Tag Archives: Ecoivres 1916.

21ST APRIL, 1916: ‘FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO’.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

ECOIVRES.

17th Apr. Mon: In Brigade Reserve. Very quiet day. 18th Apr. Tue: Ditto. Enemy artillery active at 4.20 pm and 5.30 pm.  Otherwise quiet19th Apr. Wed: Ditto. Very quiet day.

20th Apr. Thur: Ditto. Battalion relieved by 11th CHESHIRES, relief complete 11.40 pm.

21st Apr. Fri: ECOIVRES  Battalion in Huts by  2.0. am.  Marched to new billets at CHELERS (1) starting 10.0 am arriving 2.15 pm.

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Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. 

Good Friday. Ap 21st 1916.

‘Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves’. (2)

‘Forgive them for they know not what they do’. (3)

My Very Dear Mother,

St Paul's at Crossing
The Crossing at St Paul’s Walsall. East Window, 2001.
St Paul's Interior Walsall
St Paul’s Walsall as the Hibbett Family knew it.

I do hope you too are having sunny Spring weather like we are having today: 

I think the time must be about 11 o’clock so I am picturing you all attending St. Paul’s – the light of the sun is beaming through the windows & giving the interior a bright appearance. It lights up the pew that Mum & Dad, Basil & Ida are in. 

Heleborus Niger (Christmas or lenten Rose).
Heleborus Niger:(Christmas or Lenten Rose).

As I listen to a thrush singing its lovely song in these budding trees it reminds me of you all singing together with the choirboys’ treble voices There is a green hill far away’ (4) and ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ (5). All the bushes & trees are showing new life & the fields look beautiful in their fresh green coat.  I send you some white flowers with a tinge of purple on the back of the petals; they remind me of the Passion Flower (6).

I received your welcome letter of Friday 14th & Palm Sunday,  yesterday (Thursday 20th). How funny that I too wrote to you on the Friday following Harold’s Birthday & again on Palm Sunday & you, like me & Mr W.H. Cozens*, headed our Sunday letters by that familiar name. The Batt. came back to huts last night; I saw Sydney & gave him your letters to read as well as Harold’s, Basil’s & Miss Foster’s; he handed to me the shirt & the handsome three bladed sharp knife, for which I thank you very much dear Mum.

Sydney was inclined to be cross with me (and rightly too, I think too now) for telling you that I should be Home soon. Well I did hear I was included in the next six, but where ‘the STING’ of it all was I forgot at the moment Leave has the ‘knack’ of stopping anytime.

gpembertononline.coukLegionww1Wounded.html FieldAmbulance
Motor Ambulance: gpembertononline.co.uk

You will be thinking of Our Lord’s Heavy burden of the Cross and his long walk with it to Calvary (7).

The Batt: too are most likely on their long march in full pack of about 15 kilometres this morning.  Grateful to say I came by Motor Ambulance – lucky beggar eh?  So I am waiting here for them.

Stourport on Severn. Cast Irton Bridge 1870.
Stourport on Severn. Cast Iron Bridge. Built 1870.

I will wait till Easter Sunday and enclose this in with that.  Harold told me he, Miss Bore & a few friends were going to Stourport today (8); well I hope they will enjoy themselves, but it seems a pity Harold does not have more holiday to enable them to go on another day than Good Friday, eh Mum?

Having been behind them and away from the Batt. I have had some difficulty in getting off letters to Harold, Miss Foster etc.

I have heard that Leave starts again soon, lets hope so.  Oh! I shall see you –  so ‘bide a wee an’ dinna fret’ (9). I think of Our Lord’s saying on His Way to the Cross ‘Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves’ (2).

They said the enemy shook hands with us at Xmas (10); I think they should do so today & more so being Good Friday don’t you?‘Let us forgive one another’ for man doesn’t know what he is doing when he is at War.

