Tag Archives: Abbeville.

10TH MAY 1916: SNIPER ATKINS OBSERVING & SKETCHING GOMMECOURT WOOD.

Staffordshire Regt. Brooch.A Short History of South Staffordshire Regiment: After a month’s hard earned rest S. Staffs began to prepare for the Battle of the Somme.’

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY:

CHELERS.

2nd May Tue: Battalion Training. 3rd May: Wed. 9.45 am: Marched to new billets at CONETTEMONT and HONVAL4th May Thur 7.0 am: Marched to new billets at ST. AMAND (1).

Royal Warwickshire Regt. www.en.wiki.org
Royal Warwickshire Regt. <http://www.en-wiki.org.uk&gt;

5th May Fri: 1.30 pm: Marched to FONQUEVILLERS (2) and relieved 1/6th Bn ROYAL WARWICKSHIRE REGT in L SECTOR Trenches.

6th- 7th May: FONQUEVILLERS. Enemy abnormally quiet.  8th May Mon: Enemy fired 10 Trench mortar bombs between No.1 and 2 posts. Our artillery retaliated on enemy front line.

9th May Tue.:  Enemy shelled No. 4 post. 1 Lewis Gun damaged and portion of parapet damaged. 10th May Wed:  Very quiet day.

From Chelers to Fonquevillers/Gommecourt via Canettemont/Honval snd St Amand.
March from Chelers to Front Line at Fonquevillers/Gommecourt via Canettemont/Honval and St Amand: 40 miles (65 km) approx. with  full pack in 2 days.  Rough Map efw.

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Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT’s Own War Diary: A Little Book of Words & Doings’. May 3rd – May 31st.  ‘Sydney went to 6 Syndicate for School of Instruction at 3 Army Corp & returned. Very instructive lesson. Spends his 22nd Birthday there & received parcels from Home on Sunday.  He sent two large photos of Abbeville Cathedral.  Bomb courses, amo courses, attack runs etc.’

‘On Friday, (5th May) at Stand To & Stand Down, I heard  our friend the cuckoo calling as if to say Come to England:- ‘Blighty co-om’.  It was heard in our Reserve of the village of Fonquevillers in the wood. How transporting to the good old days in England.’

Preface Title Page: 'Sniper Atkins composed by a Sniper during a tour in the Trenches and Illustrated with original drawings from the pen of the same'. Signed 'Sniper Hibbett'.
Preface Title Page: ‘Sniper Atkins composed by a Sniper during a tour in the Trenches and Illustrated with original drawings from the pencil of the same’. Signed ‘Sniper Hibbett’.

While in trenches I drew sketch of Gommecourt Wood (3) in Fonquevillers and composed ‘Sniper Atkins’ (4). More observing and taking notes than firing from Sunday May 6th.

‘Sketched position. Man, wearing no equipment & carrying no rifle, seen to come down enfilade trench towards first line trenches, disappear in shrubbery & appear again walking apparently on top of parados of first line trenches, seen then to carry a white can similar to gallon can by hand, tall trees in front, making towards silver birch tree.  Later he returned without the can & went up trench towards enfilade trench.

Quarter of an hour later two men appeared in front trenches, running below in front, crossing each other one went to right & disappeared & one went left.  From S.B. (5), when walking about below, the whole of the figures of the men from the knee could be seen.  [Ed. NB. enfilade trench is where weapons can be fired along its longest axis. Parados – the back of a trench & lined with sandbags.]

LETTER to HIBBETT FAMILY, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. 

Wednesday, May 10th/ 16.

There’s a silver lining through the dark cloud shining, Turn the dark cloud inside out, till the boys come home (6).

My Dear People,

On Monday (8th) morning Sydney’s parcel, with the watch in, had been opened by A.O. Jones* who is in Sydney’s Platoon & was with him & slept by him.  Sydney must have left word to Jones to forward on the parcels etc, if he found his address, but someone told Jones that he had not received a certain parcel which had been forwarded to him (it had been mislaid I suppose) so Jones is keeping the watch for Sydney.  I took the cake & tin (a nice tin for a parcel).

This morning the Railway Magazine (7) with the washing square came & was handed to me.  I am keeping them in my haversack until Sydney returns, which I think will not be more than 3 weeks now.

