Tag Archives: Censor.

28TH MAR.1916: ‘WE LIVE IN A CAVE – A LONG WAY DOWN & ‘SQUEEMISH’ – LIKE LINLEY CAVERNS.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5TH SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVILLE ST VAAST

28th Mar. Tue: Battalion in Brigade Reserve. Carrying Parties. Draft of 191 men arrived at 8.20 pm. V. Quiet Day.

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Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to ARTHUR & MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.

The way may be rough, but it cannot be long And then oh how joyful the Conqueror’s song. (1)

Behold, we count them Happy which endure.  James 5:11.

                                                 Mar. 28th 1915

My Very Dear Mother & Father.

After coming from fatigue I read Mother’s two very long but interesting letters (& touching too they were)  before settling down to snooze, although it was 3 in the morning.  I was sending you a green on Sunday but have kept it for this to answer, in a more detailed way, your ripping parcels & lettersYou will get my letter of yesterday & Sunday together before this. 

1st  I will answer Mum’s letter of 14th. That, which you started with, holds good in my case:-  My head seems to be so full of things that I hardly know what to say’ (& how to begin) (2) .

Now I must go back to the Sunday letter of Mum’s to say that I too went to Holy Communion so that makes a third & Providential cause of your going, for it was the Sunday night we went to the trenches.  I was very pleased & amused on reading that you got a letter from me on Sunday.  I should like you always to get one on a Sunday, as well as for me to write to you on a Sunday

Do you know, dearest Mum, & all of you, that I am sorry for Dear Sydney & that sorrow sometimes takes away the hopes of the pleasure  of seeing him –  I  mean the pleasure of seeing him.

2nd Lieut.W.A. Thacker. Yorkshire Regt. Killed in Action May 1917. QMS Walsall.
2nd Lieut. W.A. Thacker. QMS. Yorkshire Regt. Killed in Action May 1917. 

Glad you like Thacker* no doubt then, if you should like him, Sydney would, as he told me in his Christmas letter.

I expected to see dear Sydney when I came off fatigues last night.  We live in a cave while in reserve & do fatigues at nightThe way down to this dark hole is long & ‘squeemish’ & at the end I quite expected Sydney’s voice to be heard.  Well, I suppose he will come today.  Yes, I am so grateful he is Sergeant & he has a nice chum Burton*, who was made Sergeant Major after the bombing accident (3), & was formerly Sergeant when Sydney made chums.  Burton is TT & only smokes select tobacco & a Woodbine now & again, he does not care for dear cigs.

Yes the shirt is most lovely & comfortable & what I say is:- ‘A Comfortable Shirt is half the Battle’.  A light pair of pants is my next requisite for underwear The socks I must especially thank you for, with the exquisitely beautiful scented soap within, for they have come at a very acceptable time amidst rain, water & dirt —— I am telling you more about me sen.

Oh dearest Mum, I should so like to write you a letter you would really like & which would prove a comfort to you dear ones.  Wouldn’t Ida & Dad say that, if I said more about myself & what I do, I might take a stride too far & then you would feel more anxious & unhappy.  And then there is the Censor too; some censors I’m afraid would burn the letter if it contained news of importance to the enemy –  or hints even. But as you were so brave & collected dear Mum during that alarm (4) I will venture to tell you more aboot me sen, without gobbling up the fishing rod & hook, as well as the fish.

I shall need more candles if we are down here for any considerable time.  Another reason why I couldn’t write to you, as I would have liked, is that we could not get any lights & it rained up at the top I wrote my Sunday letter at the entrance – tell Ida it’s like Linley Caverns (5) & would be jolly for a picnic in Peace time, –  but oh its far from a pic-nic in War time.

You are most self-sacrificing to put butter in the parcel & eggs too, my word.  If you like you can send currant bread & I will eat this without you putting butter in the parcel. Dad said he hoped I had as much pleasure in consuming the contents as you have in packing them up.  Ah I am more than indebted to you & can hardly find words.  I fairly shivered with emotion on opening your parcel & reading the letters.  The parcels acted as a good stimulus when I was on that tiresome fatigue & I thought of Miss Foster’s* apt quotation in Wayside Memories.  ‘And then Oh how JOYFUL the Conqueror’s Song’  – & indeed it was like a beautiful song which was wafted with the parcel & good thoughts from Home.

