Tag Archives: Catarrhal Jaundice.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER to BASIL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. (Censor J.E.  Fitzgerald* )

Dec 30/ 15

Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.
Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.

My Dear Basil,

So you will be having jolly old Sydney seeing you all again shortly – so I gathered from a ‘big surprise’ letter from the old boy the other night.  How jolly if he lets the New Year in eh? 

Letter censored by Army Chaplain J.E. Fitzgerald
Letter censored & signed by Army Chaplain, J.E. Fitzgerald*.

You see I can’t wait till New Year’s Eve. I must write now & fancy it will be none too early to let you have this important epistle, for very likely the ‘yeller boy(1) is with you now. 

Ha ha! I can see him cracking a joke with you & Ida in the firelight, much to Mum’s especial joy. I was extremely delighted on hearing he would be Home before the end of the month & I am only too anxious that his leave will not be cancelled or postponed.

Now Dodger this, what I am going to tell you, must not reach the eye (drawing of eye) see, compris & must not reach the ear (drawing of ear), do you hear? of Mum, or any other, but SydneyEye & Ear 30th Dec. 1915

Well then, don’t forget to re-member, to tell Sydney not to forget, but remember, not to say, by word of mouth or in any form whatsoever, that will cause Mum to be worried, anxious, perturbed, sick at heart or the like, of any before here mentioned, & tell Sydney not to say anything, with reference to my self that would cause Mum to be worried, anxious, perturbed, sick at heart, or the like of any before here mentioned.  Compris.  

Although I’ve joked somewhat about the matter, you will I trust see the imp-portance of it. Yes, ‘twould be rather impish of dear old Sydney if he did say anything not to my liking.  But of course I trust Sydney, but just put it to you, for he, being only human, might in his much conversation with you all round the dining table or fireside, relating perhaps the Charge of 13th October (2) & other incidents, get ‘War fever’ and trot out a word or two which would work wonders, & leave a lasting impression upon Mum & Dad & you all perhaps. 

Sydney might be much put out by this letter, as if I could not trust him, but just console him that it is only a double security in case of an exciting moment  of forgetfulness.

‘Just break the news to Mother’ (3) that  I look upon the present family affairs as Providential & I shall see you all in good time.  Also tell Ida (I wrote her on the night I got Sydney’s letter, Ida’s Birthday), that I dreamt of you all again last night.  I dreamt that instead of going on parade on foot we went on horseback & you, Basil, rode behind me.  I felt I could ride capitally & could feel the sores on my legs as I trotted on the hoss. Then the scene changed  & I was walking with Mother along a street, partly country & partly town. Mother kept changing into Mrs Evans* & then into Molly Evans*.  I also dreamt of Harold & Father & Sydney too.

Another himportant matter, which you can let the others know by all means, is that Patients are directed NOT to have their parcels & letters addressed to this place. I have been somewhat anxious that Mum in her motherly way would be sending me not only letters but parcels, which would again get mislaid. 

I shall, at least I do hope I shall, be out of Hospital before the New Year.  When I get settled I will let you know my address whether it is the Batt. or no.

Now don’t forget please.

I am your jolly old bhoy,


PS  Sydney ran a great risk but his letter was a pleasant & delightful surprise, as it seems such a long time since I heard from Home.  When you do write to me just refer to the dates & nature of letters so that I can tell if they have all reached Home.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

Dec 27th  Arrived Marseilles (Santi Camp)

29th -30th  Company & Battalion Training (for Eastern Front).



Pte Bertie was waiting to hear whether he must re-join his Battalion in Marseille, on its way to the Eastern Front or not.  His main wish was to protect his Mother from the horrors of War her sons were experiencing.

(1) ‘Yeller boyref. to Sydney’s jaundice. (2) Charge of 13th Oct. Battle of Loos-Hohenzollern Redoubt. (3) ‘Just break the news to Mother’ ref. to gramophone song. Letter: 24th Dec. 1915.

NEXT POST: 31st Dec. 1915. New Year’s Eve.


Centre: Sgt S. HIBBETT when training as a Sergeant.
Serjeant SYDNEY HIBBETT. 21yrs.


‘D’  Ward. The Red Cross Hospital, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England.  Wed. Dec 8th.

Dear Old Bert,

How about getting round the authorities now – hey?  Here I am in dear old England once again, a fact at which you will no doubt be surprised.  It happened like this and I have written home so there is no need to go forwarding this letter on home.

Rouen. 1915. PC to Ida Oct . 1915. from Bertie Hibbett.
Rouen.  ‘The Way to Blighty’. PC to Ida  from Bertie Hibbett Oct.1915. 

Well on Friday last, Dec 3, I went to Communion  in the Convalescent Camp.  I had been feeling rotten & sick all week and so I asked the doctor to examine me which he did & as I had had a week in the special treatment room & was still no better he sent me to No 6 Gen. Hospital (1) that same afternoon. Compris?

Well the Major, who was the M.O. there, confirmed the fact that I had got catarrhal jaundice (2) & so I went on till Saturday night came when he visited me again in the night & said that as I had not got any better during the last fortnight I should be sent to England.  So he marked me BSU or ‘Boat Sitting Up’ but I never thought it would come off for some time yet.

Hospital Ship HMS St David.1915. (Renamed Rosslare in 1932).

