5TH APRIL 1917: ‘MY POOR BOY NEVER TO HAVE SEEN HIS HOME ALL THIS TIME.’

Marie Neal Hibbett.

MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd, Walsall: POSTCARD of Park Street Walsall to Pte A.H. HIBBETT, The Cenacle Hospital, St George’s Mount, New Brighton, Cheshire.

Thursday. 5th April.

Well done. (1) I  shall come Tuesday (2). Will let you know the time. Wish you could have your uniform. Do you think you will  or shall I bring you some clothes. Just tell me.

We are overjoyed. My poor boy never to have seen his home all this time.

Best love. Mother. (3)

Postcard: Park Street, Walsall. 1917. John Price & Son’s Real Photo Series.

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

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

At last my Grandmother’s long vigil was to be rewarded – at last one of her sons was coming Home from War. 

The poem To Women by Robert Laurence Binyon (3) honours the courage and sacrifice of all women whose sons have gone to War. My Grandmother would have understood all too well:-

‘ For you, you too to battle go, Not with the marching drums and cheers But in the watch of solitude And through the boundless night of fears.’

‘You are gone before them, you are there!’

‘And not a shot comes blind with death And not a stab of steel is pressed Home but invisibly it tore And entered first a woman’s breast.’

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(1) After 9  months at the Cenacle Red Cross Hospital, Pte Bertie  Hibbett received notice of his discharge – and sent his Mother the long-awaited news that  he was coming Home at last. 

A.H.Hibbett Letter, 6th June 1916, a month before the Battle of the Somme 1st July 1916.

He had not been Home on Leave since February 1915, a few days before he left for War on 28th Feb.1915. He  had spent long stretches in Hospital in France but was always returned to the Front.  Time and again his promised Home Leave was cancelled. Reading his letters of May & June 1916 it is perhaps just as well for my father that it was so. His brother Sydney, as a Serjeant, had been granted Home Leave twice, but it must have been a bitter-sweet visit, knowing that he must return to the Front and might never see his Home again.

(2) i.e.Tuesday 10th April. It seems Bertie’s Mother was planning to go alone by train and stay a few days in New Brighton. Like most mothers at the time, she wanted to bring her son Home in his uniform. 

(3) Robert Laurence Binyon, poet, dramatist & art historian, became one of 16 Great War Poets honoured in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey). To The Fallen’ was written in September 1914, after news of tremendous British losses in the opening battles of the War. His famous line ‘They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old is repeated every Remembrance Day at War Memorials throughout the country.  Binyon himself was too old to enlist but nevertheless he volunteered as a nursing orderly in a British Hospital in France and experienced  the sacrifice of War at first hand.

Robert Laurence Binyon 1869 -1943

NB: This Armistice Centenary Year I shall be singing  Elgar’s setting of Binyon’s poem in The Spirit of England (1915) at a North Devon Choral Society Concert with full orchestra at St Peter’s Church, Great Torrington, Devon. 8th Dec. 2018. 7.00 pm.

We are also singing Andrew Campling’s moving new work, Dona Nobis Pacem, which includes excerpts from the WW1 diary of his grandfather, The Revd Canon William Charles Campling 1887 – 1973, Army Chaplain,15th Bn Essex Regt. It was meeting Chaplains like him that made my father decide he would train for the Christian ministry if he survived the War.

Andrew Campling will be attending the Concert – a  measure of the reputation the choir commands under our Director, John Hobbs. <https//:www.northdevonchoralsociety.org.uk>

NEXT POST: 12th & 13th April 1917.  Pte Bertie bids Farewell to The Cenacle Red Cross Hospital.

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