* * * * * * *   Continued on Easter Day.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

My father’s Good Friday Letter is full of the language & imagery of the Passion of Christ – seen as an ever-present reality in his experience of War & the pity of War – with Nature the only sign of Life and hope of Easter. 

(1) Chelers: village near Tincques, approx.10 miles (15 km) from Neuville St Vaast & 13 miles (22 km) from Arras. That Pte Bertie went by Motor Ambulance shows he was not fit enough to carry a full pack – 50-58 Ibs in 1914 increased to 70-90 Ibs by 1916 (included steel helmets, wire cutters, respirators & extra ammo).

(2)Weep not for me. . .’ Luke 23.28. Jesuswords to women of Jerusalem on road to Calvary. (3) Forgive them . . . ‘  Word of Jesus from the Cross/ central to the Gospel message. Luke 23.34. Both sayings (in Luke only) proclaim a universal Gospel of Good News/ show Jesus’ unprecedented concern for women, poor, sick & all outcasts of society.

(4‘There is a green hill’. HymnMrs. Cecil F. Alexander. 1818-1895. Inspired by grassy hill outside Derry, Ireland & serious illness of her daughter. Published in Hymns for Little Children, 1848.

(5) ‘When I survey . . . ‘  Hymn. Isaac Watts 1674 -1748. TuneRockingham. Edward Miller. 1790. (Charles Wesley said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one).

Passion Flower. A vine.
Passion Flower. 

(6) Passion Flower: I think he sent home a helebore, as illustrated above.

(7) Calvary. Hill outside Jerusalem city wallsAlso called Golgotha ‘Place of a Skull’. (Greek transcription of Aramaic, Gol Goatha ‘Place of execution’. King James Bible translates Latin ‘Calvariae’ in Vulgate Bible as ‘Calvary‘).

(8) Stourport on Severn. Rapid industrial rise when Staffordshire & Worcester to Birmingham Canal built in 1768. Plenty of history & industrial architecture to interest Harold Hibbett & his friends.

(9) ‘Bide a wee an’ dinna fret. . .’  Leisure Hours. 1878. cf Hibbett Letter 27th March 1916.

(10) Christmas Truce 1914 & 15. See Menu Page.

NB I took a copy of  this letter to Embrace the Base at Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp/ Cruise Missile Base. October 13th 1983. Hung at the Violet Gate celebrating world-wide religious/spiritual messages of peace. e.f.w.

NEXT POST: 23rd Apr. 1916. Easter Day.

 

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9TH APRIL 1915: ECOIVRES CONCERTS: ‘HOW TOMMY CLAPS & LAUGHS!’

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVILLE ST VAAST.

3rd Apr. Mon . Enemy quiet except for sniping.  A 10 pm enemy exploded a mine in front of the 51st Brigade.  Artillery fire for 15 minutes very heavy, our support and communication trenches being in some places considerably knocked about. Our trench mortars and artillery kept up a continual fire all night on the enemy’s trenches.

CASUALTIES:  OFFICER WOUNDED2/Lt A.T. ShortmanOTHER RANKS KILLED: 9676 Pte G. Bate.  WOUNDED8833 Sgt A. Perry; 9248 L/Cpl G. A. Wentworth. 

AVIATIC -C.1became principal German Reconnaissance Aeroplane from 1915. 160hp Mercedes engine.  Max. speed 89mph; ceiling 11,480 ft.
AVIATIC – C.1  became principal German Reconnaissance Aeroplane from 1915.  160 hp Mercedes engine.  Max. speed 89 mph; ceiling 11,480 ft.

4th Apr. Tue:  Enemy Artillery very active 0.65 and 063 being heavily shelledA whiz-bang exploded in O.S. 65 killing 3 and wounding 6.  Our artillery replied effectively and enemy’s shelling ceased.  At 10.20 am enemy aeroplane fell on left of Battalion Headquarters.  Battalion relieved by 1.6th South Staffordshire Regt., relief complete 9.15 pm. Battalion in Rest Huts by 12.15 a.m. 

