1. Allied Forces on the Western Front are taking offensive on the 25th inst. 2. The 2nd Army will attack E. of Ypres . . .
4. The 137th Brigade will cooperate as follows:-
(a) Enemy salients in I. 29, 30 and 34and his approaches to themwill be kept underartillery, riflefire, and machine gun fire, special attention being paid to suspected observation posts. The targetsfor the137th Brigadebeing these points in front of the Brigade Trenches,rifle fire will be from loopholes or sniperscopes.
(b)If the windis favourablea curtain of smoke will be directed on HILL 60and theCATERPILLARfrom the trenches of the Left Sector, 137th Brigade.
5. Watches will be synchronised from Battalion Headquarters at 12.30 A.M. Sept 25/ 15.
6.During the Artillery Bombardmentthat is :- up to4.20 A.M.men in the trenchesexcept sentrieswill be kept under cover immediately bombardment ceases,that is:- 4.20 A.M. rifle fire and machine gun fire will beopened on the enemy trenchesas directed in para 4 (a).
7. Battalion Head Quarterswill be established in theStrong Point in the Wood at 10.30 pm Sept 24thcommunications with Head Quarters are to be tested every quarter of an hour from that time onwards.
8. Casualtieswill be accommodated in the most convenient dug-out and if necessary, medical aid will be obtained from Battalion Head Quarters.
J. LAMOND,Capt. & Adjt. 1/5th Bn South Staffordshire Regt. Issued at 1.30 pm.
Pte Bertie Hibbettwas expecting to move from Hospital to Convalescent Camp on Sat. 25th Sept. The fact that a major offensive along the Western Front had begun would have been known in Rouen by that evening. But Bertie would not have known what was happening to 1/5th Bn. South Staffs on Hill 60Ypres Salient – and he would have been anxious for the safety of his brother.
In the event, as the following record shows, the 1/5th South Staffords cooperated as ordered; their Brigade Head Quarters in the Wood was not damaged and their casualties were comparatively slight.
Elsewhere the story was very different. On 25th Sept. the Battle of Loos (pronounced ‘Loss’) witnessed the first use of chlorine poison gas by the British and led to the gassing of 2,632 of their own men. Initial success that day came to nothing, through lack of Reserves. The fight for Loos and the Hohenzollern Redoubt was to continue for many weeks with many losses.
SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
S. W. SLOPE HILL 60.
25th Sept Sat:During early morningEnemyshrapnelled 36Trench with H.E. – also fired single shells at intervals into the Woodwithout effect. Trench mortar opposite 35 silenced by Belgian Battery. Enemy trenches opposite 35 & 36 bombed and rifle grenaded. Enemy trench-mortared 33 in reply until silenced by Belgiangun.
CASUALTIES: WOUNDED: 8534 Pte L. Lyons. SLIGHTLY WOUNDED (remain at duty):8246 Pte L. Abel; 8454 Pte S Goode; 8708 Pte W. Selby.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL ROUEN : LETTER to Mr & Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
In Red White & Blue Thursday Aug 26/15
‘MY OLD PATE’.
My Very dear Mother & Father,
I’m in ecstasy over having such a shoal of letters & parcels.Had quite a dearth& even it did not last long only about a week & a half, I got to longfor something from the post as days came by.
Now before I say anything further, let me say how very sorry I put Mother into such anxiety over ‘my poor head’. I’m practically better now, & I hope to be out of hospital soon. Very likely the idea of me being in HOSPITAL & the silly idea of bandagingme up like I was, has made you so anxious. Apparently then you did not enquire of Harold, I told him what was wrong with me, & to him it has been an old complaint, & Harold, I presume, has not yet told you.
No doubt, dear Mummy, you understand my idea of letting you know such things ‘second hand’. When the doctor’s assistantbandaged me up I said anyone would think I was a ‘make believe’ of being wounded; to which he said: ‘My boy they are worse than a wound’.
