Tag Archives: Dreams & Phantoms.


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’.



South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


15th -18th Dec 1915. Platoon & Company Training continued.

19th Dec. Sun: Marched to billets at ISBERQUES sic (1).

Bertie in Uniform

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to BASIL, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

Sunday Dec. 19/ 15

My Dear Basil,

Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.
Basil Hibbett at 18 yrs. 1916.

How dare such a reflection of trench life reach as far as you on the muddy footer field, larst SaterdiHad you waders (2) on any of you?  For us there were not enough to go round so some had to ‘grin & bear it’.  I was one on ’em & so in conseq: but chiefly through the march that Sunday (3), the day after we left the trenches, this Sunday finds me in Hospital with sore feet & other sores.  So that answers your first request in your jolly delightful letter of last Sunday.

Sydney, Bertie and Basil.
Sydney, Bertie & Basil in tent on Abergele Beach.  August 1914.

I wonder where you are at this very minute. I am sitting in a sunshiny room at a table in the centre & trying to scribble you some enjoyable Tosh (4)

All your letters have been delightfully interesting and full of jollityMy word, Basil, you write as good & as bad as I do, so Q.E.D.  I can read them delightfully well, but poor Sydneydon’t joke about him beingyeller’ (5), yet of course I quite see you took it in all good humour.  Your other request was a smileso I cut myself out of the photo of us three taken in the tent at Abergele (6).

Yes, the Trio (7) that kept so long together at Luton, & out here, are parted for Christmas & I am sorry I could not convey your kind thoughts to Vernon.

Alladin Lamp gas mantle.
Alladin Lamp Gas Mantle.
American Wall Gas Lamp.
American Wall Gas Lamp.

Again to your jolly letters, I shan’t forget your dream of Dad, Mr Boothroyd* & the Gas mantle (8).


One of my good wishes to you this Christmas is that you have happy dreams without disappointing awakenings.  Don’t grind your teeth – Dodger dreams a dream on New Year’s Eve, he walks down stairs & when he gets half way he sees a masked phantom (9) within the porch.  In the dining room Mum is writing one of her usual long letters (at the late hours of the night) to one of her boys at the front.  She has written  . . .      (end of Letter is missing)



This is the first of Four Christmas Letters Pte Bertie wrote to members of his Family whilst in Merville Casualty Clearing Station. The trench foot & boils that had kept him in Rouen from August to October had returned (probably had never gone away). All three of the Trio, Sydney, Vernon & Bertie were now in Hospital and separated for Christmas. The disappointment must have been intense, with not even the hope of a Christmas Parcel or Letter from Home to cheer him. In his Letter to Basil he hides his misery and his serious condition with banter, dreams and a ghost story. 

(1) Isbergues. Isberques: 10 miles (19 km) NW of Bethune. Connected to the English Channel & North Sea by Canal d’Aire. Pte Bertie must have been judged unfit for this march of 11 miles from Rue des Vaches and sent straight to the Brigade’s Casualty Clearing Station.

(2Trench Waders Imperial War MuseumGhosts of 1914. <https://www.ghostsof1914.blogspot.com&gt;

Trench Waders.
Trench Waders.

(3) 5th Dec. 1915: 6 hour waterlogged March from Neuve Chapelle to Rues Des Vaches. (4) ‘Tosh’: nonsense/ rubbish’. 

(5Sydney’s ‘Yeller’ (yellow) skin caused by Jaundice/ infection of the liver (Catarrhal Jaundice).  (6) Abergele Holiday Photo. August 1914. 

(7) ‘The Trio’: Sydney Hibbett, Vernon Evans & Bertie Hibbett. cf. Letters from Sept 1914 to end of Feb. 1915/ Training in Bedfordshire & Essex.

(8) Gas Mantle. Gas Lamps had fragile mantles, lit by matches. (9Masked Phantom: possible ref. to gas masks just issued. See Drawing 20th Dec. 1915.

NEXT POST: 19th Dec. 1915: No 2. Letter to Ida Hibbett.