Tag Archives: Bombing Course 1915.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


17th -18th Nov:  Brigade Reserve as on 15/11/15. (Pte Bertie on Bombing Course).

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

Thursday Nov 18/ 15

My Very Dear Mother,

I had the letter of the 11th when I returned from the Bombing Course for the last time, tonight & I have read Sydney’s dear letter of Nov 2nd & will send it back to you in this.  Also read Dodger’s small, but welcome letter & quite understand his circumstances (1).

Have now Mother’s letter at hand for reference.  Sorry I cannot say as much as you or I could wish to say owing to the limit of my stock of paperThis I have had just from old Vernon in the trenches – Vernon of course, he is again squatting by me in this dugout & we are both writing Home & exchanging wishes.

Vernon thanks you for your kind Remembrance.  He had the reward of his patient waiting last night, 17 th, by receiving, bringing into the dugout two huge parcels & a small one on the top of them, which were almost as big as the dugout itself & he had a good spreadI would insist on refusing & telling him I would not have anything, but the result was that he got awfully huffy & cross & so I gave in, after much persuasion on his part, to have a little of the Wedding Cake (2) – the last bit his people had saved.

Hudson Soap box.Yes, the large Hudson Soap Box parcel with the towel, hankies & eggs etc came, or could not have come at a more acceptable time, in the trenches.  I could not say whether I was favoured or what, but it was the only one that came that day to a platoon in the firing line.  I have not ’arf relished the apples you have sent lately – what beauties.

Some NCO said there was a letter for me from Sydney, but Vernon looked after my letters while I was away today & I have not yet heard from him by letter, just a PC saying ‘am quite wellso what can his temperature be eh! – a problem for you.

Shall I tell you what I should like in a parcel at this time of year?  Why some more sugar, but ’tis dear isn’t it Mum, some of that brown you sent?  You see I am on the que vive, the alert for something HOT.

Horlick’s advert. c. 1915.

Other things are: –  another of those fine batches of currant bread, and another of those pats of butter & could Harold send me a bottle of Horlick’s Malted Milk in powdered form, it just wants HOT water adding & makes a nourishing drink (3). The sugar is to go with cocoa or coffee, which friends send & don’t think of the sweetening.

Miss Foster* sent a delightful little parcel for Sydney to share in as well.  I have told her where he is & given her the address, thank you for itJust another article to make the parcel complete  – some St Ivel cheese or cream cheese, if you do not think me extravagant.  Another pencil & paper etc.  That’s all. 

So grateful to you, Mum, for the Helmet that is on the make.

Good wishes to Basil & all.


PS  I shall have to write my PS on the back of Dodger’s letter.  

Brit WW I Tommy Cooker 2
British WW I  Blackie Brand Cooker.  ‘Reprorations’ website.

I meant to tell you that Vernon had sent to him a patent stove for making a handy drink HOT or frying cheese & ration of baconDo you think you could send me one & it would do for Sydney (when he comes back) – they are in the shape of a Boot Polish tin & contain a certain composition which, when lit, goes liquid & gives off heat of course & turns solid when cold Just handy So it will alter my next parcel.

Tommy's Cooker.
Tommy’s Cooker. <http://www.frontlinecrates.com >

I will put what I want plainly here:-  1. Stove.  2. Batch of currant bread. 3. Pat of butter. 4. Horlick’s Milk (powder form). 5. Sugar. 6. St Ivel Cheese.



Pte Bertie’s longing for something hot to drink & warm to wear reflects the bitter cold & wet Tommies had to endure in the winter of 1915 -16.  

(1) Basil’s Letter of 11th Nov. 1915 requesting information about 19 yr old  Serj.Tom Fenton, missing since 13th Oct.1915.

(2) Norman Evans’ Wedding, Walsall.

(3) Horlicks Malted Milk created by James & William Horlick, Chicago. USA. c. 1875.  A safe, easily digested milk powder for children & invalids; widely used as a nourishing drink in WW1, on the Front & at Home.


< http://www.oldglassbottles.blogspot.com >

NEXT POST:  21st Nov. 1915:



South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


3rd – 4th Nov. In Rest Billets. (Refitting Bn after Battle)

5th Nov. Fri: Marched at 8.30 am to PARADIS  near MERVILLE  and went into Billets.

Map Bethune to Nevee Chapelle.
Map Bethune to Nevee Chapelle.

Bertie in Uniform Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

GUY FAWKES DAY. 5 th Nov/ 15

My Very Dear Mother,


Another coincidence MumToday, or rather tonight, will be the unique Bonfire Night.  For the purpose of seeing the enemy’s movements at night star lights (1) are used & these lights have been improved & there are many different kinds, some giving off an illumination like those of the Flower Show (2)  Indeed every night in the trenches is a Guy Fawkes  affair, what with shells & star lights.

