PARCELS TO THE FRONT & LETTERS HOME is dedicated to World Peace, in Honour of my Father, The Revd Arthur Hubert Hibbett (Bertie), his Brothers, Harold & Basil – all three seriously wounded in WW1 – and in Memory of his Brother, my Uncle Sydney Hibbett, Killed in Action 1st July 1916. Also of his Sister, my Aunt Ida Neal Hibbett, Red Cross Nurse, who died of cancer from work in an ammunition factory.
BERTIE HIBBETT’S STORY is told in his own words through his Letters Home, with extracts from his own War Diary ‘A Little Book of Words and Doings’, and ‘My Memories of the First World War’ 1967, woven together with information from the South Staffords Regiment War Diary and Roll Book, and The History of the South Staffordshire Regiment.
UPDATE: This website is now undergoing a major re-edit, something that is long overdue. FOLLOWERS will be notified by email in the usual way whenever an editorial change is made. VIEWERS & VISITORS will be able to navigate the site more easily, the Letters in chronological order will be easier to access from the Top Menu than at present, hidden as they are in the Archives. EXPLANATORY NOTES will be reduced and rationalised. Please see Further Editorial Information at the bottom of this page.
* * * * * * * * INTRODUCTION * * * * * * *
In August 1914, Bertie Hibbett, 19, apprenticed to a Mining Surveyor in Walsall, was on holiday with his family in Abergele, Wales, when the Headmaster of Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, sent a Recruitment Post Card to his brother Sydney Hibbett. ‘Meet here on Saturday next 11.30: but no need to cut short holiday, so long as you are ready to come at once if I send. ENM’.
On 11th AUGUST 2014: ONE HUNDRED YEARS ON this fateful Card was posted again, the first in a remarkable collection of Letters, Drawings and Sketches Pte Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, sent Home from the Trenches in France & Flanders. Some 200 Letters have been posted on the day they were written, between August 1914 and July 1916.
READING THE LETTERS: Today, as I gently open out these flimsy sheets, I wonder at their history and the journey they have made from the trenches, through the years, into my hands. I think about those who first opened and read them and of the brave young man who wrote them, much younger than my own son now.
EDUCATIONAL AIM: My Grandfather, Arthur Hibbett, was Chief Education Officer for the Borough of Walsall, 1903 -1925 and it will be a great satisfaction to me, a onetime teacher, to know that this 1st World War Primary Source Material is in a convenient form for study in Schools and Colleges, as well as by the General Public.
The Letters will appear under the following Headings:-
1. Recruitment & Training: Saffron Walden & Luton: Aug.1914 – Feb. 1915.
2. Embarkation to the Front: Armentiers & Wulverghem Trenches, Listening Post, opposite Messines. March – June 1915.
3. Ypres Salient: Armagh Wood, Zilibek; Yves Canal; Railway Embankment; Hill 60, Trench 32. June – August 1915.
4. No 12. & No 9. General Hospital, Rouen: Aug. – Sept. 1915.
5. Battle of Loos. Battle of Hohenzollern Redoubt: Sept. – Nov. 1915.
6. Neuve Chappelle Trenches & Listening Post (underground): Nov. – Dec. 1915.
7. Mnerville Hospital, Boulogne: Transport to Marseille to join Battalion in Egypt. Immediate return to Western Front.14th Dec.-14th Feb. 1916.
8. Battalion at Bellancourt: 15th Feb. – 18th March 1916.
9. Neuville St Vaast, Vimy Ridge, holding the Labyrinth: 19th March – 3rd May.1916.
10. Battle of Somme: Fonquevillers, L Sector Trenches, overlooking Gommecourt Wood: 3rd May – 1st July 1916.
11. Hospital in France, 1st July 1916; Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Birkenhead. 9th July – May 1917. Discharge from Army, July 1917.
12. Lichfield Theological College, Armistice Day, 11th Nov. 1918: Ordination as Anglican Priest,1924. Ministry in Diocese of Huntingdon & Lincolnshire. 1924 -1973.
* * * * * * * FURTHER EDITORIAL INFORMATION * * * * * * *
In 2014, when I embarked on this, my first website, my aim was for readers to follow my father’s story in his own words – from the time he volunteered in Walsall at the outbreak of the Great War, through his training and embarkation, to his wounding at the Battle of the Somme, 1st July,1916.
The pressure was on to discover the exact whereabouts for each letter along the Western Front, from Ypres Salient to the Somme. Then my intention was to publish the 1914 -1916 Letters exactly one hundred years on from the day they were written. This was achieved.
Family bereavement in 2016 and other distractions interrupted the completion of the project to 1918 and the end of my father’s ministry but I was able to post his Armistice Day Letter 11th November, 1918, as close to ‘one hundred years on’ as possible.
I was also very glad to visit Walsall that year, to gather round the War Memorial on Sunday 11th November at the 11th Hour, to remember my Uncle Sydney, my father and all the members of the Hibbett Family who suffered so much during the War and its aftermath. It was a wonderful surprise and delight to see my father’s portrait on the Town Hall stage, one adapted from the 1914 photograph of him at the top of this Welcome page.
In lovely sunshine, I visited some of the Family’s old haunts, St Paul’s Church and the Arboretum. I met and chatted with some interesting people and heard something of their own family history. Then I walked up the old Foden Road from the Arboretum to the Family Home on the corner of Rowley Street, the Home that had seen such extremes of sorrow and joy in the Great War.
LOOKING FOR AN EVENT OR BATTLE? Select Left Menu. WW1 Hibbett Letters: Monthly Summaries from January 1915. LOOKING FOR A RELATIVE? Select Left Menu. South Staffordshire Regiment: Officers and Men.
HISTORICAL INTRODUCTIONS to Letters, Food Parcels, Walsall Education etc will be found also in the Left Menu.
PLEASE NOTE: I look forward to your Comments – especially from members of Walsall Families mentioned in the Letters, and from Staffordshire Regiment historians. This research is on-going. If you have further information I would be pleased to make additions and alterations where appropriate.
* * * * * * * * * ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS * * * * * * * * *
I have been researching these Letters since my father died in 1973. For their helpful interest, grateful thanks must go to the late Vernon Evans, Bertie’s best friend; the Penning Family, who billeted him in Saffron Walden when training; Arthur Venables’ Family. Arthur saved his life on the battlefield; Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall; The Record Office, Essex Street, Walsall; Members of The Western Front Association; The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and The Imperial War Museum. I am especially indebted to The Staffordshire Regiment Museum, Lichfield, for sight of their Roll Book, precious and rare, and for copies of the Staffs Official War Diary, through which I was able to discover the exact location of my father when he wrote Home.
That this website was built in time for the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the Great War is due to the wonderful care I have received from the National Health Service. My most grateful thanks go especially to my GP, Dr Baljit Kalsi, Health Workers & Nurses at the Queens Medical Centre, Barnstaple; Cardiac Consultant, Dr. C. Gibbs, Nurses & Rehabilitation Team at North Devon District Hospital; Cardiac Surgeon, Dr Fazil Azeem and Intensive Care Nurses from all over the world at The Royal Brompton Hospital, London – and lastly, for good measure, my most grateful thanks to Breast Cancer Surgeon, Mr J. Groome, Anaesthetist, Dr. Hibbard & Nurses at NDDH. And now I’ve had all my Covid jabs. Thank You NHS!
Heading Illustration: Poppies on the Battlefield. Watercolour. 4″x 4″. AHH.1917.
Website Copyright. EFW and Family. 2014.