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.
Transcription:The Cenacle British Red Cross Hospital Concert. Winter 1916-17. Program. Sketch drawn in pencil. Finished 1923.
1) Pianoforte Solo: “Overture 1812″.Tchaikovsky. 1882. Piano arrangement 1882. Lance Corpl F. Richter.Mus B.(Bachelor of Music).
2) Song: “Follow me ‘Ome”. Rudyard Kipling, 1865 -1936.‘There was no one like ‘im ‘Orse or Foot Nor any o’ the Guns I knew; An’ because it was so, why o’ course ‘e went an’ died. Which is just what the best men do. So knock out your pipes an’ follow me. An’ it’s finish up your swipes an’ follow me. Oh ‘ark to the big drum callin’ Follow me – Follow me ‘Ome. Corporal J. Beck. 1/10th Liverpool Scottish. (Underwent 10 operations) .
3. Song: Nurse Cicely G. Wilcox.
4. Recitation: Selection “The Lay of the Last Minstrel“.1805. Sir Walter Scot. Romantic/Gothic story of 16th Cent Border Feud/ theme-loyalty to one’s homeland. Pte A. H.Hibbett 1/5th S. Staffs.
5. Song: Nurse Mildred E. O’Neill.
6. Song: “Lowland Sea“.The Golden Vanity’s Cabin Boy was promised silver & gold to sink a Spanish galleon, successful but betrayed & left to drown. 17th Cent Battle between Spain & England. Rifleman Edwin J. Leggett.1st London Irish Rifles.
7. Violin Duet:“Andantino“. Shin’ichi Suzuki, 1898 -1998. Japanese inventor of Suzuki method. Taught self to play violin in 1916!Nurse M. Evans & Nurse G. M. Cockeram.
8. Song: “When Irish Eyes are Smiling“from Olcott’s ‘Isle of Dreams’ 1912. Lyrics: Chauncey Olcott & George Graff Jr. Tune: Ernest Ball.1878 -1927. Pte A. Kelly.South Irish Horse.
9. Song: “Three Score & Ten“. (Source unknown. Biblical span of human life).Sister Dorothy Clive.
10. Pianoforte Solo:“Walse Romantique“. Own Composition, L/CorporalF. Richter. Mus Bac.
11. Recitation: “The Yukon Trail“.Hamid Kareem? (nationality/date unknown). ‘To Yukon for gold they went, they left in poverty & death they found. ‘Twas no gold but iron ore. . . fool’s gold. Yukon was but a fool’s paradise’. Nurse Winnie Hay.
12. Song: Geoffrey Carman.5th City London Regiment.
14. Duet Burlesque:“The Optimist & The Pessimist“. Own composition. Corporal J. Beck(see Song 2) performed withCorporal G. Bostock-Byrd. 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards.
Transcript:Topical Verse introduced in “The Optimist & the Pessimist For “Cenacle” Patients’ Concert.Nov. 10.16.
Optimist:I hear there’s going to be a Concert here. Pessimist:They’ll be asking us to sing.O:Well I don’t mind if they do, mon cher, a duet ‘d be just the thing.P:You’ll be alright I havn’t a doubt. You’ve got such an awful neck. But what about if we get chucked out?O: Well! I shall be in the wreck. O: The Optimist. P: & The Pessimist.Both: may sing a duet sometime.We may even try a topical verse To add to our list of crimes.P:I warn you not to clap too much.He’ll be wanting to sing some more.O: O come along! They’ve had enough of you.Both: So There!!!The door (hurried exit).
Transcript:Topical Verse introduced in “The Optimist & The Pessimist” For “Cenacle” Patients’ Concert. Nov 10th 16.
Optimist: Well old boy, we’re in the Cenacle yet.Pessimist: We’ll soon be out in France.O: before I go out there anymore I’ll lead them a lively dance.P:You’ll soon be keeping down your head in the trenches over the way.O: Not while I can swing the lead you can bet your blooming pay. O: The Optimist. P.& The Pessimist. Both: Have both had all they want. P: It’s all right talking about doing your bit.O: I know it’s no picnic stunt.Both: No doubt we are very fine fellers & all that sort of pot but the climate over in Flanders is too bloomin’ hot.J. Beck.
This second Patients’ Concert at the Cenacle provides another good example of the artistic talent amongst soldiers & nurses alike. (cf 4th Oct. Concert).
“The Optimist & The Pessimist” by Corp. J. Beck 1/10th Liverpool Scottish is a grim reminder that all the wounded at the Cenacle Red Cross Hospital, including my father, obviously wanted to get better but were under the threat of being sent back to the Front as soon as they were.
