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27th JUNE, 1915: ‘SOMEWHERE ELSE’ – BY AMBULANCE.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE. In Hutments, BULFORD CAMP.

25th June, Fri: Marched out en route for OUDERDOM at 9.0 pm.

OUDERDOM. 26th June, Sat: Arrived at and occupied E Hutments, about 12.30 am. (1) Position on Map Sheet 28 YPRES 1/40,000.

Rough Map of Wulverghem & Neuve Eglise 1915, with modern roads deleted.
Rough Map showing distance from Neuve Eglise & Wulverghem Trenches to Ouderdom Reserve Camp and Zillebeke. (modern roads deleted. efw. 2015.

27th June:  In Hutments near OUDERDOM. (2)

Bertie in Uniform

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

‘Somewhere Else’.   Sunday June 27 / 15

My Dear Mother,

One of the ‘nicest’ parcels we’ve received.  I was expecting a parcel from either Harold, Auntie or Home. Just let me break off on to something else.

The authorities will not accept anymore white letters – all correspondence to be in green ones (3).  That means we must comply with the strict statement on the back that on our honour the letter is of nothing else but private & family matters.

Green-Envelope-signature.-1915
‘I certify on my honour that the contents of this envelope refers to nothing but private and family matters.’ Signature (Name only)

So it’s rather awkward aint it, but I don’t think there’s much harm in saying I was in luck’s way for the last two days.

The rain came down in bucket fulls the night we left the camp & I with other sick men waited for the ambulance (4).

So yesterday I had a long rideIt was a lovely sunny day & I was looking forward to a parcel at the end of the journeyMy delight was complete when Dick*, a friend, led me to a hut where Vernon & Sydney were & Sydney gave me your letter & we indulged in the pineapple & cream.

Many thanks for the butter which improved the taste with the pineapple. No not even at the Front have I got used to eating dry bread with fruit, you’ve spoiled me with such ripping parcels.

A Major of the R.A.M.C. said I could do with a day or two rest with my boots off,  but there is no chance of rest here where we are now so I am on light duty today (5).  Now do not be anxious dear Mother one little bit, in fact to tell the truth my feet are practically better.  It was only a huge blister that Dick caught sight of & advised me to gosick” & what with the serjeant advising anyone who thought they would not manage the long marchWaiting a whole night & half a day for the ambulance eased & made my feet better.

What a dear happy cheerful letter yours to me was.  Yes, Mrs Jones said in her letter that you were standing the strain very well & with cheerfulness & smiles.  Not the exact words but the expression.  I cannot just get hold of the letter, Sydney has got it.  Did you have a happy pleasant day on Saturday, Walsall’s day for celebrating Alexandra Day (6).

I will just pop a piece of chocolate in my mouth; perhaps it will help me to make my letter more chatty.  On looking in the box I see I have a tomato left.  They came in splendid condition & my 1st one tasted fine.  I shall eat the other one with my other lovely scone & some good cheese given to me in my rations.  This Bournville is tasting ‘nice’.

Another sunny Sunday.  Again I can picture the rays of sun shining on the small family group in the pew (7) listening to the 1st Lesson about Samuel & the Israelites wanting a King.  The 14th verse strikes me as being very appropriate (12 chap. 1 Sam (8).  I well remember the tune to Oft in danger & re read it this morning.   ‘Fight, nor think the battle long Soon shall Victory wake your song.’ (9).

Just heard from A.O. Jones* who is sitting with me now; he has been ‘on sick‘.  He has just told me, Ida, that  R. Ball* is likely to have a commission in the A.S.C. Mechanical Depot (10).  I met Leonard Bailey* yesterday evening.  I do hope Basil will do well & I am so glad his teeth are in good condition now.  I hope too that he will keep his ‘pekker’ up & the exam will not make him ill in any way, with the hot weather too.

