BASIL HIBBETT, Foden Road, Walsall: LETTER  to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, The Cenacle Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Cheshire.


Dear Old Chap,

Am very sorry I have not written lately but it wasn’t because I never thought of my dear wounded brother & I have often wished that you were at Home, for there is nothing much for me to do here.

Second World War vintage (?). Copyright: © IWM. http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item




Thank you ever so much for the cigs & the cash: but you must not waste your money on me; you know I have got my bit to do yet. No I don’t smoke much & I never buy cigs myself yet. Nevertheless I likePlayers No 3 (better than the Embassybut of course I shall get through them all!

Well, here I am still waiting & my patience (never a great quantity!) is nearly exhausted. One thing, the weather is ripping & I should think the Arboretum (1) is frozen to the bottom! Of course they are skating on it.  Sister & I went on last night in the moonlight to see what it was like. There was 25° of frost here yesterday & at Market Harborough there was 40°! (2).

Walsall Arboretum: Hatherton Lake. walsall/arboretum.htm

I generally go for long walks in the afternoons & occupy my time in judging distances, at which I am getting expert. 

Yesterday I got on the car (3) to the Bell Inn (4) & walked round Great Bar (5) & right along the Beacon to ‘Bosty’ Lane (6). It was a grand afternoon & if only my papers would come I should be happy as possible. I saw 3 lambs on the Beacon, all in the snow & about as big as one’s hand!

View from Barr Beacon, Aldrige, Staffordshire.
Barr Beacon.

Mr Machin* (7) lent me 2 military books & as this part of the country is good for manoeuvres, I imagine that I am in command  of a section or ½ platoon: as I walk along & judge whether I am within artillery or rifle fire from different positions & if so what formation to adopt. Of course that sort of warfare is not much used now as in former wars, but it is interesting & occupies one’s mind. 

We have heard rumours of an offensive in March, but mind you, only rumours (8).

Thomas Woodrow Wilson, President USA 1913 -1921.

So U.S. has come in at last. Wilson the gas-bag, the note-writer, the peace without victory chump (9).

When he hears of a liner blown up on the sea he gets as mad as a hornet, he does, yes sur-ree! An’ he cables across – ‘Wuz thar Yankees aboard? By jiminy! if so gimme Bunker Hill’s Sword! (10) But ur course, if thar warn’t, it’s nawthin’ tu me, I’m a jestice of peace, an fer nootralitee; I’m too proud fer tu fight fer ole papers an’ scraps. Tho’ I mebbe hev signed ’em – gold data ’em – perhaps!” (11).

Well, he’s only 2 years 6 months too late!

I am glad you had a nice time with Mother & Ida. We shall have to leave the Picture until you come home & then you & Ida can go to B’ham to choose one. (Ed: a frame for one of Bertie’s sketches?)

Well hoping you won’t be frozen to the marrow when you get into bed tonight: you would think there was an elephant in my bed with all the clothes & overcoats, waistcoats & trousers & then myself underneath it all trying to get warm!!!

With much love from Dodger.



The Winter of 1916-1917 was especially harsh throughout Europe. The Meteriological Office Monthly Weather Report  for February 1917 records the most severe frost in England since February 1895; many rivers & canals were frozen over for weeks. One can only imagine the conditions for the men in the trenches and be glad that my father was not one of them.

Pte Bertie’s youngest brother Basil, 19, was still waiting impatiently for his call-up papers. His letter gives a good idea of his character, his intelligence & youthful courage. He was in Queen Mary’s School O.T.C. (as Sydney & Bertie had been) and was hoping for a commission in the Manchester Regiment. The Hibbett Family was anxious that Basil should avoid something of the menial work & harsh conditions that his brothers had undergone in the ranks. He had gained his Senior Oxford School Certificate and his father was probably better able to afford a commission for his youngest son, than in 1914, when his brothers volunteered and the War was expected to be ‘over by Christmas’. 

Basil Hibbett writes as if the U.S.A. was already in the War by 7th Feb. but it was not until 6th April 1917 that President Woodrow Wilson signed a Declaration of War on Germany in order to make ‘the world safe for democracy’.  Since 1914, he had fought to keep America neutral but his hand was forced when Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare on all shipping (whether neutral or not) with the sinking of the American liner, Housatonic, 31st January 1917. (British intelligence also reported that Germany was pushing Mexico to declare war on America).

Even so, it was not until May 1918 that a full-scale American Army arrived in France: by then Lieut. Basil Hibbett was already at the Front doing ‘his bit’.


(1) Arboretum Lake, Walsall: E. A. Foden, (gave his name to Foden Road, now Broadway), decided to turn his estate into a People’s Park. It was officially opened in 1874 with two lakes, two lodges, and a boathouse. The lakes were created by flooding the deep disused limestone mines. Hatherton Lake is 40ft deep in places. In WW1 the playing fields were used for growing potatoes and the Women’s Volunteer Reserve helped maintain the Park. (‘The Story of Walsall’, Bev Parker, Black Country Historian).

