Pte BERTIE HIBBETT. No 6 GENERAL BASE CONVALESCENT CAMP. YMCA LETTER HEADING – On Active Service with THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE to Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall. Written in ink.
No 6 General Base. Thurs: Sep 30th/ 15.
My Dear Mother,
Yes, I slept well on Sunday night. I was in the Convalescent Camp & I had a bed in a hut or ward, but of course they were without white quilts & fancy blankets & no pillows, but I felt as comfortable, – & now I am on boardsunder canvas again – & I suppose I shall be on the ground as next stage.
I received your parcel this morning. I walked across to the Hospital for it. I went to a service on Sunday evening in the C.C. (1) – but of course it was not quite so nice as the prettyChurch Tent in Hospital. The eggshave come safely, but this time the box seems to have had the worst of the journey, the paper almost off & the lid crooked.
Dearest Mummy I don’t think I shall need so many parcels,you have sent them on top of one another lately, but now that I am out of Hospital & can draw my pay & able to go to the Canteens, I might be able to get some freshly boiled eggs in a morning. I will tell you if I do.
Last night I went to an amateur play of Henry Vth in YMCA – was that Basil’splay (2) ? The enclosure of that envelope you sent was fromMr Bates*; he is in the Inns of Court OTC & is going in for a Commission.
I am keeping well & happy & I’m trying to take things as a matter of course. Hoping Sydneywill have a safe & happy journey (home). I am sending a letter to Harold.
Trusting you are all keeping well & ‘bearing cheerfully’ as McKenna sais of the Budget (3).
Your very affec: Bertie.
(1) Convalescent Camp. (2) QMSSchool Play or Basil’s Oxford Junior Examination text? Events before & after Battle of Agincourt , when Henry Vth, now a more mature young man, leads a successful War in France. (I wonder who actually put on this play in Rouen?)
(3) Reginald McKenna, 1863-1943.Chancellor of Exchequer. Third War Budget 25th Sept 1915. Introduced ‘Mckenna Duties’ :import duties, 50% excess-profit tax & 40% personal income tax to sustain the War effort (a temporary measure which lasted 41 years until 1956).
As First Lord of Admiralty, 1901, McKenna pressed for the building of battleships over social reform. First of 18 ‘dreadnoughts’ begun in 1911 gave British advantage against Germany at beginning of WW1. Chairman of Midland Bank 1919-1943. Wikipedia.
30th Sept. Thur: Many dug-outs demolished & much damage to rifles and equipmentbut no casualties. Between 3.0 pm and 5.30 pm enemyfired 16 ‘crumps’ (4)on to dug-outs and woods behind trenches 34 & 35.Enemycommenced heavy bombardment of 33 & 34 supports and dug-outs in wood, which lasted until 9.30 pm. ‘B’ Company went up to support trenches behind 33 & 34, one platoon manning 33 fire trench.
CASUALTIES: KILLED: 7931 Coy S Major Harris A.T.. WOUNDED: 8160 Dr. F Charless;8169 Pte S.J. Holmes; 8147 Corpl. W.J. Mallaband ; 7577 Corpl. W. Pearce. WOUNDED (shock) 8343 Pte V. Hackett; 9041 Pte S. Dance; 4817 Sgt W. Hawkins. SLIGHTLY WOUNDED (remain at duty) 8309 Pte R.J. Williams.
SEPTEMBER TOTAL: KILLED 3; WOUNDED 25; SLIGHTLY WOUNDED (remain at duty) 15; DIED OF WOUNDS 2.
D.O.W. 30/8/15: 7822 Pte L. Morris; 9415 Pte W. Pearson (Deaths advised during Sept.)
Signed: Richmond RAYMER Lt Col. Commdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, ROUEN: No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL. No 12 Ward. LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
NB –> In Red White & Blue. Tuesday Sep 7 / 15
PS The lavender was given me while in 5 Ward.Take care of the Twiddly bits in this letter (1).
My Very Dear Sister,
Now I ain’t made no mistake loike (2) as one does at th’ beginnin of year & puts nineteen 14 ’stead of 15 and begins with Dinstead of Jeh!
This bit of touchy ‘chirpy’ (as you calls it) nonsense, is the effect of hearing a comic song at a concert – well I will tell you that later). I have soon been sent back to Hospital again & am now in No 12 Wardat the same local Hospital – ie No 9 General Hospital. There is such a ‘nicenurse’ here, her hair reminds me of yours & making me wish I had you & Woody (3)to look after me.