There are only about 6 men in No 2 Platoon who have been on Active Service since the Division came out in March/ 15. So if I should get leave before Sydney returns I will leave his things with Jones. I had Harold’s parcel of candles, Horlick’s Milk Tablets & ointment which was addressed to 3rd Field Ambulance am yesterday.  Did you post the parcel you sent on Saturday April 2th to 3rd Field Ambulance? the one you said had eggs in?  That makes the second which will have gone astray if it does not arrive soon.

I read Dodger’s letters to Sydney (you don’t mind do you Dodger?) & was greatly interested in them, but I think you beat me in scribbling.  The first thing I noticed was the ‘Censoring’ & was amused to read you had the same idea. 

Inns of Court Badge.
Inns of Court Badge. The Devil’s Own. <http://dacorumheritage.org.uk&gt;

I have had another swanky letter with seals on the envelope & paper – the latter came from Mr Bates*, who was in the Inns of Court OTC (8) – Vernon* told me that rotten officers were being turned out by its training – at any rate Mr Bates was gazetted last November to the Durham Light Infantry & he is now at Rugeley Camp, Cannock Chase (9).

I have not written to Nightingale* (10) since last December, as you said his letter had been returned when it did not reach me, owing to me being in Hospital.

I think the ‘Dark Cloud’ is drifting by and the sunshine of Home Leave is showing itself. Theysay the number has increased to 12 men a day on leave.  I hope I shall not bhoy (sic) you up on false hopes – ahem!

So, so very, very sorry Sydney is away for the sake of your Birthday parcels for him, but I think if you address the parcels to where he is No 6 Syndicate, 3rd Army School of Instruction (Infantry) B.E.F. it will find him.  What do you think?  I hope in any case matters will come straight & he will not miss them.

I am detached from 2 Platoon while in these trenches, for I am a Schniper (sic) as you knowI do not do much firing – well I have not fired a shot yet as my post,  which is a ‘cushi’ one, is for observation purposes chiefly, as we can see the enemy often.  I make out reports & am on a ‘sketch’ of the enemy line.  You see the Sergeant in charge has somehow found out my natural inclinations.

Macdonald's Export Cigarettes.
Macdonald’s Export Cigarettes.<http://thecanadiansoldier.com&gt;

Mrs Brookes*parcel of cigs from London has not yet come, but I suppose, as Jones* told me Parcels dodrawbackfor sometimes a month before they arrive. (Jones frequently has a wholesome lot of cigs Export or Drawback (11).

6th Inniskilling Dragoons.
6th Inniskilling Dragoons.

Mr Bates*, by the by, had a brother, a Regular in the Inniskilling Dragoons & he was killed in March at the place along the line we are now occupying.  So if Dad asks Nightingale* or Bates*, should Dad see either, you can get to know.

We have had it charmingly quiet & comfortable while we’ve been here.  The country looks ‘Bon’ in the Spring atmosphere.  Am I telling you anything about me sen?  I am keeping well & happy & my sores are very nearly better. I think it was the Spring, partly, that caused them.

Talking about Spring again; you have heard the old saying that Spring brings with itBuddingin every form, not only in trees & such things but ‘Budding Authors’ & ‘Budding PoetsThe latter class includes this humble self.  I caught the fever from copying a piece of ‘doggerel’ from one of Hacket’s* chums in his Mess

Title Page Sniper Atkins
Title Page Sniper Atkins. ‘Wait & See.  A few verses from my pencil written in the trenches, during the reign of Good King George V ‘.  Sketch of one of his sniper pals. Signed A. H. Hibbett. 

So, during my hours off, I began to compose a poem on Sniping, just for a joke. To see if I get any luck I am sending the result off to The Walsall Observer, (which Dad refers to as ‘not up to much in news’ & only gets it to read the Education Notes etc).  

So look out for a poem in its columns entitled ‘Sniper Atkins’.  I think I shall tell them not to put my name to it, but say that it was composed by a Sniper in the 1/5th S. Staffs T. F.  Ha! ha! ha!  Poor old Dad when he sees it!  Look out & tell me what you think on’t.  I will send you a copy in my next letter.  Of course it’s original.  What, what!

