Tag Archives: Bairnsfather 1916.

24TH MAY 1916: NIGHT MARCHES, TIPPERARY & AAAAAAAAAAW FIREWORKS!

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

LUCHEUX. 

21st -31st May:  Battalion Training. In Rest Billets.

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 Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MARIE & ARTHUR HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. 

‘Home Sweet Home’ (1)

Woden’s Day. May 24/ 16.

My Dear Mother & Father,

General Sir Douglas Haig.
General Sir Douglas Haig.

Mum’s long letter of last Sunday 21st was beautiful & interesting.  I received it this evening after a good day’s work.  We have been inspected by the Gen. of the BEF (2).

Lady Postman.
Lady Postman. WW1.

So very, very  glad to hear you had a sunny Sunday and a ‘happy’ day on the 17th. 

I liked the account of how you got my letter from the lady postman (3). How delightful to have had Sydney’s favourite hymn (4) on the Sunday following.

Your letter had the opposite effect to the one previous & seemed to have had that ‘forgiveness’ I told you of in my last letter which has turned the story beautiful again, & how queer that I should have written about it last Sunday too.

Yes, I guess you would miss Ida, & do you know I had an idea she had kept her intention from you for she never mentioned you in her letter as reference Well I do praise her up to a certain extent & if she were a boy she would undoubtedly win a medal on Active Service. 

Sorry you have been ill, but I love you for the way you took it so lightly by your writing.  Bravo Dr. Utting*! (5)

Yes, Ball* was always decent to me, he is only a Private like I am, but one of the decent chaps among the ranks.  He is dark haired & has a rosy  fresh complexion, hasn’t he?  Yes, I will do as you said & he will deserve all I give him poor chap.  Yes, he is quiet & that’s the best of him, all the others are rowdy.  As for the Hinds I think Cyril* is the better.

Home Sweet Home.
Home Sweet Home. http://www.en-wiki.com>

Ah! your description of Basil cutting the grass & of your sitting in the garden gave me much pleasure.

I am looking forward to the lilies. This is the Land of the Lily (6), but I have not seen any yet this year.  I think the lily (the symbol of this country) is theArum’ – that which you  decorate the altar with. 

Wild Arum or 'Cuckoo Pint).
Wild Arum or ‘Cuckoo Pint). <http://www.beforeitsnews.com&gt;

Mrs Hurst* told me it would soon be the Sunday School Festival & Mr Key* loves white flowers.

Am pleased you like Mrs Hurst, she is very much like Mrs Jones in her manner of writing.

220px-Fleur_de_lys_(or).svg
Fleur de Lys.

ThursdayYou told me in one of your past letters that I could have one of the washing squares as you had sent Sydney some. The one I have is simply a ‘tres bon’ ideaI found, when I had a bath last night, that it is much easier to get a lather with it than without, & also there is no waste soap as I put my soap inside the ‘bag’ & that which gets smeared on the square is used next time.

I told you in my last letter but one that Lieut Sanger* wished to be kindly remembered to you, at any rate I will give him theBoomerang’ (wish).  It was sometime after that I saw Allen Machin* I think S(ydney) is the best of the lot & Allen looks fine.

We have been out of the trenches since Saturday night & have done a route march each night for 3 nights.  It is cooler to march at night.  I guess you have wondered whether we march at night or not & you would think all sorts of things, not missing out that we are cheerful.  And we are not always singing ‘Tipperary’ (7). There are always some of us who find out something fresh & they are not always songs.

One night a few of us imitated the rocket we saw at the Arboretum Flower Show (8). I think someone behind us must have seen an artillery rocket, at any rate it was not long before nearly all of us picked up the jokeA long whistle for the rocket &, as we imagined the illumination to burst & show all its different colours gracefully fall to earth we should utter that expression of those who saw fireworks –  ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw  – & then the excited quick Hurrah! at the end.

www.ebay.coms-l300

Monkey Soap.
Monkey Soap.

 

 

 

 

 

At another time I fancied I could smell the old ‘bread & milk’ I loved when a little school boy. I could indeed smell a kind of burnt bread & burnt milk.  Sorry I lost the choc and Terry’s sweets with the parcel, but I am hoping they will turn up after me writing.  And I suppose you sent some Monkey Brand for my mess tin (8). I need also some Emery Cloth (9).

