Tag Archives: Ascension Day 1916.



Rise and not Rest, but press To Heaven’s height, far & steep.’ Robert Browning. (1)

Ascension Day. The Glorious First of June, 1916. (2)

My Very Dear Mother,

Another queer coincidence. I received your delightful letter with the one of Dad’s enclosed, at the same time as Mrs Evans*’ kind letter, with Norman’s* enclosed. And you & they were thinking of each other in all the letters – ‘compris’?

Wild Arum or 'Cuckoo Pint).
Wild Arum or ‘Cuckoo Pint).

I thank you immensely for the lilies although they looked the worse for wear the chief thing was that they were sent from Home with your heart’s love.

Norman* told me that Sydney would return to the Batt. on Wednesday, that was yesterday, and so he did My word he looked all the smarter after his course of instruction, which he was ‘full up’ with talking about.

Now, do you remember how I told you in my past letters that when he or I return after being away from the Batt. as luck would have it, he or I go away shortly afterwards, & there we keep going at it, alternately.  Matters seem like occurring again.

The Instructors gave him an excellent report. I saw his bayonet last night & my word it was a fine sight to see. I pity the poor Bosche who has its brilliant blade in his ribs. He showed me the bayonet when it had been given him & it was very rusty then, but last night I saw the result of ‘elbow grease and emery cloth’ – as Sydney terms it. Jones*, like Ball*, as you said, behaves as though Sydney was a towering fine big chap. Jones is not so bad, you see the Samuda Cigs (3) turned up all right & Jones was good to see into some cigarettes from Miss Foster* that were stolen by someone else.

I happily had a letter from Vernon at the same time as the parcel from his mother. Vernon is very like his father solicitor like, but that doesn’t mean to say I do not like Vernon far from it now.  Ah dear Mum, War is a blessing looking at it in one light.  Refer War to that text in the Psalms ‘The Lord is loving unto everyone & His mercy is over all his works’ (4). Vernon, I remembered showed tact, & I learnt a lesson from that tact when we went on Home Leave via London last Jan. (5)

www.forest ferns.co.uk
Jade Tree Fern. Dicksonia fibrosa. <http:www.forest ferns.co.uk>

I enclose a fern this time. How are the ferns getting on?  Ah how you loved to water them & I hope I shall be watering them for you & cutting the grass & so fulfilling your wish that you could see me very soon.

I will close now with my fondest love to all.

Always yours affectionately,  Bertie.

Motto for Ascensiontide:– ‘Their life is – to wake not sleep, Rise & not Rest, but press From earth’s level, where blindly creep, Things perfected more or less To Heaven’s height, far & steep.’  R. Browning. 



In this letter to his Mother, Pte Bertie Hibbett concentrates on the message of hope he finds in the poetry of Robert Browning – reflecting as it does the Ascension of Christ, the reconciliation of God & Man. He does his best to cheer his Mother by sending her a fern in exchange for her lilies, passing on the praise of Sydney – and the good news of stolen parcels recovered.

‘Count your blessings!’ was a favourite saying of my father and here he finds blessings wrung out of the War; mainly his deepening friendship with his old school pal, Vernon Evans, a friendship that was to last the rest of his life.  

Robert Browning. Robert Browning by Michele Gordigiani oil on canvas, 1858 Credit line: National Portrait Gallery, London
Robert Browning
by Michele Gordigiani
oil on canvas, 1858
Credit line: National Portrait Gallery, London

(1) Robert Browning: English leading Victorian poet/playwright. 1812-1889. Rise & not rest’ is verse from Reverie, which begins ‘In the beginning God created the heaven & the earth‘.

(2) Ascension Day/ Glorious First of June: See Hibbett Letter to Dad, 1st June 1916.

J.Samuda Tobacco Pipe Advert.
J.Samuda Tobacco Pipe Advert. <http//:www.ebay.es>

(3) ‘Samudas’ refers to Cigarettes: once again Pte Bertie provides an answer to a query raised in an earlier letter. This poor reproduction of a Tobacco Pipe Advert ‘Let me fill your pipe‘ was published by Jacob & Joseph Samuda Co. Ltd tobacco merchants.  

(4) Psalm:145.9. (Psalm for the 30th Morning. Book of Common Prayer, 1662).

(5) i.e. Home Leave in Jan. 1915 before Embarcation to France, March 3rd.1915.

NEXT POST: 4th JUNE 1916.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


May 29th May – June 1st Thur: LUCHEUX.  In Rest billets. Battalion Training.