I hope Mummy & Daddy will take to Woody. I fancy she is somewhat tall & dark – is that so? Tell me about the time you are spending with her. I discovered after all that the little scentiment of scent sent to me in the parcelwas sent from you. I mean the lovely Whitby Heather scent. Do you remember Sydney sending you a bottle while you were in the Royal Infirmary? (4).
I have just had one of those round biscuits, Crawford’s Kings, they are a delicious assortment.
Ida, it is simply a glorious, lovely, bright afternoon -that sunny effect at teatime. I’ve just hadtea. Everything seems sunny & the spick an’ span cleanliness of the Ward makes a great effect of brightness doesn’t it? You know, for I’m sure The Leicester Hospital was something like this, sunny & bright.
I am scribbling this seated in a comfy easy chair facing down the Ward.I close my eyes & fancy you strutting along the centre between the neat cots; you are dressed in spotless white apron & the uniform of the Hospital.
* * * ‘Does Dodger depend —‘ Oh! Jocks just been in – with the Chaplain of the Hospital; Jock was the comedian who made us all roar with larfter at the entertainment this arfternoon. ‘Does dear Dodger depend drastically— * * *
I came into the Ward this morning in time to go to this concert party of Miss Ashwells* held in the Dining Hall at 3. Beautiful songsters, but I felt queersome–like when a man sang a patriotic song with appealing words – sort of practice what you preach sort of effect. But I suppose he wanted to show his fine voice for the benefit of entertaining the sodjers eh! what?
Jockcould imitate a larf an’ no mistake, a fat little chap he was & he screwed up his nose & opened his mouth & wrinkles all over his fizog, but the effort did make him sweat. I saw him mopping his brow with his handkerchief afterwards.—
* * * ‘Does dear Dodger drastically depend on his – – (I can’t make a sentence of dees) pocket money – his weekly allowance – for his contribution in parcelsto his two bruvvers at the fronteh! what!?
I enjoyed the chocolate while a listnin’ to the singin’. There was a violinist, I mean the one who played a large violin – forgotten the name of it – but although she was elderly she reminded me of your picture ‘The Violin Player’(5) & you.
Have you, by the by, got a good collection of your favourite pictures – & framed?
Tell MummyI quiteenjoyed the eggs & ate two this morning, without salt, with a few biscuits& they tasted so creamy like, beautiful – and I’m sure they will do me good.
Of course the sisters came to see the fun & oh! I saw the ‘ode sisters’ of No 6 Ward & guessed they’d be somewhat disgusted, if not surprised, on seeing me again.I did make a mistake arter all aboot the ’eddin. The trio [Red White & Blue] was not complete – it is now for I have just had a clean red tie given me.
When I was discharged fromHospitalonSaturday I had to get all my togging on the Sunday – kit & pack & ammunition & rifle etc. All of it had to be handed in again this morning & my khaki clothing disinfected again. So particular they be here,although I had only been in Camp 2 days.
Sergeant Wilkes (a teacher) (6) really thought I had gone to Blightywhen I made my appearance in his tent on Saturday. I will not buoy your hopes up falsely. He said if I had stayed in Hospital & lingered over 4 weeks I should have gone to Blighty automatically – & a chap with the same sores on his legs (only) went to Blighty while I was in 6 Ward, I saw him go.
Hush! Ida!scribble this out with the blackest dye of ink when you’ve read it:- I have endured toothache in the neck – now don’tlarf— that is the best description of the pain of this boil on the back of me neck. For4 nightsrunningI have not had a whole night’s sleep. Just like toothache& as bad too, for toothache does go away sometimes during the day, but this pain lasts all day & night as well.
Dear Ida,I do believe in some sort of transformation (sic) of the minds of people,more especially of relatives (7). You understand my meanin’?I mean that I have no doubt that you overlook my touch of chirpiness& can seein thedepthsof it all that my complaint is not all bluff .
Vernonthought boils didn’t hurt, but I know now. And there are so many cases among the men that one doesn’t get so much sympathy. And dear Idathat is why I do not think for a moment now that I shall come Home through boils.I hope to get up the line with Sydney & then there might be a chance of coming Home on Leave see, more than there is in here.
Now methinks this letter is getting long for the censor. It looks as if I shall have to enclose it in a green.
About my khaki suit being disinfected (8) It is put in a steam chamber with some chemicals in the steam to kill the — never mind!
