Tag Archives: Baden-Powell.

10TH DEC. 1916: SOMME PAY: ‘7/- SHILLINGS A WEEK & 15 FRANCS CREDIT BEFORE THE CHARGE’.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT. The Cenacle. B.R.C. Hospital New Brighton Cheshire. LETTER TO BASIL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

‘That ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost’. Epistle (1).

‘And when things begin to pass, then look up & lift up your hearts (sic).’ Gospel. (2)

Sunday Dec. 10/ 16.

My Dear Brother Dodger,

Of course, I know this letter will be read all round, but is a long time since I addressed a letter to my dear young brother.

 The Second Sunday in Advent last year where was I?  Most likely you had a letter from me on this day last year.  Yes. Well do I remember getting with great delight the letter from Cirencester (3).  I believe the letter was dated Dec 8th Wed.   Vernon had gone to Hospital & I followed soon after.  I wonder if I shall have a chance of seeing Vernon.  I hope so and I shall have a chance of seeing you at Home round the Study fire.

Dear Basil, I do not really know what to say about receiving your PC sent from Lichfield (4). Did you go there on your own or were you called? When will you have to leave Home?   Vernon’s commission seems to be hampered with the continuous illnesses he gets. He is in Hospital at Davenport, I had a letter from him the other night.

I hope you have not the slightest symptoms of jaundice now.  I hope too that Mother is quite well again.  Oh if we could only do something that would keep her well & happy for good.  I am sure God never intended things to happen in this world that would make us unhappy for a life time. Everything is for good to those who love Him, who gave his life for us all & rose again that we might live (5).

I believe you must have thought quietly that the Almighty has so ordered my return Home for the best.  I am not ready, I have not learned yet to live as I ought, I have still more to learn.  He called Our Dear Sydney because he was ready to a certain extent.  That letter our dear brother wrote, to be handed personally to Mother, has caused me to think greatly.

I am sure you will follow his good example of smartness, discipline, cleanliness (6).  If he had been a Second Lieutenant, he would I believe not have been able to show his ability of improvement so fast.  I am pleased you are taking a commission. You will be able to take the place Sydney unfortunately? missed. You will be able to carry on.

I remember how you & Sydney were generally together.  I shall not forget the dream of Sydney & we three together & Sydney was taking kindly & brotherly to us.  I cannot quite tell you what he said, but I believe he would say something to the effect that you & I will love & take care of each other in future.  Yes, you are right, he who dies for England lives, especially nowadays, for we are in the right.  Let us stick fast to our true aim – Christian love throughout the world.

pearsI have you both in my Locker. Good morning! Have you used Pear’s soap?’ (6).

final-xrays-x2-1916I have written a long letter with my left to Harold. My right has gone much better for writing but it is just after dressing that I cannot bear to write.  It feels more than ever that bones are jerking & floating about.  In case I did not tell you the results of the Xray I will now (7).  There is still some diseased bone in.  I had some out the other day, about 1/8” and it is as porous as pumice stone. The two holes I mentioned are growing larger & larger & I shouldn’t be surprised if they both meet & form one big hole, then the matter will come out & bring the bone with it.

But sorry, my Boy, it looks as if I shall be heading my letters at Christmas in the same old way that I have done these last 5 months. I shall look forward to the little snack of fare you have.  I guess you won’t indulge in many luxuries this Xmas but still all the better, and please persuade Mum & the others to withdraw their cash generosity a little more. You’ll make me a money grabber soon. 

Yes what about that 14 £  – I have not said (8).  A quarter master and I have talked over the matter & we came to the conclusion that it is quite likely if Vernon had not received pay from the time he left France till the time he was discharged from Hospital, say about 7 months at 7/- shillings a week what is that? and then add the deficiencies during the time he was on Active Service, amounting to 4  or 5 £ it comes to something about that amount. I should not get the money sent to me here, it will be sent Home. Yes, father is the right person to look after it being obtained.  Of course, I shall not get so much. I hope you are not all building up hopes of a Bolt from the Blue.  I handed in my pay-book on entry into Hospital & I have a copy of the accounts in Ida’s pocket book.  I had 15 francs credit paid to me just before the Charge.