(2) Market Harborough (Leicestershire) 40 ° frost. The Met. Office Monthly Weather Report for Feb. 1917 records 91 days of frost on Dartmoor, the severest frost lasting 5 weeks, the longest since 1855: ‘nearly all the furze (gorse) is killed’. Birds & evergreen trees ‘severely affected’. See also Scott Richards’ Weather Videos from 1871 (YouTube 13th Jan 2016).

Ilkeston Corporation Tramways. 1917. Midlands General Omnibus Company website. NB Woman Conductor. 

(3) Car: i.e. Tramcar.

The Bell Inn, Bloxwich; Tudor. Photo late 1800s. Walsall Express & Star image.

(4) The Bell Inn: Birmingham Road, Bloxwich, Walsall. 

(5) The Beacon, Great Barr, parish of Aldridge, one of Pte Bertie’s favourite cycle rides.

The Beacon Way runs from Sandwell, West Bromwich, to Barr Beacon (now a local nature reserve) taking in canals and woodlands around Walsall. The Hibbett Family would have joined the walk at Rushall Church a mile or so from 95, Foden Road.

(6) ‘Bosty Lane’: (the B4754 between Rushall & the Beacon). ‘Bosty‘: slang for ‘filthy’ – here a muddy lane frequented by cattle?

Rushall Canal, Walsall.

(7) Mr Machin*: Hibbett Family friend, one of Pte Bertie’s mentors, father of Alan Machin, QMS pal. See Hibbett Lettersalso Menu: My Memories.

(8) Rumours: The March Offensive’ became The Battle of Arras, 9th April – 16th May 1917. French intended to breakthrough German lines ‘within 24 hours’, 50 miles south on the Aisne, whilst British were to divert German reserves by attacking their defences at Arras, re-capturing Vimy Ridge dominating the plain of Douai and advancing towards Cambrai. 

President Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

(9) President Thomas Woodrow Wilson, 1856 -1924. 28th U.S.A. President 1913-1921. Democrat.

Woodrow Wilson: generally considered one of the best of U.S.A. Presidents, with a reputation as a progressive reformer. Signed Treaty of Versailles at Paris Peace Conference (28th June -21st Jan 1920). Championed a new League of Nations but unable to win Senate approval. American WW1 casualties made USA want to keep out of European affairs.

Bunker Hill’s Sword.

(10) Bunker Hill’s Sword: 24″ carbon steel blade with brass handguard & pommel used in Seige of Boston, Massachusets, known as the Battle of Bunker’s Hill,17th June 1775; American Revolution’s first major battle, (British pyrrhic victory/ 2,200 killed or wounded).

(11) Basil Hibbett’s doggerel? I am unable to discover the authorship of this witty piece on typical British attitudes towards America in 1917 -it might well be Basil’s own.Ole papers & scraps . . . gold data’em: ref. to Congress’ Declaration of War or earlier declarations signed in gold?

NEXT POST: 22nd FEB 1917: Basil Hibbett leaves Home for War.


Dr N.C.SCLATER, Darna, 1 Earlston Road, Liscard, Cheshire: LETTER to ARTHUR HIBBETT Esq., Education Office, Walsall  Borough  Council.   


Darna, Earlston Road,, Dr Sclater’s Home & Surgery 1917, still a Medical Centre.

AT HOME 9-10 a.m. 6-7-11 p.m. Darna, Earlston Road,  Liscard, Cheshire.  (1         

TELEPHONE: 245 Liscard.                         

 7th Feby. 1917.

Dear Sir,

I saw & examined your son this morning.  His arm continues to improvethere being good union at the place where the bone was shattered (2).  There is a very narrow & deep sinus (a kind of tunnel-way) in the site of the wound (3). This I have no doubt will take some weeks (possibly months) in healing.  Your son’s health & spirits are good.

Pte Bertie’s Xray: right forearm gunshot wound to radius (left) & ulna (right) .

I do not know whether it will be a source of satisfaction or regret to you, but in my opinion I do not believe he will  ever again be a soldier ‘at the front’.  He will however have a first class arm with which to perform his work in life.

Yours faithfully,

N. C. Sclater.




This news must have been welcomed with joy by the Hibbett Family. The operation was successful and their son’s future was secure. The ‘gunshot wound’ was serious enough to prevent his return to the Front but his hand was not worthless, he would be  able to write & draw and have the career he chose. But Dr Sclater does not mention the ‘shell shock’ that Pte Bertie was to suffer all his life.

The 10 million military deaths in WW1 have been remembered ever since on War Memorials world-wide. It has taken the WW1 Centenary to focus attention on the  20 million soldiers who suffered life-changing wounds and to honour the extraordinary work of medics & nurses.

Officially my father’s wound is recorded as a ‘gunshot wound’ but I have not been able to determine whether this referred to ‘shrapnel’ (ball bearings, nails & other metal pieces packed into shells) or to ‘shell fragment’ (shell casing exploded into a myriad pieces). In 2016, the iron pieces I picked up in No Man’s Land between Foncquevillers & Gommecourt, are 3-4 inches average and similar to those illustrated below. 