CASUALTIES for May : OTHER RANKS: 1 found drowned. No 957 Pte J. Bird (attached 182nd Tunnelling Company R.E.). 3 WOUNDED: 8434 L/Corp. S. Goode; 8375 Ptre R Harris; 9724 Pte G.Bradford. (1)

Signed: H.LORD Major Cmdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.



Ascension Day (2)Thursday June 1st

The Glorious First of June (3).

ARTHUR HIBBETT: 56 in 1914.

My Dear (Mother) Father,

No – sorry,  My Dear Father.

I have a reason for writing to you Dad, although the letter is really intended for you all to read, but on condition that you ‘censor’ it first.

Mother’s & your letters were read with great interest.  Sydney returned from his course of instruction last night & wasfull up to the brimwith all he had done. He was given a highly good report, with the exception that he had not such a good word of command.

My idea of him going there for a Course of Armoury was incorrect (4). He thought it time I was going on leave; he expected I should have gone while he was away. 

Now this is where I wish you to use your usual good discretion.  I think there is no need for me to ‘use every opportunity‘ to hasten my going on Home Leave, for I went to the Orderly Room this dinner time to give my address to the Serg. Major, & tonight I heard that I am due to leave tomorrow & am going with another, Drummer Woodfield*. If his word is true, as he seemed to be quite sincere, I shall fulfill what Mum said in her letter -i.e. I shall see you very soon with the ‘very’ underlined, as Mum generally does when she wishes to emphasise anything.

I thought of not saying anything until matters get more certain & definite, & Sydney also suggested that idea when I saw him this morning. But the actual time of informing a chap to Parade for Home Leave comes suddenly & unawares, just like when Sydney went, & he only had time to write to you when he got into England. At any rate I am in the next six & I hope matters won’t turn out like they did before Easter.

I conclude my reference to this sudden ‘attack’ by saying I promise you a telegram at my earliest opportunity when I arrive in Angleterre & I hope Mum’s patient look-out for the bearer of The Telegram will be speedily gratified. (5)

Women's land army Training.http://dailymail.com>
Women’s Land Army Training.<http://dailymail.com&gt;

I had a very interesting letter from Ida. She is living the typical farmer’s life & Miss Brookes* said in her letter how she enjoyed the tea with Ida & admired her economical jersey for the farm work. No wonder dear Dad called her ‘Champion’. 

I shall have lots to tell you when I come Home, but the idea I have had lately is to do as Sydney did, according to Mum’s letter – take things as a matter of course’.

Should you ‘let the cat out of the bag’ (6) to the others tell Mum not to be in a hurry to buy luxuries and such things that will cause you to deny yourselves unnecessarily. I shall be only too pleased with bread & dripping & shall think of rice pudding as much as I loved an expensive dish when I was at Home. All I am worrying about is that I hope so much that I am not buoying you up with false hopes. My opinion is to keep the news quiet until I send the telegram.

Now I will start another page with news that Mum can read.

All good wishes,

Your affec. son,  Bertie.



Pte Bertie Hibbett was well aware that a ‘Big Push’ on the Somme was imminent but he had not given up hope that after two years at the Front he would be granted Home Leave. His parents had been frequently disappointed and he did not want to buoy them up with false hopes, especially his Mother. Once again Bertie addresses important news to his Father first. 

(1) Found DrownedPte J. Bird had gone missing on Vimy Ridge when attached to182 Tunnelling Coy. 2nd April 1916. See Hibbett Letter: 17th May, 1916. 

(2) Ascension Day: Christian Festival, 40 days after Easter. Ascension of Risen Christ to Heaven. Based on text of all 4 Gospels/ mainly Luke-Acts AD 75-90. Celebrated at least since 4th Cent AD.

Philippe-Jacques de Louthergourg. 1795< http://www.en-wiki.org&gt;

(3) The Glorious First of June: Naval Battle, French Revolutionary Wars, Bay of Biscay 1794, when British won a tactical victory turning their ships towards the enemy & French won a strategic victory breaking food blockade.

(4Unclear whether Sydney Hibbett had been on an Armoury Course at Abbeville (‘to get out of the way of these new draft of officers’) or on an Instruction Course for Serjeants in preparation for the Battle of Somme. Most probably the latter. See Hibbett Letter: 28th May 1916.

(4) ‘My Memories of the First World War’ re Mother watching out for weeks to see whether Pte Bertie was coming up the road to No 95. See Top Menu (5) ‘Cat out of the bag’colloquialism for disclosing a secret. A favourite Hibbett family saying. Origin obscure: possibly discovering the buying of false market goods. cf 16th Cent. German & Dutch refs to buying ‘a pig in a poke’. 

NEXT POST: 1st June 1916 (enclosed letter to Mother).