AUTOGRAPH ALBUM of Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, The Cenacle Red, Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Cheshire.
VISIT of his sister Ida Neal Hibbett on 30th July 1916 & his Godmother Mary Foster on15th & 30th -1st Aug. 1916.
To My Sister: ‘She Loved me for the dangers I had passed’.Othello. Shakespeare. Ida’s Visit to the Cenacle Hospital. Thurs. July 30th 1916.
To My Godmother: ‘I would flood your path with sunshine, I would fence you from all ill, I would crown you with all blessings if I could but have my will. Aye but human love may err, dear, and a power all-wise is near, I only pray God bless you and God keep you through the year’ (1). July 15th & 30th – Aug.1st 1916.
My Memories: A friend gave me an autograph book in which I collected autos of the patients, written on cigarettes, which I cut in half and pasted on the pages. I spent my time doing drawings and sketches with my left hand. The Revd Arthur H. Hibbett 1967.
The Cenacle belonged to a Roman Catholic Presbytery and was the Home of Nuns before it was lent to the Red Cross as a Hospital for wounded soldiers. My father kept up with several of his fellow patients & especially the Matron for some years after the War.
(1) Poem: ‘I would flood your path with sunshine, I would fence you from all ill; I would crown you with all blessings if I could but have my will. Aye! but human love may err, dear, & a power all wise is near. I will pray God bless you, and God keep you through the year.’ (Unable to trace poet but poem known before 1909).
NEXT POST: 4th Aug. 1916. The Cenacle Red Cross Hospital Nurses & Patients.
The Revd E. MORE DARLING, former Vicar of St Matthew’s Parish Church, Walsall:LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT,The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Cheshire.
My Dear Old Chap,
Mr Cozens (1)* was in last evening and from him I heard, what you had not told me, that you were wounded in the hand. I know how painful and awkward that can be – Major Caddick* had a somewhat similar wound – but I hope that by now you are beginning to go on in the right way.It’s a slow job old Chap so don’t be dis-heartened – not that I think you will, but it’s not easy not to be.
Let me know as soon as you are likely to be over as I should like to have you here for a long day to show you all the beauties of the Park (2).
You will be very interested in my baby, who is getting on splendidly. The Allied Flagyou sent him is being preserved for him until he is bigger. His one idea now is to tear things and bang them about.
Did you know Joe Dyall* was wounded?He’s in a hospital in Manchester – I’ve just written to him. He was in the K.R.R.’s you know (3). The son of one of my very best Churchmen is an officer in the same regiment – he’s just been severely wounded, how severely we don’t know yet, but I’m afraid it’s rather bad.
Did I tell you we’ve been having open-air services here?We’ve had five and they’ve been very helpful. Everyone has been awfully good in turning out with us.Now hurry up and get better and remember I’ve booked you for a full day here. I’d like it to be a Sunday, but mustn’t ask your Mother and Father to spare you for that as Sunday is the day to be at Home.
My wife wishes to be remembered to you and the baby sends a kiss.
Always your friend,
E. More Darling.
The Revd E. More Darling remained a friend to Bertie Hibbett for the rest of his life.He had left Walsall in March 1916 for a living 5 miles away at Streetly (named after the Roman Road ‘Icknield Street’, traces of which may be seen in Sutton Park close by). It was to be quite some time before my father was allowed to go Home.
Open Air Church Services became popular during WW1; Christians of all denominations were able to join together on an equal footing.
(1) Mr Cozens*: Henry Cozens, leading churchman at St Paul’s Walsall, father of Capt.Tim Cozens Killed in Action Battle of Loos 1915? Hibbett Letters: 13th Sept, 1915; 15th Oct .1915; 24th Oct. 1915.
(2) Sutton Park: 7th largest Urban Park in Europe, 6 miles north of Birmingham– now a National Nature Reserve & Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Landscape of open heathland, woodland, wetlands, marshes & lakes. Mentioned several times in Hibbett Letters: e.g.10th Nov. 1915; 16th July 1915; 21st May 1916. WW1 Convalescent Camps erected in the Park. See <http://www.scnhsc.org.lakes>
(3) K.R.R.: Kings Royal Rifles Corps formed 1755-56 in North America from 62nd & 60th American Regt. Sir Edward James Montague Stuart- Wortley,1857 -1934, belonged K.R.R.C before Commanding 46th Midland Division in WW1 (Battle of Loos & Battle of Somme).
NEXT POST: 30th July. Autograph Album: ‘She loved me for the dangers I had passed’.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, at the Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, in July 1916, received an Autograph Album with the message:
‘Wishing you very many Happy Returns of your Birthday from your Chums’. Mother. (My father has added ‘Enoch, Vernon Evans‘) (1) .
On 13th July his Mother visited Bertie at the Cenacle and with his left hand he drew her a special page with the Stafford Knot, Union Jacks, a Lily of the Valley and a Rose, her favourite flowers.
‘At the time I drew this Mother was sitting by the side of my bed’.
To my Mother on her Birthday. July 13th 1916: ‘May every morning seem to say: “There’s something happy on the way, And God sends love to you”H.V.D. from her ever affectionate Son, Bertie, who celebrated his 21st Birthday yesterday.’ The box left reads: ‘This Quotation and the Following are written by Me leaving Spaces for each Corresponding Autograph. Arthur Hubert Hibbett.
Pte Bertie Hibbett’s best pal Vernon Evans, still serving in the Army, had obviously asked Bertie’s Mother to take him a present. It was an inspired present for three weeks after he was wounded my father had taught his left hand to write & draw well again. The Album was a present that he took pleasure in for the rest of his life.
During the time he was in Hospital my father began to collect signatures of his fellow patients, written on their carefully pressed & pasted cigarette papers.
The signatures above belong to soldiers of the Queen’s Westminster Regiment, Ward 6, The Cenacle Red Cross Hospital, July 1916. The Badge records the Regiment’s service in South Africa,1906 -1909. County of London. Queen’s Westminsters.Clockwise from top right: Rifleman A.F. Bays (Wills & Co Ltd New Bond Street. Turkish Fine); Rifleman G. Hughes (De Reszke as supplied) & Rifleman W.S. Markwell N.S.