Shrapnel from Somme Battlefields. Forces War Records: Plight of Wounded WW1 Soldiers. Western Front Militaria.
Shrapnel & Shell Fragment. <www.history.army.militaria> USA  WW1 Military Magazine.

From very early childhood I was fascinated by the hole in my father’s wrist. He called it a ‘shrapnel’ wound. He was often in pain but never grumbled. To him it must have been an ever-present reminder of his Walsall pal, Arthur Venables, who stopped to give him first aid and was later killed that day. See Menu: My Memories of the First World War.

(1) Dr N.C.Sclater. See Hibbett Letter 25th Nov. 1916. His  home & surgery in Liscard is still a busy Medical Centre today. 

(2) Forearm Bones/ Radius & Ulna: Hibbett Letter:13th Dec.1916. Muscles of the arm & forearm are attached to the radius & ulna to provide movement for everyday tasks and allow the hand to pivot at the wrist. 

Pronation & supination of  right forearm.

(3) Sinus (tunnel-way): deep & slow to heal, serious cause for concern if infected & unable to drain. The possibility of amputation of Pte Bertie’s hand or forearm is not mentioned in the Hibbett Letters but the threat must have been there since he was wounded on 1st July 1916.

NEXT POST: 7th FEB. 1917: The U.S.A. has come in at Last – only Two years 6 Months Too Late!


CECIL JACKSON, 1/6 R.W.F.; E.E.F.  (1) c/o G.P.O. London: POSTCARD to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT c/o The Cenacle Hospital, New Brighton , Cheshire, England. 

Alexandria 1917. – Arabian Bazar near Fort William. No 6. Livadas & Coutsicos – Cairo. (2)

On Active Service.             Posted 2nd Jan, 1917  

Dear Bert,

Just a line to wish you the very best for the New Year.  Please give my address to all.

Yours sincerely,  Cecil Jackson. (3)


 Pte Bertie’s pal Cecil Jackson is an example of how once recovered, a wounded soldier was often sent to other regiments to make up numbers lost in battle, rather than returned to his Unit.

Service in Egypt: the land where the British forces were active in 1914-1918 lies in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudia Arabia and Syria. … Later, operations were necessary in the Hejaz and in Aden, before in 1917 an offensive was launched which took British troops into the Holy Land and Syria.’  Wikipedia.

Alexandria: after the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915, Alexandria remained an important hospital centre during later operations in Egypt and Palestine and the port was much used by hospital ships and troop transports bringing reinforcements and carrying the sick and wounded out of the theatres of war.’  https://www.cwgc.org/ 

(1) R.W.F. Royal Welsh Fusiliers. E.E.F.: Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

(2) Livadas & Coutsicos: postcard publishers in Cairo.

(3) Cecil Jackson. Former pupil  QMS (Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall). Bank Clerk United Counties Bank, Wolverhampton. Volunteered No 8834 with 5th South Staffords  until wounded July 1915.  Patient Llandudno Hospital. When recovered joined  1/6 Royal Welsh Fusiliers (RWF) & with Egyptian Expeditionary Force. See Hibbett Letters: 28th March 1915, 30th May 1915, 9th July 1915, 29th Aug.1915.

NEXT POST: 28th JAN 1917: Pte Bertie’s ‘Beautiful Painting’.


CENACLE NURSE’S POSTCARD to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT at Fazerkeley Red Cross Hospital, Liverpool, where he was recovering from an operation to his arm & hand.

Almond Blossom: Oilette (T). Published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, London, estab. 1866.

NB This Postcard was redirected back to The Cenacle Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton some time in January 1917. The message is temporarily missing . From memory it said the nurse was unable to visit Pte Bertie in Liverpool as she  was very busy at The Cenacle.

NEXT  POST: 2nd Jan. 1917: Pal’s Postcard ‘On Active Service’ Egypt.



Pte Bertie Hibbett. 1916

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton: LETTER to FATHER, MOTHER, IDA, HAROLD & BASIL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall, Staffs.

Christmas Day /16

My Dear Father, Mother, Ida, Harold & Basil, 

The Programme of the Day started with trying to undo my pair of stockings and extricate their contents (6.15 am).  The contents I found out were first – a handsome little cigarette case, nickel silver – then a small parcel containing Gold Flake cigs, Cad. (bury) Milk chocolates, some other chocolates & a bag of toffee. There was also this writing pad and the letter which was going to be sent to Fazakerly (1) from the Matron, having on the top a pretty Christmas design.

St James with Emmanuel, Victoria Rd New Brighton, Merseyside.1875.

Having got ready for Church, I thought of singing ‘Christians Awake’ (2) to Nurse Wilcox* . It was rather jolly going there in the dark & singing by candlelight. I have rarely sung here & I wondered if they heard me.  You will learn later in my letter. The Holy Communion Service was plain  (the Choral was later) & the organist not being there, the Hymn While Shepherds watched’  (3) was played by the Vicar on the harmonium, which I had noticed some long time ago near the vestry.

