after his course of instruction, which he was ‘full up’ with talking about.

Now, do you remember how I told you in my past letters that when he or I return after being away from the Batt. as luck would have it, he or I go away shortly afterwards, & there we keep going at it, alternately.  Matters seem like occurring again.

The Instructors gave him an excellent report. I saw his bayonet last night & my word it was a fine sight to see. I pity the poor Bosche who has its brilliant blade in his ribs. He showed me the bayonet when it had been given him & it was very rusty then, but last night I saw the result of ‘elbow grease and emery cloth’ – as Sydney terms it. Jones*, like Ball*, as you said, behaves as though Sydney was a towering fine big chap. Jones is not so bad, you see the Samuda Cigs (3) turned up all right & Jones was good to see into some cigarettes from Miss Foster* that were stolen by someone else.

I happily had a letter from Vernon at the same time as the parcel from his mother. Vernon is very like his father solicitor like, but that doesn’t mean to say I do not like Vernon far from it now.  Ah dear Mum, War is a blessing looking at it in one light.  Refer War to that text in the Psalms ‘The Lord is loving unto everyone & His mercy is over all his works’ (4). Vernon, I remembered showed tact, & I learnt a lesson from that tact when we went on Home Leave via London last Jan. (5)

www.forest ferns.co.uk
Jade Tree Fern. Dicksonia fibrosa. <http:www.forest ferns.co.uk>

I enclose a fern this time. How are the ferns getting on?  Ah how you loved to water them & I hope I shall be watering them for you & cutting the grass & so fulfilling your wish that you could see me very soon.

I will close now with my fondest love to all.

Always yours affectionately,  Bertie.

Motto for Ascensiontide:– ‘Their life is – to wake not sleep, Rise & not Rest, but press From earth’s level, where blindly creep, Things perfected more or less To Heaven’s height, far & steep.’  R. Browning. 



In this letter to his Mother, Pte Bertie Hibbett concentrates on the message of hope he finds in the poetry of Robert Browning – reflecting as it does the Ascension of Christ, the reconciliation of God & Man. He does his best to cheer his Mother by sending her a fern in exchange for her lilies, passing on the praise of Sydney – and the good news of stolen parcels recovered.

‘Count your blessings!’ was a favourite saying of my father and here he finds blessings wrung out of the War; mainly his deepening friendship with his old school pal, Vernon Evans, a friendship that was to last the rest of his life.  

Robert Browning. Robert Browning by Michele Gordigiani oil on canvas, 1858 Credit line: National Portrait Gallery, London
Robert Browning
by Michele Gordigiani
oil on canvas, 1858
Credit line: National Portrait Gallery, London

(1) Robert Browning: English leading Victorian poet/playwright. 1812-1889. Rise & not rest’ is verse from Reverie, which begins ‘In the beginning God created the heaven & the earth‘.

(2) Ascension Day/ Glorious First of June: See Hibbett Letter to Dad, 1st June 1916.

J.Samuda Tobacco Pipe Advert.
J.Samuda Tobacco Pipe Advert. <http//:www.ebay.es>

(3) ‘Samudas’ refers to Cigarettes: once again Pte Bertie provides an answer to a query raised in an earlier letter. This poor reproduction of a Tobacco Pipe Advert ‘Let me fill your pipe‘ was published by Jacob & Joseph Samuda Co. Ltd tobacco merchants.  

(4) Psalm:145.9. (Psalm for the 30th Morning. Book of Common Prayer, 1662).

(5) i.e. Home Leave in Jan. 1915 before Embarcation to France, March 3rd.1915.

NEXT POST: 4th JUNE 1916.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


May 29th May – June 1st Thur: LUCHEUX.  In Rest billets. Battalion Training.

CASUALTIES for May : OTHER RANKS: 1 found drowned. No 957 Pte J. Bird (attached 182nd Tunnelling Company R.E.). 3 WOUNDED: 8434 L/Corp. S. Goode; 8375 Ptre R Harris; 9724 Pte G.Bradford. (1)

Signed: H.LORD Major Cmdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.



Ascension Day (2)Thursday June 1st

The Glorious First of June (3).

ARTHUR HIBBETT: 56 in 1914.

My Dear (Mother) Father,

No – sorry,  My Dear Father.