Can you read this awful letter dears? –  surely I am not so ‘bad’ as George*(6) & Mrs Jones’s* writings.  Do you really & honestly think the photo a good one and DO I GIVE you a cheerful impression when you see me?  I did think of Miss Foster* but I did not want to send her a photo which would make her think I was a WEE bit sad (7).  Shall I send her that photo? I have one left in that little khaki case of mine.  Khaki Case with Photo

Yes, I still have your dear faces left & my poor, poor Prayer Book & khaki Bible look all the worse for wear and I am anxious that they will last until I come on Home Leave.

 

Oh dears, I have a little better & hopeful news. Home Leave, as I told you in my last letter, is going at a more satisfactory pace & if it does not stop suddenly, like it has done in times past, I shall, or rather hope to, spend Easter with you & oh how joyful it will be if we spend Easter Sunday together & go before the altar to thank God for His mercy.

I told you in my last that Sydney sent me a F.P.C. from the Base with the line ‘letter follows at first opp.’  so I took it that it was another of Sydney’s ways of taking the letter to be himself following.  I will let you know as soon as he comes and at my 1st opportunity.  Yes, I expect Sydney will be exceptionally full of talking, although he is not one for ‘gassing’ as I am.  I hope his Com. will push on with greater speed now our Colonel*(Lt Col.R.Raymer) is back.

Now I must say how my heart leaps to you in congratulations for your extra good work at Mrs Venables* (8) Yes, if you can spare me one of those squares I should indeed be delighted with one & treasure it to think of you whenever I use it (9).

I am glad you have lost that wretched snow & hope Spring weather will soon be there for you to enjoy.  Yes SPRING, & I hope it will bring me with it. How most Providential, you being so cool during the Raid I too have been surprised at myself for I could not have been frightened if I tried during some shelling we had.  I felt it a duty to cheer up those who were nervous. You were most apt in your description, yes, it is just like a Peace within one (10). 

I think I mentioned the bombing accident before, but of course I refrained from telling you details for two reasons, we are forbidden to mention casualties in our letters until we see them published in the papers, & also I thought you would be more anxious with the sudden news from me.

Remember me kindly to Mrs Brown* & the Venables*.  I should think Arthur*(11) is one of the youngest subalterns in his Regiment.  You say you feel very, very sad at times dear Mum, well, I too felt sorry that you were like that, but I do not disbelieve my prayers have not been heard. I must persevere more (12) Yes, I think Sydney & you all, will feel the parting sore for a time, but I hope it will be short.

Victorian Arcade Walsall. 2016.
Victorian Arcade Walsall. 2016.

I conjure up all sorts of  things that I will do when I go Home to you. How it puzzles me to get Home clean  & how I shall have to try to dodge being seen & pressed on going from the Station to the House.  How I shall pop into the Arcade Restaurant (13) & buy you some pork pies and then go to Sammons for some tomatoes & flowers.  I might think of playing a practical joke, but now I think it would be best to go straight forward.

Now for your delightful letter of 19th.  So Dad was playing hymns –  ah! they seem to have their truer meaning nowadays & I think we shall sing them with the understanding also (14).  Although it has been such a long time since I heard the Psalms sung I can remember some quite well & they remind me of Sydney liking them.  How beautifully happy, yes, that is how I felt when I read that you were happy although it rained on Sunday.  You see you kept your promise that is why, & jolly old Basil, he did do a ‘dodge’ out of his cosy bed and dodged firstI remember well you saying you liked walking in the fresh rain. 

Yes, Mr Darling * would feel mentally tired, as well as physically. He told me so one night I went to my Preparation (Confirmation) Class & it was Lent then too.  I am sure he takes it more of a duty now-adays.  Of course you will tell me if Mr Dixon* gave a stirring sermon & brought a crowded church (15).

Sydney is true in saying he finds his position as Sergeant an advantage, but he will, and will have done, by what I gather from your letters found correspondence goes against the grain at times & the amount of mind concentration upon his extra duties will cause him & anyone to be inclined not to bring his thoughts on behalf of Home etc into action. 

I am glad you are all well generally, but sorry Mum has those nasty pains.  I am wondering if Sydney will be attached to either another Coy. or Platoon, if so you must send smaller parcels. Compris!  I shan’t mind a toss –  its the thoughts I care forexcept when the rations are na pous ‘finis’ & bread is scarce (16).  We are having better & bigger rations of bread now as we go into the trenches. 

I should so much have liked to have sent my contribution for Mr Darling*.  I was very touched on reading that Sanger*did not go to see you.  Well never mind, everything is for the best.

No, (this time) it didn’t even enter my mind that your parcel was a long time in coming. I mean since your promise of a parcel.  You will no doubt be thinking I am a long time in acknowledging yours, but do forgive me dears, I do try.   Yes, I am sure God is keeping us all safe & I am grateful Sydney had a safe crossing & I have come out safely from six days in the trenches & every night on fatigue so far.  I am quite well enough to manage & peg this War out.