Captain Bruce Bairnsfather. Warwickshire Regt.
Captain Bruce Bairnsfather. 
<http://www.worldwar1postcards.com&gt;
Title Page Sniper Atkins
Sniper Atkins. AHH. May 1916.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have at last managed to sketch something original but of course I could not better Bairnsfather’s features in his sketches.  Have drawn two, one you could send to Miss Foster*, if you think she would like it, & the other for yourself Choose which you like the better, the one with ‘Yours faithfully’ in front has the more original sketches in & I have substituted a verse for a better one about the Kaiser(10).

I am expecting Sydney soon, as his course should not last more than a month.

Best love to all,    Bertie.

PS  Did you get the ‘green’ to Ida dated about 14th? [Ed: if so then it hasn’t survived].

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

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

The inspection by Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig was a clear sign that the Battle of the Somme was imminent. Pte Bertie Hibbett has to send Home for more emery cloth & cleaning powder to spruce up his uniform & equipment.

www.epth-bresle.comFascine
Fascine <http://www.epth-bresle.com

1/5th South Staffords, at Lucheux (on top of the usual bombing, sniping & bayonet practice) were kept fit by night marches, whilst during the day they cut wood for hurdles & fascines; these were used to strengthen the long communication trenches over the dangerously exposed ridge from Souastre to the Front at Fonquevillers. 

My father was happy in his peace-making efforts at Home. He took comfort from signs of Spring & thoughts of Home Sweet Home which in the song gave him ‘the peace of mind dearer than all‘  – but in his letters from now on there seems to be a growing acceptance that he would not see his Home again until after the coming Battle.

John Howard Payne 1791 -1852. American dramatist,poet & actor,
John Howard Payne 1791 -1852..

(1) Home Sweet Home:1823. Lyrics: John Howard Payne, 1791-1852. American dramatist, poet & actor. Music: Sir Henry Rowley Bishop 1786 -1855.  

(2) Field Marshall Sir Douglas Earl Haig Commander B.E.F. replaced the First Commander, Field Marshall Sir John French after the Battle of Loos, Oct. 1915.

 (3) ‘Lady Postman’: 35000 women were drafted in during 1914-1916The Post Office was ‘the largest single employer of labour in the world‘. Dealt with 5.9 billion items of post, responsible for nation’s telegraph/ telephone system/ savings bank & 1000 branch post offices.  By 1917 19,000 mailbags crossed the Channel everyday. See websites: <http://www.postalheritage.org.uk <http://www.worldwar1postcards.com/soldiers-mail.php >

Charles Wesley.1707-1788.
Charles Wesley. 1707-1788.

(4) Sydney’s favourite Hymn: Rejoice, the Lord is King’. 1744.  Chorus: ‘Lift up your heart lift up your voice. Rejoice again I say rejoice!Words: Charles Wesley. 1707 -1788. Based on Philippians 4. 4. See Hibbett Letter: 23rd April 1916. 

(5) Dr Utting: Hibbett family doctor/ later tended Ida in her last illness. Utting & Hibbett family grave/memorial, Church of St Michael the Archangel, Rushall, Walsall. 

(6) Land of the Lily: Fleur de Lys/ Iris or Arum Lily/ symbol of France. See Hibbett Letter: 14th April 1916. 

wikiJack_Judge
Jack Judge.
Statue Jack Judge.
Bronze Statue Jack Judge. Stalybridge, Tameside, Greater Manchester.

(7) ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’. Music Hall Song: Jack Judge, in collaboration with Henry James Williams. 1912. 

Monkey Brand Black Tooth Powder.
Black Tooth Powder.

(8) ‘Monkey’:at least 3 different items with this brand name. Rather than tobacco, the context implies ‘Monkey Soap’, a scouring soap (produced in 1899 by Sydney & Henry Gross, Philadelphia, USA/later called Port Sunlight Soap) – or even black tooth powder for cleaning a mess tin. See Hibbett Letter: 21st Oct 1915.

