SOUASTRE DIVISIONAL RESERVE.
6th June Tue: Marched to new billets at SOUASTRE , arrived at 10.pm.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT & ARTHUR HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
Hand delivered in envelope addressed: ‘To Dearest Mummy from her loving Bertie’.
I had another volunteer to pose for me for this. Drew it in less than 10 mins.
Tuesday June 6/ 16.
WHEN SHALL I GO ON HOME LEAVE ? This year? Next year? Sometime? Never? Nearing the Top. (1)
My Very Dear Mother & Father & all of you,
Your ripping parcel came this dinner time. I have just read the letter. Am sending this letter with another comrade out of ‘A’ Company who is going today on leave. Remember me writing at Easter saying ‘Let us hope (D.V.) that I shall see you at Whitsuntide’ (2).
All my comrades & Sydney say I shall be going Home this week. The boy who is going today says I follow tomorrow. He lives near Home & said he will take it to my Home if he does not post it. He will most likely tell you I am following him on Leave tomorrow.
You had an idea we were about to go to the trenches! Well as a matter of fact we move from this Place of Rest towards the line today. Time was getting rather anxious about Leave. I have washed a shirt, that comfortable shirt you sent last, so that I can wear it for when I go.
I might go to have tea with Sydney this evening, but on these ‘moving’ days we are busy packing up etc.
I will conclude now. I think I have said too much with regard to Leave. Sydney’s Leave came suddenly but as you seem to be anxious for news of my Leave I have told you as much as is wise to.
We all know of the Naval activities & I am pleased we won (3).
Goodbye for the present. Thanking you all again for your kind wishes.
I see Dodger had a go at printing the label this time.
Your affec. Bertie.
PS Send Ida this month’s Pickwickian Leaflet (4).
The tension & anxiety for Pte Bertie Hibbett must have been almost impossible to bear a hundred years ago – on the move but not knowing where – to ‘Leave Parade’ & Home – to the Front & Battle with always the thought that he might never see his Home again. He plays a childhood game, does a sketch & washes a shirt; homely comforting activities.
(1) Nursery Counting Game: Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief. Fortune-telling Song counting plum stones, daisy petals or grasses etc. to answer questions: What will I be when I grow up? or When will I marry? ‘This year, Next Year Sometime, Never‘. Rould Folk Song Index No 802.
‘Nearing the Top‘ double meaning here for Bertie – ref to nearing the top of the grass and ‘Going over the Top‘ into No Man’s Land and to Battle.
(2) D.V. Deus Vult Latin ‘God wills it’/ ‘God willing’ Whitsuntide: 50 days after Easter (Pentecost/ ‘pente’ Greek for fifty). Major Christian Festival. Celebrates the Gift of Holy Spirit on disciples of Christ. Acts 2.1-31.
(3) Battle of Jutland: North Sea off the coast of Denmark. 31st May -1st June, 1916. Largest Naval Battle of WW1, Both sides claimed Victory, with great loss of life.
Royal Navy, under Admiral John Jellicoe, lost 14 out of 28 battleships and twice as many lives as Germany (which lost 7 out of 16 dreadnought battleships) but British achieved long-term aim to prevent Germany gaining access to Britain & the Atlantic.
(4) Pickwickian Leaflet for June 1916 has not survived.
NEXT POST: 11th June 1916.