CASUALTIES:- KILLED: 554 L/Cpl L. Sutton ; 9254 Pte A.H. Price; 938 Pte S. Bates.  WOUNDED:-7519 Sgt F. Madeley; 8236 Corpl A. James; 9147 L/Cpl L.T. Morgan; 1005 Pte E. Badger; 1023 Pte R. May; 7761 Pte A. Gould; 1123 Pte J.H. Perchase.

'Charlie Chaplin' dressed for Trrops Concert Party Ecoivres.
ECOIVRES Divisional Reserve: ‘Jock’ & ‘Charlie Chaplin’  dressed for Concert Party.  Kate  Chambers. <http://www.iwm.org.uk> 

5th, 6th -7th Apr. ECOIVRESIn Divisional Reserve. Battalion Training. 

9th Apr. Sun: Marched to Trenches in relief of 1.6th South Staffordshire Regt. 0.63. 0.64. 065 TRENCHES.

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Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings.

.Champion Ida Hibbett VAD Nurse.
Ida Hibbett.

Treasured Sayings in Letters from Home: Mother re The Mines:

God keep you under the shadow of his wings (1). I will let Miss Foster* know you are safe & sound’.  Ida. ‘How thankful we are to have your precious letter this tea-time.’ 

LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT & ARTHUR HIBBETT.  FPO A 13/  AP 16. Censor J. T. Douglas.

5th Sunday in Lent. April 9/ 16

‘Next to the Sunlight of Heaven is the cheerful face’. Wayside Memories.

My Very Dear Mother and Father,

Our short but enjoyable Rest is soon o’er and we, or rather the Batt, goes into the trenches again tonight for a short time.  I & five others are doing guard behind the line for a ‘Rest’, so dear Mum you have less to be anxious over.

Most likely your parcel you promised to send last Monday will reach the Batt. today.  Should Sydney find it a little difficult to get the parcel to me I have told him to have the contents himself & only keep such things that will keep in a convenient space.  I had a parcel from Aunt Pattie* on Friday & a letter on Saturday.

I admired Sydney’s Photos very much; the carbon tint gives them a High Cla(r)ss effect. I am so sorry I spoilt the only surviving photo of myself & the Sikh during the ‘Bust Up’ (2) – I was going to send it to Miss Foster* if you thought the ‘wee sad look’ would not impress her much.

It is Harold’s Birthday on the 13th is it not?  I suppose my letter, which I wrote him today, will arrive too late, but never mind, better late than never They say I am in the next six for Home Leave so take things in patience & hope & D.V. I shall perhaps spend Easter with you (3).

I will close now, with Best love to all. 

I hope you have had my letter in answer to your combined one from Ida & Basil & Mum.  My next will be to Basil.

Ta ta.  Bertie.

britishmilitarybadges.com CA Hut Fundimages
<http://www.britishmilitarybadges.co.uk&gt;

PS.  We found a Recreation Hut rigged up when we returned from our tour & we have had Sports & Concerts.

You should see the ‘frog eaters’ do the Tango in time with our Band & they do appreciate our Sing Songs so much that one or two gave us a song in their language;  they use more action with their arms & limbs than we do & how Tommy claps and laughs.

Recreation Hut Poperingue.
Recreation Hut Poperingue<http://www.youtube.com&gt;

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

In April, Pte Bertie Hibbett’s ‘Rest’ was Guard Duty at Mont Eloi Monastery behind the Neuville St Vaast lines and later M.P. Duty on the Arras road.

Reading between the lines: – though not recorded as ‘casualties‘ he and the ‘5 others’ down for Home Leave were probably kept back from the trenches on 9th April because they showed signs of ‘shell shock’. In his War Diary 2nd April, my father admits the explosion of German mines underground affected him deeply. He had felt it his duty to be cheerful and to comfort his pals but the strain had taken its toll – that and his trench foot may have earned him his extraRest‘.