I picked some more wild roses meaning to send them in a letter yesterday, but I did not write yesterdayI feel awfully  ‘nasty’ with myself for brooding on the affair about my ill mood in Ida’s green envelope.  I mean for mentioning a word about it again in the one I enclosed with yours. (11).

I see you too uniquely headed your letter on 23rd – ‘Prince of Wales Birthday’.   Don’t be anxious Mother, we shall not be able to send so many letters now – green envelopes are not so plentiful as white ones.

Your affec. son.    Bertie.                        Censor EA Wilson.

****************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) Pte Bertie Hibbett escaped the March from Neuve Eglise to Ouderdom, approx 10 miles in 3. 5 hrs. in hot weather & with full pack. (2) Staffords found 5th Leicesters nicely settled into their field on 22nd June 1915:

http://www.bigenealogy.com/leicestershire/salient.htm

(3)  Green Envelope. Only one a month issued at this time. Pte Bertie was to write 10 Letters Home in July so this  issue must have increased considerably; to save time on censoring(4) Ambulance. A wagon drawn by horses or a motor ambulance. (Not to be confused with a Field Ambulance which was not a vehicle but a stationary post). See website:The Long Long Trail.

(5) Light Duty: excused physical activity/parades etc. (6) Alexandra Day.  Queen Alexandra, Danish consort of King Edward VII, established a Rose Day in 1912, to mark her 50 years in England. Silk roses were sold for hospital charities. She is said to have been inspired by a Danish priest who sold his own roses to help the poor.(7St Paul’s, Walsall.

(8) I Sam. 12. 14. This Hebrew source approves the appointment of a King over Israel, provided the people and the King  ‘serve and obey’ God’s voice’. (9HymnOft in danger, oft in woe. Words based on 1 Timothy 6.12, ‘Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…‘; the accent is on a spiritual fight rather than on a physical/ military one. Henry Kirke White. English Poet. 1785- 1806,  died age 21.

Henry Kirke White.

(Revised by 14 yr old Frances Sara Fuller Colquoun. MusicUniversity College.  Henry J. Gauntlet.1852.

(10) Army Service Corps Mechanical Depot.  The ASC was responsible for supply of goods, equipment & ammunition to Division Refilling Points from the Home Port  – & possibly on to dumps & stores nearer to Front Line. Each British Division ASC had 5 officers and  337 other ranks responsible for 45 x 3 ton lorries, 16 x 30 cwt lorries, 7 motor vehicles, 2 cars, and 4 assorted trucksSee website: The Long Long Trail.

(11) ‘Homesick’ Letter 5th June & 24th June.

NB NAMES: Starred * – information pending.

NEXT POST: 30th JUNE 1915. Bagpipes & Indians.

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18th JUNE 1915: PTE BERTIE GETS LEFT BEHIND & ANKLES GIVE WAY.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

18th June, Fri:  In Hutments Bulford Camp

***********************

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings. 18th June. ‘Battle of Waterloo (1)In Camp. Got some souvenir cards for Rev. E.  M. Darling’s son*, of ‘The  King of Belgians‘  – & ‘Entente Cordiale‘ for Mother100 years ago French were against us, now French are allies  – & Germans opponents’.

WW1 Postcard: Entente Cordial
WW1 Postcard: Entente Cordiale
WW1 Postcard: King of the Belgians. Sold in aid of WW1 Charities.
WW1 Postcard: King of the Belgians.

*********************

LETTER to Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

18th JUNE, 1915.

I guess Ida & Dodger can picture the neighbouring country our allied enemies 100 years agojust such another fine sunny afternoon.  re  Colonel Wade (3) Great Men all remind us They can make our love sublime And departing leave behind them Footprints in the sands of time. (4)

Centenary of Battle of Waterloo. 1815.  ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation’. Friday June 18th 1915.

My Very Dear Mother,

Another sunny dayThe Battalion went its usual route march before breakfast this morning. Certainly the march gives one an appetite for the fa’ bacon, but I think there’s no exercise in marching in full pack.