Now is there anything else to tell you,  scratch!- scratch!- scratch  my noddle — no!

Toodle oo & Best of Love,   Affectionately yours,

Bertie.

PS  My word Dodger, you  & I will stick ‘we’ mouths togedder (sic) with Turkish Delight when we go cycling round those good old places which you gave such a homely description of.

‘To CAMWELL FOR BANANAS’. (12)

‘To Tamworth (13)- had a drink of stone ginger & Turkish Delight’.   

PS  I will address my next to Ida as she takes an interest in poems – I suppose you’ll be amused at the crossing out – the Censor so to speak. My last letter was sent on Monday, dated Sun.  Hope you get it.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

With Pte Bertie Hibbett only just arrived back from Field Ambulance/ Hospital and his brother Serjeant Sydney on a course in (or near) Abbeville, the Hibbett family were anxious about the safe arrival of parcels, especially Sydney’s 22nd Birthday Parcel containing a watch. 

My father was officially detailed to make sketches of Gommecourt Wood. He brought a copy Home and kept it for over 50 years until, sadly, it disappeared after a Toc H. Exhibition in Skegness. I have yet to discover whether his illustrated doggerel ‘Sniper Atkins’ was ever published in the Walsall Observer.

1) A march of 40 miles (65 km) approx to Fonquevillers from Chelers, via Canettemont, Honval & St Amand (farming villages, Pas de Calais). (2) Fonquevillers: farming commune, 12 miles south of Arras. On British Front Line almost all of 1914- 1918. Village & Church of Our Lady destroyed & rebuilt with help of Derby & Nottingham. Plaque to ‘Derby Notre Marraine’ ‘Derby our Godmother‘.

(3) Gommecourt: farming village approx. 1 mile south of Fonquevillers, held by German Imperial Army (52nd Infantry Division, Baden & 2nd Guards Reserve Division, Westphalia). Diversionary attack by 1/5th S Staffords, 46th N. Midland Division, 1st July 1916. <www.ww1battlefields.co.uk>

(4) Sniper Atkins: Doggerel poem written & illustrated by Pte Bertie Hibbett. Tommy Atkins‘ – name adopted by Duke of Wellington 1815 for the common soldier in British Army. Origin: Pte Thomas Atkins, Battle of Boxtel, 1794. cf Rudyard Kipling ‘Tommy’, Barrack Room Ballads. 1892. See < http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems&gt; and <http://www.historic-uk.com/history&gt;

(5S.B. abbrev. of ‘Subject’? ie Pte Bertie?

en-wiki220px-KeepTheHomeFiresBurning1915(6) There’s a Silver Lining through the Dark Clouds shining: WW1 Song: Keep the Home Fires Burning’. Ivor Novello, Words: Lena Guilbert Ford. 8th Oct. 1914.

(7) Railway Magazine: See Hibbett Letter, 10th Nov. 1915. (8) Inns of Court O.T.C.: Harold Hibbett was intending to join.

(9) Rugeley Camp, Cannock Chase: one of two large Transit Camps for Service Battalions begun March 1915 at Cannock Chase (68 acres (AONB) Staffordshire). Timber huts, a Church, Post Office, Theatre – and a Hospital at Brindley Heath (1000 beds). Known for its ‘Tackaroo Railway’.(10Nightingale: Mining Surveyor, Lichfield Street, Walsall, Pte Bertie’s former boss.

(10) ‘Export & Drawback Cigarettes’: ref to drawback/tax relief: cf Houses of Parliament Hansard: 14th March 1916: The Secretary to the Treasury (re delay in payment of drawback on tobacco to manufacturers.  ‘The recent increase in tobacco drawback rates involving special inquiry into many claims submitted, combined with heavy & continuous increase in numbers of exportations, particularly those by parcel post to the Expeditionary Forces, has led to some unavoidable delay in the full payment of claims’.

(11) Camwell: near Sutton Coldfield. Church of St Giles, Mary & All Saints ‘an architectural gem’, Sir John Betjemin.

Tamworth castle.
Tamworth Castle. <http://www.en-wiki.org.uk&gt;

(12) Tamworth: large market town on River Tame, 14 miles from Birmingham/ renowned for Castle. See Hibbett Letter. 1st Aug. 1915.