It was very pleasant for all the soldiers to go up to the altar with a sister (Sister Clive* wears glasses).  On coming out of Church I saw the two Wilcox sisters who wished their compliments & remarked upon me getting up early.  Later they came round the Wards with their father who wished to know for certain who sang, they all thought it very nice. (They are a little like the Brookes* (4) ).

I intended going to the morning service but did not know it started at 10.30 am. 

I went a walk on the sands, the weather was foggy but just before dinner – & for the rest of the day –    the weather has been lovely & bright & a bite of cold.

The Dinner was very good, turkey, stuffing, sausages & bread sauce etc. & plum pudding, deserts, fruit & nuts, including a few Brazils & almonds in shells.

After dinner I got a box of chocolates from Molly Evans* (5) & I lay down in my old bed & tried to sleep, at any rate I rested. Then about 4 o’clock I  went to see Sister Jones* ( but I had to visit the other branch Hospital at Penkell Rd. (6).  Well Mother, when Sister Jones saw me she smiled all over & half ran to me & then embraced me.  What do you think of that.  She persisted in me staying there & so I entered a room to find the nurses & patients having a Sing Song  – & a Santa Claus was giving presents to the audience, conveyed by someone dressed as a Teddy Bear.  How they laughed.

So far so goodbut I forgot to mention that I got a fit of tidyness this morning & I tidied the Ward & made it look so nice that when the Medical Officer in Charge of the Cenacle (7) came round with the Commandant, he remarked upon it, saying of all the wards this was the best.  I put Miss K. Brookes* black dog Calendar in the centre of the mantelpiece which attracted everyone’s admiration.

I also forgot to tell you I have had four eggs given to me. Two for breakfast (I was about to have three (one a bantams)).

Serjeant Sydney Hibbett 22 yrs.

I showed many nurses the Q.M.S. Magazine (8) with Our Dear Sydney’s photo in, which I consider the best, although we must reverently consider the others. I thought more than ever of Sydney when I was resting after dinner.

I showed the poem (9) I sent you to a clergyman who thought it would be very nice for Mother, but I have an idea that Sydney is too good (or the loss of our dear Sydney is such a delicate matter) for me to write poetry about, not being able to compose so correctly as genii – but the clergyman thought it well, excepting some of the metre here & there.  I  leave it entirely to your candid opinion Mother & all of you, for I only thought of the idea to try and make amends for the loss of the poem on the paper cutting. 

On Christmas Eve by the Matron’s request I embossed a letter of Good Wishes to the M.O. I/C (Dr Barry) (7). I was chosen to write the letter because I was one of the two oldest patients at the Cenacle.  Dr Barry* thanked me so kindly this morning, he is a very pleasant gentleman & the Commandant was also rather pleasant.

I also did (copied) the King’s Message to the sailors & soldier saying how the ‘Queen & I at this time think especially of the sick & wounded’ (10).

Well dears, I thought of the Xmas three years ago (11 ) when we were altogether & I hope & pray I may be with you at Home next.  I liked Harold’s Christmas Card very much, especially the words:-

‘A little fun to Match the sorrow Of each day’s growing, And so Good Morrow’ (12). 

I liked Basil’s letter & thank him for the one I got when at Fazakerly. I described his account of York Minster to several nurses  – & to the Bach. of Music, who was talking at breakfast how the Holy Communion Service was taken at Peterborough. (They have services at 6, 7,  8 & 11.30 –all Choral.  The Dean takes the first & the Canon the next & the Bishop at 8  – & the Canon in Residence at 11.30).  How I wished I had been with Basil in the Minster.

The Cenacle British Red Cross Hospital: Nurse Cockeram & Nurse Higson. Far right: Pte Bertie. Hibbett . August 1916.

Well, I remembered Basil to the nurses & those who knew him well. Nurse Danger, Nurses Hay*, Cockeram* & Wilcox* (Helen) send you all the Compliments of the Season.

I remain, Yours affectionately ever,


PS  I was going to write to Mary Overend & Mr & Mrs * (13 ) but can you convey my wishes please.  The bottom Ward, consisting of two front rooms in one, has been cleared of the beds & they are all dancing to the violin & some music on the piano by the B Musc.  I am in the Ward busy writing this letter. I can feel that Sydney is present. 

Sister Jones* sends her best wishes to Mother.



My father always made Christmas a special time for us all. His love of the Festival is clear in this WW1 letter as he remembers his lost brother & the Hibbett Family’s last Christmas all together in 1913. Cf his Christmas Letters of 1914 & 1915.

(1) Fazakerly Military Hospital, Liverpool, where Pte Bertie had recently returned after an operation to save his right arm. No doubt his bandages made it difficult to open his Christmas stockings one-handed. 