Malted Milk Tablets.I must now answer Harold’s letter & parcel containing Milk Tablets, which came in useful to quench my parched lips on fatigue.  Please dears, I advise you not to depend too much upon the cloth wrapping when sending parcels as the cardboard box is liable to get smashed

Best love Bertie.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett’s family wanted him to write more ‘about me sen’ (more about myself). But true to character this letter is full of the thoughtfulness and understanding of others that my father invariably showed in his life.

NB My father had expected to see his brother arrive with the  draft of 181 men reported in S Staffords War Diary for 28th Mar.1916.

(1) Conqueror’s Song: Hymn: John Newton 1779. Former Slave owner turned anti-slavery.  Collection of Hymns by John Wesley. 1875.

(2) ‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’. Hibbett Letter 13th March. 1916 1916. (3) Bombing Accident: Hibbett Letter 28th Feb. 1916. (4) Zeppelin Raid Walsall. 19th Jan. 1916.

(5) Linley Caverns, Aldridge, Staffordshire. Extensive 19th cent limestone workings now flooded: ‘an incredibly dangerous place’. Used for storing bombs in WW2. See <https:brownhillsbog.com> details of Urban Exploration at Linley Caverns. 1957 (16th Aug.1957 edition Walsall Observer).

6) George Lammerman (Ida’s friend from childhood). (7‘Wee bit sad’: Ida’s comment on Bertie’s photo with Hindustani Sikh at Marseilles. 27th Feb.1916.

8) Mrs Venables*: ref. to Bertie’s Mother helping at her Knitting Workshops & Sales for Soldiers, 1914-1918. (9) Face-flannel squares. 

(10) ‘Peace within’: See below Little Book of Words & Doings & Page: My Memories A.H.H. (I remember from childhood how my father’s sermons were often about ‘Peace’). (11) CorpArthur Venables dressed Pte Bertie’s wound 1st July 1916. Later Killed in Action. 

(12) ‘Very, very Sad’: ‘Little Book of Words & Doings’. Hibbett Letter 27th Mar.1916.

Victorian Arcade, Walsall.
Victorian Arcade, Walsall.

(13) Arcade Restaurant, Walsall.  Sammons (Brothers?)Walsall Greengrocer. (My father’s dream of arriving in Walsall on Home Leave and buying pork pies, tomatoes & flowers I find particularly poignant).

(14) ‘Sing with the understanding also’.  I Cor. 14.5. St Paul ‘I will sing/prayer with the spirit and use words with the understanding also.(15The Revd E. More Darling,  (Vicar of Walsall ) last Services on Retirement.

(16) ‘na pous finis’: British soldiers’ slang for French saying -‘no good/ rubbish’. 

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 Pte Bertie Hibbett’s ‘Little Book of Words & Doings’. Treasured Sayings in Letters from Home. March 1916.

 ‘My head seems so full of things that I hardly know what to say. Mother’. 

The Zeppelin Raid: ‘Do you know dear Bertie, Mother was the best of all of them. When the raid came I seem to have had strength given to me.  I do not think Basil was frightened at all – he wanted to know where the things were going . . .  Dad looked white & pinched round the nose & Ida took hold of my hand & cried & said ” Oh Mum I am frightened” and I said ” Never mind my love, we shall be all right” and I felt such a peace in me.  Mother. ‘

NB Computer problems meant this Letter was posted with:-

NEXT POST: 30th Mar: 1916.

 

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19TH DEC.1915: ‘TAKING THINGS AS A MATTER OF COURSE BUT COULD DO WITH ‘A SNICE SMINCE SPIE.’.

Bertie Hibbett

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to his Father, Arthur Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall. On the back he has written: ‘To Dad. Poor Dad has no Christmas Card.’

ARTHUR HIBBETT: 56 in 1914.

Sunday  Dec 19/ 15.

My Dear Sir,

By next Sunday I guess you will have read my Christmas letters which I am writing today.

Last Sunday Mother & Basil wrote & were wondering what I was doing.  I am today in the Casualty Clearing Station, a Hospital, with sore feet, (suppose I left the comma out Sydney sais my letters to him are void of full stops, commas & all those things)but I have the advantage of writing & eating up the pages of a writing pad, one of the dry gifts I told Ida about.