Well I left a letter to Sydneyin one of the pockets.It was in answer to his I sent you & in it was Mother’s lovely letter and yours. I did want him to read them. I did like to send you his to see how brother writes to brother. It was indeed unique to get a letter sent to me with the triangular Field Postage stamp. I knew t’was from Sydney when I saw it.
Just another thing I should like to tell you & that is you would remember the good old days of the PickwickClub (9) (when you read Miss Edith Evans’ letter I enclosed in Mother’sletter about the childrens’ party in the Cycle Shed, an annual affair? )I mentioned the fact to VernonaboutSydney nicknamed Snodgrass.
When you were in York did you see Mr Walker*?By the by that reminds me, did you send him those Bible markers after all? That is the question you will answer me in your long letter.Oh!but I suppose it is already on the journey now from theLittle Grey Home in the West,from thatlittle white table in the little white room of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (10).
Ta Ta. I remain, dear Pickwick, your affectionate brother at the front.
PSS Have you managed to get through this puzzleof a letter? I have had several goes at smothering my nose in the delicate khaki fabric saturated with Whitby Heather Scent.
(1)’Twiddly bits:Many additional comments tucked in margins/ as well a lots of underlining. (2) ‘Chirpy bits’:mixture of Black Country dialect & childhood language with lots of rhyming words, deliberate misspelling & alliteration:- e.g. scentiment (sentiment) of scent sent; loike-like; th’ beginnin – the beginning; nicenurse-nice nurse; spick ‘n span – tidy/clean/in order/as new; sodjers – soldiers; larf/larfter – laugh/laughter; arfternoon– afternoon; fizog – face; bruvvers – brothers; listnin‘/ singin/ meanin‘- listening/singing/meaning; ode – old; ‘eddin-heading; togging– uniform & kit ; unique – unusual; Ta ta – Goodbye.
(3) Woody: Ida’s nursing friend. (4) Leicester Royal Infirmary, Infirmary Square,where Ida appears to have done basic training, 1914-1915.
(5) The Violin Player: Ida’s copycould be one by Joseph de Camp 1858 -1923 – or The Violinist. 1912. Mary Neal Richardson(American) 1859 -1937. Both paintings would match Ida’s white bedroom.
(6) Serjeant Wilkes: the kind Serjeant referred to in Letter: 5th Sept. 1915. (7) Foden Compound Steam Engine/ Lorry adapted for De-lousing & Disinfecting in WW1. Edwin Foden, Sons & Coy Ltd : British Truck & Bus manufacturer, based Sandbach, Cheshire. 1856. [No connection with Foden Road, named after E.A. Foden, Lord Hatherton’s land agent, responsible for creating Walsall Arboretum 1871]. <http://www.steamscenes.org.uk> Wikipedia. <http://www.1914-1918.invision.com> Great War Forum Old Sweats description.
8)’Transference’ is the word Bertie means (probably not in the full 19th cent theory sense of ‘transference of thought from one person to another without the sensory / physical channels’) but his belief that Ida would understand his ‘chirpiness’ masked a real pain & his bitter disappointment at not getting aBlighty.
(9) Hibbett Pickwick Club (childhood clubbased on Charles Dickens‘ Pickwick Papers):begun at 106, Rowley St. in 1903 (before moving opposite to 95, Foden Rd). Aim: to collect interesting observations and report adventures.
***** Sam Pickwick President: – Ida Hibbett.Editor: Sam Weller – May Overend*. MEMBERS: Augustus Snodgrass – Sydney Hibbett(8 yrs);Tracy Tupman– Bertie Hibbett (7 yrs);Sam Wardle –I. Cozens* (?); Nath Winkle – D. Cozens* (?) *****
10) Ida’s bedroomat 95, Foden Rd. (11) Winkle: Bertie has changed hisPickwick Club membership name.
(12) Crumps: German 5.9 inch shellor loud thudding sound as it burst. ‘the last crump’ meant the end of the War.
LANCE CORP SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
S.W. SLOPE OF HILL 60
7th Sept. Tue:Enemyrepairing parapets damaged by rainstorm, fired on at intervals during the night. Between 11 am and 12 noon enemy fired six crumps (11)behind 35 and 36 supports and at 2.30 pm shelled West end of wood. CASULATY: WOUNDED: 9784 Pte D. Hunt.
NEXT POSTS:10th SEPT. 1915.
The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.