My aim is to publish, in date order, the letters my father, Private Bertie Hibbett, wrote home to Walsall, almost twice a week, from 1914 – 1918. His self-styled ‘humble scribblings’ give a vivid picture of what it was like to be a Private in Kitchener’s Army but, with their original drawings, sketches and photographs, they provide an important collection of primary source material for social historians in this centenary year of the outbreak of the Great War.
As a child I was more aware of the 1st World War than of the 2nd, through which I grew up. My father was Vicar of St Vedast’s Church, Tathwell, Lincolnshire and I was never allowed to forget that my birthday was also St Vedast’s Day, for this was an ever present reminder to him of his dawn sentry duty on Easter Day 1915, at Neuville St. Vaast, Messines. *
Like my grandfather, Arthur Hibbett, Chief Inspector of Schools for the Borough of Walsall, my career has been in education; mainly in higher and further education, where I taught courses in historical and literary interpretation & methodology. I have a BA Hons.degree in Theology and History from the University of Nottingham and a Master’s degree in Hermeneutics from the University of Bristol.
My first teaching post was at Luton High School, then I became Lecturer & Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at the College of St Matthias, Fishponds, teaching the University of Bristol, B.Ed. degree. After my marriage, in 1971, to David Kester Webb (painter, photographer and teacher), I became the first Open University Tutor Counsellor and Associate Lecturer in North Devon, from 1974 until 2000. During that time I also taught Religious Studies ‘A’ level at North Devon College.
Kester and I published our book, The Hidden Edge of Exmoor,in 2011 (www.thematic-trails.org). This is the story of our life-time’s climbing exploration of the Exmoor Coast at Sea-level; literally hands on geology. We have two offspring: Rebekah (Consultant in International Development: Gender/HIV/Aids) and Martin Vedast, (Project Manager in Ceramics for Disabled Adults).
* NB The name Vedast or Vaast means Foster in English. St Vedast was a 4th C. saint, patron of numerous churches in N. Europe, chiefly of Arras Cathedral. Apart from St Vedast Tathwell, the only other church in the Uk with this patronage is St Vedast, Foster Lane London.
On Armistice Day 1918, my Grandfather & Grandmother were mourning the loss of one son Killed in Action and the Wounding of their three other sons & their daughter.
Ida Neal Hibbett, was 25 when War broke out. I wish I had known my aunt. Her wise & comforting letters to my father during and after the war show her to have been a most loving sister & dutiful daughter. Her family nick-name was ‘Champion’ & her War Work lived up to it: secretarial work at the Town Hall, Red Cross nursing, farming and making bombs. She died in 1921 of cancer of the womb, attributed to ‘dangerous chemicals’ exposure. My father’s letter of 11th Nov. refers to Ida’s ‘wound’ and her boast of walking down Foden Road ‘to the bottom & back now’may well refer to her recovery from an operation to remove the cancer. I am sure my father’s unfailing courtesy & consideration for others was under the influence of his sister Ida.
(1) Foden Road:now called Broadway, part of the Walsall ring road. No 95 is on the corner of Rowley St, just left of the word ‘Foden’ in the Plan above. Next Street down is Persehouse Street, where on Armistice Day 1918 the Venables Family mourned their Arthur*. He had saved Bertie’s life at Gommecourt 1st July 1916 & his body was never found. His name is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. See Top Menu ‘My Memories’ & Left Menu ‘South Staffordshire Officers & Men’.
(2) Lieut BasilHibbettwas wounded in the shoulder sometime during 1917-18, a wound that contributed to his death from cancer in 1965. On 11th Nov. he may have been discharged from the Army already or on his way home on leave.
(3) ‘Comfy’at Lichfield Theological College. My father’s student rooms in the quiet Cathedral Close must have been in stark contrast to his experience in the trenches. He was soon making himself useful with art work.
(4) ‘To the bottom & back’ i.e. from 95, Foden Road, corner of Rowley Street down the hill to the Arboretum Lodge Gate and back. The Hibbett Family arrived in Walsall around 1902, when Basil Hibbett was 6, Bertie 8 and Sydney 9 yrs old. No doubt Ida 15 & Harold 17 would have been put in charge of the younger ones when visiting the Arboretum, the Hibbett Family’s favourite playground with its lakes, leafy walkways and sports fields. See Hibbett Letters.
NEXT POSTS: 11th Nov. 2018.Armistice Day in Walsall: Pte Bertie Hibbett 1/5th S. Staffords comes back Home a Hundred Years On.
