Tag Archives: Fonquevillers 1916.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

HUMBERCAMP.  29th June Thur: In Rest Billets. Y1 Day. [Editor: originally ‘Z Day’ / bad weather caused delay of two days.]

30th June.  HUMBERCAMP.  In Rest Billets. Y2 Day. The Battalion paraded at 11.30 pm to proceed to trenches to carry out operations against hostile positions in GOMMECOURT WOOD, VILLAGE and PARK.  

SUMMARY of CASUALTIES IN JUNE 1916: OFFICERS: Killed 1. WOUNDED 2OTHER RANKS: Killed 14. Wounded: 37. (1 returned to duty). SHELL SHOCK: 7 . (4 returned to duty). TOTAL CASUALTIES: OFFICERS: 3 (1 Self Inflicted Wound). OTHER RANKS: 58.

Signed: J. LAMOND  Capt & Adjt. Cmdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment.                      *****************************


July 1st 1916.  Battle of the Somme.

137th Infantry Brigade was ordered to attack Gommecourt Wood and Village at a point in front of the British line, 4 miles north of Beaumont Hamel looking towards Bapaume. The Infantry Brigade was ordered to commence at 7.30 in 4 waves.

After intense barrage from our artillery, covered by smoke barrage, the men advanced to the enemy’s first line.  It was penetrated by ‘D’ Company of 1/6th S. Staffs.  Other companies were not so successful.  Intense artillery fire plastered the attack.  Intense shrapnel barrage was directed by enemy observers, as it followed our troops as they moved forward. Other small parties were able to enter the enemy’s lines but couldn’t obtain a permanent footing there. Others were held up by the enemy’s wire where it had not been so well cut. ’

‘From dawn to long after noon our men endured this awful fire, but the ground penetrated could not be held and by evening the brigade was back in the old trenches.’

GOMMECOURT: The British Front Line (blue) & German Front Line (red). 1st July 1916. 1/5th S. Staffords’ Objective: A B & C in Gommecourt Wood (centre right) from Assembly Trenches (bottom left). ‘The Z‘ is marked above A B & C Objectives.Red Arrows indicate oblique/ enfilade fire.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

1st July Sat: FONQUEVILLERS. 2 AM. Battalion proceeded to trenches and took up position in Assembly Trenches prior to operations. 7.30 AM Operations against GOMMECOURT WOOD and VILLAGE. See Appendix 1. Editor: Attack on northern flank of German 2nd Guard Reserve Division (under General Freiherr von Subkind-Schwend) and Baden Infantry Regt. 170 (BIR) of 52nd Division (under Generalleutnant Karl von Barries).

2nd July Sun: 3.30 AM. Left Assembly Trenches and occupied Corps Line Trenches 1 mile EAST of SOUASTRE. 12.30 PM Marched to SOUASTRE. 8.PM. Marched to BERLES-AU-BOIS [Ed: a commune 7.8 km (4.5 miles) from Fonquevillers, beyond Monchy-au-Bois].



The Battalion was in position in the Assembly Trenches by 4.30 AM.

All waves moved forward as ordered. 2nd wave ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘F’ Bombing Parties reached the German Front Line with very few casualties and commenced bombing in accordance with programme. 3rd wave ‘C’ and ‘G’ Bombing Parties. Only ‘G’ Party got into the German Front line.  ‘C’ party did not get beyond the enemy wire. Only two men were left, the remainder were struck by shrapnel.

NO MAN'S LAND, CEMETERY FONQUEVILLERS:  WOODEN CROSS inscribed: " Unknown Sergeant, S. Stafford". Photo: Basil Hibbett 1920.
NO MAN’S LAND, CEMETERY FONQUEVILLERS:  WOODEN CROSS inscribed: ” Unknown Sergeant, S. Stafford”. Photo: Basil Hibbett 1920. These burials were later moved to Gommecourt Wood New Cemetery in the early 1920s.

Serj. SydneyEditor: Serjeant SYDNEY HIBBETT was most likely leading his platoon in the 1st or 2nd Wave. He was reported to have fallen in No Man’s Land, probably in the first half hour. Someone found him severely wounded and gave him a drop of water, but could not stay. Later in the day he was found to have died from his injuries. His body lost its identity in further shelling. It would have been a few days before it was safe to bury him where he fell, with a simple prayer by a Chaplain, and a Wooden Cross placed over him with the inscription ‘Unknown Serjeant, S. Stafford’. 