(2) Hymn: Christians Awake salute the happy morn, whereon the Saviour of the world was born. Text John Byrom 1691-1763; Tune John Wainwright 1723 -1768. [See Hibbett Letters 25th Dec. 1915]

(3) Hymn: While Shepherds watched. Text based on Luke 2.8-14 by Nahum Tate 1652-1715 (Irish Hymnist/Poet Laureate to Queen Anne.).Published by Tate & Nicholas Brady in ‘Supplement of New Version of Psalms of David.1696’ . Music: Old Winchester. (The only Christian hymn authorised to be sung in Anglican Churches. Before 1700 only Psalms could be sung). [See Hibbett Letters 27th Dec 1914; 24th Dec. 1915]

(4Kathleen Brookes*: Deacon/ Sunday School Teacher/ Superintendent. St Paul’s Church, Walsall.  Supported the Prisoner of War Relief Fund, Walsall Ladies’ Health Society and Walsall Poor Children’s Holiday Society.  Lived at Fern Leigh, Mellish Road, Walsall (with her father, William Henry Brookes, (JP, 1906) a former Superintendant & Pte Bertie’s friend & life-long mentor).

(5) Molly Evans*: young sister of Pte Bertie’s best pal, Vernon Evans, who joined his father’s Solicitor Firm in Walsall estab. 1884. Enoch Evans became Lord Mayor of Walsall in 1921. (See Enoch Evans LLP <www.enochevans.co.uk>)

(6) Penkell Rd, New Brighton: neither road nor hospital found on list of WW1 Auxiliary Hospitals <www.redcross.org.uk> so perhaps spelling is incorrect or the name refers to a house taken over for increasing numbers of Battle of Somme wounded.

(7) M.O I/C: Medical Officer in Charge. Dr Barry.

(8) QMS Magazine 1916. In Memoriam. 2016/17. A plaque dedicated to Serjeant Sydney Hibbett and one to Lieut Allen, both QMS Old Boys, KIA, has been erected at Lochnagar Crater by the present QMS Head Boy & senior pupils. (See photographs PRH191418@QMS191418/ Twitter). The crater was created by an enormous explosion underground, ten minutes before the official time of 7.30 am that marked the opening of the Battle of the Somme.  It would have been heard at Fonquevillers as the 1/5th S. Staffords waited to go over the top to take Gommecourt Park & Wood, 1st July 1916.

(9) Poem: temporarily mislaid.

(10) King’s Message Christmas 1916 (he did not broadcast his Christmas message until 1932).

(11) See Hibbett Letters Dec 1914.

(12) Poem: A Little Work. George Louis Palmella Du Maurier 1834-1896.  A little work, a little play To keep us going – and so Good Day! A little fun to match the sorrow  of each day’s growing and so Good Morrow.

(13) May/ Mary Overend (Red Cross Nurse /friend of Ida Hibbett), long-standing family friends in Walsall.

NEXT POST: 2nd Jan. 1917: Pal’s Postcard on Active Service, Egypt.


Marie Neal Hibbett. ‘Mother at tea’.

MARIE NEAL HIBBETT in Liverpool: POSTCARD to BASIL HIBBETT, Foden Rd., Walsall, Staffs. 20th Dec 1916.

At the seaside covered with snow. Not so cold, would do you all good to be here. Bertie does not look at all well. Was delighted to see me. Got here very nicely by car.  Going sometime tomorrow.


British Infantry on the March (in France).  Active Service No 17.



Postcard: British Infantry on the March (in France) : ‘Published by PHOTOCHROME CO LTD, London & Tunbridge Wells “On ACTIVE SERVICE” BY AIR AND SEA. From Copyright Photo taken at the front’.

NEXT POST:  25th Dec. 1916. Christmas Day.


Matron Gertrude Bellow
Matron Gertrude Bellow

Gertrude Bellow, Matron, Red Cross Hospital, Wallesley:  LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, Fazakerly Hospital, Liverpool. (1)

My dear Hibbett,

I am so sorry you were detained at Fazakerly. But Cheer up – and come back soon again to us.  Let me know what is going to happen, when your operation will take place, & I shall do all in my power to have you amongst us once moreand that very soon.

I am very busy so cannot wait to write more now. But keep your heart up, as you have done all along – and remember every cloud has a silver lining’. (2)

With very best wishes from

Yours Very Sincerely,   Gertrude Bellow. Matron.



Pt Bertie sent this Letter Home, with the words  ‘Two very homely letters aren’t they?’  in pencil across the top.

(1) Fazakerly Hospital, Liverpool. Requisitioned by Military for WW! wounded soldiers. For details see Letter 13th Dec 1916.

(2) ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ Ivor Novello. Popular WW1 song. cf Letters: 26th Dec. 1915; 9th July 1916.

NEXT POST: 20th Dec 1916.  Bertie Does Not Look at All Well.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT, D Ward, Fazakerley Hospital, Liverpool (1) : LETTER to ARTHUR HIBBETT Esq. Foden Rd Walsall, Staffs. (2).





14tg-dwc-1916-faz-hospital                                                                                  Wed. Dec. 13/16.

My Dear Sir,

I was sent here this morning for operating treatment.

Hope to return to the The Cenacle for Christmas, but matters have turned out rather as if I am to stop here.