Next day was Sunday Dec 5th At 11 am a sudden order came for me, & a few more, to get ready for the boat & our tickets or labels came in & were fastened on our coats & we were carried to the ambulance car.  In this fashion we were taken swiftly down to Rouen docks and straight on board the Hospital Ship, St David (3) a large 2 funnelled steamer of the G.W.R. painted white & green with a big red cross in the middle.

A large crowd of people watched us & I could see all the river and shipping from my bed near a porthole. There were about 70 patients We were just near that tall transporter bridge.  At 2 pm Sunday we sailed down the river & after a fast passage of 65 miles of the most picturesque and the most stupendous scenery we arrived at Le Havre and anchored at 8 pm.

WW1 Wounded soldiers boarding Hospital Ship at Le Havre.

We passed a German prisoners’ camp & I saw them all crowd the barbed wire fencing to look at us (4).  We had 40 more patients brought on board at Havre but we did not sail till 7 am. Monday morning 6th.  It was just daybreak and a regular fierce winter morning too with a driving gale and a very rough sea, worse than at Whitby & the wind rose head on from the NW.

Sinking of Hospital Ship HMS Anglia by mine laid by German U Boat UC-5. Off Le Havre,17th Nov. 1915.
nurses britannic.unnamed
HMS Britannic Nurses.

As soon as we got clear of the harbour, my! she didn’t half toss & roll.  We were all strapped in our cots and the ship rolled from side to side and up and down and very soon I was as sea sick as it was possible to be and I wished I was dead, aye, & that the ship would strike a mine & go down to something firm!  I was ill all the way & poor me with jaundice & I soon was as empty as a barrel & still I kept on trying to get my stomach up.

At first I enjoyed seeing all the novel strange sights of the limitless sea, the heaving waves & the destroyer far away on one side & a tramp steamer (5) nearer & one could imagine the British fleet keeping watch day & night over such a waste of waters.

Solent/ Spithead: <http://www.open.edu&gt;

It took us from 7 am till 2.30 pm to reach Southampton & it poured with rain as we arrived in the Spithead, but I did not mind.  The boat was docked by two tugs, close to an Italian Red Cross boat just in from the Dardanelles (6). Then we were carried across into the trainyou remember the docks when we came over to France last March?  It was the same place.  Well we left the station in this beautiful Midland Red Cross train and we did not know our destination though.

I went to sleep and woke to find the train was stopped at this place, Cirencester (7).

Bingham Hall.
The Bingham Hall, Cirencester. UK.

Outside the station was a string of private motorcars and into one of these I and two more were put while a crowd of folks cheered us It was a fine new car with the owner’s chauffeur to drive.  We arr. here at the Hosp. at 8.30 pm.  It is in a place called The Bingham Hall (8) & we’re very comfortable indeed in this quiet country town in dear old England.

I do hope you will get your leave soon, Bertie, old boy.  Perhaps Father & Mother will be down here to see me.  I want you to let every one know where I am; those I know in the Batt. I mean.  I think I shall be here for Xmas. 

Don’t fail to remember me to Vernon; I hope he too will get his leave soon.  I will stop now hoping to hear from you as soon as you have time.

Best love, from Sydney.



Serjeant Sydney Hibbett’s rough crossing took nearly 8 hours from Le Havre to Southampton; the total journey to Cirencester Red Cross Hospital from Rouen took over 2 days, but of course he ‘did not mind’. And so it was Sydney not Bertie who was on his way to Blighty for Christmas 1915.

(1) No 6 Gen. Hospital  B.E.F. Base, Rouen.

(2) Catarrhal Jaundice: Campaign Jaundice‘/ ‘Infectious Jaundice (familiar in military campaigns since medieval times). Infection of the liver. Common illness in Gallipoli & Egypt. Today I expect Sydney would be diagnosed withviral hepatitis‘.

(3) Hospital Ship HMS St David: built in Clyde, Scotland. One of 3 sister ships called after Patron Saints of Wales, Scotland & Ireland.  Adapted to carry 180 patients/ made 9 trips across English Channel and brought 3,787 wounded back to Southampton/ running the gauntlet of German U boats /torpedoes & mines. Renamed HMS Rosslare in 1932. cf website Roll of Honour, Martin Edmund.<https://www.boothancestry.wordpress.com&gt;

(4) German Prisoners: used on docks/ helping wounded soldiers onto Hospital Ships. See Rouen -The Heart of the World. Patrick Essart’s excellent collection of WW1 photographs of Rouen/Base Hospitals/nurses/ship bunks & beds/docks/prisoners.<https://w.flikr.com/photos&gt;

(5) Tramp Steamer: unscheduled merchant vessel. (6) Italian Ship name unknown. British Hospital Ship HMS Rewa brought 20,000 wounded soldiers home from Dardanelles/ torpedoed off Hartland, Devon, Bristol Channel, 4th Jan 1918 ( all patients saved/4 crew lost). ‘Deep Sea Wreck Mysteries/Red Cross Outrage.‘: story of modern diving to HMS Rewa by Keith Denby.TV/DVD . <https://www.mspty.co.uk&gt;

(6) Cirencester, Cotswolds: where Sydney’s youngest brother, Basil Hibbett, later became Manager of Cooperative Dairy Factory.

(7) Bingham Hall & Rifle Range 1908built for Cirencester by Daniel George Bingham ( b.1830/ employed by Great Western Railway/ Cirencester & Paddington stations ). Became a Red Cross Hospital WW1 & 2. <https://www.binghamhall.org.uk/about&gt;

NEXT POST: 10th Dec. 1915.