4th wave ‘D’ and ‘E’ Bombing Parties were held up at the enemy wire, and retired to a hollow in the ground about 50x from the German wire. Our detail of the 5th wave was impeded by the Lewis Gun teams of the 6th South in the Old Front Line.  The Officer Commanding decided to pass them and went forward to the New Front Line, where he found 1 officer and about 20 other ranks 6th South of the 2nd wave, who stated they had had to retire. He sent this party forward, deployed his portion of the 5th wave and some of the 6th and advanced until compelled to halt owing to casualties just in front of the German barbed wire.

The left platoon of our detail of the 6th Wave report that portions of the 3rd and 4th waves 6th South were still in the New Front Line Trench and blocked their further advance during the remainder of the operation. [Ed: New Front Line Trench dug during night/s before Z Day to get troops further across ‘unusually wide’ No Man’s Land at Zero Hour]

The Officer Commanding our detail of the 7th Wave Capt. Eglington*, deployed and advanced over the New Front Line Trench, and about 20 yards from the German wire this officer was killed. No further progress of any note was made.

The 8th Wave did not advance beyond the Old British Front Line.

The Reserve Company was held up by 3 parties of R.Es in NOTTINGHAM STREET from 7.40 AM until noon, about 500 yards from the firing line.

About 5 minutes after Zero [Ed: i.e. 7.40 am] the Communication Trenches NOTTINGHAM STREET – SEDGELEY STREET – and DERBY DYKE were heavily shelled with 105 mm H.E. inflicting several casualties on the 6th and 7th waves damaging these trenches and thus impeded their advance.

Bertie in UniformEditorPte Bertie Hibbett was severely wounded in Derby Dyke about this time, having lost his way in the confusion of the bombing. His Walsall pal, Corp. Arthur Venables*, (killed later that day) saved his life by dressing his wound but then had to move on. Forced to tread on the dead & the dying, Bertie had to make his way back against the oncoming waves – – to the First Field Dressing Station in the Crypt of Fonquevillers Church.

The enemy opened fire with machine guns, one in FORD trench, and one in their first line parapet on GOMMECOURT ROAD on our advancing waves.

The New Front Line trench was under oblique machine gun fire from the direction of The Z till about 9.30 AM. The guns then moved and enfilade fire was brought to bear on that trench. [Ed: see arrows on Gommecourt Front Line Diagram above]

The Old Front Line and retrenchment was under heavy 77 mm gun fire during the early part of the operation. The batteries were firing from behind ESSARTS. [Ed: (Essarts, Boucres, a commune (3.3 km) 2 miles away from Fonquevillers, towards Arras].

The SUCRERIE was hit by our own shells (4.5 howitzer) about 11.0 AM. [Ed: The Sucrerie: foundation of old Sugar Factory in No Man’s Land, in front of Gommecourt Wood New Cemetery.]

About 2.0 PM the shelling of our sector diminished.

Enemy barraged our Front Line and Communication Trenches with 77 mm and 105 mm from 3.30 PM to 4.30 PM.

In addition to orders issued by Major Abadie* for the attack timed for 3.30 PM. I issued the following orders to the battalion.

Add all details of previous waves from this morning’s attack to new 3rd wave. Take forward all Lewis Guns you can find.  Instruct first wave to take all men forward they find in the New Front Line. Officers and N.C.Os must reconnoitre with periscopes all gaps in our wire and in the hostile wire so as to be able to lead the men through’.

Issued 2.30 PM.  Signed: J. LAMOND.  Capt & Adjt. 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.



PROBLEMS FACING ATTACKING TROOPS. Trench System Diagram  <https://www.educ-sparticus.com&gt;

A Diversionary tactic, to draw German troops away from  the french Army attack on Verdun, the 1/5th & 1/6th Staffordshire Regiment’s Gommecourt attack was doomed to failure from the start. On 24th June, a 1/5th N. Staffords soldier, captured & injured, gave the Germans details of the British Attack under interrogation.
Trench System educ.-sparticus.

