NEUVE EGLISE. In Hutments, BULFORD CAMP.
25th June, Fri: Marched out en route for OUDERDOM at 9.0 pm.
OUDERDOM. 26th June, Sat: Arrived at and occupied E Hutments, about 12.30 am. (1) Position on Map Sheet 28 YPRES 1/40,000.
27th June: In Hutments near OUDERDOM. (2)
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal Hibbett 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
‘Somewhere Else’. Sunday June 27 / 15
My Dear Mother,
One of the ‘nicest’ parcels we’ve received. I was expecting a parcel from either Harold, Auntie or Home. Just let me break off on to something else.
The authorities will not accept anymore white letters – all correspondence to be in green ones (3). That means we must comply with the strict statement on the back that on our honour the letter is of nothing else but private & family matters.
So it’s rather awkward aint it, but I don’t think there’s much harm in saying I was in luck’s way for the last two days.
The rain came down in bucket fulls the night we left the camp & I with other sick men waited for the ambulance (4).
So yesterday I had a long ride. It was a lovely sunny day & I was looking forward to a parcel at the end of the journey. My delight was complete when Dick*, a friend, led me to a hut where Vernon & Sydney were & Sydney gave me your letter & we indulged in the pineapple & cream.
Many thanks for the butter which improved the taste with the pineapple. No not even at the Front have I got used to eating dry bread with fruit, you’ve spoiled me with such ripping parcels.
A Major of the R.A.M.C. said I could do with a day or two rest with my boots off, but there is no chance of rest here where we are now so I am on light duty today (5). Now do not be anxious dear Mother one little bit, in fact to tell the truth my feet are practically better. It was only a huge blister that Dick caught sight of & advised me to go “sick” & what with the serjeant advising anyone who thought they would not manage the long march. Waiting a whole night & half a day for the ambulance eased & made my feet better.
What a dear happy cheerful letter yours to me was. Yes, Mrs Jones said in her letter that you were standing the strain very well & with cheerfulness & smiles. Not the exact words but the expression. I cannot just get hold of the letter, Sydney has got it. Did you have a happy pleasant day on Saturday, Walsall’s day for celebrating Alexandra Day (6).
I will just pop a piece of chocolate in my mouth; perhaps it will help me to make my letter more chatty. On looking in the box I see I have a tomato left. They came in splendid condition & my 1st one tasted fine. I shall eat the other one with my other lovely scone & some good cheese given to me in my rations. This Bournville is tasting ‘nice’.
Another sunny Sunday. Again I can picture the rays of sun shining on the small family group in the pew (7) listening to the 1st Lesson about Samuel & the Israelites wanting a King. The 14th verse strikes me as being very appropriate (12 chap. 1 Sam (8). I well remember the tune to Oft in danger & re read it this morning. ‘Fight, nor think the battle long Soon shall Victory wake your song.’ (9).
Just heard from A.O. Jones* who is sitting with me now; he has been ‘on sick‘. He has just told me, Ida, that R. Ball* is likely to have a commission in the A.S.C. Mechanical Depot (10). I met Leonard Bailey* yesterday evening. I do hope Basil will do well & I am so glad his teeth are in good condition now. I hope too that he will keep his ‘pekker’ up & the exam will not make him ill in any way, with the hot weather too.
I picked some more wild roses meaning to send them in a letter yesterday, but I did not write yesterday. I feel awfully ‘nasty’ with myself for brooding on the affair about my ill mood in Ida’s green envelope. I mean for mentioning a word about it again in the one I enclosed with yours. (11).
I see you too uniquely headed your letter on 23rd – ‘Prince of Wales Birthday’. Don’t be anxious Mother, we shall not be able to send so many letters now – green envelopes are not so plentiful as white ones.
Your affec. son. Bertie. Censor EA Wilson.
(1) Pte Bertie Hibbett escaped the March from Neuve Eglise to Ouderdom, approx 10 miles in 3. 5 hrs. in hot weather & with full pack. (2) Staffords found 5th Leicesters nicely settled into their field on 22nd June 1915:
(3) Green Envelope. Only one a month issued at this time. Pte Bertie was to write 10 Letters Home in July so this issue must have increased considerably; to save time on censoring . (4) Ambulance. A wagon drawn by horses or a motor ambulance. (Not to be confused with a Field Ambulance which was not a vehicle but a stationary post). See website:The Long Long Trail.
(5) Light Duty: excused physical activity/parades etc. (6) Alexandra Day. Queen Alexandra, Danish consort of King Edward VII, established a Rose Day in 1912, to mark her 50 years in England. Silk roses were sold for hospital charities. She is said to have been inspired by a Danish priest who sold his own roses to help the poor.(7) St Paul’s, Walsall.
(8) I Sam. 12. 14. This Hebrew source approves the appointment of a King over Israel, provided the people and the King ‘serve and obey’ God’s voice’. (9) Hymn. Oft in danger, oft in woe. Words based on 1 Timothy 6.12, ‘Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…‘; the accent is on a spiritual fight rather than on a physical/ military one. Henry Kirke White. English Poet. 1785- 1806, died age 21.
(Revised by 14 yr old Frances Sara Fuller Colquoun. Music: University College. Henry J. Gauntlet.1852.
(10) Army Service Corps Mechanical Depot. The ASC was responsible for supply of goods, equipment & ammunition to Division Refilling Points from the Home Port – & possibly on to dumps & stores nearer to Front Line. Each British Division ASC had 5 officers and 337 other ranks responsible for 45 x 3 ton lorries, 16 x 30 cwt lorries, 7 motor vehicles, 2 cars, and 4 assorted trucks. See website: The Long Long Trail.
(11) ‘Homesick’ Letter 5th June & 24th June.
NB NAMES: Starred * – information pending.
NEXT POST: 30th JUNE 1915. Bagpipes & Indians.