And 19th Nov. 1918. Letter from Bertie Hibbett’s best pal, Vernon Evans son of Mayor Enoch Evans, Solicitor, Walsall.
After which I will return to posting the Hibbett Letters of 1917. EFW.
BERTIE HIBBETT, Student Rooms,Theological College, Lichfield, Staffordshire (1): LETTER to ARTHUR & MARIE NEAL HIBBETT,95, Foden Road, Walsall.
Monday. Nov.11 /1918.
A Thanksgiving Day.
MY HEART IS FIXED, O GOD, I will sing & give praise unto thee, O Lord, among the people & I will sing unto thee among the nations (2).
My Very Dear People,
How I wish you could have been to the huge gathering at the Thanksgiving Service at the Cathedral this afternoon at 3.00 pm. Indeed everyone is in such ecstasy that our hearts are indeed fixed.
Keep cool & I will tell you how I first heard the news.
With breathless excitement I woke this morning thinking & wondering if we shall hear the bells ring. I went to visit Mr. Howard* (3), a very kind clergyman who was Chaplain just before the Charge of the Staffs. He was over the S. Staffs. He was very pleased to see me & showed me photographs of Fonquevillers (4).
When we came out the Headmaster of his Church Schools brought us news of the Armistice, & in marvellously quick time, flags were flourishing from every window in the city & it was not long before the Cathedral bells began (they are ringing now as I write this) (5).
The Principal (6) had just come home from a weekend away & he got us some flags. I had one stars & stripes flying from my window. (7).
If you had been in the Close this afternoon you would have seen all the soldiers go in to the Cathedral & us students in our cassocks & surplices. The Cathedral was full to packing point.
We started with the Te Deum (8) sung by everyone with a beautiful simple rendering. Then a few versicles of praise. Then the old 100th (9). Then the Dean (10) read a service of Thanksgiving, people responding ‘We thank thee O God’.Then hymn‘O God our help in ages past‘ (11). The organ music filled the Church.
Then the service for those who have fallen., which impressed me greatly. I thought of our dear Sydney. He will be rejoicing too for did he not say‘Rejoice, again I say Rejoice’(12). Also I remembered Alfred* (13) & Mrs Penning’s son* (14).
Then we had the hymn for the sailors,Eternal Father,(15) & to protect those coming Home at the cessation of hostilities. (Harold & Basil).
The students sat in the North Transept & I was greatly impressed by the unique coincidence when I saw the soldiers who were sitting in the front seat of the Nave. What an historical event, just at the start of my life in training. Everyone has the smile of Victory. I hear B’ham people are going mad.
At one time I wished I was with you at Home, but I would rather have you over here. Won’t the Vicar (Mr Hey*)(16) be glad. Of course we know that everything is not yet settled.
How strange too, to have had an interview with my late Chaplain (3). I thought I recognised his face when I went to Church last night. I asked one of the students who he was & I was delighted to hear he was at one time the S. Staffs Chaplain. I had not seen him since those Gommecourt days.
I rang up Dad this am & was going to shout Hurrah down the phone. Wish I had wired for you to come over.
That Dream I had a long time ago has come true. I dreamt that I was among a great company of soldiers which had formed up for a Thanksgiving Service of Victory. Ida will remember me telling her.But I was not in uniform & I felt quite out of it. But today I did not. I was so thankful that I was among the largest congregation of people to give thanks to God for the good news.
There is going to be a big bonfire in the city tonight & we are having a Concert. What does Dodger think of it? I specially thought of him today. I feel the happiest man alive today. But we shall have to be careful & always bear in mind that all this is through God’s mercy & it is he that has given us the victory.
I noticed how appropriate the Psalms are for today (2). I should think you are all overjoyed & Ida is skipping with joy in spite of her wound (17).
Do come over (if you wish). I mean to say you will be extremely welcome if you can.
My Memories of the First World War. The Revd A. H. Hibbett. Essay Competition. Lindsey Association for the Elderly. 1967.
In 1918, I entered Lichfield Theological College to train for the Sacred Ministry and I was there when news came of theArmistice, signed at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month. I shall never forget the excitement on the streets of Lichfield. Flagsappeared at every window. I made a flag of St George to hang out of my bed-study. (6).
We went into theCathedraland sang the Psalmsof the Day.I remember that one wasPs. 57,‘My heart is fixed. O God, My heart is fixed. I will sing and give praise.’
Later I was to visit my old school, Queen Mary’s Walsall, to see my brother’s name on the School Memorial:
‘These in the glorious morning of their days for England’s sake lost all but England’s praise’.
