Tag Archives: Bertie Hibbett’s 20th Birthday.


South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


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.



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.



South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

ARMAGH WOOD TRENCHES 1 mile E. of Zillebeke.

6th July,Tue:  A  Bombing  party of 3 Germans approached our lines near to left of 6th South Staffords and were fired upon. Two men only observed to return. Small party of enemy observed in front of A1 trench, reconnoitring our line, were fired on.  CASUALTIES: WOUNDED No 8105 Pte W. Barlow; 9948 Pte H. Stott slightly wounded.

7th July,Wed.  Patrol went along old Communication Trench in front of 50 trench and got within 20 yards of enemy redoubt, heard enemy moving about and found enemy wire in bad condition. CASUALTIES – KILLED: 7894 Pte G. Dyke; WOUNDED: 8624 Pte H. Carless; 8372 Dr A. White slightly wounded. 8thJuly,Thur: Our snipers fired with effect on German working parties. At 10.30 pm Bombing Party threw two bombs into enemy redoubt opp. 50 trench also Rifle Grenades fired at same point at 11.00 pm. Otherwise all quiet. CASUALTY: WOUNDED: 8913 Sgt Bendall S. accidentally wounded.

9thJuly Fri. Our Artillery shelled enemy trenches during the morning with shrapnel. Our snipers dispersed enemy working parties. Enemy shelled A3 and A4 from 1 to 2. pm. Enemy trench opp. trench 49 rifle grenaded at intervals during the night. Germans retaliating by grenading trenches 50 and A1. CASUALTIES: WOUNDED: No 8834 Pte C. Jackson. (1)   

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MOTHER, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

In the New Trenches. Friday July 9/ 15.

Marie Neal Hibbett 53 in 1915
Marie Neal Hibbett 53 in 1915.  Photo 1920s?

My Very Dear Mother,

Sydney let me have your letter to read, written on 4thSorry it was not such a pleasant Sunday as I hoped it would be. What a beautiful thought it was of you, dear Mother, to think of coming & taking on as a stall holder outside our campAs for taking over the postman’s duty I should love to have a photo of you with the big bag over your shoulder.

I say Mum I do feel mad.  Vernon came up to me yesterday morning & asked me, in a sort  of casual way, when my birthday was.  I said I didn’t wish to tell him but with his usual persuasiveness he got it out of me, bit by bitHe said he’d got a bet on with somebody.  To that I replied  ‘well a bet aint all that important’. Then he began to guess the date – starting from 14 -15 -13 –12 – so he ‘had’ me at last. But I ‘had’ something for him.  I tried to make him promise to keep it quite to himself, but to this he said he’d asked me for a purposeI must confess I have a weakness for keeping my own (birthday secret).

Later in the day Vernon gave me a letter to read; it turned out he had given me the one he did not intend giving me.  It was full to the brim about the two girls going to our house – all about stitching Dodger’s pyjamas up & any amount of personal matter with regard to meself.  Vernon afterwards gave me the ones – i.e. from Molly*(2).  She said jokingly that my pictures would take 1st Prize for the monkey show & so they  would.  All the letters were very nice indeed & written just like Ida composes, not booky & essay sort of style. There was a sketch of Basil’s pyjamas in one of them.

I write this letter hoping you will get it on your birthday (3) to wish you a happy one & many Happy Returns.  We were paid 5 francs, a week last Thursday, so I went into the nearest village (4) where there is a shop full of soldiers buying & I got you this card, & while looking at the assortment, I saw one of some lilies done in white & green silk.  I thought Ida would like it for her bedroom.

I can’t quite understand Dodger giving up all thought of going to George (5) now this thing is on (6).  I hope if he does go to any munition factory he will take on what he likes best after he has served his time in munitions – i.e. farming I suppose.

I will close now & try & go to sleep for I am on duty this afternoon.  I wish I could cycle to Aldridge (7) & get you some more of those roses.  Do you remember last year’s?

Best love from Bertie.

PS NB  You will tell us how Dodger fares in the exam. won’t you?   PPS Later in day.  Had a very nice letter from Miss K. E. Brookes* which I will tell you more about in next letter.                Censor: J.A. Allday.



To reach the ‘New Trenches’ at Armagh Wood,  Pte Bertie Hibbett & his QMS pals must have followed the same dangerous five-mile route taken by the 5th Leicestershires, whom they were to relieve, 5th July, 1915.

Rough Map of Staffords Route to the Front. 5th July 1915.
Rough Map of Staffords’ Route to the Front, 5th July 1915.  efw 2015 from various sources. Red dotted line is 1915 Front Line.  Black dotted Line is 1914 Front Line.

From Ouderdom Farm, they took mud roads & cross-country tracks over the plain to the Indian Transport Field, near Kruistraat White Chateaux and on passed the Brigade Head Quarters Chalet to the outskirts of Ypres.  Field tracks then took them over the  Ypres-Comines Canal at Bridge 14 and across the Lille Road, a few yards north of the notorious Shrapnel Corner –  and on to  the White House at the NW corner of Zillibeke Lake. The route then followed the north side of the Lake where a trench cut into a high causeway)  gave cover from observation on Hill 60, until they came to Hellblast Corner at the tip of the Lake.  At Zillebeke they would have crossed the the main road at the double (to avoid the German machine gun on Hill 60). On passed the Church another unpleasant locality‘, they took another track to Maple Copse, with a turning left to Sanctuary Wood & the Ration Dump and right into Armagh Wood.  

Notes adapted & augmented by efw from an account by J.D. Hillis, 1919, based mainly on the Regimental War Diary, 5th Leicestershires.  Grateful thanks to <http://biggenealogy.com/leicestershire/salient.htm> 

The Staffords were subjected to ‘heavy shelling during relief’ and lost one Private killed and one Lance Corporal wounded.  Their return on 12th July took nearly 4 hours.  

(1Cecil Jackson*. QMS school pal, Walsall. (2) Molly Evans*. (3) Mother’s Birthday: 13th July.  (4Reninghelst, 1 mile SW of Ouderdom. (5) George Lallerman* farmer? Ida’s friend for many years.

Lloyd George.

(6) The Shell Crisis of 1915. On 6th July, 1915, Lloyd George called for more munitions workers; country running out of shells. (7Aldridge garden of Mr Bates*, renowned for his roses.[ Aldridge: in 1915, a village 3-4  miles NE of Walsall, parish also includes village of  Great Barr].

NEXT POST: 12th July 1915. 20th Birthday Tea & no ‘sausages’.