I have to shave now of course & I have no razor. If you are thinking of a Christmas present that would be very acceptable.

Boots in Bold Street Liverpool
Boots Chemist, Bold Street, Liverpool. 3rd shop left side. courtesy ronramstew blog (Flikr).

I am getting on nicely with Christmas cards.  I went into Boots in Liverpool, they have a magnificent place there (9), I only wish Dodger was with me to pot round, but let us be satisfied.

If you ever write to George Lallerman* (10) just remember me kindly to him. Ida has not written to me if she still needs a photo for to send to Mrs Lallerman.  Harold is busy isn’t he, let’s hope we shall witness a happy marriage (11)  I am witnessing the one of Nurse Wilcox* on 12th.  Her fiancé has come from Uganda & the Nurse was showing me her future home, a bungalow with thatched roof (12).

I will conclude on this my ninth page.

Trusting you are going to bed, after a Happy Sunday to have pleasant dreams. I guess I will have a letter from dear Mummy or Ida to say you have spent it happily together round the dining room fire.

Tell me how you spent the rest of the day at Lichfield.  I like the PC you sent.  Yes, typical that you are to serve our good King George V who, like a father, called his Council together.  It is all Lloyd George round here (13).  I knew he would make things lively.

Well ta ta.  Heaps of Love & kisses to Mother, Sister, Daddie & everyone – & a reverent kiss for Sydney.

I remain your loving brother, Bertie.

How do you like the aroma of Dad’s pipe?

*************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) Epistle for 2nd Sunday in Advent, Book of Common Prayer 1662: Romans 15.4.  (2Gospel: Luke 21. 28. Quoting from memory Pte Bertie gives ‘Lift up your heads’ instead of ‘hearts’.

(3Cirencester: Sydney in Hospital there with ‘catarrhal jaundice’. Hibbett Letter: 30th Dec. 1915.

(4) Lichfield: Staffordshire Regiment Barracks. Basil  had listened to his parents & siblings’ advice to go for a Commission  rather than join as a Private. An Officer no doubt had more privileges but a subaltern’s life expectancy at this time was little more than 6 weeks at the Front.

(5) Everything is for good to those who Love God: my father is paraphrasing Romans 8.28 King James VersionAnd we know that all things work together for good to them that love God’.

(6Cleanliness in mind & body was the foundation of Baden Powell’s Boy Scouts Movement. ‘Pears Soap’: Pte Bertie had both Sydney & Basil’s smiling photographs in his bedside locker.

(7) X-rays of wounded wrist & arm. Hibbett Letters: 25th Dec. 1916.

(8) Army Pay. £14  in 1916 amounted to £856.10 but <https://www.measuringworth.com > explains how complicated is calculation of worth/ relative values.

(9) Boots Chemist of Bold Street Liverpool. Postcard 1913. Flickr: ronramstew blog states Bold Street was favoured by middle classes ‘before their big flight to the Wirral’. Building is now a Charity Shop.

(10George Lallerman*: Ida’s childhood friend. (11) Harold married Hildegarde Bore (Hilda) sometime in 1917?

(12) Nurse Wilcox*: her fiance must have been a British soldier in the East African Campaign 3rd Aug. 1914 – November 1918. See Wikipedia.

lloyd-george-1863-1945(13) Lloyd George: 1863 -1945. Chancellor of Exchequer 1908–1915. Prime Minister Wartime Coalition Government 1916–22. Major player Versailles/Paris Peace Conference 1919 that reordered Europe after the defeat of Central PowersLloyd George ‘arguably made a greater impact on British public life than any other 20th-century leader, thanks to his pre-war introduction of Britain’s social welfare system, his leadership in winning the war, his post-war role in reshaping Europe, and his partitioning Ireland (between Southern Ireland – later the Irish Free State – and Northern Ireland which remained part of the UK). He was the last Liberal to serve as Prime Minister.’  Wikipedia.

NEXT POST: 13th Dec. 1916: Ward D Fazakerly Hospital Liverpool for operating treatment.