One hundred years on this Armistice Sunday, at the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month, I hope to be amongst the good people of Walsall around their War Memorial. I shall be remembering my Uncle Sydney, killed Battle of Somme 1st July 1916, his brothers, Harold & Basil, his sister Ida and of course my Dad Bertie, all wounded in the Great War.
Like my father, I too will be caught up in the deepest longings of the human spirit for Peace, singing words which bring the long distant past into the present, to strengthen & comfort suffering humanity, to fulfill dreams & inspire a joyful hope for the future.
(1) Lichfield Theological College, 1872-1970s: acquired John Mott’s house (1833) in Cathedral Close in1872 & added a library & student rooms. Chapel built 1885 (now called the Refectory, a community centre). Grateful thanks to Patrick Comerford for detailed Blogs & photographs: Walking Tours of Lichfield Cathedral Close. 2012 -2014. https://www.patrickcomerford.com
(2) My Heart is fixed: Psalm 57. 7-9.Book of Common Prayer (BCP) Psalm for11th morning of month.
(3) The Revd Howard FC (Forces Chaplain) to S. Staffords during Battle of Somme. One of 4,400 chaplains in WW1, known as ‘padres’. 179 killed. An all Officer Corps – no arms. Badge inscription ‘In this Sign Conquer’ (in hoc signo vinces) ref. to cross of light seen in sky by Emperor Constantine before conversion to Christian Faith. AD 312. (Eusebius historian). Website: Royal Army Chaplains Depart.
(4) Fonquevillers: where S. Staffords faced German Front Line at Gommecourt. Battle of Somme,1st July 1916.
(5) Cathedral Bells: for the most part Church bells had remained silent for the duration of the War.
(6) Principal, Lichfield Theological Collegein 1918.Name not found.
(7) Flags: Stars & Stripes (USA entered War 1917) – also flag of St George my father made himself.
(8) Te Deum Laudamus: Latin.‘Thee, O God we praise’: Early Christian Hymn of Praise, used by all Christian denominations today. Anglican BCP Morning Prayer. Origin: St Ambrose & St Augustine for baptism of latter. AD 387. Follows outline of Apostle’s Creed, which follows credal statements of St Peter, Acts of Apostles AD 90-100. Set to Music by many composers. Text ends O Lord, in thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded.
(9) ‘Old 100th’: ‘All people that on earth do dwell, sing to the Lord with cheerful voice’. ‘Because the Lord our God is good – his truth at all times firmly stood and shall from age to age endure.’ Protestant Reformation Hymn by John Calvin,1509-1564, to encourage singing in the vernacular. A metrical paraphrase of Psalm 100, ‘a Psalm of Thanksgiving’. Translated by William Kethe (Scottish reformer). Tune: in long metre, Genevan Psalter 1551, attributed to Louis Bourgeois (1510-1560).
(10) Dean of Lichfield: The Revd Henry Irwin Savage,1909 -1939: Library named after him,1924.
(11) ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.Athousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone, short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun. Hymn: Isaac Watts, 1674 -1748. Based on Hebrew Psalm 90, in language of New Testament. Tune: William Croft ‘St Anne’, 1708. (Used in works by many composers e.g. J. S. Bach, Handel, Buxtehude & Vaughan Williams).
(12) ‘Rejoice again, I say Rejoice’: Philippians 4.4. KJV. St Paul AD 62. Letter praising persecuted Christians in Philippi for their generous response to Jerusalem Christians in need.
(13) Alfred: Possibly Alfred Yoxall, Cousin from Ashton i.e. Marie Neal Hibbett’s nephew. Killed in Action.
(14) Arthur Penning*: son of Mrs Penning, Landlady, 29 Gold St. Saffron Walden. (Army digs for Walsall pals: Bertie Hibbett, Vernon Evans, Norman Cope. 1914-1915). Hibbett Letters: Oct. 1914 – Feb. 1915.
(15) ‘Eternal Father, strong to save’.Hymn. William Whiting. 1860. Based on Psalm 107. Inspired by personal experience of storm at sea, Genesis 1.2. & Mark 4.35: ‘Most Holy Spirit, who didst brood upon the chaos dark & rude and bid their angry tumult cease and give, for wild confusion, peace, O hear us as we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea’.Tune ‘Melita’ (Malta) St Paul ship-wrecked there (Acts 15) arguably the most detailed description of a storm at sea in classic literature. Adopted by Royal Navy late 19th Cent.
(16) The Revd Hey, Vicar of Walsall. (Details pending).
