Tag Archives: Army Chaplain 1915.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd, Walsall. (Censor 934  J.C. Fitzgerald) (1).

Cavell imgres (2)

The Innocents’ Day (2) Dec 28/ 15

I must have no hatred or bitterness                                        towards anyone’. Miss E. Cavell. (3)

.Champion Ida Hibbett VAD Nurse.

My Dear Sister Ida,

Dreams. Yes I’m on dreams again.  I hope you don’t think it is a sentimental, sloppy beginning to my letter to you on your birthday, but do dreams come true to a certain extent?  I think so.

I have had such a happy surprise tonight, which not only caused me to write to you after all today (I was thinking of waiting till New Year’s Eve for my vocabulary was exhausted) but itbroke my dreamof one night last week.  I was washing up in the kitchen of the Ward – ‘Hibbett’ – I scooted to the caller, thinking he wanted either to dress my foot or order me for something – ’What Regiment are you in?’  I told  him,  forthwith a chap by him handed me a letter – from England – from Sydney. I have never expected a letter or anything while I have been here & I was indeed bemoaning my disadvantage in this way only this afternoon, thinking when I should hear from Mum again & if Mum had been writing in vain to me while I am here. Of course I read the letter with deep interest & looked out to see if he had seen you all yet.

Now to explain matters on the subject of dreams, (I must ‘perforce’ enclose Sydney’s letter, otherwise I should not send you all of it, if not at all, for there is something in – which is personal) I can remember that ‘particular’ part of the dream quite plainly now.  You, Ida, were very cross with me for some reason & I ran away & after some time the dream changed & a nurse came to me & said something to the effect that Sydney was much better, or such news that I was overjoyed & all of you (Mum I could see) were also delightedThe scene in the dream then became faint & I cannot tell you anymore for fear I encroach upon untruths or a ‘make-up story’.

Now just compare my dream with Sydney’s letter. I did not tumble across it, that my dream was ‘broken’ until after, when my thoughts were about his letter & Sydney himself.  1st he said – ‘A few of us went for another walk – round the country lanes’. In my dream I was in the country & I ran up to a pump when a nurse & some other people (came), I believe Mother & Basil were among them, but the nurse with glasses & smiling face was most prominent for she was the bearer of the good news.  Before I go any further I must say that the weather in my dream was sunny & bright green fields fresh

Notice next that Sydney saisI am almost entirely recovered’. Perhaps the nurse in my dream said those very words, they were certainly to that effect, for Mum & Ida & all of you were so glad & I was in ecstasy.  ‘A nurse always goes with us & any sergeant with the party’  –  I saw a party in my dream & a nurse, but I did not see Sydney.  Sydney seemed to be somewhere else in my dream.  I felt, just as I feel now, with regard to where Sydney was in my dream – out of it.

The climax or the points that broke my dream was Sydney mentioning I am almost entirely recovered’ & ‘a nurse goes with us and a party’.

Have you ever read that striking article in the London Magazine about the Transmission of the Mind (4)?  Am I superstitious, I hope you don’t think I am, but I believe, to a certain extent, through thinking about other people, especially those dear to you (we speak of one dear & near to another) one’s thoughts carry themselves into their dreams.  It is all to do with the mind.  And then again I say I don’t believe in superstition and I often ignore all such tomfoolery & go slap bang into a supposed superstition – say if it is walking under a ladder or crossing knives – I absolutely ignore it, & when I do that, I find nothing whatever happens afterwards, as would be foretold by a superstitious believer. 

I say, if I don’t believe in superstition, the case must be one in which Providence was with me.

I believe in Angels, & I much admired what Mum has said in her letters to me referring to angels. I believe that an angel was with me whenever I dreamt of you all at Home.  Now believing in angels is not superstitious.  ‘I believe in the Communion of Saints’ (5) we say, well then, those relatives & friends we loved while on earth, are they not communicating with us?  – & trying to keep us happy & acting as God’s Messengers?

Although Sydney ran a great risk of having his letter mislaid, it has wrought a happy result & broke my spell of melancholia , which I had slightly this afternoon, owing to the reaction  –  it is so quiet here sometimes & strangers about I  looked at your photo of you sitting on a camp chair with a book on your lap outside the Study window & tried to think of all your good advice.

I trust you have had a Happy Birthday. I went to Holy Communion this morning & a lot of RAMC patients were there consideringWe went to pray for the wounded that came in on Monday evening.  I asked one of the casualties what sort of time he had on Christmas day in the trenches & he said ‘we had nothing, but we went over the top to shake hands with the enemy’a fact confirmed by the Chaplain when he came round with the cigs that night.  The British were the first to go over & the 1st to resume fighting.  The enemy also came over to play their band. Do you blame our side?  I don’t,  so far as shaking hands goes, for what does the Collect for St Stephen’s Day say? (6).