NEXT POST: 17th May. Sydney’s 22nd Birthday Letter.  Also Sniper Atkins Page with doggerel transcript sometime before.

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7TH FEB.1916: HAPPY & AT HOME WITH ‘L’ANGUE FRANCAIS’ & ‘MON AMI JOE ‘.

Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings. February 1916.

Bellancourt (1). Had a good time with Transport at Bellancourt, where I acted as MP over billets.  Got in with French chap & an old couple and baby who would greet me as ‘Daddy‘ and cry awfully when I went away.  Albene by name. Invited me to supper. Menu: Pork et Pomme de terre. Cider. Macaroni pudding. Pommes de fritters. Cafe. Promised to keep in touch with Bukhshee Ichbye Singh Waltu (clerk). No 5. Base Supply Depot, Indian Expeditionary Force, France.’ .

POSTCARD ‘Notre Petit Gars’ to Mother, Marie Neal Hibbett (omitted from post by mistake, illustrated below): 27/ 1/ 1916.

 My very dear Mother, still here.

Any amount of flies in this orderly room, but half dazed. I squashed one on my ear. Trust you got the PC I sent to Dad. Not much I can tell you now, but hope to do so in time.  The French are great at painting mind pictures.  PCs are ½ d each here but these two were a 1d each owing to them being hand finished. I bought several PCs and hope to paint a picture or two when I have leave at home (when that is). 

I wonder if S(ydney) is at home or in England yetSorry you will not be able to write to me as I am still away from the Batt.

Best love, Bertie.

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Mother at Tea.
Mother at Tea.

Pte BERTIE tries his hand at ‘L’Angue Francais’ in LETTER to Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall, she had not heard from him for some time.

NB Neuve Address (1)       Lundi, Fevrier 7/ 16

Mon bien Chêre Mère, (2)

Comment-allez vous mon Mama. Je vous espère – ne heureuse – about me not being able to write you on Janvier 31st Demanche.  Que pensez vous le raide des zeppelins sur l’Angleterre? Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Liverpool, & Nottingham.

I spent Sunday January 31st in a cow truck, so of course I could not very well write to you as the train shook too much for reading even, let alone writing.  Je suis bien triste mon Mère that I have missed my usual Lettre de Demanche. 

I guess you will be ‘Bien Heureuse’ to receive a letter from me, & still happier I know that you can send parcels & letters from now on until further orders to Private AH Hibbett 8832 1/5 South Staffordshire, attached to A Company 1/5 Notts & Derby Regiment BEF.  Please note the latter Regiment Basil can make a copy for you to keep safe I was told to write the address in the letter & not on Top

Notre Petit Gar.
Notre petit Gars! Mon Dieu! dans les dangers Daignez le proteger! PC to Mother: 27.1.1916.

I hope now that I shall soon hear of Sydney. I wonder if he has left England yet When I wrote you last I sent you two French Postcards with something of little interest written on them, for then I could not tell you much.  But since thenJe suis avons une longue journé dans le chemin de fer & spent some happy days at a little village composed of nothing but farm houses & ‘chateaux’. (3).

I was in charge of a billet as ‘police hommes en garde’ & got to know the farm people who lived there.  The old lady invited me to supper every evening free of charge.  The supper was fine every time.  I had no less than four courses, but curious enough all the courses, except the second, was the same every night:

Menu: PremPommes de terres frittres. 2. Macoroni au lait.  3. Pommes des frittres et du pain4. Cafe.  – see torn leaf.  (4)

[Torn Leaf: We all made ourselves quite happy & at home with L’Angue Francais. Je connaissez petit – causing one another to break into roars of laughter now & again. They had one little child who mistook me for her ‘Dada’ & she would break into crying everytime I promenaded down La Rue de Ville. The farmer gave me many souvenirs. ]

So do not Rêre but be en L’Alerte  for a letter from my French Chum, Joé by name.  They were very interested, as well as surprised, when I got them to understand that my home was in Staffordshire over which des Zeppelins travelled (5).  We got to know of the damage done at Nottingham & Liverpool & I made them understand that I wanted to send the news in French to mon Père et mon chêre Mère as the news in French would beBien Interestanté’.