I can imagine that first visit of Pte Bertie’s parents and the stories he told them of his journey home. These memories were still strong in 1967, no doubt re-enforced by frequent reference over the years to his 21st Birthday Autograph Album.
My Memories of the First World War. 1967.
As ‘sorrowful yet alway rejoicing!’(2)– how we rejoiced to see Southampton – and from the railway carriages,what a sight it was to see all the men, women and children – all waving Union Jacks from their back gardens for miles along the line toBirmingham.
When we neared our home town of Walsall we Staffordshire boysthought we would be detrained at Birmingham station,but no, we remained in locked carriages and a rope, stretching all along the platform, kept people away. Nevertheless people threw packets of fags and boxes of chocolates, and other articles of food, towards those soldiers who could get to the windows.
We eventually arrived atBirkenhead, where lots of private cars were waiting to take us to the different hospitals. I was taken in a car with another soldier who was also wounded in his right wrist. I heard later that the poor man died. And so I was left.
It made me think, and ask why my brother was left on the field of Battle, reported wounded and missing, and why my companion in the car, with similar wound as me, had died while I lived on.
I spent seven months in The Cenacle Red Cross Hospital in New Brighton.During that time I asked for my Latin and Greek Grammar books, but found it difficult to study (3).
A friend gave me an autograph book in which I collected autos of the patients, written on cigarettes, which I cut in half and pasted on the pages. I spent my time doing drawings and sketches with my left hand.
(1) Enoch Evans was Vernon Evans’ father,not his brother as it appears here.
(2) ‘As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’. St Paul.2 Corinthians, 6.10. AD 55 approx. [K.J.V. King James 1st Version, 3rd English translation of Bible, 1604-1611. NB. No major revision of K.J.V. until the RSV (Revised Standard Version) & a whole range of English translations mid 20th Cent. following development of rigorous academic methods of historical biblical criticism; something I was able to share with my Dad in 1960s as he tackled the introduction of new liturgies in the Anglican Church & I studied for my degree.
(3) Latin & Greekwere pre-requisites for training in the Anglican Ministry in my father’s day. The philosophy behind such study is basically the same as it should be today – that anyone seeking to understand and teach biblical literature (as it was first intended by the Gospel writers) must have a working knowledge of1st cent colloquial (‘koine’) Greek as found in the New Testament, beforethey offer an interpretation and attempt to apply it as relevant for the present. A basic qualification in Hebrew is also useful – in understanding the essentially poetic language of the Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible – and as an antidote to misleading literalism. Sadly, too often, one hears interpretations that give a message almost the opposite of a text’s intention in its historical context!
The Revd J. J. KEY: LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Cheshire.
St Paul’s Vicarage, Walsall.
20th July 1916.
My Dear Bertie,
A partially written reply to your last letter had been on my desk for a long time and you must think me a bad correspondent.Still never a day passes when you and the other men we know and love are not in my thoughts and mentioned in my prayers.
We have all thought you should have had some leave long, long ago– I suppose real or imaginary difficulties have arisen.Now you are back in the homeland, bearing marks of the unthinkable experiences you have passed through.We hope your wound is slight and that you have not much pain.
No words can describe the pride we have in you all and the gratitude we feel for all you have so splendidly achieved.Your father goes on bravely & cheerily with his heavy work (1) and your mother has been simply wonderful in the midst of her anxieties.
Things go on happily at the Churches in spite of the absence of so many men.Tonight we have a meeting of a few still here to put into shape our parochial branch of theC.E.M.S.(2) and develop our plans for theNational Mission (3). It is a great opportunity and I pray God will guide us to use it aright for His Glory. Sunday Schools go on well and the Open Air Meetings are very encouraging this year. (4)
Mrs Key and I look forward to hearing news of you and Sydney soon and the pleasure of welcoming you home.
With our kind remembrances & good wishes for a speedy recovery.
Ever yours, very sincerely,
J. J. Key.
News that Serjeant Sydney Hibbett was Missing on 1st July, presumed Killed in Action, was obviously not yet widely known. The family was waiting for official confirmation from the War Office. See Menu Page: ‘In Search of the Missing’.
(1) Arthur Hibbett was Chief Education Officer for the Borough of Walsall. See Menu Page: ‘Walsall Education Office 1900-1921. Arthur Hibbett Press Cuttings’.
(2) C.E.M.S.Church of England’s Men’s Society. Formed 1899 by Archbishop Frederick Temple.
(3) ANational Mission of Repentance & Hope, Oct.1916: launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson & the Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang.
‘We are to repent not because we believe we are guilty of provoking this war but because we, together with other nations that profess to be Christian, have failed to learn how to live together as a Christian family, how to set forth Christ to the peoples who do not know Him.Because it is clear that the Spirit of love does not rule our relations with one another at home, anymore than it rules the relations between nations’.
‘We look forward to a new England & a new world’. As well as repentance ‘the Mission projected a much needed message of hope during the grave time of war’. The nation was invited ‘to reflect their attitudes, weaknesses & passions & repent in hope of a better world’. The Archbishops recognised that many (like my father & his brother) conscripted in hope to fight to save not only their country but also the world. A Monument of Fame: The Lambeth Palace Library blog: 13th March, 2016.
The Bishop of London, Arthur Winnington Ingram: ‘The Mission is to be like the coming of Spring – a drawing out of sweet influences & powers inherent but dormant in the Church & Nation.’ ‘Its effect was not to be produced primarily by big drums or the oratory of mission preachers’ -‘each diocese is to revive itself in its own way, believing that under the breath of the Spirit“a desert may rejoice & blossom as the rose”. Church Times, March, 1916.
(4) St Paul’s Sunday School: my father had passed his Sunday School Teacher’s Examination, ‘First Class’ in April, 1914.