I am keeping as well as possible. Received and read with pleasure, the letter from Mother, Ida & Basil.

Your affec. Son


PS   I put it to Dr Schlater (sic) my wish to return to the Cenacle & will try here.



Pte Bertie Hibbett always conveys important news first to his Father: this time it’s about an operation to save the use of his right hand if not his arm – something that might send him back to the Front or affect his future career. My poor Dad! longing to be Home for Christmas – or if not Home then back with the kind nurses at The Cenacle Hospital. 

(1) Fazakerley Military Hospital, Liverpool. ‘1st Western Military Hospital‘ in 1914 for treatment of injured soldiers. Hospital built 1903 in grounds of Harbreck Estate, 4.7 miles from Cenacle, New Brighton, across the Mersey. (NB Pte Bertie misspells his address).

barbara-blog-hit-of-faz-hosp-god-has-given-this-peace-to-us-8-nov-2006-1921Fazakerley Hospital . Plaque reads: ‘God has given this peace to us‘.

Harbreck Estate bought by City Council, 1898. consisted of a Country House, farms and cottages. By 1906 the Hospital had 4 isolation blocks for infectious diseases (smallpox & TB), a nurses’ home/admin block/kitchen block/laundry/dispensary/ mortuary.

City of Liverpool Fazakerley Sanatorium AD 1915′

Fazakerley Sanatorium (245 TB patients) opened in 1920 by Alderman Dr. John Utting JP/ a relative of Hibbett Family Doctor in Walsall perhaps? 

Fazakerley district was home to Royal Ordnance Factories making WW1 Lee-Enfield Rifles (Sten & Stirling submachine guns WW2). FazakerleyAnglo-Saxon ‘a wood or a clearing’.

(2) Handwriting appears left-handed, similar to that of Pte Bertie’s first Letter Home from the Somme, 9th July 1916. (3) ‘Schlater’ is  German: perhaps changed to Sclater to mask connection with Germany in wartime?) cf Hibbett Letter: 25th Nov. 1916.

NEXT POST: 15th Dec. 1916. ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT. The Cenacle. B.R.C. Hospital New Brighton Cheshire. LETTER TO BASIL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

‘That ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost’. Epistle (1).

‘And when things begin to pass, then look up & lift up your hearts (sic).’ Gospel. (2)

Sunday Dec. 10/ 16.

My Dear Brother Dodger,

Of course, I know this letter will be read all round, but is a long time since I addressed a letter to my dear young brother.

 The Second Sunday in Advent last year where was I?  Most likely you had a letter from me on this day last year.  Yes. Well do I remember getting with great delight the letter from Cirencester (3).  I believe the letter was dated Dec 8th Wed.   Vernon had gone to Hospital & I followed soon after.  I wonder if I shall have a chance of seeing Vernon.  I hope so and I shall have a chance of seeing you at Home round the Study fire.

Dear Basil, I do not really know what to say about receiving your PC sent from Lichfield (4). Did you go there on your own or were you called? When will you have to leave Home?   Vernon’s commission seems to be hampered with the continuous illnesses he gets. He is in Hospital at Davenport, I had a letter from him the other night.

I hope you have not the slightest symptoms of jaundice now.  I hope too that Mother is quite well again.  Oh if we could only do something that would keep her well & happy for good.  I am sure God never intended things to happen in this world that would make us unhappy for a life time. Everything is for good to those who love Him, who gave his life for us all & rose again that we might live (5).

I believe you must have thought quietly that the Almighty has so ordered my return Home for the best.  I am not ready, I have not learned yet to live as I ought, I have still more to learn.  He called Our Dear Sydney because he was ready to a certain extent.  That letter our dear brother wrote, to be handed personally to Mother, has caused me to think greatly.

I am sure you will follow his good example of smartness, discipline, cleanliness (6).  If he had been a Second Lieutenant, he would I believe not have been able to show his ability of improvement so fast.  I am pleased you are taking a commission. You will be able to take the place Sydney unfortunately? missed. You will be able to carry on.

I remember how you & Sydney were generally together.  I shall not forget the dream of Sydney & we three together & Sydney was taking kindly & brotherly to us.  I cannot quite tell you what he said, but I believe he would say something to the effect that you & I will love & take care of each other in future.  Yes, you are right, he who dies for England lives, especially nowadays, for we are in the right.  Let us stick fast to our true aim – Christian love throughout the world.

pearsI have you both in my Locker. Good morning! Have you used Pear’s soap?’ (6).

final-xrays-x2-1916I have written a long letter with my left to Harold. My right has gone much better for writing but it is just after dressing that I cannot bear to write.  It feels more than ever that bones are jerking & floating about.  In case I did not tell you the results of the Xray I will now (7).  There is still some diseased bone in.  I had some out the other day, about 1/8” and it is as porous as pumice stone. The two holes I mentioned are growing larger & larger & I shouldn’t be surprised if they both meet & form one big hole, then the matter will come out & bring the bone with it.