(1) Psalm 17.8 & 91.4. Under the shadow of thy wings’ An image of God as a Mother Bird (favourite saying of my father); image also in Genesis 1.2 ‘hovering over the face of the waters’ at Creation and in Mother Hen Parable of Jesus, Matthew 23.37 & Luke 13.34‘How often have I longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood’. A pre-Bronze Age divine image of the Great Mother, before devaluation by patriarchy & the rise of the ‘male‘ God in world religion & mythology. cf The Myth of the Goddess. Evolution of an Image. Anne Baring & Jules Cashford. Viking 1991.

(2‘Bust Up’: German Mines 2nd – 4th April when Pte Bertie lost the remaining photo of his pal Bukhshee Ichbye Singh Waltu in bombed Support Trench. (3) D.V. Latin Deo Volente. ‘God willing’.

NEXT POST: 14th Apr. 1916.

13TH MAR. 1916: ‘WIRE OF CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN HOME & WARWORN FRANCE.’

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

OCCOCHES. 6th Mar. Mon. Battalion marched to new Billets at WAMIN (1).

7th Mar. Tue. Battalion Training. 8th Mar. Wed. Battalion marched to new Billets at MAGNICOURT (2). 9th Mar. Thur. – 10th Mar. Fri. In Billets. Battalion Training.

11th Mar. Sat. Battalion marched to new Billets at AUBIGNY (3). 12th – 13th Mar. In Billets. Battalion Training. Battalion marched to new Billets at ECOIVRES (4).

1/5th South Staffords march to the Front Mar.1916.
1/5th South Staffords’ March to the Front from Occoches (off map bottom left). Mar. 1916. 

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Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT:  

‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’.

March 10th 1916.Mum got a letter from me, rare occasion. Sydney left Derby after being in England on sick leave.’ 

Treasured Sayings in Letters from Home: ‘My head seems so full of things I hardly know what to say. Mother.’

LETTER TO BASIL HIBBETT, 95  Foden Rd.  Walsall.

In the Field.  Monday Mar 13/ 16

‘Next to the Sunlight of Heaven is the cheerful face’.  Wayside Ministries (5).

Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.
Basil Hibbett aged 18. 1916.

My Dearest brother Basil,

Three puffs of an Embassy and I will start ‘mon ecrire encore’. 

Half-a-Mo-Kaiser! Copy of Bairnsfather's cartoon by A.H. Hibbett. 1916.
‘alf-a-Mo-Kaiser! Copy of Bairnsfather’s cartoon by A.H. Hibbett. 1916.

You will think I have caught Writing Fever no doubt, but I have just inwardly digested the QMS Mag you kindly enclosed in Mum’s parcel and consequently I feel magnetised to the ‘Wire of Correspondence’ fixed between ‘Home Sweet Home’ and Warworn France.

Queen mary's Sch
Queen Mary’s School Magazine. Dec. 1914.

What do you think of the articles in the Mag this time?  Do you remember how the ‘Knowalls’ once called it a bore to read them & the Editors had no ‘savvy’ whatever as to ‘Editorial’?

After reading Lieut Thomas’ & Lawley’s account of their experiences (7) & then commencing to read the School Notes, the effect wasvice versa’ as to the time I was at QMS.  Do you compris my meaning?  You, for instance, are sometimes naturally bored a little at reading Editorial letters about School, but the letters from the Front to the QMS Editor are to you ‘tres bien interestant’.  But the vice versa effect was not to the extreme, in fact I was deeply interested in Lawley’s vivid account of the Charge last Sept. (8).

The Debating Society’s Summary  was also jolly to read & I was so struck by it that I wished I could, at the very moment, send something in the way of a contribution, & then I decided to wait until I have Home Leave, at which time I will see if I can give them an Autograph Album after the example of the Spencer Club (9) – for the purpose of the members writing their names in after each Debate, & an illumination on each page.