Well I dare say you will get this letter early enough to wish you all again a Very Happy New Year.  I shall see you all in God’s good time. 

I sincerely hope Sydney will have his 7 -10 days sick leave.  Hurrah & I hope he will have another good time, and let every day, as it comes & goes, be blessed, & then Hurrah he might be in England for such length of time as to have leave & see you again & again.

Am I superstitious? Really, you don’t say so, – never mind.

I am always your loving brother,


PS  Patients are directed NOT to have their parcels & letters addressed to them at this Hospital, so I advise you not to take the risk Sydney did. Wait till I get back to the Batt.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


28th Dec. Company & Battalion Training continued (in preparation for Eastern Front).


Signed: R.R. RAYMER Lt  Col. Cmdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.



This Letter is interesting in the evidence it gives of a Christmas Truce in 1915 (as well as Christmas 1914) when the enemy came over to ‘shake hands’ and ‘to play their band’. 

In the loneliness of Christmas 1915, Pte Bertie Hibbett’s belief in Providence, the presence of angels, protection of saints and answers to prayers, and the comfort he receives from dreams and coincidences, is clearly becoming stronger. It was a search for meaning in the face of death that he appears to have shared with many soldiers in WW1. 

(1) CensorJ.C.Fitzgerald*. Army Chaplain. Pte Bertie met him again when training for the Anglican Ministry at Lichfield Theological College, 1918+. (2) The Innocents’ Day: commemoration of Massacre of Male Infants by Herod the Great. Mtt. 2.16. cf Letter 24th Dec. 1915.

£2 Coinimages
WW1 Centenary £2 Coin.

(3) Edith Cavell : British nurse during First World War/ saved lives of soldiers from both sides/ arrested for helping 200 allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium/ court-martialled, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death/shot by firing squad, 12th Oct. 1915. Worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage. Notes from Edith Cavell Trust website. See also Page: Christmas Truce 1915.

E Cavell bbcimages
Edith Cavell: Raymond Lind. Norwich Castle Museum.

Full Quotation reads: I have no fear nor shrinking. I have seen death so often that it is not strange or fearful to me. This I would say, standing as I do in view of God and eternity I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

Cavell Monument. Brussels.
Cavell Monument with angel. Brussels.

(4) ‘Transmission of the Mind’. Not easy (without sight of article) to understand what my father meant. In Zen Buddhism the term refers to a ‘flash of insight’/intuitive rather than rational. Here however he seems to be talking more about telepathy and transference of thought from one person to another through dreams. cf Note on The London Magazine. Letter 26th Aug. 1915.

Nurse Cavell with multinational student nurses in Brussels. WW1.
Nurse Cavell centre, with multinational student nurses in Brussels. WW1.

(5) ‘Communion of Saints: Apostles’ Creed. Evening Prayer. Book of Common Prayer. 1662. 

 (6) Collect St Stephen’s Day: ‘to love and bless our persecutorsBook of Common Prayer 1662. Letter 26th Dec 1915.

NEXT POST:  30th Dec. 1915.



Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER  to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

.Champion Ida Hibbett VAD Nurse.

 ‘Yesterday with exultation Joined the world in celebration Of her promised Saviour’s birth’. (1)

Having no calendar I conclude from the above words that today is – – – – –  –  

St Stephen’s Day, Sunday 26/ 15.

St Stephen: Carlo Crivelli.
St Stephen: Carlo Crivelli. Italian 1435-1495.

‘Being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love & bless our persecutors by the example of Thy first Martyr, Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers.’  (2).

My Very Dear Sister,

How grateful I ought to be that I have had such an enjoyable & happy Christmas Day, to think of those who are worse off than I was,  I am speaking of those in the trenches Yes, I believe, at least some of them were quite as happy as we were, and we were as happy as those at Home, for inspite of all the delicacies of the Christmas Menu at Home, you know ye olde proverb goes, as Mum often told me when I was greedy or sullen:- What the eye never sees the Heart never grieves. ComprisAnd so we were Happy & for many reasons too, one being:-

Oceano divisi Eclesiastia conjuncti (sic) (3).  Compris?  No – well ask me pater and you will be happy on hearing his interpretation thereofResults of the above solution of the aforesaid to be sent to me when I am in that station of life to be writable to by persons.

The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905.
The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905.

Well the concert was fine and its Homely handmade get up reminded me of you & The Ghost, – that Pickwick Club affair (4).   You know how men shape when there’s such a thing as decorations to be done, – why, me dear, they who decorated the Concert Hall made as good an effort as any feminine worker.