Well I must get on & answer all your past letters & I am very sorry Mother that I have not addressed enough letters to you, but I guess you will have seen that you are remembered & mentioned in the letters addressed to Basil & Ida etc.  Sydney received quite half a dozen letters Wednesday, including the ripping long one from Dodger;  the others were from Miss Foster*.  She sent her usual page letter, always the same note & a box of Egyptian cigs.  I don’t think she must be so well off,  for she took the cigs out of the tin box to save postage; at any rate it was very good of her to remember us so. 

Sydney gave me his letters (home) to read yesterday & I popped in a line to say  I was writing today.  Isn’t Sydney a knut eh! see where I underlined his comic phrase. We both thoroughly enjoyed the currant bread at tea-time outside the hut in the sunshine together –  & Vernon handed us a slice of currant cake which made a pleasant appetising tea.  Many thanks for the useful sugar & we shall treasure the tea from home.

You do surprise – 2 parcels coming on top of one another almost.   I forgot to put the photo of Colonel Wade in the letter I wrote at Souvenir (5).  I must congratulate you on the improvement of 11/- extra in the collections for the HospitalI guess there are a few wounded there & the beds are full up.  Sorry the service on the Sunday School Festival ‘Flower Sunday’ was not so happy as it might have been owing to the inappropriate hymns & I myself agree that on such an occasion the Curate or Vicar should preach (6).

I did not want you to read my letter to Ida for your own good, but as Miss Kathie Brookes* said once in Bible Class (I shall never forget it) – that we must let Mother know all our secrets.  I am in very good health & condition now, excepting feet – owing to the fatigue ration party at Souvenir.

We had two exciting & arduous journeys up to the trenches the night we were relieved (7). I had to carry ammunition & after, within half an hour of being relieved by our ‘sister’ battalion, I chased after the rest of the party with a mile length of foot board for laying along the trenchsupposed to be carried one between two men. 

Trench 8. Pte bertie Hibbett's Wulverghem Trench showing foot boards.
Trench 8. Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Wulverghem Trench showing foot boards. Grateful thanks to Andrew Thornton.

Well ‘they’ set the machine gun on us along the road & I nearly ran with the foot board.  Tell Ida if she remembers the day in Abergele when she sprained her ankle, well my ankles gave way suddenly, but I didn’t want to be left behind, you know why I guess, but bear in mind it was not my fault I was left behind.

Well I must not rest too much on what we’ve been doing for it will take all my time & paper to answer your requests.  I am indeed very sorry Basil has had to go under the dentist’s hands & I guess you will understand that I quite sympathise with him;  when I remember the time I went I shudder, but there is also another reason & I sympathise with  you in the latter respect which you will know without me saying so (8).

We heard on Paradehere I am again saying what we’ve done & heard – but I think you will be interested to know that the Notts & Derby  Sherwood Foresters have done some hand to hand fighting & it was read out to us this morning on Parade.  They are on the same line of trench as us.

You will I trust let me know if you get this letter, for I am dubious about the badge being on the paper (5) but I sent it because of the red letter day.  I suppose there will be great doings in the great centres of patriotic societies ahem!  

Oh Mother – the gum has mended my prayer book capitally & I hope it will last me the duration of the war.  To be handy on the march & elsewhere I should like a small khaki tobacco pouch.  I told Sydney to let you know what I wanted because I am always sending  ‘begging letters’ . A bottle of barley sugar would be welcome if  you cannot make some butter scotch; the latter I prefer, but it doesn’t matter much which you sendSend a small pot of lemon curd for we both relish that above all.  As for the butter, I think we shall manage, though I prefer butter from home & it won’t go bad at all if put in a little pot like you did last time but one.

Sorry I am scribbling.  The time we went on ration party those days have upset the routine, but you were right in saying we went to the trenches on Saturday 12th.  So Basil will be sitting (exams) very likely during the week of my birthday.  How capital of you to have saved the lucky 6d.  I too hope it will bring him success.