The Poets in Queen Mary’s School seem to keep up the fine record of blossoming original verse (10).  I should like to send a contribution to the Editor’s Letter Box but I count myself as no great writer & also come to the conclusion my sending a letter to appear in the ‘swanky’ pages of the Mag would have an embarrassing effect.  I noticed your noble name in the list of new scholars under the noble title of School House; which House should be the prouder after the reception of your noble self, what what!

You have some ‘knutty’ ideas & phrases in your letters to me of latethey are worthy of being mentioned in the Magazine.

I will close now.  Although I have written this today I doubt if I shall send it along to you for a time, because I have two letters to send Home.  One to Dad, in reply to his ‘elongated’ envelope & one to Mum, in answer to the parcel of Mar 5, which, as I say again, was an ideal pancake (11).

Ah! dear Dodger, I trust you will use your gifted energy at comforting Mummy & use your tact if you are called up on you coming of 18 years of age.  My best wishes for your success in the exams at School for your sake & Mum’s & Dad’s. (12).

Tell Ida she must send me a written formal apology for saying I am a WEE bit SAD. But of course you quite know it is all a mere joke on my part. Ha Ha!

        Ta ra.  Bertie.

PS  This evening I received a sweet little letter from Molly (13) with her usual beaucoup kisses. She followed my idea of sticking a stamp on the back of the envelope – one of a pussy cat.  I think I have been the cause of renewing that craze, what think you?

TUES. “STOP PRESS”  Got Mum’s letter of Friday about Sydney coming.  Hope he will have a safe journey.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett is now within 25 miles of the Western Front and the trenches of Neuville St Vaast and Vimy Ridge.  

(1) Estree-Wamin: farming village/commune in Pas de Calais (Roman site – ‘estree’ is from ‘strata/street’). 10 miles north from Occoches. (2) Magnicourt-en-Comte: commune in Pas de Calais13.05 miles north from EstreeWamin. (3) Aubigny: commune in centre of Mont St Eloi area. 11 miles south-east from Magnicourt. (4) Ecoivres: hamlet in commune of Mont Saint Eloi. 6 miles east from Aubigny. Total March of 40 miles approx.

(5) Wayside Ministries. Called Wilkinson’s in Letter 17th 1916. Christian Mission literature/under influence of 18th Cent. American Jemima Wilkinson? Quoted in Walsall Church Mag.? (6Lieut ( W.G.?)Thomson & (H.H.?) Lawley. QMS scholars /Info. pending.

(7) Battle of Loos-Hohenzollern Redoubt, 13th Oct. 1915. (8) The Spencer Club. QMS Club?  Bertie Hibbett was fond of creating ‘illuminations’ and after the War he kept an Autogaph Album of drawings, contributions and signatures of friends, some collected during the War.

(9) QMS Magazine December 1914.  SONNET

             Oh hear the wailing cry of agony Which swells above the cannon’s                    sullen roar, Above the piercing sounds of bloody war, And fills the                      hearts with deepest melancholy; Which drowns our feeble cries of                      victory, Whereby, poor thoughtless fools we set such store, Yea,                        opens to our eyes Death’s gaping door, Dark with the growing clouds              of misery.

              It is the sorrowing people’s pained cry, Who mourn the loss of all their               bravest youth, Snatched by untimely death that knows no ruth, E’en               while they fought for Home & Liberty. But better far they should thus               honoured fall Than deaf remain to their dear country’s call. Anon.

(10) ‘an ideal pancake’: ref. to his Mother’s parcel of good things for Shrove Tuesday ‘Pancake Day’. 4th Mar.1916. (11) Senior Oxford Examination Matriculation. (12) Molly Evans. Bertie’s pal Vernon Evans‘ little sister.

NEXT POST: 17th Mar. 1916.