My Father’s 21st Birthday Autograph Album has been a most valuable source of information when trying to identify people in the Hibbett Collection of Photographs. He illustrates the signed cigarette papers giving details of regt & rank & adding little notes e.g. Corpl Beck’s ’10 operations’. That so many nurses had some fun on 12th/13th April1917, indicates he was close to leaving Hospital. Their amusing drawings of a pig (with their eyes closed) giving signature & date solves the problem of just how long my Father spent at the Cenacle. His 1967 ‘My Memories of the First World War’ states itwas seven months but now we know it was at least ten months.
NEXT POST:15th NOV. 1916. ‘R.A.M.C Operations on Wounded German Prisoners’. NB This post may be late. I hope to remember my Uncle Sydney & Aunt Ida this Remembrance Sunday at Walsall War Memorial, also at the National Memorial Arboretum.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, at the Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, in July 1916, received an Autograph Album with the message:
‘Wishing you very many Happy Returns of your Birthday from your Chums’. Mother. (My father has added ‘Enoch, Vernon Evans‘) (1) .
On 13th July his Mother visited Bertie at the Cenacle and with his left hand he drew her a special page with the Stafford Knot, Union Jacks, a Lily of the Valley and a Rose, her favourite flowers.
‘At the time I drew this Mother was sitting by the side of my bed’.
To my Mother on her Birthday. July 13th 1916: ‘May every morning seem to say: “There’s something happy on the way, And God sends love to you”H.V.D. from her ever affectionate Son, Bertie, who celebrated his 21st Birthday yesterday.’ The box left reads: ‘This Quotation and the Following are written by Me leaving Spaces for each Corresponding Autograph. Arthur Hubert Hibbett.
Pte Bertie Hibbett’s best pal Vernon Evans, still serving in the Army, had obviously asked Bertie’s Mother to take him a present. It was an inspired present for three weeks after he was wounded my father had taught his left hand to write & draw well again. The Album was a present that he took pleasure in for the rest of his life.
During the time he was in Hospital my father began to collect signatures of his fellow patients, written on their carefully pressed & pasted cigarette papers.
The signatures above belong to soldiers of the Queen’s Westminster Regiment, Ward 6, The Cenacle Red Cross Hospital, July 1916. The Badge records the Regiment’s service in South Africa,1906 -1909. County of London. Queen’s Westminsters.Clockwise from top right: Rifleman A.F. Bays (Wills & Co Ltd New Bond Street. Turkish Fine); Rifleman G. Hughes (De Reszke as supplied) & Rifleman W.S. Markwell N.S.
I can imagine that first visit of Pte Bertie’s parents and the stories he told them of his journey home. These memories were still strong in 1967, no doubt re-enforced by frequent reference over the years to his 21st Birthday Autograph Album.
My Memories of the First World War. 1967.
As ‘sorrowful yet alway rejoicing!’(2)– how we rejoiced to see Southampton – and from the railway carriages,what a sight it was to see all the men, women and children – all waving Union Jacks from their back gardens for miles along the line toBirmingham.
When we neared our home town of Walsall we Staffordshire boysthought we would be detrained at Birmingham station,but no, we remained in locked carriages and a rope, stretching all along the platform, kept people away. Nevertheless people threw packets of fags and boxes of chocolates, and other articles of food, towards those soldiers who could get to the windows.
We eventually arrived atBirkenhead, where lots of private cars were waiting to take us to the different hospitals. I was taken in a car with another soldier who was also wounded in his right wrist. I heard later that the poor man died. And so I was left.
It made me think, and ask why my brother was left on the field of Battle, reported wounded and missing, and why my companion in the car, with similar wound as me, had died while I lived on.
I spent seven months in The Cenacle Red Cross Hospital in New Brighton.During that time I asked for my Latin and Greek Grammar books, but found it difficult to study (3).
A friend gave me an autograph book in which I collected autos of the patients, written on cigarettes, which I cut in half and pasted on the pages. I spent my time doing drawings and sketches with my left hand.
(1) Enoch Evans was Vernon Evans’ father,not his brother as it appears here.
(2) ‘As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’. St Paul.2 Corinthians, 6.10. AD 55 approx. [K.J.V. King James 1st Version, 3rd English translation of Bible, 1604-1611. NB. No major revision of K.J.V. until the RSV (Revised Standard Version) & a whole range of English translations mid 20th Cent. following development of rigorous academic methods of historical biblical criticism; something I was able to share with my Dad in 1960s as he tackled the introduction of new liturgies in the Anglican Church & I studied for my degree.
(3) Latin & Greekwere pre-requisites for training in the Anglican Ministry in my father’s day. The philosophy behind such study is basically the same as it should be today – that anyone seeking to understand and teach biblical literature (as it was first intended by the Gospel writers) must have a working knowledge of1st cent colloquial (‘koine’) Greek as found in the New Testament, beforethey offer an interpretation and attempt to apply it as relevant for the present. A basic qualification in Hebrew is also useful – in understanding the essentially poetic language of the Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible – and as an antidote to misleading literalism. Sadly, too often, one hears interpretations that give a message almost the opposite of a text’s intention in its historical context!
NEXT POST: 29th July 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.