Sydney has received a letter & paper (9) from Harold this  morning, but has not opened it yet.  I am going to try to get a pass to buy you a lovely souvenir card worked in silk for this occasion.  I have marked all the special days off in my diary (10).

Oh thank you for the mirror, it will come in useful.  I was needing one & I hope my old 1914 diary is safe.  That reminds me – did you get the Staffordshire Swanking Song – do you like the music?  (11)

I like the Bournville Choc do you? – have you tried any?  Generous Mrs Jones sent her monthly parcel, – the same welcome contents as usual.  This time I had a tin of Embassy & one of the box of Nestles.

Sorry Tim Machin* is ill.  Have you had the letter from Allen* I wish I could write better, but to write such long letters in decent hand is arduous.  I re-read your past letters & make drafts for my next letters, but I cannot help but miss things out.  Now is there anything else?  I guess Sydney has helped me out a bit in his long letter.

Oh with regard to my 20th don’t let it be mentioned beyond the family circle.  I have warned Sid not to say a word to Vernon & we shall both spend the 12th day of next month quietly I remember you saying that yours and my Birthday are one & we have tea together on the lawn Mother like little children.

You will laugh at Sydney’s letter, where he mentions the ‘little scamp smoking’.  We have seen on the march a little chap, not above 3ft tall in height dressed in khaki wearing his 3 stripes.  He saluted and kept at the salute as we all passed.  English good. Lallerman no good (11).

I will close now, thank you again for the long letter.  I will write & finish ‘my say’ later.

Your affec.   Bertie.

*****************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1)  Centenary of Battle of Waterloo: British defeat of the French under Napoleon. 1815. Another example of the importance to my father of events in British history. (2) Proverbs 14.34.  (3) Wade: info pending. (4) A Psalm of Life.1838.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poet 1807-1882 (published in his first collection: Voices in the Night).

(5Souvenir  Farm/ Ration Farm. Strange to find a military name in Pte Bertie’s letters (especially as he’s worried if the censor will accept the Staffords Knot letter-heading).

(6) Whilst the father I knew was enthusiastic about  post 2nd WW new Bible translations and took most of the liturgical changes of the 1960s in his stride, he always  wanted everything to be done reverently – ‘decently and in order‘ (St Paul: 1 Cor. 14.34) – i.e. suitable to the occasion  – and this he seems to have learnt from his Mother at an early age.

(7)15th June night fatigue. Until communication trenches were completed at Wulverghem, soldiers had to approach the Front Line, 600 yards from 57th Brigades HQ at North Midland Farm,  across open  & higher ground and were exposed to danger from snipers, shells & machine guns. (8)’Newspaper‘ is meant here, as distinct from ‘note‘ for writing paper which he also refers to as ‘paper’.

(9) Mother’s Birthday:13th July; Bertie’s Birthday 12th July.  (9Basil’s dental appointment was in preparation for joining the Army I presume. (10) ‘Lallerman’: a child’s pronunciation of ‘Allemagne’, French  word for ‘Germany‘.

(11) Staffords Swanking Song. I think I have seen this written somewhere; does anyone know of it?

NEXT POST: 20th JUNE 1915.

 

 

3rd June 1915: HOSTILE AEROPLANES OVER WULVERGHEM & THREE CHEERS FOR KING GEORGE V.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

31st May,1915, Mon: Enemy opened bursts of rapid Machine Gun fire on C1 and 2.  Otherwise very quiet day.  CASUALTY: 8434 Rif. McNally J. wounded.

CASUALTIES FOR MAY: OFFICERS KILLED: Lt H.W.M. Parr. WOUNDED: Capt. W. Millner. 2 Lt. F. Wilkinson, 2 Lt. S.P. Smith.  OTHER RANKS: KILLED 6. WOUNDED 21, includes 1 man died of wounds at Aid Post.  

