BRITISH RED CROSS & ORDER OF ST.JOHN  Enquiry Department for Wounded & Missing: LETTER to ARTHUR HIBBETT Esq. Education Offices, Walsall (1).

Red Cross Letter18, Carlton House Terrace, S.W.  (2)                       23rd October, 1916.                                                                                                                                                                     Dear Sir,    

Sgt. S. Hibbett  8830 1/5th S Staffs

We are extremely sorry to tell you that we have received a very sad report about your son from Pte W. Morris*, 1107, of the same Company and Battalion, now in Spalding Hall V.A.D. Hospital, Hendon (3).

Our information states that Sgt Hibbett was wounded during the fighting at Gommecourt on 1stJuly and fell in No Man’s Land.  When the stretcher bearers reached him later in the day he was found to have died of his injuries.  Our informant was not an eye-witness of this event but was told of it by the other men in the Battalion.

He adds that he knew your son well and described him as being about 5’ 9 or 10” in height and of a light complexion (4).

We do not attach much importance to second-hand reports but we greatly fear that there can be very little hope of your son being alive, as had he been taken prisoner we think we should have received his name before now on one of the official lists from Germany (5).

With renewed assurance of our sincere sympathy,

Yours faithfully,                    K. Robson for the Earl of Lucan (6).

Arthur Hibbett, Education Offices, Walsall.



In the four months after 1st July, the first day of the Battle for the Somme, the Hibbett Family had heard nothing about Serjeant Sydney Hibbett’s whereabouts, except informal verbal reports that he had fallen in No Man’s Land opposite Gommecourt Wood. [See my father’s Memories of the First World War; Letters from H.E.Bird, QMS Chaplain, 1/5th Staffords/19.7.1916; Sgt W.Gried(sp?) 17.8.1916; ‘Your Old Pal Ben’/19.9.1916]. 

british-red-cross-merit-badge-w1901This Letter from the Red Cross was obviously in answer to one from Arthur Hibbett giving details of his son’s rank, height & complexion, and asking whether he had been taken prisoner. Sadly the Red Cross news was still second-hand. No eyewitness evidence had yet come forward. The Family had to wait nearly three years before they received official notice from the War Office that Sydney Hibbett was ‘Missing Presumed Killed in Action’ and a further year or more before they found what is ‘believed to be’ his grave.

NB. This Letter is an example of a War Office directive to discard official forms when answering enquiries, so that families might feel ‘a personal interest was being taken’ in their loved one.

(1) Education Offices, Walsall. No doubt in order to protect their Mother from receiving distressing news at 95, Foden Road, Bertie Hibbett & his brother had arranged for War Office Letters to be sent to their Father, Arthur Hibbett, Chief Education Officer for the Borough of Walsall. 

Carlton House Terrace.
Carlton House Terrace, near Trafalgar Square, London.

(2) Carlton House Terrace: Regency Mansion Grade 1 Listed. Lent by Lord Astor to Red Cross for duration of War. (Terrace also housed Lady Ridley’s Hospital). (Sold in 2013 for £250 million/’ size of football pitch’).

In 1914 the British Red Cross formed the Joint War Committee with the Order of St John.  Lord Robert Cecil (London Branch of Red Cross) established the Department for Missing & Wounded Enquiry Services. Regulated by the War Office, the Red Cross was declared the only organisation permitted to enquire of the Missing. See <https://www.redcross.org.uk&gt;  Offices were set up at 83, Pall Mall; then 20, Arlington Street (lent by Lord Salisbury); later in July 1915 at Norfolk House, St James Square. Offices were also set up in Paris, Bologne, Rouen, Malta, Alexandria & Salonica to liaise with Base Hospitals & Army Rest Camps).  In July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme the Department began searching for all soldiers reported Missing whether or not friends & relatives had made enquiries. Monthly Enquiry Lists were made. A total of 342,248 enquiries were dealt with.

Spalding Hall Hendon.
Spalding Hall, Hendon. <https://www.losthospitals of london>

(3) Spalding Hall VAD Hospital, Hendon: Convalescent Military Hospital, 1915 -1919. Given for duration of the War by Hendon Congregational Church, Dec. 1914. Opened 1915 with 20 beds; run by local Middlesex/16 Voluntary Aid Detachment, VAD. [Named after Thomas Spalding founder member of Hendon Congregationalists].spaldinghall2

(4) Sydney Hibbett’s height: in the absence of Army Enlistment details this is useful personal detail.


   (5) Prisoners: Lists of captured British Soldiers were received direct from Germany through the Frankfurt Red Cross. Repatriated prisoners were sent to Reception Camps in France & England. 

