OCCOCHES. 6th Mar. Mon. Battalion marched to new Billets at WAMIN (1).
7th Mar. Tue. Battalion Training. 8th Mar. Wed. Battalion marched to new Billets at MAGNICOURT (2). 9th Mar. Thur. – 10th Mar. Fri. In Billets. Battalion Training.
11th Mar. Sat. Battalion marched to new Billets at AUBIGNY (3). 12th – 13th Mar. In Billets. Battalion Training. Battalion marched to new Billets at ECOIVRES (4).
‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’.
March 10th 1916. ‘Mum got a letter from me, rare occasion. Sydney left Derby after being in England on sick leave.’
Treasured Sayings in Letters from Home: ‘My head seems so full of things I hardly know what to say. Mother.’
LETTER TO BASIL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
In the Field. Monday Mar 13/ 16
‘Next to the Sunlight of Heaven is the cheerful face’. Wayside Ministries (5).
My Dearest brother Basil,
Three puffs of an Embassy and I will start ‘mon ecrire encore’.
You will think I have caught Writing Fever no doubt, but I have just inwardly digested the QMS Mag you kindly enclosed in Mum’s parcel and consequently I feel magnetised to the ‘Wire of Correspondence’ fixed between ‘Home Sweet Home’ and Warworn France.
What do you think of the articles in the Mag this time? Do you remember how the ‘Knowalls’ once called it a bore to read them & the Editors had no ‘savvy’ whatever as to ‘Editorial’?
After reading Lieut Thomas’ & Lawley’s account of their experiences (7) & then commencing to read the School Notes, the effect was ‘vice versa’ as to the time I was at QMS. Do you compris my meaning? You, for instance, are sometimes naturally bored a little at reading Editorial letters about School, but the letters from the Front to the QMS Editor are to you ‘tres bien interestant’. But the vice versa effect was not to the extreme, in fact I was deeply interested in Lawley’s vivid account of the Charge last Sept. (8).
The Debating Society’s Summary was also jolly to read & I was so struck by it that I wished I could, at the very moment, send something in the way of a contribution, & then I decided to wait until I have Home Leave, at which time I will see if I can give them an Autograph Album after the example of the Spencer Club (9) – for the purpose of the members writing their names in after each Debate, & an illumination on each page.
The Poets in Queen Mary’s School seem to keep up the fine record of blossoming original verse (10). I should like to send a contribution to the Editor’s Letter Box but I count myself as no great writer & also come to the conclusion my sending a letter to appear in the ‘swanky’ pages of the Mag would have an embarrassing effect. I noticed your noble name in the list of new scholars under the noble title of School House; which House should be the prouder after the reception of your noble self, what what!
You have some ‘knutty’ ideas & phrases in your letters to me of late – they are worthy of being mentioned in the Magazine.
I will close now. Although I have written this today I doubt if I shall send it along to you for a time, because I have two letters to send Home. One to Dad, in reply to his ‘elongated’ envelope & one to Mum, in answer to the parcel of Mar 5, which, as I say again, was an ideal pancake (11).
Ah! dear Dodger, I trust you will use your gifted energy at comforting Mummy & use your tact if you are called up on you coming of 18 years of age. My best wishes for your success in the exams at School for your sake & Mum’s & Dad’s. (12).
Tell Ida she must send me a written formal apology for saying I am a WEE bit SAD. But of course you quite know it is all a mere joke on my part. Ha Ha!
Ta ra. Bertie.
PS This evening I received a sweet little letter from Molly (13) with her usual beaucoup kisses. She followed my idea of sticking a stamp on the back of the envelope – one of a pussy cat. I think I have been the cause of renewing that craze, what think you?
TUES. “STOP PRESS” Got Mum’s letter of Friday about Sydney coming. Hope he will have a safe journey.
Pte Bertie Hibbett is now within 25 miles of the Western Front and the trenches of Neuville St Vaast and Vimy Ridge.
(1) Estree-Wamin: farming village/commune in Pas de Calais (Roman site – ‘estree’ is from ‘strata/street’). 10 miles north from Occoches. (2) Magnicourt-en-Comte: commune in Pas de Calais. 13.05 miles north from Estree–Wamin. (3) Aubigny: commune in centre of Mont St Eloi area. 11 miles south-east from Magnicourt. (4) Ecoivres: hamlet in commune of Mont Saint Eloi. 6 miles east from Aubigny. Total March of 40 miles approx.
(5) Wayside Ministries. Called Wilkinson’s in Letter 17th 1916. Christian Mission literature/under influence of 18th Cent. American Jemima Wilkinson? Quoted in Walsall Church Mag.? (6) Lieut ( W.G.?)Thomson & (H.H.?) Lawley. QMS scholars /Info. pending.
(7) Battle of Loos-Hohenzollern Redoubt, 13th Oct. 1915. (8) The Spencer Club. QMS Club? Bertie Hibbett was fond of creating ‘illuminations’ and after the War he kept an Autogaph Album of drawings, contributions and signatures of friends, some collected during the War.
(9) QMS Magazine December 1914. SONNET
Oh hear the wailing cry of agony Which swells above the cannon’s sullen roar, Above the piercing sounds of bloody war, And fills the hearts with deepest melancholy; Which drowns our feeble cries of victory, Whereby, poor thoughtless fools we set such store, Yea, opens to our eyes Death’s gaping door, Dark with the growing clouds of misery.
It is the sorrowing people’s pained cry, Who mourn the loss of all their bravest youth, Snatched by untimely death that knows no ruth, E’en while they fought for Home & Liberty. But better far they should thus honoured fall Than deaf remain to their dear country’s call. Anon.
(10) ‘an ideal pancake’: ref. to his Mother’s parcel of good things for Shrove Tuesday ‘Pancake Day’. 4th Mar.1916. (11) Senior Oxford Examination Matriculation. (12) Molly Evans. Bertie’s pal Vernon Evans‘ little sister.
NEXT POST: 17th Mar. 1916.