Another thing, I was so very sorry indeed to hear, was that you had such unsettled weather, but I was glad to hear that the Sunday you went to Ruswarp (1) was fine & that the last days of the holidays the weather had ‘picked up somewhat’
Mummyyou have been busy writing. How very good of you to spend so much time of your holidays by so doing & such long ones too, & I got quite a lot all together. When I received your letter of the 23rd, or rather the two letters in one posted on the 23rd,I could not wait any longer to answer in detail the parcel & letters of yesterday too, as long as opportunity was open to me to write.
So I am seated in a lovely canvas chairoutside in the shade.The weather has been sunny & bright ever since I have been in hospital. I have enjoyed a lump or two of your (Whitby) rock & am struggling to keep my writing up to the mark. Poor artful Dodger, ‘swishing about on the pier like an old tar’ – how could he find a corner of his seabeaten heart to pine about his two bruvvers at the front. Indeed I am more anxious about my younger brother getting a good result of his exam than I am of anything to do with me sen, except of course my career equally as much as his.
Did you, dear Mum, read the story in the ‘London Magazine’ (2), which was included in the bundle you sent me (& Sydney) the story entitled ‘Missing’? It put me in mind of two things – (first) of Jack Wade*.An officerwearing a square white badge with a red cross on it,comes occasionally into the wards &enquires of each patientwhether the patient has heard anything about so & so – missing since such & such a time.He opens quite a volumefull of nothing but lists of missing(3).
The second thought comes to me of the many mothers & relatives who are anxious about their sons missing& then of course above all, and really which hits me more than any, is the case of Lieut. Jack Wade*.
The story in the Magazine is very interesting isn’t it?,but I wasdisappointedon reading the 1st letter from the soldier to his mother – the nature of it. But did you notice ‘Mummy’ in the second letter of his. You know he got wounded in the head & lost consciousness, but when he got better he remembered his Mother’s face & said ‘good old Mum’ in the front of it & ‘Cheero Mummy’. Yes ’twasa nice talebut the affair about the girls I did not care much for. Yet they reminded me of Harold & Miss Bore sh! sh! (4).
I have heard such a lot from you all in a heap that I shall have to re-read & re-read again & write again in a day or so to make all things plain. Am looking forward to the applesand socks. Auntie wrote to me saying she had sent us both a parcelbut I guess Sydney carried out what I told him & ate all & demolished the contents himself. So sorry he will have to wait for the papers to read. Yes I got three letters, a PC & two parcelsbesides the letters inside the parcels. In fact I almost cleared all the post for No 6. Ward.
A letter from Ida – tell her I got her letter posted 9th Aug. too. A letter from Auntie, a PC from Miss Foster*; by what she said on it I conclude you have not told her where I am & what is up with me eh? Also a letter from Miss Winifred Evans* from Thlandidno (5) which I acknowledged by a F.P.C – same with t’others.
You told me to buy something good with your generous little ‘bit’ again so I bought a few biscuits for my supper& you say they are a good thing to eat early in a morning. We do not get any ‘bits’ in hospital (6). I suppose I shall go into a Convalescent Camp after coming out of Hospital, as is the general case. A patient went to England (what is that place?) with having boils on his legs. Mine arn’t half or a quarter as bad, in fact they are better now.
I had a good smell at your little bit of seaweed in each letter you sent me & the heather off the moors. Yes, I have often thought of the heather & Goathland.
I don’t suppose Mummy missed my coming into the apartments with sketchboard under one arm & her shopping bag filled with paints & brushes & painting material in the other, arriving late as per usual for tea & boastfully exhibiting a hideous half-finished daub on the mantlepiece. No I think the nuisance was a good riddance what oh! – you don’t mind me saying so eh! what.