(6) 6th Earl of Lucan: George Charles Patrick Bingham,1898 -1964. Irish Peer, British Soldier & Labour politician.  (Educated Eton. Known as Lord Bingham or Pat).  Director of Enquiry Department for Wounded & Missing from Sept. 1916 (aged 18) until close of work, March 1919. Commissioned in Coldstream Guards, wounded & won the M.C. at just 19 yrs. In 2nd World War: became Colonel commanding 1st Bn Coldstream Guards, 1940 -1945 & Dep. Director Ground Defence Air Ministry 1942 -1945. Served under Clement Atlee as Under Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs & as Opposition Chief Whip. [Painting by naturalised Dutchman Anton Van Anrooy R.J. 1870 -1949] .

NEXT POST: 6th Nov.1916: ‘QMS Flag at Half-Mast for Dear Sydney’.


Harold Hibbett. Abergele, August 1914.

HAROLD V. HIBBETT: LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, British Red Cross Hospital, The Cenacle New Brighton, Cheshire.

13, Lea Rd. W’hampton (1). Thursday.

My Dear Bertie,

It’s very bad of me not to have written before, but now I am writing you before I go to bed. I seem to have  a little peace & quietness up here, but nowhere else as at work I am very busy every minute & when I have finished work I get a little fresh air.

It is hard to realise that our dear brother has gone to that peaceful land where there is no war. We shall miss his cheerful voice & encouraging word. but we know that he is safe & all is well with him & he will be the first to greet us when we are called up yonder.  I hope he was not left in pain long, it doesn’t seem that he was. It seems to me that we have to be very thankful that you are with us old boy.

Although I don’t write as often as I might I am often thinking of you.  I hope your arm is getting along well & I hope I shall be able to welcome you Home before long. Our Home where mother is, that is our earthly home.  She grieves very much about our lost brother, but it will be our duty to alleviate the loss as well as we can.  I have been Home with Hilda, & Mrs Thacker* was there for tea.  We had a wire come from Ashton (2) to say that cousin Ada & Maggie (Yoxall?) are coming over tomorrow, that will liven Ma up a bit (3).  She keeps very well, but at time she has to give way for relief.

When I feel very sad & glum I think, well we have our brave lad Bertie to welcome back to his Home one day & I think that it is alright with Good Old Syd.  He is well & doesn’t want us to grieve for him.  As long as we remember him in our prayers then it will be all over one day & we shall have lost nothing, but our Syd will have gained a Golden Crown (4), more glorious than we shall ever have.

Dodger (5) was not very well this afternoon.  He is worried a bit at present.  I am keeping well, although we have a lot of work.  It behoves us to keep our spirits up in spite of all, because those that are left have a lot of work to do. Let me know all the latest about your arm, if it is likely to be much longer. I saw your Programme (6) this afternoon & it is splendid.  It is marvellous that you can do it with your left arm.

Well dear old lad keep your pekker up.  I often think of you.  If you want anything I will send you cash to get it.

With kind wishes & love from your affectionate brother,




Every now & again the Hibbett Letters raise a question which is happily answered in a Letter some weeks or months later. I must have read this Letter from Harold Hibbett to his brother many times but not noticed that it indicates quite clearly that  Pte Bertie Hibbett was not yet allowed Home from Hospital. Back in September I had been wondering about the date of the photograph of my father in uniform & labelled ‘outside 95 Foden Road’. I mistakenly deduced (from the poem ‘Back from the Front’ illustrating the 4th Oct. Concert Programme & the fact that the photo shows my father’s arm still in a sling) that he must have been allowed Home  for a visit before the Concert.  My father actually remained in Hospital until April 1917. 

I did not know my Uncle Harold. He  contracted TB whilst in the Army in WW1 & died in 1940 when I was two. He was the eldest of the five children. The few letters of his that survive are typical of a generous elder brother, to whom my father, eight years younger, looked to for advice. The Letter is interesting in the picture it gives of how a Christian family coped with the tragic loss of a son & a brother during the Battle of the Somme.

(1) Wolverhampton. Harold Hibbett was a Chemist & Photographer. He had sent many parcels of medications, creams & flea powders to his brothers at the Front. (2) Ashton under Lyne,Tameside, Greater ManchesterMarie Neal Hibbett’s Family Home. (3) Cousins Ada & Maggie (Yoxall?) Marie Neal’s nieces/ sisters? to the ‘Ashton Boys’ mentioned in Sydney’s first Letter, 19th Aug. 1914 as joining the Reserves.

Christ Pantocrator. Byzantine. St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai. 6th Cent.

(4) Golden Crown: an archetypal image/symbol of power/ emblem of authority, royalty, sovereignty, eternal heavenly reward. A Diadem (type of Crown/ golden headband). 

