24th June. Sat: Seven covering parties (5 ‘C’ Company, 2 ‘A’ Company) were out covering the digging of a new front line trench, in front of the Centre Sector (1). About 12.15 am the enemy opened heavy shell and machine gun fire on the covering and working parties. Our covering parties had 3 killed. 13 wounded. On our own sector the enemy were quiet. We suffered 1 wounded.
CASUALTIES: KILLED: 824 Pte B. Smith; 9081 Pte J.T. Gill; 89 Pte T. Fereday. WOUNDED: 7050 Sgt W. Kinnair; 811 Pte A. Anson; 883 Pte J. Lawrence; 9240 Pte J.J. Davies; 9865 Pte W. Hingley; 8414 Pte S.W.V. Kendall; 468 Pte A. Spencer.; 1249 Pte T.L. Sergent; 955 Pte D. Smith; 1377 Pte A. Lyons; 695 Pte B. Cain; 1252 Pte H. Thorley; 1066 Pte A.E. James; 117 Pte T. Duckers; Self Inflicted Wound 7922 J.H. Dmr Bonnell. U Day. (2)
25th June Sun: Very little retaliation from the enemy to our bombardment. 6-5.9s were fired at 39 – 40 trenches. CASUALTIES: WOUNDED: 8934 L/ Cpl G.S. Walker; 818 Pte G.T. Webb; 99 Pte H. Wassall (Shell Shock). V Day.
‘Keep us, we beseech Thee, under the protection of Thy Good Providence’. Collect for:-
Second Sunday after Trinity, June 25/ 16
‘I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless, Ills have no weight & tears no bitterness’. I triumph still if Thou abide with me.’ Hymn sung at Earl Kitchener’s Memorial Service at St Paul’s Cathedral. (3).
My Very Dear Mother & Father,
I have not much to tell you this Sunday, but shall be able to tell you when I see you.
I have not felt to any extreme today, not so happy & not so unhappy.
Strange how I can bring my mind to all the good old Hymn tunes Dad plays on the piano, in the Drawing Room, so well. ‘Abide with me’ (4) so I heard was the favourite Hymn sung at the Memorial Service for Lord K—-& it has been my favourite since I came out. Another Hymn I happened to come across, in this my old prayer book, was one that takes me back to that sitting room & Miss Brookes’* Fern Leigh Bible Class – and you & I Mum! can adopt the verses to our especial purpose;
‘Thy way, not mine O Lord, However dark it be. Lead me by thine own Hand, Choose out the path for me.
Smooth let it be or rough, It will be still the best. Winding or straight it leads Right onward to Thy Rest.
I dare not choose my lot (now & in the future) Choose Thou for me my God So shall I walk aright.
Choose Thou my good & ill. Not mine, not mine the choice, In things or great or small, Be Thou my Guide, my Strength, My Wisdom & my All.’ (5).
I hope to hear from Ida & Harold shortly & I will write to Basil next.
Best love to all, Bertie.
Pte Bertie Hibbett was in 1/5th S Staffs ‘A’ Company. If he was one of the ‘covering parties’ watching over the ‘working parties’ (frantically digging sap trenches out into No Man’s Land) he would be well aware of the number of casualties, even before the Battle began.
This Letter has a sombre tone. My father must have known full well he was unlikely to get Home Leave now, four days before Zero Hour, hence his decision to keep with him the photos of loved ones in his little khaki case. Once again he finds strength and comfort from thoughts of Home with his father playing the hymn ‘Abide with me’. He writes out in full the hymn ‘Thy way not mine, O Lord’ to share with his Mum.
(1) New Front Line Trench. This was necessary to give protection and reduce the wide stretch of No Man’s Land the troops must cross to reach Gommecourt Wood & Village.
(2) ‘U Day’ / ‘V’Day’: The Battle of the Somme was set for 29th June. The count down has begun.
(3) Field Marshal Earl Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, in 1914, had organised the largest volunteer army in the world. Kitchener was on his way to Russia, to discuss the ‘Big Push’. Tragically he was drowned off the coast of Orkney when H.M.S. Hampshire hit a German mine. 600 killed. His death was a profound shock to the nation.
(4) ‘Abide with me’: Words: Henry Francis Lyte, 1793-1847 (dying from TB): ‘I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless…Where is death’s sting? Where grave thy victory? I triumph still if Thou abide with me’. Based on Emmaus Resurrection story, Luke 24. 13-35 & I Cor 15.55.
(5) ‘Thy way not mine O Lord’. Words (1887): Horatio Bonar, 1808 -1889. Minister Free Church of Scotland.
NEXT POST: 27th June 1916.