(17) Psalms for 11th Day of Month. Anglican Book of Common Prayer. (BCP). Morning Prayer: Psalms 56-58 . Evening Prayer: Psalms 59-61. Cranmer. Origin Hebrew Bible, Book of Psalms (tehillim) praises/ Greek (psalmoi) instrumental songs of praise for God’s Creation & Acts of Deliverance. Long oral transmission, associated with Temple worship; written down from 1000 BC – 400 BC.
(18) Ida Hibbett died from cancer of the womb in 1921, (attributed to working in a Bomb Factory, with exposure to phosphorous & other chemicals). Her ‘wound‘ – ref. to an operation to remove it?.
EFW: This weekendI hope to visit my father’s old haunts in Walsall, St Paul’s Church and the Arboretum & walk up Foden Road to No 95, the old Family Home, where his Mother waited so patiently for his Letters. I hope to visit Ida’s grave in St Michael’s Rushall which is also a War Memorial to Sydney. I fear I shall find it in sad need of repair.
NEXT POST: 11th Nov. 1918: Letter from Ida ‘This is a Day of All Days & No Mistake – the WAR is over‘.
NBAfter this there will be one more 1918 Letter & then it will be back to posting those of 1917.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, 8823, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt. now 200425 Army Reservist with Character Reference:
Sober, Reliable & Intelligent.
ARMY FORM B. 2067 Serial No A90.
Front Page Transcript:CHARACTER CERTIFICATE of 200425.
Private. A. H. Hibbert (1), 5th South StaffordshireRegiment. Born in the Parish of St Augustus (2) near the Town of Nottingham in the County of Notts. on the 12/7/95. Trade as stated by him on enlistment: Mining Engineer (pupil to).
*DESCRIPTION ON LEAVING THE COLOURS (3)
Height 5 ft 7¼ in. Identification Marks:- ComplexionFresh. EyesBrown. Hair Brown.
Signature of Soldier: A. Hubert Hibbett.
*To prevent impersonation. In the event of any doubt arising as to the bona fides of the bearer, the above description and signature should be carefully compared with present appearance and handwriting.
Back Page Transcript: PARTICULARS OF SERVICE.
Date of Enlistment 2.9.14. Due for final Discharge 31.7.1917. Cause of Transfer or Discharge:Being no longer Physically Fit for further War Service.
Campaigns, Medals and Decorations: Home: 2.9.14 to 4.3.15. France: 5.3.15 to 5.7.16 (5). Home: 6.7.16to31.7.17.
Centre Page Transcript:
The Character here given is based on continuous records of the holder’s conduct and employment throughout his military career.
This is to certify that 200425 Pte A.H.Hibbert (sic) has served with the Colours in the 5th South Staffs Regt for Two years 332 days during which period he was very sober, reliable and intelligent. Previous to enlistment he was a student of mining engineering and served three years of his apprenticeship with C.F. Nightingale, Mining Engineer, Walsall. He now desires clerical work at Lichfield, and his services can be recommended.
Signature. H. Harper 2/Lt for LIEUT COLONEL COMMANDING OFFICER 1/0 TERRITORIAL FORCE RECORDS-LICHFIELD.
Date 31st July.If further particulars as to his character and record of service are required within three years of above date, apply to * . . . where he is registered for civil employment, afterwards to the Officer in Charge of 77 (4) Records, Lichfield.
*This space is intended to be filled in by any organisation which has registered the man’s name and is prepared to supply further information.
(1) In spite of the Certificate’s warning re- prevention of impersonation, 2ndLieut. H. Harper once again mis-spells my father’s name & fails to check it with his signature. cf. Discharge Certificate previous Post: 12.07.1917.
(2) ‘St Augustus’. Second error.My father was born in the Parish of St Augustine,Basford, Nottingham & was most likely christened in St Augustine’s Church, built 1895 – demolished 1989. In WW1 a curate, the Rev. Theodore Bayley Hardy (schoolmaster Nottingham High School) volunteered as a padre at 51 yrs. He never fired a shot but won the VC, DSO & MC for outstanding gallantry, helping wounded & dying soldiers at the Front. He died of wounds 3 weeks before the Armistice. Website: Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project.
(3) Colours are the symbol of a Regiment. History goes back 5000 yrs to Egypt. Formalised in Mediaeval times, colours were ‘the identifying battle-flags carried by regiments to show where their respective armies should rally in time of battle’.
Staffordshire Regt. Colours are Green (Red &) Gold. Size 6’6″ x 6′ now reduced to 3′ 9″ x 3′. wikipedia.
(4) ‘77′ or ‘YY’ Records ? (Difficult to decipher).
