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)
In the New Trenches. Friday July 9/ 15.
My Very Dear Mother,
Sydney let me have your letter to read, written on 4th. Sorry 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 camp. As 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 bit. He 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 purpose. I 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.
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.
(1) Cecil Jackson*. QMS school pal, Walsall. (2) Molly Evans*. (3) Mother’s Birthday: 13th July. (4) Reninghelst, 1 mile SW of Ouderdom. (5) George Lallerman* farmer? Ida’s friend for many years.
(6) The Shell Crisis of 1915. On 6th July, 1915, Lloyd George called for more munitions workers; country running out of shells. (7) Aldridge 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’.