Corundite (emery rock).
Corundite (emery rock)..

(9) Emery: ‘dark granular rock‘ used to make abrasive powder (corundum/ aluminium oxide). Rock mined over 2000 years in Turkey & Greece (Island of Naxos), world’s main supply. Used in Asia for grinding rice. Emery Cloth: coated abrasive, bonded to cloth, for hand use. 

NEXT POST: 28th May 1916.

 

21ST MAY 1916: ‘AREN’T THESE LARGE BUTTERCUPS FROM THE TRENCHES?’

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

FONQUEVILLERS. 

18th May Thur. 12.45 am to 1.30 am: Enemy fired 18 canister bombs (1) which fell between ‘A’   Company’s advanced posts and company Headquarters. All communication trenches damaged. 1.45-2.15 am 12 canister bombs fell between No 4 and 5 posts. No damage. 10.15 pm – 10.45 pm 12 canister bombs fell between No 4 and 2 Posts. LIVERY STREET damaged (2).

Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regt. badge.
Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regt. Badge. <http://www.northeastmedals.co.uk&gt;

19th May Fri. 8.30 pm: 6 canister bombs fell between No.1 and No 2 posts. No damage. Our Artillery retaliated on GOMMECOURT PARK.  Enemy whizz-banged (3) in vicinity of HeadquartersRelieved by 1/5th SHERWOOD FORESTERS (4). Marched to billets at SOUASTRE (5).

20th May Sat: SOUASTRE. Marched to new billets at LUCHEUX (6). Arrived at 2.0 am. 

21st May Sun: LUCHEUX. In Rest Billets. Battalion Training.

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Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & DoingsNew draft of officers. Saw Lieut. Sanger* with whom I had a nice chat; he was  later over No 2 Platoon. Illustrated Sniper Atkins and substituted a verse about the Kaiser in place of ‘Atkins loves his pal the rifle’ (7).

Sniper Atkins Indides pages
Sniper Atkins: Top right verse: ‘Tommy has a lucky ‘go’ His sharp eye spots the Kaiser. Tommy says: “Just arf a mo” Take this to make you wiser’. 1 shot. 2 shots. 3 shots.’  NB Three camouflaged German snipers with rifles in the tree.

LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.

‘. . . among the sundry and manifold changes of the world. . .’ (8). ‘I have yet many things to say unto you’ (9).

Collect and Gospel for:– 4th Sunday after Easter. May 21/ 16

My Very Dear Mother,

How very, very sorry indeed I felt, when I read your letter (in with Ida’s) dealing with the manner Sydney behaved.  Yes Sydney is often thoughtless & I think it is rotten to have divided affection.  I say ‘Mother the Queen of the Home – Ist A1. Then if you like —someone else A2,  but to me Dad & Mum are equally A1.  ‘Ah wee’, as the French say, the first few lines of Chapter XXII are disappointing. Yet a Mother can forgive & that will turn the story beautiful.

The weather is excellent, fine & sunny & of course I am wondering what sort of Sunday you are having.  Oh No! Jones* left the letter untouched, I arrived in time. I did not understand the matter about the photo, I overlooked that & was more interested in the other news in the letter. Jones* is going to give me Sydney’s watch today. I shall try & get it before tea-time just for curiosity in case you think of it in conversation during tea hour.  I told you before that I have written to the 3rd Field Ambulance.  I have received very nice letters during the week from Miss Foster* (one of hers was returned to her).

<http://www.en-wiki.org.uk&gt;

Miss Bore* sent a PC & letter & Pearson’s Magazine (10) to the Hospital on the 5th May.  I got it yesterday. [Ed. i.e. 17th May].

Pearson's Magazine Oct 1915.
Oct. 1915.
Sir Arthur Pearson
Sir Arthur Pearson. 