(5) Date 5.7.16: evidence that 5 days after being wounded 1st July 1916my father was transferred Home from Hospital at Le Treport, France. See Hibbett Letter 19th July 1916.
NEXT POST: 11th NOV 1918. ARMISTICE Day in LICHFIELD. 11th Hour, 11th Day, 11th Month – Bells, Flags & Cathedral Thanksgiving.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, 200245 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt. – a Soldier of the Territorial Force – was Discharged from the Army on 12th July 1917, his 22nd Birthday.
‘Being no longer Physically fit for further War Service.’
He had served Two Years 322 days, and survived One Year & 123 days in France & Flanders.
ARMY FORM E. 511:If this certificate is lost or mislaid no duplicate of it can be obtained.
TRANSCRIPT This is to certify that200425PrivateArthur Hubert Hibbert5th South Staffordshire Regt. who was enlisted to serve in the Territorial Forceof theCounty ofStaffordshireon the2ndday ofSeptember 1914is discharged in consequence of * Being no longer Physically Fit for further War Serviceand that his claims have been properly settled.
His total service in the Territorial ForceisTwoyears332days,includingTwoyears332days embodied service.
Service abroad,viz.,France. Oneyear123days.
(Signature of Officer Commanding Unit) H. Harper*2/LtforLIEUT COLONEL: OFFICE 1/0 TERRITORIAL FORCE RECORDS. LICHFIELD.
13th July 1917.
* Here state cause of discharge as detailed a) for peace conditions in the Regulations for the Territorial Force, or b) during a period of embodiment in para 392 King’s Regns.
The Officer in charge of Territorial Records in Lichfield, 2/Lt H. Harper, made two errors in Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Discharge Certificate, which would have disappointed my father. Firstly the mis-spelling of his surname. His great grandfather William Hibbett born c 1792 was the first ‘Hibbett’ in our Family Line.Up until then ‘Ibbot’, ‘Hibbot’, ‘Hibbitt’ & ‘Hibbert’ spellings appear in 17th & 18th Century family records.
Secondly, Pte Bertie served in Flanders as well as in France. As a child, I thought he fought in just one place. Readers of the Hibbett Letters however will know that Pte Bertie Hibbett 1/5th South Staffs was marched back & forth to fight all along the Western Front, between Ypres in Flanders and Arras in France. He first entered the trenches at Armentiers, in April 1915. By May 1916, he was South East of Arras at Fonquevilers opposite Gommecourt, preparing for the Battle of Somme, 1st July, 1916.
In the Certificate Pte Bertie’s number is 200245, whereas on enlistment in 1914 it was 8823. This change in number often occurred when a soldier had been away from his Unit for some time i.e. in Hospital, transferred to a different Unit or back Home to the UK.
The Army was desperately short of men in 1917 hence the Notice on the reverse of the DischargeCertificate calling all discharged soldiers who are physically fit to consider returning to the Colours.
TRANSCRIPT :- NOTICE. The attention of soldiers who have taken their discharge on termination of engagement, but who are physically fit for service, is drawn to the great need for trained men with largely expanded armies which have been called into being since the Outbreak of War.
It is hoped that such men will decide to return to the Colours with as little delay as possible and so add to the service they have already rendered to their King and country.
AN ARMY DOCUMENT CASEwas given to all discharged soldiers withnotice on the front cover :-
‘Any Person finding this book, unless it can at once be returned to the owner, should place it in a Post Office Letter Box for return to the Secretary, War Office London S W.’
My father’s Discharge Case is very worn & damaged with Indian ink. The Inside of the Case has various Instructions, strangely upside down to each other.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR MEN OF THE ARMY RESERVE
1. – When Mobilisation is ordered posters announcing it will be put up on all Barrack Gates, Churches, Town Halls, Police Stations, and Post Offices.These posters will make it clear whether a GENERAL MOBILIZATION or a PARTIAL MOBILIZATION has been ordered.
2. – When GENERAL MOBILIZATION is ordered you will proceed at once to the place of joining as directed in your Identity Certificate, making use of the railway warrant and cash order attached to it. You must not wait for a notice to join to be sent to you.
3. – When a PARTIAL MOBILIZATION is ordered a notice to join will be sent to you at the last address furnished by you if you are required to join, telling you when & where to join. This notice will have attached to it a free pass for the journey and a cash order for three shillings advance of pay. The railway warrant and money order attached to your Identity Certificate will in that case be of no use at all.