H.E. BIRD, C. QMS 1/5th South Staffords Bn Head Quarters, Berles au Bois (1): LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Cheshire.
19/ 7/ 16
I was pleased to hear you have got to Blighty and hope your wound will soon be healed (2).
With regard to your brother Sid, I am extremely sorry to say I fear the worst has happened. The last thing I can get to know of him was that he was severely wounded, lying in No Man’s Land. He was unable to speak but wrote on a piece of paper that he required a drink of water, which one of our chaps gave him, but could not stay with him. That is the last we have heard of him.
I hope we may hear of him again, for he was a brave man and one who did his duty without fear or favour. If, as I fear, the worst has happened, I hope you will try and soften the blow to your parents as much as possible.
All papers, letters etc I found in a pack belonging to you or your brother I have handed over to L.Cpl. Jones A.O*,as Sid told him if anything happened he was to forward them.
Your chum Venables* is also missing, we can get no news of him at all (3).
Kind regards, Yours sincerely,
H.E.Bird C. Q.M.S. Censor J. N. Wilkinson.
‘MY MEMORIES of the FIRST WORLD WAR’.
” It took us one and a half days to reach Le Treport where I was put on a bed in a tent. The next morning I awoke to see, in my bed, abasin of blood from my wounded wrist. I was transferred from the tent to aHotel-turned-Hospitalon the cliffs ofLe Treport.
I was in the bed next to another wounded soldier being treated by a doctor; he was trying to get a bullet out of his patient with forceps, but the forceps kept slipping. The sound of it got on my nerves. I went out of the room, but it was like ‘going from frying pan into the fire’,for on the landing four orderlies were trying to keep a soldier down on his bed; he was raving with pain (4). I was glad to get back into my room again.
It was not long before I was labelled ‘Serious’, for I was wounded not only in my right wrist but had an extra ‘Blighty’:wounds to my neck and my left wrist as well. The wound in my neck came when I was running out of the trench at Foncquevillers. I was ordered home.
The voyage across the Channel was memorable indeed for, while I was eating a late dinner on board, I heard that my brother, Sydney, had been seen dead in No Man’s Land. On his breast there had been a small piece of paper on which he had written,‘Pour a drop of water between my lips, thank you’. Now every Good Friday I am reminded of how the dying do thirst, when we sing ‘His are the thousand sparkling rills … and yet he saith ‘ I thirst’ (5).
On hearing the news of my brother I could eat no more, but went straight to my cabin bunk. ‘Two shall be in the field of Battle, one shall be taken and the other left’ (6).
The details of my uncle’s death, given by Chaplain H.E Bird’s in his Letter of 19th July, 1916, tie up closely with my father’s ‘Memories’ 1967. These in turn no doubt rely on a note in my father’s 21st Birthday Album, 12th July, 1916, but probably added some years later which reads: ‘Soldier Jones gave a piece of paper to my Mother on which was written by my brother Sydney, as he lay dying on the battlefield:‘Pour a drop of water between my lips. Thank you’.
(1) The Revd H.E. BIRD C QMS: Chaplain to the Forces, serving with the 1/5th Staffordshire Regt.(As Chaplain to Queen Mary’s School, Walsall, he probably went straight to the Front without any specific training).1/5th S Staffords were now at Berles au Bois, a commune, 5 miles (8Km) approx. from Foncquevillers. His letter is presumably in answer to one from Pte Bertie Hibbett enquiring about his brother.
(2) A ‘Blighty’: a serious wound that sent a soldier back Home. My father’s Blighty was a gun-shot wound to his right wrist & a wound to his neck (both of which we were aware of as children); he also had a minor wound to his left wrist. The German heavy 77mm guns had fired from 3 miles away behind Essarts. [See 1st July Operations. Appendix 1.]
(3) Arthur Venables*dressed Pte Bertie’s wound on the battlefield. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.His family lived near 95, Foden Rd. See previous Hibbett Posts.
(4) Anaestheticin WW1: chloroform, ether, ethyl chloride and nitrous oxide (oxygen mixture). The RAMC had pitifully few resources to cope with the grossly under-estimated number of casualties for the first day of the Somme. Pte Bertie’s fellow patients at Le Treport either did not have any anaesthetic or were re-acting badly to it’s effects. See <https://www.asaabstracts.com>: no development in anaesthesia since mid-19th Cent. /no new anaesthetics until 1940, but experience of WW1 put Britain at forefront of 20th Cent. development in anaesthetics. It is a ‘most unfortunate irony how modern medicine owes some of its existence to the existence of war‘. Anthony L. Kovac MD. University Kansas. 2006.
(5) Hymnbased onChrist’s words from the Cross, ‘I thirst’,John 19.29. Mrs Cecil Alexander,1875. (6) ‘One shall be taken the other left’: Matthew 24. 40-44.Apocalyptic/ poetic language to describe the Last Days, a future End Time (Eschaton).
NEXT POST:20th July 1916: ‘Back in the Homeland bearing the Marks of Unthinkable Experiences’.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, British Red Cross Hospital, The Cenacle, New Brighton, Cheshire: LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. [Written with the left hand. Pages very faint, barely decipherable in places]
‘The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge, It is Thou that savest us from our enemies. We make our boast of God all day long and will praise Thy Name for ever’ (1).
‘O God the Protector of all them that trust in Thee’. Collect & Psalms:- Fourth Sunday after Trinity (2).
July 9th/ 16.
My Dearest Brave Mother,
A burst of sunshine and the ‘Dark Cloud’ vanished– the ‘Buoy’ has at last come Home (3). Although I am so far from you as Birkenhead you will no doubt feel me warmly nearer to you, won’t you Mumsie? Turn right over for page 2.
Ha ha har! You see me Dearies at Home, no one, not even Apollo or Jupiter or Penelope, Hermes, Mars, Saturn, Adonis, Orpheus, nor strong & mighty Thor, nor boisterous rude Boreas, yea and cunning Medusa or any other of those ancient gods can prevent me, by their all magical powers from writing my usual Sunday letter to my Home sweet Home(4).