Gommecourt Village (9.3 miles from Albert) is built on ‘4 flat-topped ridges in shape of a flattened X (the ends pointing towards Essarts, Rossignol Wood, west side of Hebuterne & eastern fringe of Fonquevillers)’. The German Front Line on the north-west side of this Gommecourt Salient overlooked 2,000 yards of the British Front Lines.  British Assembly Trenches were in very poor condition from rain & shelling. Communication telegraph wires & substituted alignment tapes were cut by German bombing. Troops were impeded by smoke screen & deep mud in an ‘unusually wide’ No Man’s Land.

 Germans emerged from very deep dugouts (electric light & underground kitchens) completely unscathed when British barrage ceased. Troops were caught in enfilade/ crossfire from both ‘The Z’ and the corner of Gommecourt Salient/ Gommecourt Road. Very few Staffords got beyond the wire into the German Front Line Trench. It was a very hot day.

For further detail see: A Lack of Offensive Spirit. Alan MacDonald /website <https:// en-wikipedia.org /Attack on Gommecourt Salient> & many other sites.

NEXT POST: 1ST JULY 1916: Fonquevillers Church Crypt: First Field Dressing Station & Army Chaplains.  

NB: The 1st July posts have been delayed by my visit to the Battlefields at Gommecourt & the grave of my uncle Serjeabt Sydney Hibbett ‘Believed to be Buried’ in Gommecourt Wood New Cemetery.

I was delighted to meet and exchange stories with so many people on 1st July – 4th July: French , Belgian, English, American & Canadian. If there are any inaccuracies in this post I would be very pleased to hear from you. EFW. 7th July 2016.


Preface Title Page: 'Sniper Atkins composed by a Sniper during a tour in the Trenches and Illustrated with original drawings from the pen of the same'. Signed 'Sniper Hibbett'.

Bertie in Uniform


Composed by a Sniper during a tour in the Trenches and Illustrated with original sketches from the pen of the same. 


In the Field. May 1916.

These verses of “doggerel” (for I cannot claim to be a poet like Shakespeare of whom we are commemorating the Tercentenary) formed the outcome of that species of fever which generally comes over those people poetically inclined about this time of year, & that is how Tom, Dick, Harry & Harriet, the four typical names of the common majority in the Poetry World got their title of ‘Spring Poets’.

Every time the season of Spring comes along, it is not at all rare to find an increase in poetry. The bright Sunny weather, and the sight of everything in nature starting afresh seems to fill the whole atmosphere and sky with poetry.  Everyone’s mind is fresh this time of year, & I believe inventors shine forth in Spring.  One cannot keep idle for long during the Bright invigorating Season, & so the mind must work when the body is not at work. 

How I came to write these verses was after hearing some rhyme written by a comrade. I thought I too would compose, & so while away my spare time in the trenches. My subject easily came to mind, and after much scribbling & correcting, which lasted for a week or so, the following verses came into being. 

During the last days of the tour in the trenches, I started illustrating the poem from the comic pictures in the “ Bystander”, but I could not bear to be a copyist of Capt. Bairnsfather, & it was not long before I drew something original, but not without copying Bairnsfather’s features. The frontispiece was a life drawing, while the two on the back page were drawn having some of my comrades to pose for me.

The quaint slang the reader will find out is frequent amongst Tommies in my Regiment. The joke over loading the rifle: “Placing five rounds in tin can & then one up the chimney or spout” is often heard, & anyone serving in the Batt. will confirm the fact.

Illustration for 'Sniper Atkins' doggerel by Arthur H. Hibbett May/Ju ne 1916.
‘Sniper Atkins’. Arthur H. Hibbett. May 1916.

 “Fritz” is the name Tommy calls the enemy, while the officers use the more swanky name of “Bosche”. 

The “Old Fritz” is in fact exaggerated somewhat in the sketch. But as for seeing old men, with white hair & bent backs carrying their packs  – & the remark an officer made that “ he wouldn’t shoot him for worlds”  – is quite true. 

The verse about the Kaiser was written while the fair copy was being made. Little children would think it funny not having something without the Kaiser in it. So I leave it to the reader to give his opinion if it is really “complete” yet.  

Yours faithfully Sniper Hibbett.

