‘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.
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 to Birmingham.
When we neared our home town of Walsall we Staffordshire boys thought 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 at Birkenhead, 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 & Greek were 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 of 1st cent colloquial (‘koine’) Greek as found in the New Testament, before they 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!
NEXT POST: 29th July 1916.