As afore-mentioned in the PC to Dad yesterday I am training my left hand to do something for its living.
This Sunday morning is beautiful.I have had my‘Bon Breakfast’, of bread & butter with a new laid egg & refreshing tea.I am now sitting up in the cot to write something for you to pass away a happy moment in our sunny garden,where very nearly two years ago you, my darling Mummy, lavished a nice garden tea for those little Sunday School Boys of mine (5).
When you come Mummy you will see that this place is not a Military Hospital.The sistersare very kind & tender & there are two elderly nurses who are almost angels when they come to dress my wound. But dearest Mumsie don’t – Halt! one of those two, who has come to dress the other patients, has just told me to ‘give them my love’ –
Now dear Mummy don’t be afraid of me just saying that the wound is painfulbecause I wish you to know that when I am trying hard to bear the pain. I like to picture you as that angel in the famous painting ‘The Happy Warrior’ (6), kissing my brow.Yes a Mother’s kiss will do lots to heal a wound & a Father’s all wise & quiet sympathy, like my Dad, will act with the same wonder.
A pause for a rest – and now once more to the breach – my left – across paper – Quick march! Left – right – left.
My word the Lancashire lassiescan’t arf cheer,talk about the most excitable & most embarrassing moment I have ever had.When we passed through Southampton on the Thursday we arrived, I found that both rich & poor had not grown the least tired in cheering & waving their hands & smiling; from every window, door, or corner along the side of theRailway, people gave us their appreciation. As for Birmingham,where we passed through at7 pm, they had thepoliceto keep the crowds back – with ropes too, but even that preventative could not stop some eager ‘bird’ to flutter under the rope & throw a gift into the carriage.
Nurses of the St John’s Ambulance came with big flat trays on which were piled oranges & other fruit; on other trays there weremeat sandwiches,while others hadpipes & smokes& othersweets. Then, as the train passed out, the nurses could be seen to stand to attention.
The Finale came when we arrived at Birkenhead. Lined all along the platform were private cars in which the owners drove us to New Brighton (where I am now). As soon as the train stopped a voice was heard to shout ‘Double’ and – like a streak of lightning – there rushed down dozens of civvies to the carriage doors (which were of course locked) (7). Then each civvy took a ‘Woundy’ Tommy & helped him into a car. As each car left the station the occupants received stunning cheers from the dense crowd which stretched through the entrance of the station & all up both sides of the first street.
I leave it to you to imagine how I looked & felt.
Now it is all peaceful in this sunny room where I can have my ‘bit’ of Sunday easier than those previous. I read the Collect & Psalms for today,as you will see by the special texts I have picked out & put at the head of this letter.
Never before have I felt the Psalms to be more appropriate for these fighting days. After the experience of trench warfare and artillery bombardmentI still believe in that principle that is signified in verse 7 of Psalm 44‘But it is not my sword that shall help me, but it is Thou that savest us . . . ‘.
Then the Collect too is most suitable for those concerned in the Great Allied Offensive.What too can be more encouraging and comforting than the first verse in the Epistle.‘I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us’– which applies to those at Home as well at to those at the Front.
We are getting excellent food here, fresh fish & good milk puddings & stewed fruit.What a delight to taste them after so long without. Yes I have a great, great deal to be thankful for.
This afternoon is also sunny. I am trusting you too are having fine weather & an ideal Sunday. I hope you & Ida got the brooches which, (as I told Harold in a letter I sent, a day or so beforeThe Saturday)were handmade by a Soldier’s crippled friend in England.
Ida’s parcel & your letter following that tin parcel came just happily timely, as did a nice parcel from Miss Brookes*.I did think I was lucky in receiving them so timely & you must know how happy I felt when I got your parcel with the current bread in,for although it came on the Wednesday of that week we all thought we were going up from those Huts where we were spending a rest that Wednesday night (8).
We eventually went to the trenches on the Friday night, and arrived early on the Saturday morning, only having five or ten minutes to fetch & drink some soup. At which time I saw Sydney pass me with his Platoon. ‘‘So long Sydney!” I greeted him & since then I did not see him again.
I am hoping for the best, & it will not believe anything until there comes something definite & official (9). ‘Let us prove all things’,sais St Paul.I believe or rather trust in Those Heavenly Higher Hands that dear Brother Sydney will too‘finally not lose the things eternal’(10).
Now dears, Mother & Father I will close my usual S. letter with the same Sunday Wish that I hope you are enjoying the Day with Peace reigning in your Hearts by Faith & spending a Happy time all together with Basil (11) – (The Dodger that comforts Mother) – Harold & Hilda, to whom I send my love as well as to my affect. parents.
God bless you all.
Your affec. Bertie .
Last Page of Long Letter all in Left Hand:-
Pte Bertie Hibbett may have shown this drawing of the ruined Church of Our Lady, Foncquevillers, to one of his nurses; she then gave him a Postcard sent her by her boyfriend, M. Nelson, R.E. in Oct 1916. My father then worked on a pen & ink sketch of his own, which I remember always hung in his study.
My Dad has kept one soldier sitting on the wall, reflected in the water & added the famous sign ‘To BERLIN. Up Traffic Only’ – and soldiers carrying ladders.In his last Letter of 27th June before the Battle, he said he had at last managed to find his Mother ‘a few June roses‘ – hence the note ‘wild roses‘ in his Letter’s drawing above.
Strangely enough, when my sister & I arrived at Foncquevillers by bike a hundred years later, the Church clock said five to three, exactly the time the clock had stopped during bombardment – & as Dad remembered it.
(1) ‘The Lord of Hosts is with us’.Psalm 46.7.(2) ‘The God & Protector of all that put their trust in Thee.’Collect. Bk of Common Prayer, 1662.
(3)Keep the Home Fires Burning:’There’s a silver lining through the Dark Cloud shining’.Ivor Novello.
(4) Greek & Roman mythology&art was all part of a classical education in the early 20th Cent. From 1907-1921, George G. Harrap& Co. Ltd published the seriesMyths & Legends (of the world) which my father collected after the War.