4. – Whilst you are in the reserve your Commanding Officer is the Officer in Charge of Records, whom you must keep informed of any change of address, or any alteration in your circumstances, such as marriage, birth of children &, forwarding the necessary certificates, which will be returned to you. All communications should bear your Name, Address, Rank, Corps, and Regimental & Identity numbers.
WARNING. – If you lose the enclosed certificate a duplicate cannot be sent. You should therefore on no account part with it or forward it by post when applying for a situation, but should use a copy, attested by a responsible person, for the purpose.
The National Association for the Employment of Ex-Soldiers exist for helping men of good character to obtain employment. The Head Office is at 119, Victoria Street, London, S.W., and it has numerous branches throughout the Kingdom. The addresses are given in the Guide to Civil Employment, a copy of which is handed to every man of good character on leaving the Colours.
Men who are not already registered for employment should apply to the branch nearest their homes.
NURSE G. LEATHAM*. B.R.C.H.Atherton Street, New Brighton (1):LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
20th June 1917.
My Dear Hibbett,
Very many thanks for your photograph & the card you sent with it – it was just like you to do something out of the common.
Beck (2) told me that you had a job close your home now (3). I’m so glad that you were so lucky & I hope you’ll keep it till the end of the War – that is, of course if the work is congenial.
We have only four empty beds here now – some (new patients) are Canadians (4) – but I don’t think there is anybody from your part of the world.
I haven’t found another artist yet, so I have to print my own labels etc. but I’m glad to say I have not run short of the Engagement Lists (5) yet – I should not like to come down to written ones again!
I remember you asked in your letter for all the news of the King’s visit (6)– I cannot tell you very much as none of the staff went over to Fazakerley (7)– only the patients.
They started very early in the morning & went over in motors & ambulances & then had to stand for about two hours until the Queen came. The King was not with her – she passed by all the men & spoke to one or two who were in front of our patients – then they came home.
All the people here are well. Sister (8) is away for a week & Matron* has a bad cold. I have been off with a bad septic throat – but fortunately it has made up its mind to leave me in peace.
Will you be coming up here for your summer holidays?(9).
I hope you and Mrs Hibbett are keeping well.
What pictures are you painting now if you have any spare time? The Dining Hall still looks O.K. (10).
‘Only four empty beds’. With the beginning of the 3rd Battle of Ypres the pressure on Hospitals back Home was mounting.
Nurse Leatham seems to have had an administrative post; maybe she is the Nurse in the photo above labelled ‘Quarter Master’ – probably in charge of Patient appointments & Nurses’ rotas, as well as stocks. She is obviously missing my father’s artistic & calligraphy skills; he had made himself very useful in the nine months he had spent at The Cenacle.
(1) Address ‘B.R.C.H.Atherton Street’ – not found as separate Red Cross Hospital – most likely a Cenacle extension, to accommodate increasing numbers of wounded in the battles of 1917.
(2) Corporal J. Beck: 1/10th Liverpool Scottish Regt.,one of the 5 friends who shared Ward 10 at the Cenacle from July, 1916. Note in Pte Bertie’s Autograph Album: ‘J. Beck underwent 10 operations‘ on his arm, presumably at Fazakerley Hospital, Liverpool).
(3) ‘A job close your home’: My father may have continued his mining surveyor apprenticeship with Mr C.F. Nightingale, Lichfield Street, Walsall, the year before entering Lichfield Theological College, in1918.
(4) Canadian Expeditionary Force. C.E.F. Canadiansarriving at The Cenacle by 20th June 1917, may have been wounded in Battle of Messines 7-14th June, one of opening battles of 3rd Battle of Ypres.
NB Many UK emigrants to Canada (including perhaps men of my mother’s family) returned immediately War broke out, to serve in their local regiments. Others joined the C.E.F. In the Battle of Arras they captured the notorious Vimy Ridge 9th-12th April, 1917. (10,000 killed and wounded). My father fought there with the South Staffords in 1916. Hibbett Letters: 13th; 26th March; 2nd;14th;16th April 1916.
The Vimy Ridge Memorial commemorates 11,285 Canadianskilled in WW1 who have no known grave.
An awesome sight, set high on the lofty hill to draw eye & foot from miles around, the Memorial was designed by Walter Seymour Allward (Canadian sculptor) & erected on land ceded to Canada by France in 1922.
5) Engagement List: Red Cross volunteers’ names with dates of engagement. [Ida Neal Hibbett’s Red Cross Record gives her date as 1/09/1918]
(6) King George Vth & Queen Mary of Teckvisited Red Cross Hospitals in France & UK during WW1.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT never forgot the Red Cross Nurses at the Cenacle.
