Tag Archives: Chlorine Poison Gas.

27TH NOV. 1915: ‘NEXT TIME THERE’S A WAR I SHALL STAND ON THE PAVEMENT – WAVE TO PASSING TROOPS & STAY AT HOME’.

Centre: Sgt S. HIBBETT when training as a Sergeant.
Sarjeant Sydney Hibbett. 22 yrs 1916.

Serjeant SYDNEY HIBBETT: LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd.Walsall.

Convalescent Camp.  Rouen.                           Saturday.   Nov 27th/ 15.

My very dear own Parents,

I am feeling much better today and can safely say I am quite well. I came out of the special treatment ward today and am now with the ‘Z’ Company again (1).

There was a concert in the YMCA last night so I went over and enjoyed myself.  I don’t think I shall be here very long now as I don’t particularly desire it and want to get back to business.  I wish it was the old Works again though (2). Then there is my commissionI want to see how that is going on, though a sergeant has a lot of privileges, I find (3).

I am looking forward rather to the morning service tomorrow: it was beautiful last Sunday, though I was so bad I could hardly stand.  We have the Chaplain, a kindly old man, to play the harmonium & this, with all the band’s flutists, makes a most beautiful and tuneful melody.

The big YMCA hut is crowded with convalescents and we have a very similar service to the Matins at home.  You know I delight to hear &  sing the Psalms & a service without these & the Venite is no service to me (4). But last Sunday reminded  one very much of the service at St Paul’sSt Paul's Interior Walsall

Ah yes! be happy that you have a good church and a nice service to go to on a Sunday;  I think of it you know & can see you all in church in my mind’s eye: the familiar, well known people, the Farringtons, Fentons, Middletons, the Miss Hills and Co and so on.

St Paul's at Crossing
St Paul’s at Crossing.

They all perhaps think – ‘same place, another Sunday, same people, the same old round’.  How I enjoyed the service that morning I went when I was on leave!

Tell Harold I wish him the best of luck and hope he won’t be forced to join the Army. The way some of the crippled soldiers have been treated by the War Office is enough to deter anyone from joining the Army.  What will become of a great many of the poor fellows who are not able to help themselves, I don’t know:  I shouldn’t like it. (5) 

Yes next time there’s a War I shall stand on the footpath and shout Hurray! and wave my hand to the passing troops & stay at home – & send them cigarettes!  And that is as far as I shall go.

Tell old Hal (6) to write me a line as he owes me a letter.  Jolly old boy.  Hasn’t poor old Alan been home yet?  Perhaps he will be in time for Xmas.

I suppose you are having one of your usual Saturday afternoons again  – nothing much to do and Hal is over at Sutton I expect,  and Dad is reading his Times in the red chair by the fire and I hope you will both be going a walk soon.

What does Dodger do on a Sat.  I suppose he kicks a ball about up at the old field, but I forgot, they have a new ground now (7). Ida will be making bombs perhaps, good old sort.

Well there is not much to say now it seemsthe fellows are off to the pictures in Rouen & are marching down with the band.  I never go myself. I think I will close now: the next time I write will probably be at the Base, we shall see.

Goodbye, dear Mother and everyone, and I hope you have a nice SundayKeep Harold at Home & don’t let him be in a hurry to join.

Best love from Sydney.

PS  I had a letter from Miss Brookes* (8), a very nice one too.  What about my watch?

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South Staffordshire BadgeePte BERTIE HIBBETT & 1/5th  SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE CHAPELLE TRENCHES

25th Nov.Thur:  Relieved the 1/5th Batt. North Staffordshire Regiment in ‘C’ SUBSECTOR trenches at 6.40 pm.

26th Nov. Fri: Quiet Day. Enemy placed considerable number of H.E. around BREWERY. CASUALTY: 8646 Pte W. Edwards wounded by shrapnel.

27th Nov. Sat:  Quiet morning. About mid-day enemy whiz-banged field West of BATTALION HEADQUARTERS.  At 10.0 pm slightly increased activity of hostile gun and rifle fire.

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SYDNEY HIBBETT 20 in 1914.
Sydney Hibbett QMS Cadet.
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
Elizabeth Hibbett Webb

The young Queen Mary’s School Cadet is now an experienced soldier and this Letter is that of a man who has fought his way for 2 days or more – along Big Willie in the Battle of Loos-Hohenzollern Redoubt.  However sad, however disillusioned with the Army and the War Office he may appear to be, there is no question that Serjeant Sydney Hibbett knows his dutyhe must get wellfurther his commission and get back to the Front to look after his men.

(1‘Z’ Company of Royal Engineers: a special unit specialising in use of gas & flame projectors (to create walls of fire) came into being  in response to German gas attacks, 22nd April 1915. (Long Long Trail/ Royal Engineers/ website).

(2) Mining Engineering Works/Old Park Works,  Wednesbury, Staffordshire.

