March 1st 1.30 am. Entrained by half Batt. arrived SOUTHAMPTON8.15 am detrained on Wharf. Transport sent straight to Rest Camp. 72 horses and only 21 men allowed to remain to look after them. Batt. remained in Wharf sheds for night.
English Horse Trucks unsuitable for Clydesdales unable to pack them close enough , as the animals are too long, consequently 5 horses fell & got trampled in the trucks on the journey, this caused this delay.
The bright blue sky overhead – the big ships at the quay side and the choppy water made everything breezy and pleasant. There is a Red Cross Steamer in the harbour, painted with white and red.
Everyone is trying to write letters – on each others hats, against walls & seats & boards – seated anywhere. Others are drinking coffee.I had a cup – tasted as though it had been made with sea water! Had one of Mrs Penning’s cakes to take the taste away. Mrs Penning* was very kindand made ussausage rolls – lovely pastry. She is sending my parcel carriage forward.
This morning reminds me ofErnest Lagden*. I had a letter from him. I believe I told Mother he is ill with rheumatism.
Sid and I were on guard the Thursdayhe heard ofLeave (2) & I heard Sid was the smartest and tallest & neatest. He had his bayonet shown on high as an example of cleanliness.
I will close now. Look out for a censored Field Postcard.I do not know when we shall embark.
Ta Ta. Best of luck in the exam. Bert.
PS Yes I remember you saying that it was a year ago that you were confirmed. Thank Mrs K. Brookes* for her PC and tell her we are not allowed to say where we are in the field, but I will send a Field P.C.
I bought some apples, oranges and bananas, as well as biscuits so I shall be all right.I shall not be able to say much, if anything at all, except that which is on the P.C.
All good wishes, Bert.
(1) Clydesdale: draught farm horse to drag heavy guns & equipment. (Usually bay colour with white marking /cross between Scottish mare & Flemish stallion). Photos: website: The Role of Horse in World War One.
(2) Sydney must have been on very short Home Leave when Bertie wrote Ida’s PC. 24th Feb.1915 & hoped he could bring the Eng.French Conversation Book.
Pte BERTIE: Long Letter, Part 2 (Pages 14 – 26) to BASIL HIBBETT; in which he also answers a letter from his Mother.
Saturday Dec 12/ 14
Have just read Mother’s lovely letter which was very homely & interesting. I thought a great deal of it. How long it was /is too, 3 pages. In fact I was so eager and delighted that I read it while waiting for my pay. I hurriedly screwed it as carefully as I could in my pocket before going up to the Capt: Ha! Ha!
The 1st question in it – personally tired? Yes that’s all I’ll say to that!
As to why I could not eat the pontoon (1) was like this:- We waited & waited & waited till the 50th time, of going down to the bottom of the Street to the Cuckhus, we met a Pte who said it had to be sent away – the pontoon was so bad – the water was quite green – well all we could do was to wait for tea, in patience. We made up for it by having a good tea.
Sydney got the letter & P O and will most likely write. The name of the people at 52, Tavistock St. Luton is Mrs HOAR (2). Perhaps she did not know if she was right in sending the parcel carriage forward by train or through the G.P.O. I really must write a lot plainer. So you got Ida’s letter then, I can tell from Mother’s letter.
So you are acting again this Xmas – Ah! – we (you & I) did not know last that this coming Christmas will be spent more preciously – & what would happen before it comes. I remember well the last (school) plays, Henry Vth & ‘Thesbe’.
It must have been raining all over England this last 2 days or so. I can picture Ida knitting away before the fire busily at my old mitt. Ah! if we are not at home by Christmas we shall treasure a welcome box of mince pies etc. but I hope we shall all spend a Real Christmas i.e. all the Family together again on Christmas Day. But I am doubtful about Christmas Day – we might have to wait a few days later; if so I hope we hit on Ida’s Birthday(3).
If Mother chances to read this letter she will see queerly how I have followed her letter. I have got it close to me. I have learned from experience, for I know I have tried to think of things that you want answered but alas I’ve forgotten so I will keep the letters & pull them out when writing to you. I have always kept a little pile of the most interesting letters in my pocket to read on a day off, or to refer to.
Time will soon come when our letters will be censored i.e. when we get nearer the coast, then we shall not be able to say what we like, especially where we go & are staying at, etc etc. – but one thing – we need not pay postage.
The PCs issued to us free are queer things, all printed, & the sender has to cross off what he isn’t & leave what he is – like this:- I am ill. I am well. Received your letter last & so on.