(5) Bertie Hibbett’s 19th Birthday teafor his Walsall Sunday School pupils, at No 95 Foden Rd.See Hibbett Letter 12th July 1915.
(6) The Happy Warrior: George Frederick Watts, English painter/ Symbolist Movement. 1817-1904. After the poem The Character of the Happy WarriorWilliam Wordsworth 1806 : “Who is the Happy Warrior, who is he that every man in arms should wish to be . . . ? It is the generous spirit . . . an inward light . . . that makes the path before him always bright . . . more able to endure, as more exposed to suffering & distress . . . Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim . . . This is the Happy Warrior, this is he, that every man in arms should wish to be.”
(7) Ambulance train doors locked:to prevent scale of Somme casualties affecting national morale?
(8) Humbercamps Huts: 3 miles from Front Bertie expected to march at 2.00 am. 29th July. Battle delayed 2 days.
(9) The South Staffords Roll Book, held in 1/5th S Staffordshire Regiment Museum, Whittington Barracks, Lichfield reads, simply :- ‘Sydney Hibbett: Missing. Expectation of Death. 1.7.1916’. Bertie Hibbetthad probably not yet told his parents the detailed news he had heard of Sydney. cf ‘My Memories’. 1967. It was several years before they had confirmation of death.
(10) I Thessalonians 5.21; & Collect for 4th Sunday after Trinity.
NEXT POST: 19th July 1916. ‘With regard to your brother Syd, I fear the worst has happened’.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, 1/5th South Staffords. British Red Cross Hospital, The Cenacle, New Brighton, Birkenhead: PICTURE POSTCARD to ALL at 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
Written with the left hand in tiny writing with his new address given by a nurses’ hand. Posted in plain envelope.
They wouldn’t let me come Home till I was wounded. But never mind Dearies. I feel proud to have been in the ‘Big Push’. I stayed at this Hotel (see picture)(what oh!) 2 days before crossing.
You will be pleased to know I had a calm crossing & wasn’t ‘mal de mère’. Arrived Southampton 1 am. Thursday.
‘Grande Reception’ at B’ham Stn. 7 pm. Reception De Luxe on arrival at Birkenhead about 9.0 pm.
Private cars drove us to this H(e)aven of Rest.
Best Love to all. Bertie.
On leaving Gommecourt Battlefield on 1st July, it took 2 days for Pte Bertie Hibbett to travel by Motor Ambulance & Train to a Hospital set up in the expensive-looking Trianon Hotel, on the cliffs at Le Treport. There he spent another two days before crossing the Channel from Le Havre to Southampton arriving on Thursday 6th July.
By 7th July he was in The Cenacle, New Brighton, Birkenhead – owned by nuns – now a Red Cross Hospital.
NEXT POST:9th July, 1916.NB. Back on track now after return from remarkable visit to Fonquevillers & Gommecourt. Almost over-looked 7th July Postcard !
J. V. WILSON, CHAPLAIN TO THE FORCES, 1/6th SOUTH STAFFS, FIRST FIELD DRESSING STATION FONQUEVILLERS CHURCH CRYPT: PLAIN POSTCARD (FPO) to A. HIBBETTEsq, Education Officer, Town Hall, Walsall, Staffs, England.(Posted 3rd July).
July 1st 1916.
I have just seen your son Bertie in Hospital (1). He is wounded in the right wrist, but otherwise is alright & I think you needn’t worry about him. He is being sent on to another Hospital so don’t write till you hear from him.
He just saw Sidney for a few moments this morning. He was alright. I hope you will have Bertie back soon.
J. V. Wilson C.F. 1/ 6 South Staffs.
MY MEMORIES OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME: 1967.
‘The Men of the North Midland Division of Territorials did not turn their backs on the enemy. On a large board, posted against a wall of the ruined Church atFonquevillers, was printed in large letters:‘TO BERLIN – UP TRAFFIC ONLY’.
‘The climax of my war experience came on the first of July, 1916, when the Battle of The Somme began in earnest. We learnt later that the whole of the British Army was to advance that day (2).The ‘Mad Staffords’ of the 46th Division went forward to capture Gommecourt.
The first of July 1916 was a bright, sunny day. We had been allowed to buy biscuits in Fonquevillers villageat the back of the lines. I bought some, called ‘Petit Beurre‘, and they came in useful. Whenever we buy them now they always remind me of the time I was waiting to go‘Over the Top’.
We had been waiting in our trenches, facing the Germans, for many weeks before the Charge. During that time I was detailed off to do an official drawing of the German Front Line, showing Gommecourt Village and Wood with the Sunken Road beyond, the German enfilade trench and with all the trees as exact as I could. This was my small contribution in preparation for the ‘Big Push’. I had the use of a periscope, and was disguised as a sandbag in case I had to look over the top of the trench to see the formation of the trees and the trenches more clearly (3).
It was while I was making this sketchthat I was amazed to see some very old German soldiers, with long white beards, using mechanical excavators in their front line, and making great loads of earth fly up in the air.
I also spotted a dead cow’s head, which I presumed was used as a German sniper’s post. I feel pretty sure that it was from there that our parapet was peppered with German bullets whenever I attempted to put up my periscope. “Keep away from Hibbett and his periscope !” was the general cry.
What terrified me more than the enemy shells and bullets was the sight of our men allowed to drink over much.It was a mistake to have given our men leave to drink alcohol before the Big Push.Some of them, delirious with too much to drink, were throwing mudat each other and I was afraid that they would throw mud at me. It was sights such as these that have made me keep off beer ever since.
I got wounded on that day. I was going forward in the trenches towards the front lines.ALeicester runner,hastening to deliver an urgent message,his voice competing with the noise of gun-fire, came shouting from the rear: “Bend your backs, me lads! Bend your backs! The Tiger’s face doesn’t turn away from the enemy!” (4).
We all bent our backs in the trench and the runner, I can see him now, ran along our backs, head and shoulders above the trench, exposing himself to the enemy, while shells kept bursting on either side of him.