12TH JULY 1915: BERTIE’S 20TH BIRTHDAY RELIEF & ‘SAUSAGES’.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

ARMAGH WOOD TRENCHES.        

10th July, Sat:  More enemy rifle fire than usual. 15 rifle grenades were fired into enemy trenches, 4 failed to explode. Enemy fired 6 rifle grenades, 3 burst short, 3 behind our lines (1).

Rifle Grenade.
Rifle Grenade.

Patrol reports loose barbed wire in front of enemy’s trench opp. 50.  Enemy working party observed in Redoubt in front of 50, another enemy working party behind their front line fired on and dispersed. Our Snipers doing good work.  N.W. wind.  CASUALTY: WOUNDED: No 7594 Cpl. Marsh G.H.

11th July, Sun: Two enemy Aeroplane (2) over our lines yesterday evening and one from 3.45 and 4.20 am. this morning.  Enemy fired 4 trench mortar shells at 50. about 8.30 pm. damage slight.  Retaliated with 16 rifle grenades, 7 failing to explode. Our guns also opened fire. Suspect enemy sapping towards 50 from new redoubt. Enemy have lowered parapet opp. A1 and A2. Snipers report accounting for German officer. Enemy shell burst over A5 Support about 10.am inflicting 6 casualties. Our artillery shelled wood opp. A5.  Enemy replied by shelling Sanctuary Wood.            CASUALTIES: KILLED No 7849 Pte J. Perry, 9014 Pte G. Fletcher. WOUNDED: 9131 L/Cpl. W.H. Kendrick, 7983 Pte H. Downs. 7822 Pte L. Norris. 9403 Pte C.N. Harriman. 9437 Pte W.R.Thomas, 9304 Pte G. Latham. 1381 Coy. Sgt. Major, C. Hawkins. 8197 Pte G. Thorne. 9316 Pte J. Booth.

12th July. Mon: relieved by 5th Bn NOTTS & DERBY about 1.15 am.  In bivouacs at 5 am.  WOUNDED returning from the trenches, No 7962 Pte E. Cadman.  

Bertie in Uniform

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings.  12th July. Birthday.Previous night returned from Zilebek trenches. Rained heavily on return to bivouacs at Ouverdom (sic)but sunny & fine later, & in evening. Spent money in Rheninghel(ps). Parcels from Harold & Home received on the day.  Rowntrees whipped cream – Vernon’s delight, cakes, etc.’

LETTER to MOTHER & FATHER, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

The Z-Urban Dist. Trench Improvement Society. Tel. No: 40.    

Bully Beef Bungalow. Prince John’s Birthday (3). July 12th/ 15.

My Dear Mother & Father,200px-Baden-Powell_USZ62-96893_(retouched_and_cropped)

If we go forward we die, If we go backward we dieBetter go forward & dieGen. Baden Powell (4).

How grateful I feel that I am alive & kicking & have come to see my 20th Birthday.

We returned to Bivouac about five this morning after a very long march in full pack across lovely country & passed many different scenes (5).  But we were tired & sleepy; I fell off to sleep on one of the rests.  We had breakfast very soon after we arrived back & the rain it rained & the wind it blew. But now the weather is sunny & bright, yet there is the same wind.

I had two small parcels while I was in the trenches.  One on Sat. – the other on Sunday.  On Sat I got some Mexican Chocolate (6) & Bachelor Buttons (7) from Bates*He wrote to me about two months ago saying he would be willing indeed to act as shop keeper for me.search Not aclkwishing to be mercenary I jokingly suggested he sent a card of Bachelors Buttons. Eventually he took it quite literally & said he had been round to many shops before he could get them.

Well I am surprised – or was on Sunday.  I got two nice letters in one envelope from Auntie*, one written on the Ist.  She said it was returned owing to omission of the Regiment.  Enclosed also was a lovely khaki silk handkerchief with rich blue border.  The parcel was from Okoo. I was looking forward to something nice inside such as cigs and chocs, but Oh dear I found two neatly wrapped boxes in white paper & sealed with red wax & some bandage.  Don’t be inquisitive now!

Molly Evans. Sketch:
Molly Evans. Pencil Sketch by C. Hardy. 1916.  (Bertie Hibbett’s 21st Birthday Album).

