1/5TH SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.
NEUVILLE ST VAAST & MONT S ELOI .
15th Apr. Sat: Relieved by 11.15pm
16th Apr. Sun: NEUVILLE ST VAAST. In Brigade Reserve. Enemy artillery active at 7.15pm.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT on Guard Duty, Mont St Eloi Neuville St Vaast.
‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’: April. ‘At Mont S Eloi. ‘Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani’ (1).
LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT and BASIL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall. Censor H. Chorlant.
Palm Sunday (2). April 16/ 16
‘Ride on Ride on in Majesty – With palms and scattered garments strowed‘. (3)
‘A little lifting of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship, though upon a march, and sword in hand, are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless acceptable to God. Brother Lawrence. (4)
‘Look one step onwards and secure that step’. Wayside Ministries (5)
My Very Dear Mother,
I wrote you last Sunday & Friday. Thursday was Harold’s Birthday & I trust he had a happy one & that the next 13th April we shall spend the day together in peace. Being Thursday I wonder if he spent sometime with you? Although I have worried several people to do with the Post I have not yet received a letter or anything. I heard this morning that we are on this duty until Thursday 20th.
* * * * * * * * * * * ← You know what these things are eh! Well it means that a sudden round about turn has to be made. I began this my usual ‘Sunday Letter’ before dinner & on finishing my ‘dish’ – beef steak of my own cooking – the rations came in & they brought a shoal, a neat little pile of letters for me. So that is the cause of me round about turning.
Just read Dodger’s most delightfully homely & brotherly Epistle after reading those from Vernon*, Harold, Miss Foster*, Mrs Hurst* and a Sunday School Scholar respectively. I thought I would read Dodger’s last in more comfort & also it would help me to make my letter fuller. I gave dear old Sydney your letter, Basil, as I met him going to the trenches last Sunday night; most likely he has written to you since.
The photograph of the Raid (6) which I think was genuine, interested me & it was your idea of sending it I thank you for. How queer! – only the other day I was sketching to illustrate the incident Miss Kathy Brookes* (7) put in her letter to me of the lady who wrote to her officer ‘bhoy’ saying how dreadfully the ruins of the Raid looked – ‘you can’t imagine it!’ & the officer was doing all he could to shelter himself from the shells amid fragments of stones!
Dodger! Dodger! Dodger! – so have I! an all conquering desire (my word what a swanky phrase) to be on the write – to you all at Home & the question is, now I have had the fruits of my worrying the Transport Orderlies about The Post, I wonder if you will get my letters I have written to you since I was on this quiet Post Duty.
Ha! ha! ha! Poor jolly old Basil wants to be in touch with us every day. I love you for such a thought, but do please think more than twice over your joining, – to serve can’t you go out to a Munition Factory? Most probably you would never see us if you came out; you know that Vernon & Sydney said they did not like their associates in the 3/ 5th S Staffs (8); & then look at your education – all in vain practically eh? You needn’t think that I shall be happy for you to come out, I shall be inclined to poke my head a bit too high above the parapet!
Yes! Sydney showed me the F.P.C. (Field Post Card) he sent to Mum, saying – ‘I have not received a letter from you lately – for a long time’. I said to Sydney, in surprise, – ‘are you going to send that! – – – I have never missed (crossing out) those two lines have I Basil? I don’t care about informing you at Home that I have not heard from you for so long. I think those two lines are slightly inclined to give an indignant impression, let alone make one sad – as you were naturally when Sydney sent it. Of course he knew the circumstances, he had been moving about from place to place since he arrived.
Vernon wrote & said he was sorry he did not visit you when he had his 48 hrs Leave (9) I suppose you will have been introduced to Leenah*, Basil, by now? as this is, I guess, the Sunday they were to come.
The weather is lovely out here, sunny and bright, it is getting on for four o’clock & I shall be picturing you all at tea.
Oh! that reminds me – I was doubly glad on reading Harold’s letter. He said he & Hilda were going Home on Thursday (13th) so I hope they had a good time with you. That half answers my wish in my letter on Friday & 1st part of this.