But sorry, my Boy, it looks as if I shall be heading my letters at Christmas in the same old way that I have done these last 5 months. I shall look forward to the little snack of fare you have.  I guess you won’t indulge in many luxuries this Xmas but still all the better, and please persuade Mum & the others to withdraw their cash generosity a little more. You’ll make me a money grabber soon. 

Yes what about that 14 £  – I have not said (8).  A quarter master and I have talked over the matter & we came to the conclusion that it is quite likely if Vernon had not received pay from the time he left France till the time he was discharged from Hospital, say about 7 months at 7/- shillings a week what is that? and then add the deficiencies during the time he was on Active Service, amounting to 4  or 5 £ it comes to something about that amount. I should not get the money sent to me here, it will be sent Home. Yes, father is the right person to look after it being obtained.  Of course, I shall not get so much. I hope you are not all building up hopes of a Bolt from the Blue.  I handed in my pay-book on entry into Hospital & I have a copy of the accounts in Ida’s pocket book.  I had 15 francs credit paid to me just before the Charge.

I have to shave now of course & I have no razor. If you are thinking of a Christmas present that would be very acceptable.

Boots in Bold Street Liverpool
Boots Chemist, Bold Street, Liverpool. 3rd shop left side. courtesy ronramstew blog (Flikr).

I am getting on nicely with Christmas cards.  I went into Boots in Liverpool, they have a magnificent place there (9), I only wish Dodger was with me to pot round, but let us be satisfied.

If you ever write to George Lallerman* (10) just remember me kindly to him. Ida has not written to me if she still needs a photo for to send to Mrs Lallerman.  Harold is busy isn’t he, let’s hope we shall witness a happy marriage (11)  I am witnessing the one of Nurse Wilcox* on 12th.  Her fiancé has come from Uganda & the Nurse was showing me her future home, a bungalow with thatched roof (12).

I will conclude on this my ninth page.

Trusting you are going to bed, after a Happy Sunday to have pleasant dreams. I guess I will have a letter from dear Mummy or Ida to say you have spent it happily together round the dining room fire.

Tell me how you spent the rest of the day at Lichfield.  I like the PC you sent.  Yes, typical that you are to serve our good King George V who, like a father, called his Council together.  It is all Lloyd George round here (13).  I knew he would make things lively.

Well ta ta.  Heaps of Love & kisses to Mother, Sister, Daddie & everyone – & a reverent kiss for Sydney.

I remain your loving brother, Bertie.

How do you like the aroma of Dad’s pipe?



(1) Epistle for 2nd Sunday in Advent, Book of Common Prayer 1662: Romans 15.4.  (2Gospel: Luke 21. 28. Quoting from memory Pte Bertie gives ‘Lift up your heads’ instead of ‘hearts’.

(3Cirencester: Sydney in Hospital there with ‘catarrhal jaundice’. Hibbett Letter: 30th Dec. 1915.

(4) Lichfield: Staffordshire Regiment Barracks. Basil  had listened to his parents & siblings’ advice to go for a Commission  rather than join as a Private. An Officer no doubt had more privileges but a subaltern’s life expectancy at this time was little more than 6 weeks at the Front.

(5) Everything is for good to those who Love God: my father is paraphrasing Romans 8.28 King James VersionAnd we know that all things work together for good to them that love God’.

(6Cleanliness in mind & body was the foundation of Baden Powell’s Boy Scouts Movement. ‘Pears Soap’: Pte Bertie had both Sydney & Basil’s smiling photographs in his bedside locker.

(7) X-rays of wounded wrist & arm. Hibbett Letters: 25th Dec. 1916.

(8) Army Pay. £14  in 1916 amounted to £856.10 but <https://www.measuringworth.com > explains how complicated is calculation of worth/ relative values.

(9) Boots Chemist of Bold Street Liverpool. Postcard 1913. Flickr: ronramstew blog states Bold Street was favoured by middle classes ‘before their big flight to the Wirral’. Building is now a Charity Shop.

(10George Lallerman*: Ida’s childhood friend. (11) Harold married Hildegarde Bore (Hilda) sometime in 1917?

(12) Nurse Wilcox*: her fiance must have been a British soldier in the East African Campaign 3rd Aug. 1914 – November 1918. See Wikipedia.

lloyd-george-1863-1945(13) Lloyd George: 1863 -1945. Chancellor of Exchequer 1908–1915. Prime Minister Wartime Coalition Government 1916–22. Major player Versailles/Paris Peace Conference 1919 that reordered Europe after the defeat of Central PowersLloyd George ‘arguably made a greater impact on British public life than any other 20th-century leader, thanks to his pre-war introduction of Britain’s social welfare system, his leadership in winning the war, his post-war role in reshaping Europe, and his partitioning Ireland (between Southern Ireland – later the Irish Free State – and Northern Ireland which remained part of the UK). He was the last Liberal to serve as Prime Minister.’  Wikipedia.

NEXT POST: 13th Dec. 1916: Ward D Fazakerly Hospital Liverpool for operating treatment.