Sniper Atkins.

Sniper Atkins Title Page: ‘Wait & See’. A.H.Hibbett. Yours Faithfully Sniper Atkins. ‘A few verses from my pencil written in the trenches during the Reign of Good King George V.’

Sniper Atkins inside pages

Sniping Allemandes all day long, To the tune of British guns. Coolly sniping with a song, Sending ‘Greetings‘ to the Huns. 1 shot. 2 shots. 3 shots. 

Sniper Tommy pots a Bosche And gains a ripping goal. And he sees                   him dive – splosh ! Down his muddy hole.  I shot. 2 shots. 3 shots. 

Placing 5 rounds in tin can. Then another up the spout; Tommy spies another man So gives the Bosche an awful clout. 1 shot. 2 shots. 3 shots.

Sniper-Atkins-binocularsTommy has a lucky ‘go’, His sharp eye spots the Kaiser. Tommy says -‘Just ‘arf a mo‘ Take this to make you wiser’. 1 shot. 2 shots. 3 shots. 

Atkins with his glasses spies A Jerry working party. Keenly marks it with his eyes, ‘Just wait and see me hearty‘. 1 shot. 2 shots. 3 shots. 

Opponent snipers in some trees, Little knowing of their fate, When Tommy snipes at what he sees They’ll sing no more their hymn of hate‘. 1 shot. 2 shots. 3 shots. 



From early morning with the lark At his occupation, Tommy carries on till dark Giving Bosche inoculation. 1 shot. 2 shots. 3 shots.

To serve His Majesty the King Tommy gives his heart & will But does not always care to sting Poor Old Fritz with leaden pill. 1 shot. 2 shots. 3 shots.

Three more rounds T. A. has got “Will he dare to waste them?” – no So at a periscope he’ll pot To “bust” the thing all up for show. Crash Bang CRASH!


Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett 1965‘MY MEMORIES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR’.


During that time I was detailed off to do an official drawing of the German Front Line, showing Gommecourt Village and Wood with the Sunken Road beyond, the German enfilade trench and with all the trees as exact as I could. This was my small contribution in preparation for the ‘Big Push’.

I had the use of a periscope, and was disguised as a sandbag in case I had to look over the top of the trench to see the formation of the trees and the trenches more clearly.  It was while I was making this sketch that I saw some very old German soldiers, with long white beards, using mechanical excavators in their front line, and making great loads of earth fly up in the air. I also spotted a dead cow’s head, which I presumed was used as a German sniper’s post.  I feel pretty sure that it was from there that our parapet was peppered with German bullets whenever I attempted to put up my periscope. 

“Keep away from Hibbett” was the general cry.



My father in ‘My Memories’  describes his official drawing of No Man’s Land & Gommecourt Wood as ‘my small contribution in preparation for the Big Push’. It was however a very important contribution. His drawing would have been sent to HQ and all officers & serjeants would have been made familiar with it and memorized it. Sadly a precious copy my Dad brought back from the War disappeared at a Toc H Exhibition in Skegness in 1967.

Tommy Hibbett’s ‘heart & will‘ was to serve his King but like the Officer in the Preface ‘he does not always care to fill ‘Poor Old Fritz with leaden pill’.  He would rather draw or write a poem.

The work of a Sniper was a very dangerous one but, in ‘Sniper Atkins’, Pte Bertie Hibbett makes a joke of it to amuse his pals. He makes light of the danger he shares with his enemy sniper. It was ‘killed or be killed’.  There is evidence that my  father was a ‘good shot’ almost as good as his brother. When as a child I asked him how many people he had killed in the War he said, with look of awe on his face, that he thought he ‘might have killed one‘ – I saw a German helmet, took aim, heard a shout and the helmet disappeared’.  My father must have caused many deaths when he was collectively throwing grenades in the crater warfare of Hill 60 & Vimy Ridge. But perhaps the only time he felt personally responsible for another man’s death was out in No Man’s Land, opposite Gommecourt Wood, in the days before the Battle of the Somme. 

The Revd. A.H.Hibbett, Louth 1960s.
The Revd. A.H.Hibbett, Louth , Lincolnshire. 1960s.


