Tag Archives: Christmas 1915.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER  to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

.Champion Ida Hibbett VAD Nurse.

 ‘Yesterday with exultation Joined the world in celebration Of her promised Saviour’s birth’. (1)

Having no calendar I conclude from the above words that today is – – – – –  –  

St Stephen’s Day, Sunday 26/ 15.

St Stephen: Carlo Crivelli.
St Stephen: Carlo Crivelli. Italian 1435-1495.

‘Being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love & bless our persecutors by the example of Thy first Martyr, Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers.’  (2).

My Very Dear Sister,

How grateful I ought to be that I have had such an enjoyable & happy Christmas Day, to think of those who are worse off than I was,  I am speaking of those in the trenches Yes, I believe, at least some of them were quite as happy as we were, and we were as happy as those at Home, for inspite of all the delicacies of the Christmas Menu at Home, you know ye olde proverb goes, as Mum often told me when I was greedy or sullen:- What the eye never sees the Heart never grieves. ComprisAnd so we were Happy & for many reasons too, one being:-

Oceano divisi Eclesiastia conjuncti (sic) (3).  Compris?  No – well ask me pater and you will be happy on hearing his interpretation thereofResults of the above solution of the aforesaid to be sent to me when I am in that station of life to be writable to by persons.

The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905.
The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905.

Well the concert was fine and its Homely handmade get up reminded me of you & The Ghost, – that Pickwick Club affair (4).   You know how men shape when there’s such a thing as decorations to be done, – why, me dear, they who decorated the Concert Hall made as good an effort as any feminine worker.

– – – We all stood up as the orficers (sic) came in & sat themselves down in the front seats, basket chairs, and the orficers all stood up as the nurses came in at the stage entrance. They looked so Christmassy in their red & grey uniforms. Then the concert began.  The stage was admired by the audience & ‘oo oo’ said we as we saw the successful scene – a room with a table on one side with a red cloth & shaded lamp, two basket chairs, a piano & modern water colour prints of the American style of girl  hanging on the wall.  The Programme was topping & nearly every item encored, & nearly every class of person in the Hospital, except patients gave a turn.  A nurse was greatly clapped as she appeared on the stage to sing us a song, a good song too it was, & well sung too.  She sang the epilogue and then all of us men joined in the chorus:-

Keep the Home fires burning While our Hearts are yearning. Though the lads are far away They dream of Home. There’s a silver lining Through the dark cloud shining.Turn the dark cloud inside out& show the lining (5).

And then we all clapped & clapped & clapped & stampedshouted ‘Encore, Encore, Hurray’.

Alas alack I am undone, this is my last sheet of paper.  Verily, indeed, whateffer, I have indeed devoured all those sheets of paper that have been sent me.  And I hope they have found & warmed up the hearts of those I’ve sent them to

Well the Programme was varied, just as we liked, comic songs there were, & there were sentimental ones, & there were sketches, original too. The Last one ending in a Tableau was absolutely ripping, topping. Hurrah.  It was a grand homely affair.  Some show not ’arf – ‘and so the poor man died and she – married the barber!’

You like the pictures do you?  I know you do.  But the disadvantage of them is there is no frame for them.  A present of a picture alone invites the recipient to buy a frame, rather insinuating ain’t it?  Well if you like the picture, Mum & I give you the one I sent Mum.  I did not know who to send it to.  I thought of Mrs Penning, but I must confess, at the time of sending it off I forgot you.  The Chaplain of the C. of E. gave me a Souvenir as he called it,  a little cross .  I cannot find any other gift I can send you.  I make it my resolution that if I can possibly send anything in the way of a gift I will do so. 

Chi Rho Sign.
Chi Rho /1st two letters of ‘Christ’ in Greek.

The cross will serve as a bookmark for your Bible. The Latin inscribed on it means ‘By this sign you will gain the Victory’.(6)

Constantine. AD 272-337
Emperor Constantine. AD 272-337.

Hoping you have all had a very Blessed & Joyous Christmas Day & you have felt the reward of your good & preserving effort in munitions.

Wishing you a Bright & Prosperous & Peaceful New Year.

Your loving brother,  Bertie.

PS NB  Tell me if Mum & Dad visited Sydney. Yes they dream  of Home & we do more than that – if I am not encroaching upon self- commendation I have dreamt of you all  – how queer ain’t it?


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

25th/26th Dec. Entrained for Marseilles and arrived on 27th (en route for the Eastern Front).


Thomas Cranmer. Gerlach Flicke: 1545-1558. German.