The Germans trained their machine-gun fire into our trench (5). My hands got scratched with the barbed wire contraption getting caught in the sides of the nam trench (sic)(6).The situation got hopeless. We were advanced beyond Gommecourt Wood and found it was no use carrying the chev de frieze any further (7). I got lost in the confusion of the bombing.
I got to where I believe was the point our Front Line faced the German enfilade trench I had sketched in the days before (8). There to my amazement I saw British soldiers lying close on the floor of the trench, like sardines in a tin – some dead and some dying with groans.
A sergeant called out to me from a dugout: “Come in here or you will soon be like those lying there.” To my lasting remorse I was forced to tread on the bodies of those poor men.My right wrist was bleeding badly from a shrapnel wound and a chum called (Arthur) Venables* (9) tied an emergency field dressing on it. I learned later that he was killed and I pray he may be rewarded in heaven.
My experiences before and during the Battle were terrible to me, but curious enough I felt serene until I was told to make for the First Field Dressing Station.I made my way in haste to get out of the trenches: full of our dead, all with tarpaulins and ground sheets over them.
I stood waiting in the mouth of the trench near to Fonquevillers Church and the Dressing Station in the Crypt, and there I was interviewed by Padre T.Howard* (10)(whom I was to meet again, after the War, at Lichfield Theological College).
I received treatment against tetanus, then it was a great relief, despite the cobbles that shook my wounds, to leave the Battle behind, and be sent by Ambulance to an open field to await the train which was to take us to Hospital.
I shall never forget seeing the wounded lying in the sunshine in that wide field. It was just as if so many washer-women had laid out their ‘whites’ on the ground to dry – men with wounded arms, legs and heads all bandaged up.
There on his horse sat the Colonel* (11), staring at the sorry sight. Then I saw, lying on the field, Alan Machin*, an old Grammar School Boy of QMS, Walsall (12).
Pte Bertie Hibbett appears to have got further, than I first thought, across No Man’s Land before he was wounded. In his Memories he describes the British Front Line Trench opposite the German enfilade trench as full of dead & dying. He mentions German machine gun fire & enfilade fire. This was about 9.30 am. 2 hours after Zero hour accord. to S. Staffords War Diary. NB Being ‘beyond Gommecourt Wood’ is puzzling until one remembers the objective was The Z.
That the 137th Brigade attack had failed was reported to Major General Sir Stuart Wortley at 8.55 am. 1st Wave 5th N. Staffs were in advanced trench. 2 Waves were in Old British Front Line (with Pte Bertie Hibbett wounded & Corp. Venables). The 6th North Staffs were stopped; if in German First Line then not supported. Orders made to open artillery fire on whole of western edge of Gommecourt Wood. At 9.33 am 5th N. Staffs were unable to move forward because of congestion in forward trenches. At 9.35 am 6th S. Staffs reported not enough men to continue attack.
ARMY CHAPLAINS. 5,000 Chaplains served in WW1, many going straight from their parishes without training. 168 or morelost their lives. Their original role was to take services & burials well away from the Battlefields. Increasingly in 1914-1918 War Chaplains felt compelled to serve on the Front Line, experiencing the full brutality of War. Burials of soldier’s pals, where they fell, was important for morale but extremely dangerous. The service would be a simple prayer taken from Revelation 14.13: I heard a voice from heaven saying: ‘Blessed are they that die in the Lord, even so saith the Spirit for they rest from their labours’.See Hugh Pym BBC <http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides>
(1) The Revd J.V. Wilson, C.F. used the term ‘Hospital’ in his FPO to Pte Bertie’s father, no doubt to re-assure him that his son was being well cared for. But this would be a reference to the very basic First Field Dressing Station in Fonquevillers Church Crypt – orthe Field Ambulance (stationery tent/ not vehicle) in a field away from the Front; where the wounded would have been collected from the whole of 46th Midland Division.
Pte Bertie’s train might have gone from Arras, in which case it is possible my father might have known the underground ‘Hospital’ in the tunnels below La Grande Place(where names of wounded soldiers are scratched on walls). Since he never mentioned this it is more likely to have been Bethune? It took a painful ‘one & a half days’ for himto arrive at a Hotel cum Hospital on the cliffs at Le Treport, near Rouen.
(2) The Battle of the Sommeextended from Fonquevillers/ Gommecourt in the north – to beyond Mametz in the south/ i.e. notthe wholeof the Western Front.
(3) Pencil Sketch:After the Somme Battle, one lesson learned was that every soldier, not just Officers & N.C.Os, was given a maps of enemy trenches which he was expected to learn.My father kept a copy of this drawing very carefully for 50 years.Sadly it went missing following a Toc H Exhibition in Skegness in 1960s.Reward to anyone who may know of its whereabouts. Size 5″ x 12″ approx . Please contact: <email@example.com > .
(4) Royal Leicester Regt. ‘Tiger’ Hindoostani Badge. Awarded 1825 for services in India.
(5)Machine gun fireat approx. 9.25. See Staffords War Diary. 1st July 1916. (6) Nam’ trench? Maybe my father meant a ‘sap trench’/ a shallow trench dug hastily at night before a Charge to help men gain further ground across No Man’s Land without detection (in this case about a 1000 yards.
(7) Cheval de frise:barbed wire entanglement nicknamed ‘knife rest’;(ref. medieval defence against cavaliers). Before a Charge, each soldier had to carry forward a piece of equipment from piles at entrance to trenches: e.g. wire cutters/ shovels/ – or these iron stakes. <https://WW1 revisited.com>.
(8) GermanEnfilade Fire: at approx 9.30 am. See previous 1st July Post.
(9) Padre Howard*: one of a number of Padres who comforted my father in extremity; whose faith & courage no doubt re-enforced his own sense of calling to the Anglican priesthood. (10) Corp. Arthur Venables*: See Pte Bertie’s Tribute ‘To Fallen Comrade’, Walsall Observer & S. Staffordshire Chronicle. 12th August 1916.Commemorated on Thiepval Memorial to Missing.