I must tell you all some more about the interesting letters I read; one which Vernon handed me in mistake, but said I could read it afterwardsWell, Ida, she mentioned about the names on the bedroom doors & ‘mousehole’ in the box room  – & Dodger, did they succeed in the tricks, especially the nightgown things (as Molly* puts it ‘cos she can’t spell pyjamas?  I did feel flattered when my pictures were mentioned for exhibition in the monkey showYes the letters were saturated about the pleasant time the two had at No 95.

Arnold Rowntree.
Arnold Rowntree..

houseMr Rowntree of York* went to Vernon’s house & his sister hoped he brought his trade with him namelychocolates delect’Norman, his younger brother, had been to the Royal Show at Nottingham.  I mentioned I was in some way intimate to the two facts ahem!  You must, dear Mummy, get the Observer & read about Rowntree (8 &9).

There is one unique coincidence with regard to ‘No 40’ –  ‘A’ Company touched for what we thought would be a squeamish position –  i.e. 40 yards from the enemy.  On the night of relief – i.e. Sunday – they threw what we call ‘sausages’ (10) into our trench.  You can see the sausages coming & are more prepared for the fall than when a shell comes.  A mine also blew up and we all ‘Stood To’Half thought we should have to cancel the relief & stay the night in the trenches.  Then ‘No 40’ comes in again with regard to the rumour of the length of time we shall be in the trenches next time after our 12 days rest in bivouac We are going, ‘they say’, to that place you have heard of that Ida wanted to know if we were anywhere near (11).  I want you to get this letter, so I had better not go too far in giving the show away.

Mr. F.O.Bates' House, Aldridge, Walsall,Staffordshire.
Mr. Frank O. Bates’ House,  Aldridge, Walsall, Staffs. Watercolour signed STB?

Well, dear Mummy, I will conclude my letters with love to you.  I wish I could ride to Aldridge again.  Mr Bates* said his roses & strawberries were in fine growth & he wished he could send me some.

Do you remember the tea party on the lawn when you were so generous as to lavishly buy cakes & biscuits for the scholars’ tea & the maid came to serve the mites And does Basil remember the little man & how the scholars liked the evening so much that they were not too keen to go home(12).

Got your two parcels today & enjoyed a good tea with Sydwill tell you more about today next time I write, but want to get this off by this post.

Best love,  Bertie.

************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett’s relief at seeing his 20th Birthday after what was probably his worst week is paramount – and reflected in his use ofdear Mummy‘.

(1Hales Rifle GrenadeMartin Hale, 1907, a hand-grenade attached to a metal rod and inserted into the rifle barrel/ had range of 150 yards. (Not available to British Army until 1915. See also ‘Mills Bomb’ wikipedia).  Pte Bertie Hibbett experienced them ‘40 yards from the enemy’(2) Reconnaisance and/or Fighter Aeroplanes.

Prince John. 1915.
Prince John. 1915.

(3) Prince John Charles Francis. Disabled/ epileptic youngest son of George Vth, b.1905 d.1919 aged 14 yrs. 

(4) Robert Stephenson Baden Powell, 1857-1941. Mafeking Hero, Boer War 1899-1900.

Letter from Baden-Powell. 1927.
Letter from Baden-Powell to Mr. Hibbett. 1927.

Founder of Boy Scouts, educational innovator, promoting citizenship though outdoor activities. Much admired by my father who helped with Scouts when Curate at Alford, Lincolnshire, 1920s.  ‘Doing good & helping others’.

(5) ‘Different Scenes‘: my father plays down the dangerous trek back from the ‘New Trenches‘ after such a ‘relief‘ & so many casualties. (see Map of Route. Letter 9th July.1915).  (6Mexican Chocolate: Advert.‘ British Chocolate for our Soldiers at the Front. Offer of Cadbury’s. To mail direct post free. Tin containing g four cakes of famous Mexican Chocolate &1Ib tin of cocoa & milk powder. Total Cost 3 shillings & 6d.‘  The Argus. Oct 28th 1915. (7) Bachelors Buttons: Not sweets  (as 1st thought) but suspender buttons sent by Mr Bates, Aldridge.