AVIATIC -C.1 became principal German Reconnaissance Aeroplane from 1915. 160 hp Mercedes engine.  Max. speed 89 mph; ceiling 11,480 ft.

1st June,Tue: Two enemy aeroplanes passed over the lines and were fired at.  C2 support shelled (39 H.E.) no damage.  Quiet day. Relieved by 6th Souths about 10.30 pm

2nd June, Wed: NEUVE EGLISE.  In Hutments, Bulford Camp.  3rd June,Thur. Instruction of  ‘C’ Coy  8th Rifle Bde.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Hibbett Family, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.  FPO 6 JU 15 Censor 447 W E. Wright. (1).

King George’s Day. Thur. June 3 /15

Dear People.

Brewin* has given me a sheet of note & I must just write you all a line saying how we spent this red letter day.  To begin with I was lying in the hut when I heard 3 cheers. I’m ashamed to say I was ignorant of knowing the why & wherefore of such shouting.  The Battalion had formed up for a route march.  Cyril Hinde, Vernon & others, including myself, had been on fatigue the previous night & had the privilege of staying off 1st Parade.  3 cheers for our good King George V. 

The next Parade was for respirator drill & rapid firing practice (2).

GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT Dec.1915.
GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT Dec.1915.

It was about dinner time. (I went without dinner for two reasons, Ist because I went to have a spiffin’ hot bath & secondly because the weather has been dreadfully hot too. I enjoyed the wash all the more with a tablet of Mrs Hurst’s oatmeal soap).

I wrote to Okoo (3) Sid wished to peruse it, but as soon as he saw the writing he gave it up as a bad job.  I received a ripping letter from the Curate – by the by that reminds me of something rather personal which I shall have to write again about sooner or later.  I came across Bailey’s brother Leonard* & conveyed your kind wishes Mother (etc).  This was after coming away from a fine outdoor concert  by the Divisional Concert Party.  How the officers laughed, especially the Doctor & Colonel*.  The Chaplain was present too.

Another sheet of note I thought I could tell you all in one, but alas no.  The Chaplain reminds me of the book, such a nice little pocket New Testament, with coloured pictures in – & his signature etc he wrote in after the service of  Whitsun Holy Communion.  

I enjoyed the entertainment.  The amateurs were dressed in Pierrot costume & gave a Variety turn.  Now I’ve got another sheet I’ll tell you – no I’d better leave it for a green envelope now I come to think on’t.

It is getting dark so I will close.  

With best love to all,  Bertram.  

a) P.S.  I’m in need of toothpaste We got your parcel with pants (4) & enjoyed theju jubes’ & Bournville chocolate very much, thank you indeed. Ta Ta.

b) P.S.  Yes you can send some more emery cloth. The last was excellent quality and I need another indelible lead & some notepaper & envelopes. To lengthen the list still I need another hanki & could you please send some spare flannel to clean my rifleany odd pieces will do as long as the fabric is not rough & ‘hairy’.   Toodle – oo.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
Elizabeth Hibbett Webb.

 

 

(1)Aviatik C.1.  German Reconnaissance Aeroplane: In service1915; Mercedes engine 160 hp; ceiling 11,480 ft;  max. speed 89 mph (hence the need for rapid rifle firing practice. http://williamwhitson.com/planes/apprentice_warrior.  Gas Mask practice was stepped up as these planes were capable of dropping small bombs. There was also threat of gas when the North wind blew from Ypres. [S.Staffs War Diary.6th June 1915].

(2This Letter had to wait 3 days before being  passed by the censor & posted.  Bertie’s previous Letter re- permission to leave off underpants had obviously arrived Home too late. (3) Okoo: another nickname for Basil. (4) Army underpants were woollen & knee length; not as comfortable as ones sent from Home.

NEXT POST:  5th JUNE 1915. Not Happy.