I have a reason for writing to you Dad, although the letter is really intended for you all to read, but on condition that you ‘censor’ it first.

Mother’s & your letters were read with great interest.  Sydney returned from his course of instruction last night & wasfull up to the brimwith all he had done. He was given a highly good report, with the exception that he had not such a good word of command.

My idea of him going there for a Course of Armoury was incorrect (4). He thought it time I was going on leave; he expected I should have gone while he was away. 

Now this is where I wish you to use your usual good discretion.  I think there is no need for me to ‘use every opportunity‘ to hasten my going on Home Leave, for I went to the Orderly Room this dinner time to give my address to the Serg. Major, & tonight I heard that I am due to leave tomorrow & am going with another, Drummer Woodfield*. If his word is true, as he seemed to be quite sincere, I shall fulfill what Mum said in her letter -i.e. I shall see you very soon with the ‘very’ underlined, as Mum generally does when she wishes to emphasise anything.

I thought of not saying anything until matters get more certain & definite, & Sydney also suggested that idea when I saw him this morning. But the actual time of informing a chap to Parade for Home Leave comes suddenly & unawares, just like when Sydney went, & he only had time to write to you when he got into England. At any rate I am in the next six & I hope matters won’t turn out like they did before Easter.

I conclude my reference to this sudden ‘attack’ by saying I promise you a telegram at my earliest opportunity when I arrive in Angleterre & I hope Mum’s patient look-out for the bearer of The Telegram will be speedily gratified. (5)

Women's land army Training.http://dailymail.com>
Women’s Land Army Training.<http://dailymail.com&gt;

I had a very interesting letter from Ida. She is living the typical farmer’s life & Miss Brookes* said in her letter how she enjoyed the tea with Ida & admired her economical jersey for the farm work. No wonder dear Dad called her ‘Champion’. 

I shall have lots to tell you when I come Home, but the idea I have had lately is to do as Sydney did, according to Mum’s letter – take things as a matter of course’.

Should you ‘let the cat out of the bag’ (6) to the others tell Mum not to be in a hurry to buy luxuries and such things that will cause you to deny yourselves unnecessarily. I shall be only too pleased with bread & dripping & shall think of rice pudding as much as I loved an expensive dish when I was at Home. All I am worrying about is that I hope so much that I am not buoying you up with false hopes. My opinion is to keep the news quiet until I send the telegram.

Now I will start another page with news that Mum can read.

All good wishes,

Your affec. son,  Bertie.



Pte Bertie Hibbett was well aware that a ‘Big Push’ on the Somme was imminent but he had not given up hope that after two years at the Front he would be granted Home Leave. His parents had been frequently disappointed and he did not want to buoy them up with false hopes, especially his Mother. Once again Bertie addresses important news to his Father first. 

(1) Found DrownedPte J. Bird had gone missing on Vimy Ridge when attached to182 Tunnelling Coy. 2nd April 1916. See Hibbett Letter: 17th May, 1916. 

(2) Ascension Day: Christian Festival, 40 days after Easter. Ascension of Risen Christ to Heaven. Based on text of all 4 Gospels/ mainly Luke-Acts AD 75-90. Celebrated at least since 4th Cent AD.

Philippe-Jacques de Louthergourg. 1795< http://www.en-wiki.org&gt;

(3) The Glorious First of June: Naval Battle, French Revolutionary Wars, Bay of Biscay 1794, when British won a tactical victory turning their ships towards the enemy & French won a strategic victory breaking food blockade.

(4Unclear whether Sydney Hibbett had been on an Armoury Course at Abbeville (‘to get out of the way of these new draft of officers’) or on an Instruction Course for Serjeants in preparation for the Battle of Somme. Most probably the latter. See Hibbett Letter: 28th May 1916.

(4) ‘My Memories of the First World War’ re Mother watching out for weeks to see whether Pte Bertie was coming up the road to No 95. See Top Menu (5) ‘Cat out of the bag’colloquialism for disclosing a secret. A favourite Hibbett family saying. Origin obscure: possibly discovering the buying of false market goods. cf 16th Cent. German & Dutch refs to buying ‘a pig in a poke’. 

NEXT POST: 1st June 1916 (enclosed letter to Mother).