(8) Arnold Stephenson Rowntree1872 -1921. Chocolate manufacturer, Quaker & Liberal MP for York, 1910. Involved in: Fellowship of Reconciliation (inter-denominational Christian group promoting pacifism 1914); Friends War Victim Relief; Quaker Meeting for Sufferings (led to creation of Field Ambulance Units); Military Service Act,1916 helped amend provision of conscientious objectors).  

Rowntree Society: Letters of Rowntree to his wife, Mary Katherine, 4th & 5th July, 1915, ‘visited Bournville at Uffculme, where I met George Cadbury – & Henry Cadbury, who motored me to Walsall (Dundrennan House, Wednesbury Rd):

Vernon's father, Enoch Evans as Mayor of Walsall 1921.
Vernon’s father, Enoch Evans* as Mayor of Walsall 1921.

‘where I stayed with a nice Conservative solicitor, Mr. Evans . . . got on nicely and after an early lunch Mr. Evans’ son motored me to Birmingham for Quaker Peace Talks. (9NB this ‘son’ would have been Norman Harrison Evans* (age 13, no age-limit/ driving test needed).

(10) ‘Sausages‘- Tommy’s slang for ‘rifle grenades’ (see (1) above). (11) Ypres Salient.  (12) Bertie Hibbett’s 19th Birthday Tea with Sunday School pupils at 95, Foden Rd. Walsall, 1914,

NEXT POST: 13th JULY, 1915.  Mother’s Birthday.

 

17TH MAY 1915: COMING OF AGE IN THE TRENCHES.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE   Bulford Camp. 

17th May, Mon: ‘C’Coy remained behind in support of 6th South.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: ‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’.  Bulford Camp.  Parcels from May Overend*, York & Mrs Machin*. Cakes handed round, toffee & smokes. Sang ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’.  I smoked Syd’s health, lying down beside him, went out to speak to Jones’ brother, felt giddy & had to walk round rock!  Dick Houghton –  a jolly humorous chap.’  

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MOTHER & FATHER.  (13 pages). Message on outsideOpen with care  – pressed flowers‘. (NB Flowers cut out by his Mother 1915, ‘replaced’ by EFW 2015).17th May 1915 Forget me not.

May 17th/ 15.  Mafeking Relieved. (1)

My Dear Mother & Father,

Sydney’s Coming of age – to think of it –  there seems to be a beautiful atmospheric effect.  Although far apart Mother & Son are joined heart to heart.

Mercy and Truth are met together,  Righteousness & Peace have kissed each other, Truth shall flourish in all the earth. (2)

I pictured you all singing that on SundayI read the Psalms, both for Matins & Evensong (3). Sunday seemed more like Syd’s birthday, for we received your extremely welcome parcels – guess what time? -why after ‘Stand Toabout 4. in the morning – when Mother and all of you are fast asleep.

The day too turned out lovely, bright & sunny.  My generous brother shared his birthday parcel at tea-time & the Listening Party had a most enjoyable tea in the evening sunSydney, the very name of strength, courage & gentlemanliness. 

Mother dear, you will be all the more delighted to know that Syd is favoured by the Listeners above any other NCO for duty with the party.  Norman Cope* was quite anxious to know if Syd was the NCO to take us out one night.  The Lance Corporals take it in turn to go with the ListenersSyd came with us twice.  How unique it would have been if Syd had been with us on Listening post & seen the dawn of his 21st birthday, but such was not to be.  Syd was never taken to drama & sentiment of that kind; an ordinary ‘common or garden day’ is his choice.    

I sometimes have the idea that Syd was made for a soldier – tall & broad of stature. 

Centre: Sgt S. HIBBETT when training as a Sergeant.
Sgt S. HIBBETT 1916.

I shall not forget the day he went Home for 24 hour leave. That day we were on guard at the Post Office in Saffron Walden – the time came when it was my turn to take my beat in front of the Post Office during the day when there were many people, both civilians and soldiers passingThe Sergeant of the Guard (a very kind & genuine man, who had the faith & pluck to say prayers in the hearing of 2 or 3 Companies of the Battalion billeted for the night) – the Sergeant requested that, for the improvement of the reputation of the Battalion Syd should take my place

Although it had snowed the night before, Syd’s bayonet was as bright as ever, his pack was as neat as neat could be & in fact his general appearance was smartAway he went & began his beat. My tall & broadly built brother, pacing up & down, was an honour to the Guard.  