And again another feature, which is all the more unique, is that I am undergoing a course in bombing.  I was examined in the oral part yesterday (3).

The Batt. has moved further away todaySydney I’m partly sorry to tell you is in Hospital with influenza, but I think it is the only way of obtaining a rest, – as the Doctor put it alsoThirteen went including Arthur Brown* who came back, I think on Wednesday, after 3 or 4 days.

I hope you aren’t giving up making toffee on this bonfire night  & I hope Dodger will enjoy a lump and not deny himself a second piece either. I was not able to see the Observer  about the attack, (Vernon having gone to Hospital when your letter of  Tues 26th arrived, about the Bishop at St Paul’s) – but never mind I am not the worse off. 

The bombing party will go near the Batt. tomorrow.  I am afraid this letter will not be accepted here.  I shall have to keep it until I get to my Company.  I shall be rather glad when I get back to my platoon again.

Mrs Evans sent a parcel to Vernon when he was in Hospital, the parcel went to the trenches & I had a letter from her saying the contents were for Sydney, myself and pals.  Wasn’t it jolly good of her to think of us.  We must bear in mind it is not so much the gifts as the thoughts, especially nowadays.  I am looking forward to a parcel from you as I expected one today if the Batt. had not moved.

I suppose all the little boys in Walsall will substitute the dummy of Guido for William eh! 

News in the papers has somewhat surprised us out here.  Oh! that reminds me, we Grenadiers (4) had a bit of a concert in the barn here on Wednesday last & I gave the men an effort of mine.  We shall very likely have another soon. When I entertain any party I like to give them a really good piece of recitation or a jolly good song.  So I wonder if you could try & send me that poem Ida loved so much ‘The Highwayman came riding, riding, riding up to the old inn door’ (5). I should be delighted if you could.  Don’t think that I am absolutely theatrical with the men, but I have come to the conclusion that one cannot get on with such a crew of chaps like these without chumming up & being merry with them.

Any other humorous poem you’ve got just send along by return post & obligeIda loved to gather us around the study fire & have a little ‘Sing Song’.

Well, what think you of these two I’m enclosing? Laddie in Khaki’ (6) was sung by a lady (of means) in the YMCA at the Base when I was thereIFSL01532

As for the other it is appropriate for a fireside song & reminded me of the singsongs we had round the fire at Home Sweet Home, the Little Grey Home in the West.

Best love to all,  Father and bestest love to Mummy, 

Bertie Arfer.



(1) “Star shell”: artillery shell for illuminating Battlefield & No Man’s Land at night, to catch enemy patrols or wiring activity.   Fuse burst at a given height igniting a magnesium flare which burned while the shell, with parachute, gradually fell to earth. Multi-coloured flares used for passing signals. <https://www.firstworldwar.com&gt;

(2) Flower Show: Aldridge near Walsall held a annual Flower Show and no doubt Mr Frank O. Bates*,  exhibited his roses. cf. Letter: 12th July 1915.

53px-N°23_MkII-Version_Fusil(3) Bombing Course: Training in throwing  & firing Mills grenades: stick attached extended their throw.  Used effectively in Battle of Loos/Hohenzollern. See Post 13th Oct.1915. Also 20th -31st July 1915.

Alfred Noyes. 1880 -1958.
Alfred Noyes. 1880 -1958.

(4) Grenadier: (from French ‘grenade’) ‘bomb thrower’ from 17th cent.

(5) Alfred Noyes: 1880-1958. English poet, short story writer & playwright. Born Wolverhampton. The Highwayman: ‘best narrative poem in existence for oral delivery‘. Voted 15th in The Nation’s Favourite Poem. BBC poll. 1995. Film made.

The Highwayman: The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.  The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.  The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   And the highwayman came riding—Riding—riding—The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard. He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.  He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, Bess, the landlord’s daughter, Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair. (Part I verse 1 & 3).1906.

(6) Laddie in Khaki: Ivor Novello. 1893 -1951. Words: James Edward Myers. 1915.

There is a girl who waits at home Who’s full of charm and grace.  Tho’ her heart is saddened She keeps a smiling face. Ask her whom she’s thinking of All the livelong day With a smile that lights her face. She  will softly say: ” Laddie in khaki I’m waiting for you. I want you to know That my heart beats true.  I’m longing and praying And living for you, So come back little laddie in khaki!”.

NEXT POST: 7th Nov. 1915.