 

 

 

 

 

Jolly old Vernon wrote a nice long letter from Ripon, No 6 Coy. No 1 Hut, No 3 Camp, Northern Command Depot (11).  Perhaps you would like to write to him.  You told me in one of your letters he was not any better & that he had been sent to Ripon.  His brother Norman* is Editor of the Junior School Magazine. I am patronising his office by sending him my doggerel  ‘Sniper Atkins’ – Illustrated.  You may think I am vain to send it, but my idea of giving them pleasure exceeds the former idea of vanity & I thought if the C.O. commended it (& every Tommy I have shown it to has been highly amused & many have suggested that I should send the poem to some paper) that I should.  I conclude that I humbly  beg the Editor, Mr. N. Evans* to give me his opinion as to whether my doggerel is worthy of being published in his respected School paper. 

Sydney once told me not to be so ‘gushing’ in my letters to him, & about him at Home. But Vernon is worse to me than I was with regard to Sydney.  He apparently has changed right round.  In spite of the old saying  that we love one another more when parted.  I think Vernon will remain true now (this is between you & me Mum). 

Going back to ‘Sniper Atkins’ again.  I may say that I have made an Illustrated Copy for you Mum first, but should you discover that someone else has a copy before you, it will be because I wrote it on paper to fit an envelope.  This size notepaper will not go into a ‘green’ envelope without folding.

Doesn’t Arthur Brown* look old in the Observer? & I didn’t know he was Sergt.  On leaving the Batt. he only had 2 stripes showing. Of course he was once Acting Orderly Sergeant. Well, I looked over & over again at the photos but could not recognise Brown until I began to read the names underneath.

Tommy's Cooker.
Tommy’s Cooker.

This morning I received the Refill for the Boots Cooker. I have noticed that the labels always come & do not get torn off.  This reminds me that I made a delicious mess tin of coffee for supper with that you sent me; Cliff Hackett* was only too willing to give me ‘du lieu (12). Cyril Hinde* returned from Leave a day or so ago. Yesterday I went & talked with him in the field by the huts.  He wishes me to say that he was sorry he could not find time to see you.

I am afraid my Sunday letter is not altogether a success. I cannot write properly today somehow, this being a ‘green’. I may enquire of you if that Refill was rather expensive, & if I have asked you for anything that taxes your pocket?  But the advantage of the Refill comes when you send anything to be made into hot drinks & there are no fires to be had; also when our tea & bacon go cold or if we wish to make Welsh Rare Bit. 

Oh I won’t arf make ye larf (at least I’ll try my best) in my next letter, but my sketches would not be Sundayfied if I enclosed them with this.  I am getting quite a Rival of Bairnsfather and what two tasks have appeared at first  incapable of accomplishment have both come out successful to the commendation of all.  I have sent Field PCs to all those who wrote last week.  I must not forget to tell you I had a letter from Mrs Hurst* today & she told me of her meeting with you & Ida on Monday. Her letter, curious enough, was dated  May 17th.

I hope poor Sydney had a Happy Birthday and got your parcels safely.  I well remember last year how I smoked his health from a pipe for the 1st time and how the Overends sent him a cake & toffees etc.

Talking about a pipe, you need not send me anothercertainly of course not.  I am so sorry Ida’s cigarettes have also gone astray.  But there seems to be hope after having Miss Bore’s letter & Harold’s parcels from there (13).

searchGoing to hear Mr Darling* preach at Streetly this evening ? (14).

Aren’t these large buttercups (from the trenches)?

Best love to all,  Bertie.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

According to 8th Sherwood Foresters this part of the Line at Fonquevillers was reported to be ‘about the quietest on the whole of the Western Front’.  For the 1/5th South Staffords, it must have been a very welcome relief after the traumas of Vimy Ridge. Apart from the bombardment of 18th & 19th May, many ‘A Quiet Day’ enabled Pte Bertie Hibbett to lose himself in  his ‘two tasks’  – writing his Sniper Atkins doggerel and illustrating it in a way that he hoped would make people laugh. He recognised that it was not ‘Sundayfied’ – not really in keeping with Christian values even when read ironically.  It makes me recall my question as a child of how many people my father had killed in the War –  & his reply that he thought he ‘might have killed one’!

My father’s growing maturity is seen in his attempt to resolve misunderstandings between his brother Sydney & his Mother – and his happiness in resolving those between himself & his best pal Vernon, through their experience of war. 

Minenwerfer.
Minenwerfer (mine launcher’/ short range mortar.

