22nd – 30th Apr: Battalion Training.
APRIL CASUALTIES: OFFICERS KILLED.1. WOUNDED 3. OTHER RANKS KILLED. 9. MISSING BELIEVED KILLED. 6. WOUNDED 28. Slightly wounded remained at duty 2. Self Inflicted Wound.1.
Signed: W.A. WISTANCE, Major Cmdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.
Friday April 28th/ 16.
P.S. Trusting this reaches you none too late, if not ‘on the right’. (1)
Oh! Restless Child Wait & See Do not dare be wild – ‘They’ have need of thee. (2)
Mye Jollye Olde Dodger,
I can’t say in this what I mean by ‘they’, perhaps the censor would blush and perhaps do more than that if I ‘let out’, but you know that word covers a lot of reasons. Of course I don’t believe you were all that serious when you spoke of ‘attesting’. (3)
Now:- Dearest, Dutiful, Dodger. Don’t die! Balmy Bertie blubbers badly, Boo bye! Sergeant Sydney swanks splendidly, Shoo shy! (4)
What think you on that? Of course do not dare to show Dad, ’cause as you said we know what Dad is? (perhaps?) but I remember, when I lost my walking stick on the Moors at Goatland sic (5) & had a poetic fit, how Dad behaved when I began to recite my ‘balmy ballad’.
Still these little bits of doggerel have their moral – for instance, although Bertie blubbers (which is a lie) and Sydney swanks (which is true)? Basil must learn from that:- to ‘Consider Mother before either brother’ – and that I think puts the cap on’t.
Yes the Queen of Seasons, bright (6), she finds me still in the War Zone, but bless her, she has cheered us downhearted ones all up, by her gorgeous appearance since Easter began.
Ah! my dear Loidies & Jellyfish (7) who write such pathetic & stinging epistles to the humble self! We have a vast lot to be grateful for although the War will be all over soon (America) (8). Just let your minds run (but take care you catch ’em again) across to Aye joipt (Egypt) & think of those who have been besieged since Dec. 1915 & perhaps have never seen Home for two years or more (9).
The best thing I can tell you to do (the thought is not mine originally) is to do what Mum said to me in a past letter:- ‘When I feel ‘like that’ I go out for a walk, whether it is snowing, raining or what.’ (Now methinks dat’s goot adtvice an’ it don’t cost yer even a ‘penning’ sic (10). Go, bathe thyself in the flood of Spring Sunshine and charm away thy dross feelings with the song of the lark’ – ahem!
My word! the Easter parcel was a ripper, everything that we could desire – an’ above all sent with your combined love. I did larf at the article in the QMS (11) & tried to read as much as I could, those you marked, before I left for the Field Ambulance, where I am still. ‘The hooters that hooted for their own mischievous lust!’
Sydney told me how you’d growed, that explains the meaning of you writing : ‘the expansion due to several causes’ eh? – an’ I doubt not you’ve expanded both in height & width. My word, I can’t allow this! Sydney alarmed me by adding that you were taller than me. I expect you will stand up on your bed on May 1st morning to see if you have gained another inch since you digested your Christmas pudding.
Well I will close now with my best love to Mother & Father & Sister – & Harold I guess: –
Vous avez Bon Native Jour, Je espère.
Votre beloved Bertie.
This Letter shows Pte Bertie Hibbett’s love of dialect, rhyming words and alliteration in his banter with his brother. It had a serious purpose – to persuade Basil not to attest on his 18th birthday – for the sake of their parents. He loved him for wanting to be with his brothers but raw experience had changed Bertie’s attitude to War since he volunteered in Aug.1914. The ‘Big Push’ Battle of the Somme was in preparation and the War might be over before Basil was conscripted.
(1) ‘On the right’ /‘on the right day’ i.e. Basil’s Birthday, 1st May. (2) ‘They‘ – their parents, not the Army.
(3) ‘Attesting‘ – signing up as volunteer in the Army on /after 18th Birthday. cf Hibbett Letters 2nd Mar.1916; 27th Oct 1915. Also http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/derbyscheme.htm.
(4) Doggerel with nonsense rhyme, nevertheless with a serious note/ Bertie was very anxious that Basil did not join up until it was compulsory so as not to add to his parents’ anxiety.
(5) Goathland: North York Moors /near Whitby where Hibbett family went on holiday alternate years. Bertie’s ‘Goatland’ links with ‘giddy goat’. See definition, Hibbett Letter 18th Aug. 1915. (6) ‘Queen of Seasons’ i.e. Easter, from the Hymn ‘Come ye faithful raise the strain’ See Hibbett Letter 23rd April 1916.
(7) ‘Loidies & Jellyfish’: Ladies & Gentlemen. (8) America: hopes appear to have been high for American intervention but it took two years (after the sinking of the Lusitania by German submarine, 7th May 1915, when 128 Americans went down with the ship) before the USA entered the War, 6th April 1917.
9) B.E.F. Campaign in Egypt: April 1916 saw the building of a railway across the Sinai Desert to serve Allied advance on Ottoman/German forces at Battle of Romani 3-5th August 1916. See Long Long Trail.
(10) Walk to lift one’s spirits when restless/ down hearted/troubled. ‘That’s good advice and it doesn’t cost you a penny’. (11) Queen Mary’s School Magazine , April 1916 Number?
NEXT POST: 1st May 1916.