And, dear Mummy, I kept a bit of the heather & you don’t mind me having given the sister the restto put in her room. I said it was from England, the Yorkshire Moors, & asked her if she knew the novelBetween the Heather & the Northern Shore (7) & she remembers the York Pageant (8). We have some heather besides some other flowers in the Ward, but she was especially thankful & blissful over the little bunch of Englishheather.
I had to open the parcelofeatables in her room & show the other sister what I had: resultwas nothing in it to do me any harm & so I had the ginger cake & apricots to enjoy at tea. How very good of you to be so eager to send me the things I put in my letter; if I had known such nice things were forthcoming when I wrote that letter I should have felt ashamed to ask ‘for more’ as Oliver Twist did & I feel such a glutton now. Yet I’d love an egg. Patients in the Ward have an eggevery tea time, but they have marked on their head boards for eggs, each board having on the diet for each patient.I am on ordinary diet with medicine – Salts (9) on waking in the morning at 6.00 & ironafter each meal. Don’t you think Parish’s Food (10) would do me good for its all to do with the blood being out-of-order.
When I was opening your letter today I was expecting to see some photos in side by the feeling of the stiff paper. You won’t forget to persuadeHaroldto do some forSydney& me if he has taken any. You will forgive me opening the letter to Sydney which came with the Magazines. I sent it off to him in agreen envelopewithBasil’slong letter.
I don’t thinkMrs Hardcastle* will have to re-post any letters from me. I sent you a letter last Friday & another on Sunday, the latter I believe I addressed to Home. Let’s pray that we shall see each other before Winter comes along, but Cheero Mummywe are happiest as we are now, if we trust & believe that it is God’s Will & in His mercy hope for the best,
Your very affec. son Bertie.
(1) Ruswarp & Goathland:N. York Moor villages near Whitby. (2) The London Magazine estab.1903 (previously Harmsworth Magazine 1898) encouraged new writers. July 1915 copy included stories by a Corporal F. Ward. (WW1 Price: a shilling).
(3) The Red Crosswas the only organisation permitted by the War Office to make enquiries for the missing. Regular searches were made in Base Hospitals & Army Rest Camps abroad as well as in Hospitals in UK. A monthly Enquiry List was circulated. (4) Harold & Hilda Borewere recently engaged. (5) Llandidno, Wales. (6) ‘Bits‘/ ‘A little bit of cash‘, i.e. no pay in hospital.
(7) ‘Between the Heather & the Northern Shore‘. 1884. A second novel by Mary Linskellb. 1840, Blackburn Yard, Whitby; one of many 19th Cent. writers associated with the town.
(8) York Pageant: Medieval Mystery/ Passion Plays (from Creation to Last Judgement; performed on Feast of Corpus Christi (23rd May – 24th June.)MS dated 1463-1477, British Library.Performed in York 1569. NB Research suggests they were originally Lincoln Mystery Plays.
(9) Liver Salts: a tonic. (10) Parrish’s Food:compound syrup of iron phosphate (Syr Ferri Phos Co) first appears in Martingale’sExtra pharmacopoeia of Unofficial Drugs & Chemicals. . . 1883 (invented byProf. Edward Parrish pharmacist, Philadelphia) cf National Library of Medicine.
11) Verbranden Molenan old mill 300 yrds behind the Front Line, Hill 60 area.
Lance Corporal Sydney Hibbett & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
26th Aug. Thur: Enemy dropped two shells in ravine between 33 and 34trench and one in front of 34trench at 11. am; 4th Belgian Batteryreplied on enemy trenches. Enemy aeroplane driven off by our aeroplane about 11.15 amotherwise all quiet during the day until7. pm when the enemy shelled Verbranden Molen(11) with about 20 shrapnel and 12 H.E.shells. CASUALTIES: KILLED 6515 Coy S Major H.Gee*. WOUNDED: 7800 L /Sgt S. Moore; 8783 Pte R. E. Ellens.
NEXT POSTS:29th AUGUST 1915 will be published 31st August 2015. Apologies for delay.
The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.