(1) Canister bombs: fired from German trench mortars or minewerfersexploded ‘with devastating effect causing almost visible shock-waves through the earth. . . very slow moving through  the air. . . possible to watch bomb as it approached, turning end over end’ as it fell – but its ‘unnerving tendency to swerve at end of flight’ made direction of escape a matter of guess work. Alan MacDonald: A Lack of Offensive Spirit?

Whizz bangs Concert Poster Dec. 1916.
Whizz Bangs’ Concert Poster. Dec. 1916.

2) Livery Street: communication trench leading to Front Line at Fonquevillers. Other names: Stafford Avenue, Lincoln Lane, Leicester Street, Derby Dyke, Roberts Avenue, Rotten Row, Regence Street, Raymond Avenue, Crawlboys Lane. All needed extensive repair before the ‘Big Push‘ to come.

(3) Whizz-bang: Tommy’s slang for light shells/ named for sound made when fired from smaller calibre field guns.

(4) Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regt. 1881: Pte Bertie Hibbett was attached when 1/5th Staffords went to Egypt, Dec 1915/ Jan 1916.

(5) Souastre: small village, Pas-en Artois, over exposed ridge, 2 miles west of Fonquevillers/ damaged. (6) Lucheux: medieval town in Picardie, 18 miles SW of Arras. 12th cent Church & 15th cent Chateaux with moat. Relatively undamaged. See Map: Hibbett Letters 10th May,1916.

(7) Sniper Atkins: (not yet established whether Express & Star or QMS School Magazine published it). Text:  Sniper Atkins. Composed by a Sniper.

Sniping Allemands All day long To the tune of British guns. Cooly sniping with A song, Sending greetings to the Huns. I shot 2 shots 3 shots.  Sniper Tommy spots a Bosche And gains a ripping goal And he sees him dive – splosh! Down his muddy hole. I shot etc.

Placing five rounds in tin can Then another up the spout Tommy spies another man So gives the Bosche an awful clout. Tommy has a lucky ‘go’ His sharp eye spots the Kaiser. Tommy say Just ‘arf a Mo’ Take this to make you wiser. I shot 2 shots 3 shots etc.

Atkins with his glasses spies A Jerry working party. Keenly marks it with his eyes Just ‘Wait & See’ me hearty. I shot etc. Opponent snipers in some trees Little knowing of their fate, When Tommy snipes at what he sees They’ll sing no more their hymn of hate. 1 Shot 2 shots 3 shots etc.

Atkins aims at a machine gun & hits the Hun behind it. Oh! my word what jolly fun It fairly makes his sides split. I shot 2 shots 3 shots.

(8) Collect for 4th Sunday after Easter. Book of Common Prayer 1662: O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful man; Grant unto thy people that they may love the things which thou commandest & desire that which thou dost promise; that so amongst the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys may be found. Through Christ our Lord(9) Gospel of St John 16.12-13: quotation continues: ‘When the Spirit of truth is come, the Spirit will guide you into all truth’. 

(10) Pearson’s Magazine: founded 1896 by Sir Cyril Arthur Pearson, blind newspaper magnate, 1866-1921. Founded Daily Express. Founded St Dunstan’s for soldiers blinded in WW1 (now Blind Veterans UK). Published short stories/articles on literature, arts/ politics of ‘socialist bent/ advertisements for patent medicines & ‘get rich quick’ schemes/ first to publish a cross-word.

(11) Northern Command Depot Ripon: for Service/ Labour  Units. Also for re-habilitation of soldiers too fit for Convalescent Camp but not yet fit enough to return to their Unit/ the Front.

(12) ‘du lieu’ ‘in the place of’: Cliff Hackett* had given him hot water earlier in week.(13) No 3 Field Ambulance/ Hospital where Pte Bertie went to rest his trench foot and shattered nerves after Vimy Ridge.

All Saints Streetly Staffordshire.
Church of All Saints Streetly.

(14Church of All Saints, Streetly: built 1908. 6 miles north of Birmingham near Aldridge & Sutton Coldfield. Named from Icknield Street /Roman Road.

 

NEXT POST: 24th May 1916.