Yes it is rotten to have the Houses changed (10). I should second the resolution that not only should School House retain its old name but Thomas’s and Davies’ & all those whose Bosses have joined to serve their King & Country. Just put that in the Mag for one from the Front who has not lost interest in the QMS.
I think those lilies, Dodger, have been growing the other way & have come out up here in the guise of daisies. I will send you them back. Spring has come out here, the grass is fresh green, the lark sings its glorious song, in spite of the sound of guns & the hawk is as keen as ever to get her prey; the buds on the trees are quickly turning into fresh leaves.
Well I never! Do you know I was only the other day thinking of sending you some cash to buy some seeds & you could set them for me as a sort of curio. I was regretful that I had no money in pocket, but, as a sort of unique idea, could you get some seeds of a nice flower or plant & I will send you a franc or so when I get it. I wish I could have got some seeds from last year’s flowers but I was not in the vicinity at the time. It would be nice for you to have some French flowers growing.
Yes I do know what Dad is like, but I do not in the slightest mean any hurtful thought.
My order for pipes is one just like those two you sent Sydney and me at first – my word and that is nearly a year ago since I started to smoke. A cherry wood I believe you sent. Also I have a new mess tin & the need of some Monkey Brand is my next request.
Miss Foster* is ( I don’t know if she is strictly serious) almost hurt that I do not ask her for anything in my letters of late (don’t say anything to her).
I believe I told you in my last letter that Leave has been suspended again for an indefinite period, but we are going for a Rest in Reserve soon. I do not at all like telling you for Mum’s sake & Dad’s, but I eventually thought it best to tell you everything that comes to hand as Mum told me to.
I will close this my ‘long’ Active Service Epistle. I hope it gets through to you, let me know if so.
With my heart’s love to you all.
Your ever affec. Bertie.
To be standing guard on a green Mont St Eloi during Holy Week & Easter is highly significant to Pte Bertie Hibbett, reminding him as it did of the Passion of Christ and the Words from the Cross. His cartoon indicates how difficult it was for families at home to imagine what their sons were being asked to endure.
(1) ‘Eloi Eloi…’ Mark 15.34. Christ’s words from the Cross. ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me? King James Version retains the Aramaic/Jesus’ native language. cf Psalm 22.
(2) Palm Sunday: Sunday before Easter/beginning of Holy Week/ commemorates Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem/waving of palms (symbol of victory). Mark 11. 1-11. (My father used willow branches in Palm Sunday processions).
(3) ‘Ride on Ride on.. ‘. Hymn: Henry Hart Milman. 1827. Mark 11.1-11 (AD 64) has Jesus riding on a ‘young donkey‘. NB Pietro Lorenzetti’s painting above follows the text of Matthew (AD 85) which emphasises the fulfillment of prophecy by interpreting the poetic lines of Zechariah 9.9 literally, as if there were two animals i.e. a mother ass/donkey and her foal/colt (terms interchangeable).
(4) Brother Lawrence (born Nicolas Herman, Lorraine), 1614-1691. French lay-brother, Carmelite Monastery, Paris. Given name ‘Lawrence of the Resurrection’. Known for ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’.
(5) Wayside Ministries. Pamphlet with words of wisdom & comfort sent by Pte Bertie’s Godmother, Mary Foster/ frequently quoted in his notebook ‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’ (the first being ‘Pray to God in a storm but keep on rowing’).
(6) Zeppelin Raid on Walsall. 31st Jan -1st Feb. 1916. Observer photo? (7) Kathy Brookes: superintendent St Paul’s Sunday School/ family friend. (8) 3/5th S. Staffords: Territorial Battalion/ served in UK.
(9) Vernon Evans had returned to the UK on sick leave and (along with other sick/ returned 1/5th S Stafford soldiers) was attached to 3/5th S. Staffords, Territorial Battalion.
(10) QMS Houses: School House; Dellow’s House; Powis’ House; Frith’s House, (the last three named after their House Master). From a letter asking for a Magazine subscription, signed S Powis /dated July 24th 1917, I assume my father was in Powis’ House & the move to alter House names failed. NB Was there a Davies’ House & a Thomas’s House at QMS?
NEXT POST: 21st APRIL 1916. Good Friday.