S. W. SLOPE OF HILL 60.
2nd August, Mon: Mine explosion heard in the vicinity of St Eloi. Enemy trench mortared 37. Rifle fire much heavier than usual before daylight.
Enemy working party observed in same position as yesterday, was dispersed by 3rd Staffs Battery. Between 9.20 and 10.00 am enemy shrapneled 35, 36 and support trenches, parapet damaged in three places. Wind S.W. CASUALTY: KILLED: 8768 Pte J. Field. Relieved by 6th North Staffs about 10.30 pm.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings.
‘Bank Holiday’. In Trench 32, Hill 60, Listening Post with Charlie Harrison* (brother killed later – Oct 13 th). Sent souvenir card to Ida. Mother, Dad & Basil on holiday at Whitby. Received PC of Bombardments when at Railway Dugouts’.
LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall.
Bank Holiday (2). Anniversary of Declaration of War. 2/ 8/ 15.
My Dear Sister Ida,
Just come off fatigue – last journey through woods with big bag of coke.
The trees are nothing but trunks now & last night the sun, setting like a ball of fire, looked mystic as it shone through the straight tall trunks, some broken half way down (3).
I have just had a peep into my khaki photo case – I see your smiling face looking up as if at me with my hands folded at the back of my neck & Mother’s prophetic look as if she would miss her two sons sometime.
Then I wanted to feel cool, for it is hot again today, & so I looked at Sydney, Basil & me peeping out of the tent.
We have been thinking of you & those at Whitby, Sydney and I.
Ida, it seems as though Mother & Father will return to see the beds Mother got ready, in case we had leave, untouched – but I heard that leave has been extended & there will be a likely chance of everyman getting home. Sergeants first & married men next (4).
I had dinner of my own cooking recipe:– boiled some potatoes (found while on digging night shift) for 1/4 hour then put some bully beef in & let boil, then some pea soup – served, tasted & liked it. – Another journey on fatigue after – and now I will finish my epistle.
How dost thee like the card – just for a moment of August 1st – in the trenches? By the by you can tell Mum that we got her parcel in the trenches too. About the socks – well when I got Mrs Barrans*’ pair I gave them to Sydney as he needed a clean pair badly & so Sydney has given me his he received on Saturday. Tell Mrs Barrans how greatly indebted I am to her & they will save my life (5). Yours, dear Ida, are so nice & soft & I felt a difference immediately.
Well I am going to have a ‘faire un petit somme’ (6) now so Good Luck to you & hope you’ll keep ’appy all alone in 95.
Best love Bertram.
PS You can send this to Mother if you like & tell me if you got & forwarded the one yesterday to Mum.
A Note on Hill 60 Trench Numbers:- Pte Bertie Hibbett records he was in Trench 32, Hill 60, Listening Post on Aug. 2nd ‘Bank Holiday’, but the South Staffords War Diary makes no mention of Trench 32.
On 17th July, the Diary states the 1/5th Staffords took over the sector, described by J.D. Hillis of 5th Leicesters as ‘containing trenches 35 at ‘Bomb Corner’, 36 and 37 up to the Railway‘ – and their support trenches and that they were in Trench 38 on July 28th. Since the Diary also records that from 3rd – 9th Aug. the Staffords in Brigade Reserve, ‘furnished working parties to the R.E.‘, it is likely that Pte Bertie Hibbett, mining surveyor apprentice, and his Listening Post pals had already been ‘furnished’ to the R.E. in Trench 32 (cf 1st Aug. Letter to Ida).
(1) Parapet: J.D.Hillis records ‘Our parapet in this area was one’s trench, for digging was impossible, and we lived behind a sort of glorified sandbag grouse butt, six feet thick at the base and two to three feet at the top, sometimes, but not always bullet proof‘. <http://www.genealogy.com/leicestershire/salient.htm >.
(2) August Bank Holiday was 2nd August in 1915. (3) Cf. Bertie Hibbett’s poetic description of Audley End Walk, Saffron Walden ( Letter to Ida, Dec. 1914). (4) Home Leave: ‘unmarried privates last of all!’ (5) Socks: ref. to Pte Bertie’s sore ‘trench’ feet. (6) French for ‘Have a little nap‘.
NEXT POSTS: 8th AUGUST 1915. ‘Paddling Summer Holidays’ and ‘Mount Pleasant Railway Dugouts‘.