1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
16th Oct. Sat: In Rest Billets.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT & BASIL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
Sunday Morning. Oct 17/ 15
My Dear Mother & Basil,
I read Dodger’s delightful letter, enclosed in the parcel, with deep interest. I was especially taken by his flattering remark & I wouldn’t mind having been with Sydney last Wednesday. I was on guard at the Station at R___n at the time (1).
Vernon and I were put on guard last night at five & came off tonight. Am writing this in a stable, serving the purpose of a Guard Room. Vernon & I are sorry we cannot go to the Parade Service this morning as I have no doubt it will be a special thanksgiving service. St Paul’s will want another Memorial Service soon won’t they? I am taking it into confidence that you have read about the fighting? (2)
I was very pleased on reading Mother’s letter about Mr. Dixon* preaching at the Harvest Festival; I was thinking all day last Sunday that you were very likely celebrating Harvest Thanksgiving. Sydney is writing today, so he told me this morning.
Would you like to know what Harold sent me? I got his parcel on the Thursday (3) I left Camp , & yours too. Horlick’s Milk Tablets for the damp, cold nights, cocoa made with milk, soap – I shall need that more now, chocolate, toothpowder to prevent toothache this coming winter, and a nice long letter. Sydney had a letter from him yesterday & he is sending a parcel to Sydney soon too. I sincerely hope he will get settled at Wol’ton (4).
Vernon is sorry he cannot be for Best Man at his brother’s Wedding. I am sending him a Souvenir Card today which will likely reach him by the 20 th. Arthur Brewin* will soon be having his commission, & he told Vernon this morning that he (Vernon) is going to be made a Corporal & Sydney most likely a Sergeant. Jolly old Sydney again (5).
Many thanks for the emery cloth & flannel which came just at the right time. And for the Parish Magazine which I read between hours of duty. I gave Vernon one of those rosy apples to wake him up; it was a cold little apple & he soon woke up. I shared several things with Sydney, including the pineapples. I let Sydney read your letter to me in the parcel & he did laugh at the part where you saw him in the street.
Dear Dodger, Sydney has just shown me some Whitby photos (6). How I laughed at you in bed. How large & a really ripping photo.
Best love, Bertie.
This Letter is another example of how Pte Bertie Hibbett raises questions in his reader’s mind about dates & times and answers them a few letters further on.
(1) Battle for Hohenzollern, 13th Oct. Pte Bertie was on his way up Line to Bethune. (2) Thurs.14th Oct. 1915. (3) Wolverhampton, Black Country, Midlands, UK.
(4) Sydney Hibbett’s rapid promotion from Private to Sergeant indicates the severity of the losses of 13th-14th Oct. (5) Bertie was immensely proud of his brother who is just 1 year 2 months older than he is. I have no official record of when Sydney Hibbett was promoted to Serjeant until this Letter. (6) Hibbett Family Holiday, 1915.
NEXT POSTS: 21st; 24th Oct. 1915.
These will be posted late (possibly 25th, 26th Oct) as I am taking part in Stephan Mc Neff’s award-winning ‘Tarka the Opera’ in Exeter Cathedral (20th & 21st. Oct). Commissioned by the Two Moors Festival, it was premiered at RHS Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon, on 20th October 2006.
This is an Opera very much for our time. Based on the novel by Henry Williamson, it describes his struggle to understand the madness of the First World War. ‘Who is wild? Who is civilised?’ ‘ Why do we kill, is it an act of will? All around is the beauty of nature, of light and seasons and wild creatures – yet Nature is ‘red in tooth & claw‘ – Man hunts man and civilisation is turning back into darkness. Williamson is powerless to stop it.
One day he tries to tell his wife about the War but ‘words and imaginations’ fail him – and so he begins to type the story of Tarka the Otter. The Otter Hunt with hounds, in North Devon 1927, is juxtaposed with the Battlefields of France & Flanders and the release of the Dogs of War. Just as Williamsons‘ philosophical questions end in nothing but deadlock , so Deadlock the Hound and Tarka the Otter are bent on mutual destruction – they die locked together in death.
Librettist Richard Williams has made brilliant use of Williamson’s evocative language. Director Tom Guthrie, (Royal Opera) has turned the Cathedral into a riverbank and bridge, with performers moving in and around the audience. Conductor Nicholas Cleobury, who conducted the premiere in 2006, is bringing professional singers and orchestra together, with a non-professional adult choir and local children’s choirs, to create a most exciting and wonderful whole.