29th July 1916: OPEN AIR SERVICES: ‘EVERYONE HAS BEEN VERY GOOD IN TURNING OUT FOR US’.

Market High Street, Walsall
The Parish Church of St Matthew & Market High Street, Walsall. PC1914.

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.

Streetly. Saturday.

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. 

Sutton Park: Keeper's Pool.
Sutton Park: Keeper’s Pool.

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 Flag you sent him is being preserved for him until he is bigger. His one idea now is to tear things and bang them about.

KRRC badgeimgres
Kings Royal Rifles..

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 regimenthe’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.

************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

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 RoadIcknield 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.

All Saints Streetly Staffordshire.
All Saints Streetly, Staffordshire.

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&gt;

(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’.

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