Of course I was only joking, but I could do with a snice smince spienow, because itssnice, snice, so snice, especially one from Home. (1)

I s’pose I shall get another slice of jam & bread for tea.  I could do with a little plum cake for Sunday’s tea at any rate.  But then I am taking things as amatter of courseas you often advised me to do & I have the consolation that your parcels, if not already, will be appreciated by those in my section.  Poor Vernon had no less than half a dozen while he was away until I left the Batt. too.

All three of us are in Hospital now, & it seems that my wish I mentioned in your birthday letter will not be fulfilled. 

WW1 Casualty Clearing Station, Belgium.
WW1 Casualty Clearing Station, Belgium. Note stretchers for beds and Lucky Bags hanging by each soldier. cf Letter: 13th Sept. 1915.< https://easttextile.co.uk/onewebmedia >

I shall be very likely here for XmasI am comfy, we have stretchers to sleep on & books to read & meals found usI am dressed in blues again (2).

Well I could write till the New Year comes so will get on to other letters to other people.

Perhaps Dad thinks my letters, if he reads them, all of them, to each one, Mum, Ida & Basilthat they are whimsical & all bosh (3), well if so it’s my wish that by the time they have gone through the Hands of the Post & travelled so far they will give some enjoyment to you all, and my good wishes to Dad & all of you will be none the worse.

With fondest love from

Ber-TARFER.

PS  I’m sending Harold’s Letter separate as those I have already written will make the envelope fat enough for the censor.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Again Pte Bertie’s Letter to his Father shows a relationship of both respect & affectionate playfulness. He is doing his best ‘to take things as a matter of course’ but those stretchers for beds could not have been too ‘comfy’.

(1) ‘Snice smince spies – snice, snice so snice’: I can hear my Dad’s voice, as he must have heard his father’s every Christmas.

(2) Army Base, Rouen. No 12 & No 9 General Hospital. August to October 1915, where he was full of joy at the clean bright wards and comfortable beds. (3Bosh. Slang for nonsense/ empty of meaning. Wide etymology but most likely fr.Turkish.

NEXT POST: 20th Dec. 1915: Gas Mask & The Ghost of Christmas.

 

23rd APRIL 1915. WULVERGHEM: ‘EXCITING TIME’ RATION FATIGUE & GAS ALERT!

GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT Dec.1915.
A CHRISTMAS GHOST:  GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT. Dec.1915.  ‘They rose suddenly from the earth,wearing  smoke helmets over their faces, and looking not like soldiers but like devils.’

SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE.  April 18th. Sun Practice in crossing barbed wire entanglements. Bn paraded for Trenches 7.20 pm. Casualties. Wounded: 8948 Pte C. Weaver, ‘C’ Coy wounded during relief.  83 02 Pte L. Benton ‘B’ Coy wounded while carrying rations. Now possible to visit all Trenches by daylight.

April 19th Mon.  WULVERGHEM Trenches.  Fired on German working party opposite 10b trench. Outburst of rapid fire from German trenches about 3.30 a.m. Two H.E. followed by two shrapnel fired at S.P.4 at 6.0 am. No damage. Casualty: 9468 Pte J.T. Stanley ‘C’ Coy wounded.
April 20th Tue.  Six rounds shrapnel fired by German artillery at 120a left. No casualties. Trenches  8 (Bertie’s) & 9 troubled by German sniping from MESSINES..
April 21st Wed.  Further sniping along 8 & 9 trenches. Casualties: 9199 Pte A. Walker; 8817 Pte R.W. Hempshall, both ‘A’ Coy, wounded. Two HE shells & two shrapnel  burst near & over SOUVENIR FARM about 1 pm. Casualty: Major J. Lees wounded.  6 H.E. shells fell in Wulverghem about 1.30 pm. 16  H.E. shells burst in & near Trench 9, doing much damage to parapet of 9b.  Working parties brought in & fire 10 rounds) opened on German Trenches at 10.30 pm.  Casualty: Pte Hounslow  ‘D’ Coy wounded (died later).
April 22nd Thur. Lt Cozens* & Pte Thorne exploded grenade in German Listening Post at 2.am and returned safely. Relieved by 1/6th South Staffs.  Marched to BULFORD CAMP. Fumes of asphyxiating gas caused smarting of eyes. Received warning to be prepared to embus at short notice. (1)
April 23rd Fri.  NEUVE EGLISE.  Bath & cleaning up. Working party of 200 men on G.H.Q. line. 8 – 12 midnight.
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Bertie in UniformPTE BERTIE HIBBETT LETTER to sister IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.                                                                                                            Friday April 23/ 15 (White envelope, Post Date 27th).