Je suis fatigue – êcriré l’angue Francais.  Je suis bien ignorant.  Monsieur Basil (the French compris ‘Basil’ as it is a French man’s name also) will think my scraps of French ‘Bien faible’, but I just put the phrases in as I like plenty of variety when writing letters.  I hate reading letters which are written in the same ‘olde style’. 

Buckshee-HindustaniAimez-vous les petit timbres et les petit photograph de moi-même et mon ami Bukhshee – il un Hindustani Sikh:–  that is his name.  He could speak, not only his own language but French fluently, & English too. (6).

I will conclude nowJe vous promets que vous serez heureuse when je vous vois at Home. 

Please note Notts & Derby Reg. Let Basil make a copy for you to keep in a safe place.  You can, if you wish, send me any thing you like in a parcel.

Je suis votre aimable fil, (7).  Bertie.

PS  Que pensez-vous de la raide des zeppelins sur L’Angleterre?  Mon Basil     [. .  the rest is censored . .]

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) BELLANCOURT, a tiny settlement in Picardie, 3 miles north-east of the Cathedral City of Abbeville.  Pte Bertie, was now attached to Notts & Derby Regt (Transport) & acting as military policeman (until 1/5th South Staffords arrived back in France from the Eastern Front). He accounts for the lack of a Letter Home on 31st January (on a train journey in a cow truck) and his Mother may not have received anything from him in January except a couple of postcards with ‘little of interest’ (see above PC 27th Jan).  The British Army was keen to keep its movements quiet. 

(2) Pte Bertie’s French is exactly as he wrote it (including accents) but readers, even with little French themselves, can make out the gist of his meaning!  Here he confuses ‘bien’ (good) with ‘très’ (very) and signs himself ‘Your kind (fil) thread‘! instead of ‘Your loving (fils) son.   ‘Je suis bien ignorant’ I can hear him laughing, but he made himself understood & his Little Book of Words & Doings has pages of French vocabulary. NB. Walsall’s Blue Coat Elementary School curriculum would probably not have included French and at Queen Mary’s Grammar his studies would have been geared towards his mining surveyor apprenticeship. 

(3) Pte Bertie’s position as an MP (military policeman) may account for his happier billet on Joé Albene’s farm.

(4) ‘Pommes des terres Frittres‘: Potato chips. Pommes des frittres‘: Apple fritters. NB omission of Pork listed in his Little Book’.

Wednesbury Rd Congregational
Zeppelin Raid : Wednesbury Rd Congregational Church, Walsall, corner of Glebe St. Walsall.

(5) Zeppelins L 21 & L19 intended to bomb Liverpool on 31st Jan -1st Feb. 1916 but got lost in the Midlands and bombed the Black Country instead  – with high explosives & incendiary bombs.  

Zeppelin L 21 (LZ 61)
Zeppelin L 21 (LZ 61). Nordholz Airbase, 1916. 587 ft long 61 ft diameter. Largest combat aircraft ever flown. Shot down in flames 28th Nov. 1916, over Lowestoft.

Walsall was hit on the afternoon of 1st Feb. The Lady Mayoress, Mary Julia Slater, died later (20th Feb.) having been badly injured whilst riding on the top of an open-air tram 16 in the centre of town near the Science & Art Institute in Bradford Place (at the spot where the War Memorial now stands). My grandfather had a narrow escape and my grandmother at 95, Foden Rd watched the sinister aircraft pass overhead. Total Casualties: 35 killed. <https://www.expressand star.com/tag/walsall> <https://www.en-wikipedia.org&gt;

(6Bukhshee Ichbye Singh Waltu: one of 130,000 members of Indian Expeditionary Force who served in France & Flanders, of whom 9,000 died. Memorials at Ypres & Neuve Chappelle. <https://www.greatwar.co.uk&gt; < https://www.en-wikipedia.org&gt;

NEXT NEW PAGE:  10th Feb. 2016. ‘My Memories of the First World War & the Battle of the Somme’ by the Revd A.H. Hibbett. Essay: 1967.

NEXT POST: 13th Feb. 1916.