(3) Serjeant (official spelling in WW1).  2nd in Command of a troop or platoon (50 men). Privileges: presumably these included exemption from censorship of letters ? 

(4Matins: common name for ‘Morning Prayer’ in Church of England Book of Common Prayer.1662.  Originally a monastic liturgy at cock-crow/ also called ‘lauds’ (from Latin meaning ‘praise’). Oxford Dictionaries: Origin of word ‘matins’: Middle English from Old French ‘matines’, influenced by the Latin ‘matinutae’ (morning prayers), from Mutata/name of the Roman Dawn Goddess. Nice!

The Venite, Exultemus Domino ( ‘O Come, let us Sing unto the Lord’) is the 1st line of the opening Psalm 95. The Psalms Sydney loved (he probably knew many by heart) would be those of the Psalter in Book of Common Prayer (ordered to be read or sung through once a month) rather than those in King James translation of Old Testament Book of Psalms.

(5) Crippled Soldiers: 30% of British Soldiers were wounded in WW1. Before 1915 they relied on Soldiers & Sailors Help Society. The State reluctantly began to take some responsibility and Pensions were introduced. But many of the disabled & their families suffered great hardship. Those with ‘shell-shock’ were ignored or treated with suspicion as ‘malingerers’. See Jenny du FeuFactors Informing Rehabilitation of British Soldiers of WW1‘. <https://www.medicinae.org >

(6) Hal: Sydney’s abbrev. for elder brother Harold. (7QMS New Sports Ground: in same place as today?    (8) Miss K. Brookes*: family friend & well-respected Sunday School Superintendant at St Paul’s Walsall.

NEXT POST: 28th Nov. 1915.

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25TH SEPT.1915: OPERATION ORDERS: THE 2ND ARMY WILL ATTACK EAST OF YPRES.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY

S. W. SLOPE OF HILL 60.

25th Sept. Sat:    See Operation Orders d/24.9.15. 

1.  Allied Forces on the Western Front are taking offensive on the 25th inst.   2. The 2nd Army will attack E. of Ypres . . . 

4.  The  137th  Brigade will cooperate as follows:-         

(a)  Enemy salients in I. 29, 30 and 34 and his approaches to them will be kept under artillery, rifle fire, and machine gun fire, special attention being paid to suspected observation posts.  The targets for the 137th Brigade being these points in front of the Brigade Trenches, rifle fire will be from loopholes or sniperscopes.

(b) If the wind is favourable a curtain of smoke will be directed on HILL 60 and the CATERPILLAR from the trenches of the Left Sector, 137th Brigade.

5. Watches will be synchronised from Battalion Headquarters at 12.30 A.M. Sept 25/ 15.

6.   During the Artillery Bombardment that is :- up to 4.20 A.M.  men in the trenches except sentries will be kept under cover immediately bombardment ceases, that is:-  4.20  A.M. rifle fire and machine gun fire will be opened on the enemy trenches as directed in para 4 (a).

7.   Battalion Head Quarters will be established in the Strong Point in the Wood at 10.30 pm Sept 24th communications with Head Quarters are to be tested every quarter of an hour from that time onwards.

8.   Casualties will be accommodated in the most convenient dug-out and if necessary, medical aid will be obtained from Battalion Head Quarters.

J. LAMOND, Capt. & Adjt. 1/5th Bn South Staffordshire Regt.    Issued at 1.30 pm.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte  Bertie Hibbett was expecting to move from Hospital to Convalescent Camp on Sat. 25th Sept.  The fact that a major offensive along the Western Front had begun would have been known in Rouen by that evening.  But Bertie would not have known what was happening to 1/5th Bn.  South Staffs on Hill 60 Ypres Salient  – and he would have been anxious for the safety of his brother

In the event, as the following record shows, the 1/5th South Staffords cooperated as ordered; their Brigade Head Quarters in the Wood was not damaged and their casualties were comparatively slight. 

Elsewhere the story was very different.  On 25th Sept. the Battle  of Loos (pronounced ‘Loss’) witnessed the first use of chlorine poison gas by the British and led to the gassing of 2,632  of their own men.  Initial success that day came to nothing, through lack of Reserves. The fight for Loos and the Hohenzollern Redoubt was to continue for many weeks with many losses

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

S. W.  SLOPE  HILL  60.

25th Sept Sat:  During early morning Enemy shrapnelled 36 Trench with H.E. – also fired single shells at intervals into the Wood without effect.  Trench mortar opposite 35 silenced by Belgian Battery.  Enemy trenches opposite 35 & 36 bombed and rifle grenaded.  Enemy trench-mortared 33 in reply until silenced by Belgian gun.

CASUALTIES: WOUNDED: 8534 Pte L. Lyons.   SLIGHTLY WOUNDED (remain at duty):   8246 Pte L. Abel; 8454 Pte S Goode; 8708 Pte W. Selby.

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NEXT POST:  28TH SEPT. 1915.

 

 

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.