When I went to Luton my geography was so badthat I could not tell where we were, & all the time – up till now when I have just got 2 maps. I will send you one & then you will be able to follow our travels until that wicked censor comes along. (N.B. I will send you both & the one you don’t want send back).
Sid has gone with Vernon to Cambridge – what oh! swank. Vernon knows, or rather at one time had an interview with the Head of Keys College, Cambridge. I hope they’ll manage it all right – straight road from S.Walden. I shall larf if an M.P. gets hold on ’em. They hired two brand new cycles for the afternoon from 2 till 9 pm.
Sydney & I got the lovely handsome presents from Miss Kathie (4) – it was really very kind of her, they will come in so handy & useful, just fit the haversack, so we shall be able to take them to the Front if we go. They will last a long time & stand some of the rough handling which ‘they’ must make up their ‘ minds’ for, but shame!
(Page 21 -still strong!) – I will take the greatest care of mine if Sid doesn’t – leather too by jinks! You will be sure to express to her my deepest thanks for her kindness. Miss Kathie said in the interesting little letter she enclosed that I need not write to thank her. I will tell you the exact words – wait a mo! while I get it out. She sais ‘Please do not bother to write & thank – they are not worth it (ba! to this) & I know you will have no time for that kind of thing.’ I will enclose her letter for it’s worth reading – show Mummy & then send it back don’t forget.
It’s a miracle Dear Ida got my letter. I did not notice the address until Mrs Penning here pulled it out of a drawer & showed it me at tea-time today. She is keeping the wrapper for a “keepsake”.
Ha! Ha!How dare the Reserves come up equal to us – who should pop in the kitchen – come right through the front room & into the kitchen where I was writing this letter, but who do you guess it was? – why Alan Machin*. He did look well & we had a good little chat – told him about Sid etc & I heard the “Dads” are getting on well in the Volunteer Corps (5).
Been on ration service – just when about to have a comfy tea. Had to carry 170 loaves in a blanket with 3 other Ptes along 2 streets. – nearly pulled my arms out – never mind, all in the day’s run. Ha! Ha! again I say, but no!
Sorry Dad’s letter was too late, but no more bother at Bishop’s Stortford – “ne’er more a the sight a the Corn Exchange fa me, nor thank you!” (6)
Well – I have really forgotten what I wrote first & have written since I started – in this short letter. I hope I’m not repeating myself. Alas! I’m beginnin’ to see I’m backsliding into scribble. I thought you would be interested in the district paper here & read about the Herts Terriers and the queer names of Ware, Sawbridgeworth, Widdington (where we went to dig trenches) Thaxted(dy), Stansted(dy) etc. (7).
I better close now & reserve some news for the future. I guess Sid will not help repeating news I’ve written, but I’ve stolen a march on him this time. All success to the play & how goes de eggsham (7)? Don’t forget about thanking Miss K Brookes. I feel strongly tempted to do now – to just write a line of thanks on her paper she sent, but I guess Sid will, or rather I give Sid the chance, be’in as I’ve written to K. before.
All good wishes to you & the rest.
With Fondest Love,
(Page 26 – even more!)
PS I will only leave Sid to say what he’s done at Cambridge. I’ll be determined to beat the record. I’ve got the time & its a pleasure sure an’ enough ’tis.
The Captain (Lister) told us that all ‘A’ Coy. must parade tomorrow (Sun) as he would like all his Coy (‘A’ Coy) to have a photo taken of them. Mr Penning is very interested in reading the Walsall Observer sent to Evans. He has just asked me if that was my Dad’s name as he pointed to the report on the Baths (8). Well I don’t think Sid will have an easy job to beat me!
Goodbye for the pres.Bert.
(1) Pontoon: School Boy/Army slang for Soup. (2) Luton Landlady: blankets appear to have been lost in transit home to Walsall. (3) Ida’ Birthday: 28th Dec. Holy Innocents’ Day. (4) Miss Kathleen Brookes, Sunday School Superintendant. Gift/ possibly a leather writing pad or wallet. (5)Volunteer Corps: Town/ Home Guard – forerunner to WW2 ‘Dad’s Army’.(6) Ref. perhaps to ArthurHibbett’s letter of complaint regarding unsuitable Corn Exchange accommodation at Bishop’s Stortford, which appears to have caused so many colds. (7) Bertie loved such play on words. (8) Arthur Hibbett’s interest in Walsall’s Swimming Association. (See Menu: Walsall Education).
NEXT POSTS: 13th Dec. 1914: Saffron Walden: Church Parade. 16th Dec. 1914 : German Raid on Whitby.
The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.