WHERE ONCE THE NUNS PACED TO & FRO NOW WOUNDED SOLDIERS COME AND GO.
The Cenacle, New Brighton was a Convent given to the Red Cross by the Catholic Church – for wounded soldiers from the Somme.
Pte Bertie drew little sketches with his left hand of this peaceful place, as slowly but surely the kind & dedicated Nurses helped save his right arm. He had been there since 9th July 1916. Now it was time for him to go.
RED CROSS NURSES: G. Cockeram; B. Kinsman; M. Puddicombe;L. Langdon; G. Wilkinson; G. Leatham; W. Hay; F Cook; A. Mackenzie; Doris Langdon; B. M. Eastwood; K Hay.
We will remember them with their little Autographed Pigs – drawn blindfold in his Autograph Album.
As a small child, I remember my Dad bringing out his Autograph Album on important anniversaries such as 1st July, Battle of the Somme and Armistice Day. I remember looking at these funny little pigs. Later I too had some fun drawing one blindfold in my Dad’s precious book. I canhear him chuckling at my poor effort. His pigs were drawn so well one can hardly see where he began & finished –
whereas mine . . .
NEXT POST: 20th June 1917. We only have four empty beds now – some are Canadians.
(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.
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 seemsBertie’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 Dayat 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.
NB:This Armistice Centenary Year I shall be singing Elgar’ssetting ofBinyon’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.
HERBERT TURNBULL,498 Sunderland Rd, Gateshead on Tyne, to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT,the Cenacle, New Brighton, Cheshire.
Many thanks for your letter. I am very pleased to know you are still in Hospital, and carrying on the good work in No 10 Ward.
I am sorry to hear Byrd* has left (1).What have they done with him? When did Moore* go (2) ?
Thanks for your kind enquiry regarding my wife and children.They are in fairly good health now, but I have been ill for the past 3 weeks (in bed) and still feel very shaky, but I am ever so much more contented now. I am getting settled down again, in my own little Home.
Kind Remembrances to Matron, Sisters Wilson & Clive (3).
Corporal Herbert Turnbull , Royal Engineer, was one of five close friends in Ward 10 from the beginning of Pte Bertie’s stay at The Cenacle. He appears in a number of photographs most probably taken by one of Bertie’s brothers, Harold or Basil. This letter is a grim reminder that all the wounded at The Cenacle were under threat of being sent back to the Front as soon as they were well again. Hence Corp Turnbull’s hope that ‘Hibbett’ is still in hospital, his sorrow that ‘Byrd’ has left, and his wonder about what ‘they’ have ‘done with him’,
Cpl Turnbull seems to have been suffering from influenza. That he is ‘so much more contented now’ may indicate he had confided in my father about anxiety & shell shock; that he was in his ‘own little Home’ with his wife & children indicates he has been discharged from the Army ‘no longer fit for service’. NB Use of Surnames rather than Christian names.
(1) Corporal C. Bostock Byrd*. 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards.One of the five friends in Ward 10. Appears in several photographs, performs with Pte Bertie, Corp. J. Beck, and their favourite nurses in two Cenacle Concerts. See also his signature across a cigarette paper in Pt Bertie’s Autograph Album – Hibbett Letters 4th Oct & 11th Nov. 1916.
(2) Moore: JC ? Moore*238th (A.T.) Coy R.E.
(3) Sisters Wilson and Clive. No Sister Wilson is found in my father’s letters; but she could be one of the Senior nurses photographed next to Matron Gertrude Bellow (see below) – or maybe Turnbull meant Cicely G. Wilcox* one of two Wilcox sisters: See Hibbett Letters 10th Nov; 20th Nov & 25th Dec. 1916.
Sister Dorothy Clive: Hibbett Letters 30th Aug & 25th Dec 1916. Both Wilcox and Clive sang a song in the Patients’ Concert, 10th Nov. 1916 and signed Bertie’s Programme.
NEXT POST: 5th APRIL 1917: ‘My poor boy never to have seen his home all this time.’
KATHLEEN E. BROOKES, Fern Leigh, Walsall: LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT,The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton.
Sunday night. (1)
My Dear Bertie,
How can I thank you enough for the beautiful painting you have given to me & the long hours you must have spent in doing it – I do admire it immensely & for your very kind thought – I am looking forward to having it framed. It is so kind of you, & thank you for your kind words – I am so glad to think that any words of mine may have helped you (2) – you know I shall always love to hear from my old pupils especially from one who was always so loyal.