Apollo with circle of rays of light.  2nd Cent AD.
Assyrian Crown. Sennacherib
Assyrian King Sennacherib. reigned 720 – 683 BC.
Assyrian Crown.
Assyrian Crown.
Madonna Benois.











Many literary refs to Golden Crown in The Hebrew Bible/ Old & New Testament: e.g. Isaiah 28.5; Psalm 21.3; Exod.25.11; 37.25; I Cor. 9.25; & Revelation 2.10 ‘a Crown of Life’. Golden Crown images found in religious iconography world-wide: Ancient Greek/Roman; Christian; Buddhism; Hinduism see <www.biblical-history.com/sketches/ancient crowns.html>. Bible History Online.  Compare with Halo from Grk ‘Halos’: light/ aura/aureole/ glory/gloriole/ ray of light surrounding a figure/hero/ ruler. Evolution of the Halo in art history goes from a solid gold background to the whole body, a circle of gold around the head, a solid ring of gold around the head , to faint rays of light radiating from the head or faint circle as in Leonardo’s Madonna Benois above. AD 1478.

(5) Dodger (nickname for Basil Hibbett): no doubt worried about his call-up papers as well as his missing brother. (6) The Cenacle Concert Programme 4th Oct. 1916.

NEXT POST:  23rd Oct. 1916. News of Sydney Hibbett from the Red Cross.



CONCERT                 4th Oct.1916.







1.  Pte: Farrar H. R.A.M.C.  Pianoforte Solo:  Silver Ruin.

2.  Nurse Greenham.  Song: Had I but known where my caravan.

3.  Pte Kirk E.C. R.A.M.C.  Recitation: The Fireman’s Wedding.

4. Nurse Hay.  Recitation.

5. Nurse Cockeram.  Violin Solo. 

6. Pte: Wallace 23rd London Regt.   Song: Tennessee.

7.  Cpl: Beck Liverpool Scots.  Song: The Trumpeter.

8. Nurse Wilcox.  Song: Michigan.

9  Pte: Hibbett A.H. S. Staffs. Recitation: Sniper Atkins.

10.  Rflm Pays A.F.  Song:  Until.

11.  Nurse Evans. Violin Solo.

12. Pte A. Kelly. South Irish Horse. Song at Piano: Goo Goo Eyes.

13. Nurse O’Neil.  Song: I love the Moon.

14.  Cpl. Featherstone. Durham Light Infantry.  Song: Macafferty.

15.  Cpl. Byrd  C.B. Cold. Guard. Songs: Son of Mine. Shipmates o’mine.

Popular Choruses

GOD SAVE THE KING                                                Oct 4/16.



Where once the Nuns paced too and fro’, Now wounded Soldiers come and go, They liken the Cenacle to a herbal cure For the Matron and Nurses are so good and pure.

Oh! to sleep in a cosy bed On pillow soft to rest my head And have my sore wounds dressed by a kind nurse Whose virtue is mercy and nothing worse.  A.H.Hibbett. Oct 1916.





BACK from the FRONT. Dedicated to my Home.

Cheer O!  Cheer O! Here I fly!  Dodging shells which burst so high; Daring not to stop and sigh, I picture Home Sweet Home so dear. Ma and Pa are thinking of me At Home beyond that strip o’ sea, Where I so long and wish to be. Where I can banish all my fear.

Back Home! Back Home! There’s mon (sic) Mere And mon  (sic) Soeur, et Frere, et Pere. I kiss them all here and there. Then with our faces all aglow We gather round the fire-side. Putting war news on one side We talk until we’re satisfied. And very soon forget the foe.

Back Home! Back Home! Oh! What it is To feel the thrilling Heavenly Bliss To give my Mother a loving kiss. In my Home where I behold And see my father’s face again After my life of toil and pain Which I had not born in vain But for Freedom to uphold.  A.H. Hibbett. Oct 1916.

The Cenacle. View showing New Brighton Tower.
The Cenacle. Concert Programme Illustration showing New Brighton Tower.  A.H.Hibbett. 1916. Both The Cenacle & the Tower have been demolished. (See Tower Note below).



Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Letters from The Front show how much he enjoyed taking part in Army Concerts. He also describes Hospital Concerts given by the YMCA & Red Cross Nurses in France. It could well be that my father had a hand in organising this Cenacle Concert & another given on 10th Nov. 1916. Perhaps he even acted as Master of Ceremonies, as he did later in his College years.

The Programme of Recitations, Songs & Instrumental pieces is typical of Concerts during WW1 and a  good illustration of the talent amongst Cenacle soldiers & nurses alike. No doubt the Matron made sure the content was suitable for a respectable establishment My father’s illustrations, all done with his left hand, are delightful in their attention to detail. The Programme Shield could be that of the Cenacle when it was a Nunnery, but it is more likely one of his own designs – a phoenix rising from the ashes, a symbol of new life. 