– – – We all stood up as the orficers (sic) came in & sat themselves down in the front seats, basket chairs, and the orficers all stood up as the nurses came in at the stage entrance. They looked so Christmassy in their red & grey uniforms. Then the concert began.  The stage was admired by the audience & ‘oo oo’ said we as we saw the successful scene – a room with a table on one side with a red cloth & shaded lamp, two basket chairs, a piano & modern water colour prints of the American style of girl  hanging on the wall.  The Programme was topping & nearly every item encored, & nearly every class of person in the Hospital, except patients gave a turn.  A nurse was greatly clapped as she appeared on the stage to sing us a song, a good song too it was, & well sung too.  She sang the epilogue and then all of us men joined in the chorus:-

Keep the Home fires burning While our Hearts are yearning. Though the lads are far away They dream of Home. There’s a silver lining Through the dark cloud shining.Turn the dark cloud inside out& show the lining (5).

And then we all clapped & clapped & clapped & stampedshouted ‘Encore, Encore, Hurray’.

Alas alack I am undone, this is my last sheet of paper.  Verily, indeed, whateffer, I have indeed devoured all those sheets of paper that have been sent me.  And I hope they have found & warmed up the hearts of those I’ve sent them to

Well the Programme was varied, just as we liked, comic songs there were, & there were sentimental ones, & there were sketches, original too. The Last one ending in a Tableau was absolutely ripping, topping. Hurrah.  It was a grand homely affair.  Some show not ’arf – ‘and so the poor man died and she – married the barber!’

You like the pictures do you?  I know you do.  But the disadvantage of them is there is no frame for them.  A present of a picture alone invites the recipient to buy a frame, rather insinuating ain’t it?  Well if you like the picture, Mum & I give you the one I sent Mum.  I did not know who to send it to.  I thought of Mrs Penning, but I must confess, at the time of sending it off I forgot you.  The Chaplain of the C. of E. gave me a Souvenir as he called it,  a little cross .  I cannot find any other gift I can send you.  I make it my resolution that if I can possibly send anything in the way of a gift I will do so. 

Chi Rho Sign.
Chi Rho /1st two letters of ‘Christ’ in Greek.

The cross will serve as a bookmark for your Bible. The Latin inscribed on it means ‘By this sign you will gain the Victory’.(6)

Constantine. AD 272-337
Emperor Constantine. AD 272-337.

Hoping you have all had a very Blessed & Joyous Christmas Day & you have felt the reward of your good & preserving effort in munitions.

Wishing you a Bright & Prosperous & Peaceful New Year.

Your loving brother,  Bertie.

PS NB  Tell me if Mum & Dad visited Sydney. Yes they dream  of Home & we do more than that – if I am not encroaching upon self- commendation I have dreamt of you all  – how queer ain’t it?


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

25th/26th Dec. Entrained for Marseilles and arrived on 27th (en route for the Eastern Front).


Thomas Cranmer. Gerlach Flicke: 1545-1558. German.

(1) ‘Yesterday in exultation’ (Heri mundus exultavit)Hymn to St Stephen, first Christian Martyr (stoned c. AD 34). One of The Seven/ Deacons appointed to supervise fair distribution of welfare to the poor/ widows in the Church. cf. Acts 6.  TextAdam of S. Victor (d. AD 1192). Translation, John Mason Neale 1818-1866. (Hymns of the Eastern Church). Music: Walter Cecil Macfarren 1826 -1905.

(2) Collect for St Stephen’s Day. Thomas Cranmer. Book of Common Prayer. 1662.  (3) ‘Oceano divisi … ‘. ‘Though the ocean divides us the Church unites us’ cf. Christmas Day 1915 Letter: Though the oceans & lands divide us we think of each other at the Holy Eucharist‘. 

 (4)The Pickwick Club. Childhood Club for adventures/ literary observations. Formed 1905. Ida Hibbett editor. cf Hibbett Letters: 23rd April 1915; 7th Sept. 1915; 13th Sept. 1915.

Ivor Novello.

(5)’Keep the Home Fires Burning‘/‘Till the Boys come Home’. 1914.  Music: Ivor Novello. 1893-1951. Welsh Composer. Text Lena Ford.

Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, Syria.

(6) By this sign you will gain the victory. Latin  ‘In hoc signo vinces’. Constantine the Great  AD 272-337 (first Christian Emperor) saw the Chi Rho sign in the sky before the Battle of Maxentius, AD 312 and heard these words. In Edict of Nantes AD 313  Constantine proclaimed religious freedom throughout the Roman Empire: ‘With free minds all are to worship their Gods’ . (Source: Eusebius c. AD 260 -340 (Bishop of Caesarea/ Early Christian Father & Historian).

NEXT POST:  28th Dec: 1915. ‘The Innocents’ Day’.