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