1-earlston-rd-earlston-seabank-medical-centre-earlston_practice_photoDr. N.C. SCLATER * (1) Consultant Physician, The Cenacle, New Brighton: LETTER to ARTHUR HIBBETT Esq. 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

AT HOME: 9 to 10 a.m. 6 to 7 p.m.          DARNA,                                         Telephone: 245 Liscard.                                 1. EARLSTON ROAD,                                                                                                            LISCARD, Cheshire. (2)

ARTHUR HIBBETT: 56 in 1914.

                                                                             25th Nov. 1916.    A. Hibbett Esq.                

Dear Sir,

I have today made a special & careful examination of your son’s injury. 

I am pleased to say that I find the condition very much more successful than I could at one time have hoped to obtain. The long period of patient waiting has been justified by the success. 

Pronation & supination.

At first on arrival here, it looked as though the hand would be certainly saved but a hand that would be useless save for the simplest work owing to loss of important movements (pronation & supination) (3) through destruction of the bone. 

Fortunately all movements have been retained, and a really useful hand is the result.  Healing is not quite complete, and a portion of dead bone may still have to be removed (4).










I have ordered an X.ray plate (5) to be made at an early date so that we may see how things are. 

When your son returns home in some weeks time he will I trust be well able to resume active life & earn his own living.

Yours faithfully,



Total Detonation Fragmentation 18 pound  Mark iii Shell.

Pte Bertie Hibbett’s gunshot wound on 1st July 1916 was potentially very serious. Many soldiers died even from seemingly minor injuries, when they did not receive immediate medical attention & septicemia set it.  My father in My Memories. 1967 wondered why a fellow soldier, with a similar wound, died while he lived on. It is no wonder that he felt so grateful to his pal Arthur Venables (commemorated Thiepval Memorial to the Missing) who gave him that vital first-aid in No Man’s Land, Gommecourt.

My grandfather, Arthur Hibbett, Walsall Borough Education Officer, would have been interested in the doctor who was treating his son and the use of X-rays & he would have known of the 1905 petition by the Royal College of Surgeons regarding Hygiene Education in schools to which Dr Sclater was a signatory. 

Royal College of Surgeons.
Royal College of Surgeons.

(1) Dr Nelson Cameron Sclater: born 1875? Dingle, Lancashire. Married Violet Salmon. Listed British Army Service Records, 1914 -1920. Died 1965. One of 14,718 Signatories to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson’s Petition to Central Education Authorities of England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland distributed to Medical Professions of the United Kingdom. Royal College of Surgeons. Published 1905 by Morland, Birmingham. (Detail continued below).

(2) No 1. Earlston Rd: good to see Dr Sclater’s old home ‘Darna‘ is still thriving as ‘Earlston and Seabanks N.H.S Medical Centre (Wirral) with a musculoskeletal specialist. No doubt with very different hours! 

(3) Pronation & Supination: anatomical terms for ‘pair of unique movements’ re rotation of forearm or foot. Pronation:– hand & upper arm turned inwards. Supination:- forearm & hand turned outwards.

(4) ‘Removal of dead bone’: Pte Bertie Hibbett underwent an ‘operation to the right wrist’ ,13th Dec.1916 at Fazakerly Hospital, Liverpool.

(5) X-rays: discovered by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen. 1845-1923, Professor at Würzburg University. X-ray: ‘invisible ray able to pass through solid matter & in conjunction with photographic plate provide a picture of bones & interior body parts’. By 1896 X-rays were being ‘used by battle field physicians to locate bullets in wounded soldiers’. NDT Resource Centre website.

[ (1) Continued: THE UNDERSIGNED MEMBERS OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION, having constantly before us the serious physical and moral conditions of degeneracy and disease resulting from the neglect and infraction of the elementary laws of Hygiene, venture to urge the CENTRAL EDUCATIONAL AUTHORITIES OF THE UNITED KINGDOM TO CONSIDER WHETHER  it would not be possible to include in the curricula of the Public Elementary Schools, and to encourage in the Secondary Schools, such teaching as may, without developing any tendency to dwell on what is unwholesome, lead all the children to appreciate at their true value healthful bodily conditions as regards Cleanliness, Pure Air, Food, Drink, etc.

In making this request we are well aware that at the present time pupils may receive teaching on the laws of Health, by means of subjects almost invariably placed upon the Optional Code. By this method effective instruction is given to a small proportion of the pupils only. This does not appear to us to be adequate. We believe that it should be compulsory and be given at a much earlier age than at present. It may, perhaps, be useful to call attention to what is being achieved in this direction by English speaking nations. In reviewing the steps taken it will be noted that one of the most prominent subjects with which the various countries have found it necessary to deal, is the question of the nature and effects of Alcohol.

In the ARMY SCHOOLS of this country and of all our foreign stations west of Aden, teaching in Elementary Hygiene is compulsory; such teaching including Temperance, Health and Sanitation, special attention being drawn to the deleterious effects of Alcohol.]

NEXT POST: 10th DEC. 1916.

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.