NB. My father made several illustrated copies of ‘Sniper Atkins‘ which he sent Home to his family & to special friends. He was glad to have it received favourably by the Officers.

NEXT POST: 23rd June 1916.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


11th May Thur:  Very Quiet day. Casualty: No. 8434 L/ Corporal S. Goode wounded.

12th May Fri: Very Quiet day. Casualty: No. 957 Pte J. Bird (attached 182 Tunnelling Company R.E. ) found drowned (1).

13th – 15th May. Very Quiet day.

Gommecourt Village, Park & Wood today from the air, with Fonquevillers beyond upper left.
Gommecourt Village, Park & Wood today from the air, with Fonquevillers beyond, upper left. <http://www.mikemccormac.com&gt;

16th May Tue: Enemy bombarded our left at 12.30 am to 1.20 am.  300 shells of all descriptions dropped on or in the vicinity of GOOCH STREET (2) communication trench from K.3b 6.9. No.6 post to battalion Headquarters K3a 8half.9hals. No. 4.5. and 6 posts were trench mortared but no direct hits were obtained on these posts.  Our field guns retaliated with about 150 shells on GOMMECOURT PARK. CASUALTIES: No. 8373 Pte R. Harris and 9724 Pte G. Bradford wounded. MAP REF. SHEET 57 D.N.E. 1 and 2 (parts of).

17th May Wed: V. Quiet day.                                                                                   

British & German front Lines at Fonquevillers/ Gommecourt.
British & German Front Lines at Fonquevillers/ Gommecourt.  <http://www.derbyshireterritorials.wordpress.com> 


 Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to HIBBETT FAMILY, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. Censor W.E. Wright.

My hand shall hold him fast: and my arm shall strengthen him.’  Psalm 89. (3)

‘I shall thank thee O Lord My God, with all my heart & will praise Thy name for evermore.  Psalm 86 for:-

Wednesday May 17th/ 16.    ‘Mafeking relieved’ (4).

My Dear People,

What an interesting, thrilling, exciting and most dramatic book, so full of romance.  Chapter XXIFinislast night and now for:-  

Chapter XXII. 

Within the paragraphs of Chapter XXI we read  the Climax of an exceedingly eventful story.  Like some exciting tales, that end abruptly and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination, so Chapter XXI of Sydney’s Life Story concluded with an instance leaving me to imagine what he was doing. 

Now we begin to read with deepest interest the 22nd Chapter.  We feel as though we very much wish to turn over some pages to see what is coming.  But ah! that cannot be with this marvellous Book. It would be wrong if we did not control our wish to foresee what events will happen. Let us be content to read line by line as each day comes and goes & then we shall find we can enjoy the story to the full.

Well Chapter XXII looks very promising at any rate.  A lovely, exquisitely beautiful, bright morning.  Everyone I met on my way to my Sniping Post greeted me with joviality.  The cuckoo would not be left out of it, to just tell me again & again that today is Sydney’s Birthday.  Cuckoo, cuckoo – cuckoo.  I heard the cuckoo (first for the year) on Thursday, May 11th, when Miss Brookes* wrote a PC & told me I could keep Sydney’s cigs & not to blame me sen.

Since I wrote to you last Sunday and addressed the green to Ida, our Champion Adviser, Counsellor, Comforter and Sooth-sayer, I had just sent it in when on that morning I received a delightfully written letter from Mr Darling* (5). He, like Ida, calls a cold the ‘flue’ and he was laid in bed about Easter; of course he went to the services. I should guess it would be ‘horrid’ for him to preach with the ‘flue’.  He appears to be having a very pleasant & bright time of it, yet I have always had the idea, since the War started, that a clergyman’s life is equally as & even more (& most likely the latter than the 1st) hard than Tommy’s in the trenches (& most likely the latter than the first)I mentioned what Basil said about Psalm 77 – ‘The earth was moved & shook withal’  in my letter in answer to his. Oh! it is just lovely in the trenches & reminds me of last year at this time.

2nd Lieutenant's uniform.
A 2nd Lieutenant’s uniform. <http://www.pinterest.com&gt;

Jolly old Sanger*. On hearing of him being in the vicinity I became jolly keen to see him & have a talk together.  Two days or more passed without my expectation being fulfilled; at larst I caught sight of the man.  I could see he looked well & as strapping as he was wont to be & in spite of his new togs (6) I could tell the beaming big face of his.