I am so sorrythat, when in great excitement, I opened your parcel I never noticed that you had written ‘Private’ & I did not keep it private, I put it on the piano in the Breakfast Room & it was tremendously admired – please forgive me – of course your letter was quite private.
I hope if any time you would like to come & have a chat with me you will do so – I shall always be glad to see you.
With love & again very many thanks, & I think the picture is far too good for me.
Kathleen E. Brookes*.
PS Basilis a splendid fellow & a great help to me by his example. etc. (3)
As soon as the wound to his hand had healed well enough, my shell-shocked father appears to have spent a great deal of time drawing & painting. His ‘beautiful painting ‘ was quite likely a copy of one in his 21st Birthday Album – perhaps the one of poppies blooming in the trenches.
Kathleen Brookes: Sunday School Superintendent, St. Paul’s Walsall and long-time Hibbett Family friend. Greatly respected by Pte Bertie, she kept in touch with him & her ‘old boys’ throughout the War.Besides her Church work she became a land-girl, hay-making, milking etc. (cf her letter to Bertie 23rd June 1916, before Battle of Somme).
(1) Date: No envelope/postmark but internal evidence indicates a date in Jan or Feb 1917 after receiving this present from Bertie, perhaps before Basil left for France.
(2) ‘Words of mine’: Pte Bertie must have been referring to the spiritual and moral comfort she gave him as he struggled with his physical pain and his grief for Sydney.
(3) Basilhad had time to help Miss Brookes with her Church & Community work whilst waiting for his call-up papers.
NEXT POST: 6th MAR 1917: ‘Very pleased you are still in Hospital’. Letter from an old Hospital Pal.
LIEUTENANT BASIL HIBBETT, youngest son of Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, enlisted in the Manchester Regt. 9th Bn Territorials. It would appear he sailed from Holyhead on HMT Arcadian (3) on 4th March, arriving in Marseilles 11th March 1917.
The Manchester Territorials may have been intended for Alexandria & the Eastern Front but on arrival in Marseille they were entrained for Pont Remy (4) and the Western Front, arriving 14th March to become part of the 42nd Division, 10 miles east of Amiens.
These troops, the last of 42nd Division to arrive in France in WW1, were issued with rifles & steel helmets and began training in trench warfare, trench digging and route marches.
On 18th April the 9th Bn Manchester Territorials moved to Haquaix (5) and, on 22nd April, Basil Hibbett went into the trenches for the first time at Épehy (6) to take part in the Battle of Arras.
The Battle of Arras began on 9th April 1917 and would last until 16th May1917. It intended to ‘redress the failure of the Battle of the Somme’ 1st July 1916, force the Germans back 5 miles on a 4 mile front, capture Vimy Ridge and advance towards Cambrai. The aim was to support the French Nivelle Offensive on the Aisne (50 miles south) which had planned ‘to break through within 48 hours.’. Wikipedia.
My father’s first thought on 22nd Feb 1917 was for his Mother – and what she must be going through the day her youngest son, 18, left Home for Holyhead en route for France.
He would learn later that Basil entered the trenches just a few miles from where he & Sydney had been fighting the year before. I remember my father often spoke of his youngest brother as ‘taking the place’ of Sydney, Killed in Action, 1st July 1916.
(1) M.Os: Money Orders.
(2) Holyhead: Anglesey, Wales. Major specialist training centre for departures to France in WW1.
(3) RMSP Arcadian: Armed Troop Ship WW1. Originally the SS Ortano, (British transport passenger ship/cruise liner, built by Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness). Renamed RMSP Arcadian, 21st Sept 1910. In WW1 named HMT Arcadian (His Majesty’s Troop Ship) it transported troops to the Eastern Front. Torpedoed 15th April 1917, 26 miles NE of Milo on route for Salonika, Alexandria. Sank in 6 minutes: 1058 rescued. 279 drowned.
(4) Pont Remy: Commune in Somme Department, Hauts-de-France, where St Remigius (Remy) was born: with the help of St Vedast (Vaast) he baptised Clovis, King of the Franks into the Christian Faith, 25th Dec. AD 496. (See Hibbett profile/connexion).
(5) Haquaix: Reserve Camp for troops at Épehy Front Line?
(6) Épehy: Commune in Picardie, Somme, Hauts-de-France(13 miles from Cambrai / 14 miles from St Quentin).Parish Church of St Nicholas.
NOTE to HIBBETT FAMILY: if Lieutenant Basil Hibbett’s details are inaccurate in any way please contact me.
NEXT POST: 3rd March 1917. Wounded Pal’s Letter to Pte Bertie from ‘my own Little Home’.
The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.