(1) Pte: H. Farrar. (Royal Army Medical Corp). Pianoforte Solo: Silver Ruin. Connection to poem by Robert Burns, 1916? See From the Somme to Silver Tassie. ‘Sean O’Casey & the Contorted Legacy of 1916’ by Edward Mulhock.

(2) Nurse Greenham.  Song: Had I but known where my caravan rested. (Waltz Tune). Listed in Columbia Records Calendar, 1916-1917.

R.A.M.C Autogrphed Cigarette Papers. Red Cross Hospital. 1916.
R.A.M.C  Autographed Cigarette Paper: Pte Ernest C. Kirk, 1916.

(3) Pte Ernest C. Kirk. (Royal Army Medical Corp). Recitation: The Fireman’s Wedding. W.A. Eaton. Romantic ballad of young fireman who saved a young woman from fire & made her his bride.

(4) Nurse Kathleen Hay. Recitation.

Red Cross Nurses: Sonia Langdon & Kathleen Hay 1916.
Red Cross Nurses: Sonia Langdon & Kathleen Hay 1917. 
Signatures: Sonia Langdon & Kathleen Hay.April 12th 1917.
Cenacle Red Cross Nurse Cockeram.
Cenacle Red Cross Nurse Cockeram.

(5) Nurse Cockeram.  Violin Solo.

(6) Pte: Wallace. (23rd London Regt). Song. Tennessee.

(7)  Cpl: J. Beck. (1/10th Liverpool Scots). Song: The Trumpeter.1904. Words: J Francis Barron. Music: J. Airlie Dix 1862 -1911.

Corpral Beck
Corporal J. Beck.
Cigarette Paper Signature: Cpl J. Beck.






(8) Nurse Wilcox.  Song : Michigan. ‘Michigan, My Michigan’ – to the tune O Tannenbaum/ O Christmas Tree. Lyric: Winifred Lee Brent Lister 1862.

Bertie in Uniform
Pte A.H. Hibbett.
Sniper Atkins outer pages
Sniper Atkins. A.H.H. 1916.

(9)  Pte A.H. Hibbett (South  Staffords). Recitation. Sniper Atkins. Own poem. Foncquevillers trenches. cf Hibbett Letters. May 1916.


Troops Autos & their Cigarettes. THE QUEEN'S WESTMINSTER. South Africa 1900- 1902.
Cigarette Paper Signatures: Rflm A.F. Pays; Rflm G. Hughes & Rflm W.S Markwell. The Cenacle. July 1916. Ward 6.

(10)  Rflm A.F. Pays (The Queens Westminsters). Song:  Until. 1910. Wilfred Sanderson. 1878 -1935.

(11)  Nurse Evans.  Violin Solo.

Pte Kelly.
Cigarette Paper Signature: Pte A. Kelly.

(12) Pte A. Kelly (South Irish Horse).  Song at Piano. Goo Goo Eyes. cf ’19th cent American Black Music’. 1900 hit. ‘Just becos she made dem Goo-Goo-Eyes’ / ‘If you love your baby make Goo-Goo-Eyes’. Phrase exploited by Barney Google, 1923.

Pte A. Kelly’s Cartoon: The Matron & The Cook. 
Matron Gertrude Bellow
Matron Gertrude Bellow.




(13) Nurse O’Neil. Song:  I love the Moon. Classic Nursery Rhyme/ Lullaby. ‘I see the moon the moon sees me, down through the leaves of the old oak tree, please let the light that shines on me shine on the one I love’. Anon.

(14)  Cpl. Featherstone. (Durham Light Infantry).  Song: Macafferty. Irish Street Ballad. Patrick McCaffrey, Ireland Regt of Foot, born 1842, executed 1862 for killing two officers. Folk hero.

Cigarette Signatures: Corpls: C. Bostock Byrd & H. Turnbull R.E.

(15)  Cpl. C. Bostock Byrd. (2nd Bn Coldstream Guards).  Songs:  Son of Mine. Shipmates o’mine. Wilfred Sanderson.1913.

Corp. Bostock Byrd.
Corp. C. Bostock Byrd.


NB. All the material posted here comes from the Hibbett Collection of Photographs, the Concert Programme and my father’s 21st Birthday Autograph Album given to him by his best pal Vernon Evans. Details of the Cigarettes are given elsewhere in the Hibbett Letters.   

New Brighton
New Brighton Tower.

New Brighton Tower: steel lattice observation tower 567ft high, opened 1898 -1900 as part of a Pleasure Park. Dismantled 1919 except for Tower Ballroom (Beetles venue when not at The Cavern Club) – finally closed 1969.

NEXT POST:  12th Oct. 1916. Our brother has gone to that peaceful land where there is no war.’