(1) ‘Yesterday in exultation’ (Heri mundus exultavit)Hymn to St Stephen, first Christian Martyr (stoned c. AD 34). One of The Seven/ Deacons appointed to supervise fair distribution of welfare to the poor/ widows in the Church. cf. Acts 6.  TextAdam of S. Victor (d. AD 1192). Translation, John Mason Neale 1818-1866. (Hymns of the Eastern Church). Music: Walter Cecil Macfarren 1826 -1905.

(2) Collect for St Stephen’s Day. Thomas Cranmer. Book of Common Prayer. 1662.  (3) ‘Oceano divisi … ‘. ‘Though the ocean divides us the Church unites us’ cf. Christmas Day 1915 Letter: Though the oceans & lands divide us we think of each other at the Holy Eucharist‘. 

 (4)The Pickwick Club. Childhood Club for adventures/ literary observations. Formed 1905. Ida Hibbett editor. cf Hibbett Letters: 23rd April 1915; 7th Sept. 1915; 13th Sept. 1915.

Ivor Novello.

(5)’Keep the Home Fires Burning‘/‘Till the Boys come Home’. 1914.  Music: Ivor Novello. 1893-1951. Welsh Composer. Text Lena Ford.

Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, Syria.

(6) By this sign you will gain the victory. Latin  ‘In hoc signo vinces’. Constantine the Great  AD 272-337 (first Christian Emperor) saw the Chi Rho sign in the sky before the Battle of Maxentius, AD 312 and heard these words. In Edict of Nantes AD 313  Constantine proclaimed religious freedom throughout the Roman Empire: ‘With free minds all are to worship their Gods’ . (Source: Eusebius c. AD 260 -340 (Bishop of Caesarea/ Early Christian Father & Historian).

NEXT POST:  28th Dec: 1915. ‘The Innocents’ Day’.



Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT, Merville Casualty Clearing Station: LETTER  HOME following straight on from Christmas Eve Letter. Enclosed in envelope addressed To Mum, My very Dear Mother. All Good Wishes for a HAPPY CHRISTMAS from her very affec. son Bertie.

                                            Christmas Day.  7-30 am approx.

Christians awake! Salute the Happy Morn, Whereon the Saviour of the World was born. Rise to adore the Mystery of Love Which Hosts of Angels chanted from above. (1)

Merville monasteryIMG_2808
Monastery Chapel, Merville ?  Courtesy www.Liz  Clutterbuck.com> 

Although we did not have a hymn at Holy Communion, (which I always like on Christmas Morning) the Chapel was prettily decorated with holly & evergreen & was made the best out of it.  Candles burning in between the evergreens looked Christmassy.  We had a few nurses with us this morning,  yes, to see men, men, men, everywhere it was especially reminding of Home to see the other sex & it felt more what it should be at Christmas.

‘A Merry Christmas’ we all greeted one another on waking,And the same to you’ came the reply to everyone I greeted on the way to wash, & to the ChapelAt the door I met a sister & the Chaplain –  ‘the same to you’.  And why shouldn’t it be Merry?  ‘Rejoice again I say Rejoice’ (2) Those who have lost their lives for their country are numbered among the Hosts of Angels  which chant above.

I dreamt (dreams  are so hard to remember) but I do believe I dreamt of you all, certainly I dreamt of Mother & Ida & Dad & now I come to think on’t Basil too.  I could see Ida as plain as a pike staff.  And I dreamt of Sydney too & we met a nurse, I believe, who told us he was much better, at which we were all so glad.  I have dreamt of you all at one time or another these nights this week how queer – will it be a coincidence?  Well I will leave off  till after the dinner now. We get cold ham for breakfast.

From breakfast till Church time I read a Christmassy story I came across accidentally & only began to find out as I read along.  You must know that this Hospital, so I’ve been told, was once a monastery & it looks like one too –  all the more happy to imagine Ye olde Christmasse TYMES with the monks & so I read a Monk’s tale about Kings & Dukes & Princesses. The story also introduced York – ‘then as Winter came on quickly, withdrawing himself to his good old town of York to keep his Christmas, rest his men, etc.’  Then again, ‘he’, referring to the King of England, now the King of Scots.  ‘So at last about Xmas time the snow being very deep, the King of Scots sat down behind the wattles of his trenches, saying ‘if we cannot burn them out or cut them out, we will starve them out’ –   and so with the G——ns eh!

While I was reading several orcifers (sic) with their orderlies & a whole retinue of NCOs came to decide if our decorations deserved Ist Prize. Then the orderly made us all go to Church.

The service, which I have just come from & set to write you about, was as Christmassy as possible & again I guess we all thought of our Homes, & others, their sweethearts & wives.  The sermon was the old story of the Inn & the Shepherds and the Saviour. Though the ocean & lands divide us we think of each other at Holy Eucharist, so the old Latin text goes interpreted.