(11) Lt Col Richmond Raymer. Evidence that Col. Raymer, though wounded, was still on duty on horseback/ in command 1/5th S. Staffords.Major Adabie* ordered Major Lord 1/5th S Staffs ‘to find his woundedC.O Lt Col Raymer, to order an advance led by 1/5th Bn & supported by 2 companies of 5th Leicesters.
This order issued at 2.30 pm: ‘Add all details of previous waves from this morning’s attack to new 3rd wave. Take forward all Lewis Guns you can find. Instruct first wave to take all men forward they find in the New Front Line. Officers and N.C.Os must reconnoitre with periscopes all gaps in our wire and in the hostile wire so as to be able to lead the men through‘.
See Staffords War Diary, previous 1st July Post/ List of Casualties below/ & Alan MacDonald: ‘A Lack of Offensive Spirit’.
(12)2/LtAlan Machin*: wounded with a ‘Blighty’, died 1918 in UK/ influenza epidemic? Mentioned many times in Hibbett Letters.
1/5th Bn. SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGT. July 1st 1916.
LIST OF CASUALTIES.**Known to Pte Bertie Hibbett/ amongst original Walsall volunteers/ QMS Cadet Force, 1914. NB. recognition of Shell Shock.
Officers Killed: Capt F. Eglington.
Missing, Believed Killed: 2/ Lt G.T. R. Knowles. Missing: Lt J. F. Thorne; 2/Lt F. A. Fawcett; 2/Lt H.Allen** (Commemorated Lochnagar Crater by QMSchool, Walsall, 2016); 2/ Lt T.R. Sanger**; 2/Lt S. J. Ellison.
Wounded.Lt Col.R. R. Raymer**; 2/Lt. L.A. Evans; 2/Lt H. G. Cozens**; 2/Lt L. W. C. Capsey; 2/Lt J. R. Cartwright; 2/Lt E. J. U. Turner; 2/Lt A.E. Machin**.
Wounded (Shell Shock). Major W. A. Wistance**; Capt. C.Lister**.
Other Ranks:Killed12. Missing23. Wounded & Missing1(Sgt Sydney Hibbett. Commemorated Lochnagar Crater by QMSchool, Walsall, 2016).
SUMMARY OF CASUALTIES JULY 1916: OfficersKilled1.Missing, Believed Killed1; Missing5; Wounded 7; Wounded (Shell Shock)2.
Other Ranks.Killed13; Missing23; Wounded & Missing1. Wounded 108;Wounded accidentally1; Wounded (Self inflicted)1.Slightly Wounded, remained at Duty 4; Wounded (Shell Shock)20; Injured, remained with Battn. for light duty.1.
Signed:J. Lamond.Capt Adjt for Major (Lord) Comdg 1/5th Bn South Staffordshire Regiment.
HUMBERCAMP. 29th June Thur: In Rest Billets. Y1 Day. [Editor: originally ‘Z Day’ / bad weather caused delay of two days.]
30th June. HUMBERCAMP. In Rest Billets. Y2 Day. The Battalion paraded at 11.30 pm to proceed to trenches to carry out operations against hostile positions in GOMMECOURT WOOD, VILLAGE and PARK.
SUMMARY of CASUALTIES IN JUNE 1916: OFFICERS: Killed 1. WOUNDED 2. OTHER RANKS: Killed 14. Wounded: 37. (1 returned to duty). SHELL SHOCK: 7 . (4 returned to duty). TOTAL CASUALTIES: OFFICERS: 3 (1 Self Inflicted Wound). OTHER RANKS: 58.
Signed: J. LAMOND Capt & Adjt.Cmdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment. *****************************
THE HISTORY OF THE SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT.
July 1st 1916. Battle of the Somme.
‘ 137th Infantry Brigadewas ordered to attack Gommecourt Wood and Village at a point in front of the British line, 4 miles north of Beaumont Hamel looking towards Bapaume. The Infantry Brigade was ordered to commence at 7.30 in 4 waves.
After intense barrage from our artillery, covered by smoke barrage, the men advanced to the enemy’s first line. It was penetrated by ‘D’ Company of 1/6th S. Staffs. Other companies were not so successful. Intenseartillery fire plastered the attack. Intense shrapnel barrage was directed by enemy observers, as it followed our troops as they moved forward. Other small parties were able to enter the enemy’s lines but couldn’t obtain a permanent footing there. Others were held up by the enemy’s wire where it had not been so well cut. ’
‘From dawn to long after noon our men endured this awful fire, but the ground penetrated could not be held and by evening the brigade was back in the old trenches.’
1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
1st July Sat: FONQUEVILLERS. 2 AM. Battalion proceeded to trenches and took up position in Assembly Trenches prior to operations. 7.30 AM Operations against GOMMECOURT WOOD and VILLAGE. See Appendix 1. Editor: Attack on northern flank of German 2nd Guard Reserve Division (under General Freiherr von Subkind-Schwend) and Baden Infantry Regt. 170 (BIR) of 52nd Division (under Generalleutnant Karl von Barries).
2nd July Sun: 3.30 AM. Left Assembly Trenches and occupied Corps Line Trenches 1 mile EAST of SOUASTRE. 12.30 PM Marched to SOUASTRE. 8.PM. Marched to BERLES-AU-BOIS [Ed: a commune 7.8 km (4.5 miles) from Fonquevillers, beyond Monchy-au-Bois].
NARRATIVE OF EVENTS DURING OPERATIONS ON 1.7.1916.
The Battalion was in position in the Assembly Trenches by 4.30 AM.
All waves moved forward as ordered. 2nd wave ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘F’ Bombing Partiesreached theGermanFront Line with very few casualties and commenced bombing in accordance with programme. 3rd wave ‘C’ and ‘G’ Bombing Parties.Only ‘G’ Party got into the German Front line. ‘C’ party did not get beyond the enemy wire. Only two men were left, the remainder were struck by shrapnel.