My Dear Sister,  

A simple address  –  I won’t say dearest or dear dear or very dear and couldn’t say darling!  Yet I guess that Sid and I love our only sister with infinite love & I find it difficult sometimes to keep it from sentiment, for we seem to love one another more when we are apart than when we are together at home, what say you? yet again I guess you often wish us to be at home again.

The censor is growing stricter.  I am afraid of letting you know in detail the exciting time we have had this week. 

We have not spent our time in the trenches but have been on fatigue carrying rations & other things to the trenches, making about 3 journeys each night.  Pretty exciting. (2)   Well I must keep this letter quite free from officialism.

The more you say or think your letters not good enough the more we like them.  Your last letters we received today are simply ripping and so homely and above all the letter from E. Overend* brings back old 106 New Rowley Rd Days (3).

The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905.
The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905: scribbled note amongst Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Letters.

Has the 13 years gone yet?  Where are the members of the Pickwick Club? (4)

October 1905. The Pickwick Magazine.  Editor: Sam Weller M.P.C. (M. Overend)

Motto: NIL  DESPERANDO (sic) (5)

Sam Pickwick PresidentI. Hibbett. Augs. Snodgrass MemberS. Hibbett. (8 yrs).  Sam Weller MemberM. Overend*. Tracy Tupman  Member – Bertie Hibbett (7 yrs). Sam Wardle Member I. Cozens(?). Nath Winkle MemberD. Cozens(?).

Has Dodger come back from his holidays yet? –  if not he is thoroughly enjoying himself?   Did all your ears burn ?  I mean those of Mother, Dad’s as well as yours, on Monday teatime? – because you can picture us in a ruined farmyard eating with enjoyment the sardines, butter & finishing off Mother’s currant bread.  Tell Mother the bread kept lovely & light, not dry in the least.  We get tins of butter now & again, but we preferred the butter from home with the currant loaf.

Don’t forget to try & send us one or two different photos of the family, especially a good one of MotherI have not one of Mother close to.  I hope Harold will get settled well at Bedale (6) rather a long way from Mother.  He will make a third one away won’t he?

Miss Foster would be greatly interested in what and where we are, so could you send her a Walsall paper now and again giving her a description of our experiences?  as I dare not say much in these letters.  You can tell the Overends* we QMS (7) boys manage to keep together most times.  Lucky isn’t it? 

I will finish this in the candle light.   Sid and I received a parcel of chocolates and parkin from Auntie* (8), so have you written to York then?

I could do with another towel.   Best love, Bertie.

PS I should like to say a lot  – what the censor will not allow but you will be patient won’t you & wait till we get home –  it is with regard to an officer I like very much indeed.  You will hear of him in the Walsall papers I dare say. (9)

Sid will tell you of the queer coincidences with regard to a parcel from good Mrs Penning*.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) ‘Fumes of asphyxiating gas’: April 22nd 1915 marked the first use of POISON GAS by the Germans on unprotected French troops at Ypres. Until I read Simon Jones‘ article in the Guardian (for 22nd April) that the smell of chlorine gas spread for ‘miles around’, I thought this 1/5th S. Staffs War Diary reference was to the fumes caused by exploding  Lyddite shells (see Sydney Hibbett’s letter to his sister, 24th April 1915).  Wulverghem is less than 8 miles from Ypres and the order to be ready to ’embus’ at short notice could well indicate poison gas alert.

My father’s drawing ‘A Christmas Ghost’ is included in his Christmas Letters of December 1915 – as if he had only just been issued with a ‘smoke helmet‘.

2Ration fatigues had to be made at night because of the danger from snipers.  Ration Farm,  (La Plus Douve) half a mile east of Wulverghem, south of road to Messines (Mesen) was most probably where Bertie met up with his brother after his absence in March.

(3) 106 New Rowley Rd, Walsall; where Hibbett family first lived in Walsall, before moving opposite to 95, Foden Rd. (4) The Pickwick Club seems to have been formed by Ida & Mollie or May Overend  for adventures and to share observations  – vis a vis Dickens’ novel Pickwick Papers. (More to come in 1916 Letters Home).

(5)Nil Desperandum – Never despair!  (6) Bedale, Yorkshire; Harold’s new post as Shop Manager, retail Chemist (cf.1911 Census)(7) QMS i.e. Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall. (8) Auntie Pattie (Pat) Yoxall/Neal? unable to trace on family tree/ possibly lived in north Manchester.

(8) Lieut Tim Cozens* see S. Staffs War Diary above 22nd April 1915. Also Walsall Observer for April 1915. 

NEXT POST: 24th April, 1915. Wulverghem Village: bombs, bullets & biscuits.