O Come all ye Faithful I can hear you singing, the very words we have too (3).  And we had the Hymn for absent friendsKeep them ’neath Thy care (4). I used that little Red Prayer Book in which you put my name & the text,Be thou faithful unto death(5). It is much dilapidated now but for all that it brought back memories of Xmasses gone by when I used it. (6)

I will leave off now till after dinner else I shall not have paper to finish.

Christmas Dinner.  ‘A goodly feast forsooth’.  A sight which reminds me of the words in the story I read this morning:-  ‘All was done in noble order, with abundance to eat (& drink), with minstrels in the gallery, dogs under the tables, a fool in a corner and silver trumpets at the buttery door to cry the courses’.

Yes, the officers waited on the men & the Chaplain served us too; as for the courses, the first was beef, haricot beans & spuds,  the second was plum pudding with white sauce (I put in some almonds from a dish of fruit just by). Then jellies of all kinds & chocolate blancmange Ida, yes.  The room, which was downstairs, held all the patients, numbering 200 in all.  We were greeted by the Chaplain who wished us all a Merry Christmas & told us that those who ate too much would be sent to the Base immediately,  Yes, get C.B. – not Confined to Barracks but Condemned for the Base.

Let’s see Mum, when was it I had that big BURD for dinner nine – teen – fif – er- no – nine-teen -THUR-TEEEN.  Oh my poor napper.  Let’s crack a bon bonthere were those on the table & those paper serviettes in pretty patterns. Also raisins & almonds, walnuts, chocolates, toffee & the Chaplain came round with cigarettes again.  So we have had a bit of Christmas & Santa Claus is coming at 4 o’clock.

Oh I’m full, full inside, & the officers have stuffed our pockets with nuts, chocolates & all those things I’ve said.  Eight volunteers for washing up.  I was one.

Ta Ta till after tea.  I am at peace with all the World, so said Dad once, & I hope you have all had a good dinner too.  I’m at peace with Ye K——r!

The afternoon passed in a happy, lazy way. I read the story of the little Child leading the King of Beasts, the tiger & all the other animals in Isaiah, Chapter 11, verse 6 . ‘The Wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, & the leopard shall lie down with the kid & the calf & the young lion & the fatling together, & a little Child shall lead them’.  How typical of the Hun & the Peacemakers. The K——r, so apparently hated by some people, will find blessing from God.  All the nations at war with one another shall live in peace & love one another in God’s good time.  And a little Child shall lead the nations. Reminds me of the Victor on a White Horse, leading his Hosts in white, in Revelation (7).

For tea we had jam & bread, but we did not open the tins, some iced cake & gingerbread came in & the  iced cake vanished first.

Poor old Bertie will not have any of our Christmas gifts!’

Best love, Bertie.   X X X X X


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

 25th Dec. 1915:  Entrained at BERQUETTE STATION for MARSEILLES, and arrived there on the 27th. (en route for  Dardanelles Campaign begun 25th April 1915).


My 20 year old father, Pte Bertie Hibbett, is determined to be happy, and to convince his Mother that he is happy, spending Christmas in Hospital, sleeping on a stretcher, denied letters and parcels of Christmas Cheer from Home, separated from his brother & his best pal Vernon Evans, all three now in Hospital.

From Merville he would have heard the sound of guns at the Front. He knows the rest of his pals in 1/5th South Staffords are preparing for the Dardanelles /Gallipoli Campaign and he must soon be joining them. All he has to hold on to is his heightened awareness  of the true meaning of Christmas, the fulfillment of  Hebrew prophecy  – and the Army’s ‘Goodly Feast!’Byrom_J

(1) Christians Awake: Hymn. Text John Byrom 1691-1763. Tune: John Wainwright 1723-1768

(2) Rejoice again: Philippians 4.4. written by S. Paul in time of persecution, AD 49-51.

(3O Come all ye faithful/ Adeste Fidelis: John Francis Wade, 1711-1786. Translated from Latin by Frederick Oateley, 1841. (4) Neath thy Care: Isabella S. Stevenson, 1869. ‘Keep  our loved ones now far distant, neath Thy care‘; (written when her brother was sent away to S. Africa for his health).

(5) Be thou faithful unto death & I will give thee the crown of life’. Revelation 2.10. (6) Confirmation Prayer Book, a gift from his Mother. Confirmed Sunday 12th March, 1911 (16 yrs old).

(7) Book of Revelation: the only apocalyptic /prophetic document in the New Testament canon (dealing with Christian eschatology i.e. interpretation of the End Time). Written AD 81-96, in the form of a letter to all the churches during Emperor Domitian’s persecution of Christians/ a poetic allegory of the ongoing struggle between good & evil.

NEXT POST: 26th Dec. 1915.