Editor: Serjeant SYDNEY HIBBETT was most likely leading his platoon in the 1st or 2nd Wave. He was reported to have fallen in No Man’s Land, probably in the first half hour. Someone found him severely wounded and gave him a drop of water, but could not stay. Later in the day he was found to have died from his injuries. His body lost its identity in further shelling. It would have been a few days before it was safe to bury him where he fell, with a simple prayer by a Chaplain, and a Wooden Cross placed over him with the inscription ‘Unknown Serjeant, S. Stafford’.
4th wave ‘D’ and ‘E’ Bombing Parties were held up at the enemy wire, and retired to ahollow in the ground about 50xfrom the German wire.Our detail of the 5th wave was impeded by the Lewis Gun teams of the 6th South in the Old Front Line. The Officer Commanding decided to pass them and went forward to the New Front Line, where he found 1 officer and about 20 other ranks 6th South of the 2nd wave,who stated they had had to retire.He sent this party forward, deployed his portion of the 5th wave and some of the 6th and advanced until compelled to halt owing to casualties just in front of the German barbed wire.
The left platoon of our detail of the 6th Wave report that portions of the 3rd and 4th waves 6th South were still in the New Front Line Trench and blocked their further advance during the remainder of the operation. [Ed: New Front Line Trench dug during night/s before Z Day to get troops further across ‘unusually wide’ No Man’s Land at Zero Hour]
The Officer Commandingour detail of the 7th Wave Capt. Eglington*, deployed and advanced over the New Front Line Trench, and about 20 yards from the German wire this officer was killed.No further progress of any note was made.
The 8th Wavedid not advance beyond theOld British Front Line.
The Reserve Companywas held up by3 parties of R.Es in NOTTINGHAM STREET from 7.40 AM until noon, about 500 yards from the firing line.
About 5 minutes after Zero[Ed: i.e. 7.40 am]theCommunication Trenches NOTTINGHAM STREET – SEDGELEY STREET – andDERBY DYKEwere heavily shelled with 105 mm H.E. inflicting several casualties on the 6th and 7th waves damaging these trenches and thus impeded their advance.
Editor: Pte Bertie Hibbett was severely wounded in Derby Dyke about this time, having lost his way in the confusion of the bombing. His Walsall pal, Corp. Arthur Venables*, (killed later that day) saved his life by dressing his wound but then had to move on. Forced to tread on the dead & the dying, Bertie had to make his way back against the oncoming waves – – to the First Field Dressing Station in the Crypt of Fonquevillers Church.
The enemy opened fire with machine guns,one in FORD trench, and one in their first line parapet on GOMMECOURT ROAD on our advancing waves.
The New Front Line trenchwas under obliquemachine gun firefrom the direction of The Z till about 9.30 AM. The guns then moved and enfilade fire was brought to bear on that trench. [Ed: see arrows on Gommecourt Front Line Diagram above]
The Old Front Line and retrenchment was under heavy 77 mm gun fire during the early part of the operation.The batteries were firing from behind ESSARTS.[Ed: (Essarts, Boucres, a commune (3.3 km) 2 miles away from Fonquevillers, towards Arras].
The SUCRERIE was hit by our own shells(4.5 howitzer) about 11.0 AM. [Ed: The Sucrerie: foundation of old Sugar Factory in No Man’s Land, in front of Gommecourt Wood New Cemetery.]
About 2.0 PM the shelling of our sector diminished.
Enemy barraged our Front Line and Communication Trenches with 77 mm and 105 mmfrom 3.30 PM to 4.30 PM.
In addition to orders issued by Major Abadie* for the attack timed for 3.30 PM. I issued the following orders to the battalion.
‘Add all details of previous wavesfrom this morning’s attack to new 3rd wave. Take forward all Lewis Guns you can find.Instruct first wave to take all men forwardthey find in the New Front Line. Officers and N.C.Osmust reconnoitre with periscopesall gaps in our wire and in the hostilewire so as to be able to lead the men through’.
Issued 2.30 PM.Signed: J. LAMOND.Capt & Adjt. 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.
A Diversionary tactic, to draw German troops away from the french Army attack on Verdun, the 1/5th & 1/6th Staffordshire Regiment’s Gommecourt attack was doomed to failure from the start. On 24th June, a 1/5th N. Staffords soldier, captured & injured, gave the Germans details of the British Attack under interrogation.
Gommecourt Village (9.3 miles from Albert) is built on ‘4 flat-topped ridges in shape of a flattened X (the ends pointing towards Essarts, Rossignol Wood, west side of Hebuterne & eastern fringe of Fonquevillers)’. The German Front Line on the north-west side of this Gommecourt Salient overlooked 2,000 yards of the British Front Lines. British Assembly Trenches were in very poor condition from rain & shelling. Communication telegraph wires & substituted alignment tapes were cut by German bombing. Troops were impeded by smoke screen & deep mud in an ‘unusually wide’ No Man’s Land.
Germans emerged from very deep dugouts (electric light & underground kitchens) completely unscathed when British barrage ceased. Troops were caught in enfilade/ crossfire from both ‘The Z’ and the corner of Gommecourt Salient/ Gommecourt Road. Very few Staffords got beyond the wire into the German Front Line Trench. It was a very hot day.
For further detail see:A Lack of Offensive Spirit. Alan MacDonald /website<https:// en-wikipedia.org /Attack on Gommecourt Salient> & many other sites.
NEXT POST: 1ST JULY 1916:Fonquevillers Church Crypt: First Field Dressing Station & Army Chaplains.
NB: The 1st July postshave been delayed by my visit to the Battlefields at Gommecourt & the grave of my uncle Serjeabt Sydney Hibbett ‘Believed to be Buried’ in Gommecourt Wood New Cemetery.
I was delighted to meet and exchange stories with so many people on 1st July – 4th July: French , Belgian, English, American & Canadian. If there are any inaccuracies in this post I would be very pleased to hear from you. EFW. 7th July 2016.
The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.