I have an idea that the next morning, at rifle inspection, our Platoon Commander lifted Syd’s bayonet on high & showed it to the Platoon as an example.  I may add that Vernon at tea  on Sunday showed me his bayonet & said his effort at keeping it clean was through Sydney’s example.  Vernon was not a Listener.  Sid had a little tea with the Listeners, then we invited Vernon to Sid’s hut & had a quiet & enjoyable tea togetherVernon brought some whipped cream & we had it with the apricotsHe did enjoy the whole of the tea, especially the lemon curdSyd cut a slice of cake for him & he relished the whole lot & he could not resist one of Ida’s chocolate biscuits, which Sid & I think are lovely.  All the Listeners who ‘partook’ of dear Mother’s homemade lemon curd absolutely relished it.  We fortunately had a ration of butter & Norman Cope had a lovely loaf sent him. 

As for the tea, or rather drinkables, Sid & I enjoyed a mess tin full of tea made with the tea you sent.  Arthur Brown* or Brewin as we call him (who is also very generous) made coffee & cocoa.  Vernon jokingly suggested that I ought to smoke Syd’s health & he offered me a cigarette

Oh Mother, I have tried hard to tell you in the best & most fluent way I can, but I conclude it is a failure We spent a really happy Sunday – till up to night time when Norman & one or two Listeners expressed their disappointment at Syd not coming out with us on Listening Post.  

 – – Just got a parcel (the postmark looks like Redditch & the writing like one of the Overends*). Syd got Auntie’s parcel containing two pocket handkerchiefs & a couple of bananas in a card board box Marvellous – absolute marvel! – the cake was not all brokenGenerally all that’s left of a cake sent in a cardboard box is a bag of crumbs, squashed completely.  We shall enjoy Auntie’s cake for they are always nice & fruity. We have not yet finished the birthday gifts from home.  There are the Pineapple chunks which we shall share with Vernon & his cream.

Here goes Sydney tall & broad of stature, Of NCOs a favoured watcher. Sydney too is good at sniping. Pops off Huns just like he’s typing.‘    

–  – Another parcel & a letter for me & a parcel for Syd.  So that makes 3 parcels & a letter come since I started this letter – coming like the – no I won’t say – those horrible things that never stop coming – only the opposite kind. 

Let me finish my blank verse Syd, I conclude could not have had a happier time than spending  his 21st  serving his King & Country & helping to do his little bit to guard his dear home to which he said sincerely he would like to be there now. 

NB  I have just read the letter from you, dated May 15th.  Now I am certain I wrote to you acknowledging the ripping parcel of fruit, chocolate, Velma coffee au lait & Ida’s tea cakes were lovely.  I wrote to Harold & Fred York I cannot very well repeat the letter but it was one I especially wanted you to keep for it was written when the trench was being shelledI did not say anything closely referring to the incident. 

Is that the 1st letter you have missed receiving?  I have often thought of telling you to state the date my letters were sent to you & just refer to something I said so that I can tell what & everything about the letter sent.  Yes I’m certain I wrote & am awfully sorry dear, dear Mother, but you mustn’t expect that everything runs smoothly always. 

I do not feel like writing many letters, but I trust that if Harold does not hear from me you will say that I wrote & will write him as soon as possible.  I’m sorry Syd did not write.  Didn’t you even get a field PC?  The letter might have got buried like the Malted Milk tablets.Malted Milk Tablets.

I say just carefully read through all my letters written after May 6th  –  the day we had the excitement.  I have had an idea there has been one or two or more letters you have not received – do write a PC straight away.  I also wrote, by the by, a letter to Mrs Jones* the same day.

Twilight in the hut.  Vernon especially told me to mention in this letter how very much he enjoyed the things we gave him for tea todaySyd cut into May Overend’s handmade cake & handed a piece all round the hut.  Vernon had a slice of Auntie’s cake & some pears from Mrs Machin*.  He also told me to be sure to thank you for the box of Rowntrees chocolate.

This letter is getting long for the censor but I must tell of THE thing for Syd’s 21st.  I smoked his health.  I want Dad to know of the ceremony. You remember me mentioning in a past letter that Brewin had a spare army issue pipe, he had smoked it a little so he gave it to me.  I have had it in my haversack for quite a long time & brought it out this evening.  Well – Vernon supplied the bacca, a good bacca – Boardman’s – & filled it for me. Then Syd lit the pipe for me while I drew; after some awkwardness I managed to smoke it fluently.  There I lay stretched out in the hut by Syd & wished him Many Happy Returns & Good Luck.

Everyone was humorously surprised.  Some suggested that I should have had a cig to start with, but I thought Dad would rather have me smoke a pipe to begin with – Dad having not smoked a cig in his life.

Hurrah! I got through it & smoked it all!   Vernon, Syd and I, henceforth called the Trio, spent Sunday & today together as happy as can be – with one or two exceptions.(4)

I will now close, but I must say that generally we have Church Parade on Monday & it would have been still happier if Syd & I could have attended Holy Communion.  I have just read a verse out of Psalm 89 for the 17th evening, verse 25:- My truth also and my mercy shall be with him, And in my name shall he be exalted.   May Syd spend his next birthday in England & be there before his 22nd year is out!

For King & Country.

Six Parcels for Syd;  2 from Home; I from Harold, (which he was anxious about Syd getting on the 17th & Syd did – a lovely cig. case);  I from Overlands, absolutely ripping;   2 tins of coffee au lait;  I packet Russian cigs;  I tin of sardines;  2 packets of BlackCat ? with Dict –(unreadable);  2 tablets of soap;  2 packets of Peters Choc.;  1 packet of Bournville choc. ;  2 pencils, one in case;  A large slab of May’s homemade caramel toffee;  I large handmade cake;  I parcel from Mrs Machin* containing tin of pears I tin of toffee. I tin of Gold Flake;  4 apples etc. ; 2 boxes of State Express from Miss Bore*.  letter from Miss Foster* & Parcel following.

See Over . . .  anything else to say? – the censor is my dread.

Again IT IS WORTH REPEATING the lemon curd is lovely & Syd is enjoying it, send some more Choc biscuits next time Ida. & Dad I should like your opinion on my smoking.

What a ripping lot of letters. Vernon did enjoy the tea in the dugout this afternoon.  Plenty of little  souvenirs for you, make fine brooches.  I could have captured a man one night.

Now to SydFor he’s a Jolly Good Fellow.  God save the King.

Brother clasps the hand of brother, marching fearless through the night. (5)

*************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Typically, Bertie’s thoughts are all of his Mother & of Sydney, as he tries to reassure his parents that Sydney’s 21st Birthday was a happy one, and their food  parcels and gifts were a resounding success.  His proud description of his brother tells a great deal about the difference in their character & physique.  Apart from the smoking ‘ceremony’ Bertie says hardly a word about himself except cryptically – out of the blue – ‘I could have captured a man one night‘.

As a child, I once asked my father how many people he had killed in the War and he answered, surprisingly to me & with a strange look on his face, that he might have killed one man. However the shell-shock, that must have begun during this 2nd Battle for Ypres, lasted all his life.

(1) Seige & Relief of Mafeking, South Africa. Boer War.  Lord Baden Powell with 1,100 troops & Cadet Force of Boys,(12-15 yrs old) defended Mafeking for 217 days, Oct.1899 – May 1900.  Baden-Powell became the nation’s hero & my father helped the Boy’s Scouts when a curate at Alford, Lincolnshire. (2) Psalm 85.10. (3)  Psalms 78-85 Book of Common Prayer.1662. (4) ref. no doubt to the constant noise of shelling & the death of Lt H. Parr. (5) Hymn: Through the night of doubt & sorrow’. Bernhardt, 1826. (trans.from Danish by S. Baring Gould).

NEXT POST:  21st May 1915: All About Smoking.