But alas! if my first wish was fulfilled my wish to have a talk with him failed for he was leading his men to the trenches. But as he was about to pass me altogether I saidMorning SIR!’  just to inform him I was still plodding on – existing like.  ‘Morning Bertie’ he replied as he turned his head back & looked at me.

In the afternoon I had my wish gratified & satisfied.  He came up to me, shook hands & we talked over old affairs & new affairs.  Will you forgive him for not visiting you?  He told me to especially convey his kindest Remembrances & Regards to you both, Father & Mother.  He remarked upon Sydney being away, saying how unlucky he was to be away and how he wished he could make Sydney his Platoon Sergeant; he would be delighted beyond measure.

Yesterday, (Tues) morning, I received the Tail end of your parcels & sent you a Field PC saying I got that  alright enough. The candles came injust on the rightfor we have a dark dugoutMany thanks too for the socks which are always welcome. I have rarely tried my hand at darning, if not at all. I shall have to buck up.

After reading the short letter from Mother (last night) .saying the first parcel was posted 11th I became a little agitated, not for my own gourmand lusts, but for dear generous Father & Mother, & all of you, who have expended on things I may never see.  I wrote to the Field Ambulance about the missing parcels & hope to hear of some reason of delay.  I got Harold’s safely eventually.

What a happy morning I’ve  had so far with the first parcel, the Head this time, seeing there was some chocolate enclosed.  I rarely have found chocolate in parcels of late. The handkerchiefs also gratified my wish & I shall enjoy the eggs when breakfast comes.  More especially I thank you for the currant bread & pat of butter. The Magazine will again come in useful & interesting as we have hours off duty as well as two hours on (6). The off duty hours have been the cause of many distinguished occurrences as well as those on.  Thank you too for the Yorkshire paper (7).  As for the coffee, milk and sugar I will squeeze round Cliff Hackett* who, as I told you before, is in the Mess & he will, in all probability, let me have some hot water.

The stationery in the other parcel I liked immensely, especially the hand cut; these I shall use for special occasions. I may write out my final result of the poem ‘Sniper Atkins’ on one as it was given to the CO and with drawings.

Sniper Atkins.
Sniper Atkins. Title page with sketch of his sniper pal in dark observation post.  A.H.Hibbett 1916.

Ida, I have composed another verse & revised other verses to make the number altogether up to 10 & therefore Tommy would fire 30 rounds.  I have also drawn one of my comrade snipers at his post.

I am sending a copy of the poem to the Express & Star & the poem went into the Orderly Room for ‘inspection’ the other day.  Lieut Sanger* was greatly amused.  I have not seen Machin* but sawAllen’ * the first of the batch. He looks a real gentlemanly soldier in his new rig out (6).

And now for the bonny letters.  I will begin in chronological order –  ahem!  So glad you got my letters of 14th & 16th of April.  If you will call to mind, you also wrote on those dates & Mr W.H. Cozens* also wrote on Palm Sunday.

Yes God’s will be done & dearest Mother it is sweet to think so, for  although at times, when God’s will is fulfilled we feel inclined to be disagreeable, there are times when we feel most grateful & full of joy; those are the times when we submit willingly to God’s will.  Of course you told me that you got my Easter letter in the green.  I can just imagine your surprise on having your letter returned, good of the post wasn’t it? yet I sympathise with you that it is not altogether pleasant to have a letter returned. 

I have not yet heard from my Godmother* (8) since I went into Hospital. I had very little time to talk matters over with Sydney before he left for his course.  Ida wrote a most delightful letter too.

Yes dears Leave is sure to come and I again  say the ‘Dark Cloud’ has drifted farther away & more bright sunshine is coming through.  Glad to hear you went to hear Stainer’s Crucifixion (9) & I hope you enjoyed it.  Very interested to hear of you working in the ‘oldgarden (10).  I love to read of sowing seed.  See how poetical I am getting, & I say without any self bravado that N. Smith* told me our present CO (11) (Mum knows him as a relation of Mrs Drew) commented upon ‘Sniper Atkins’ saying it was quite good. 

Two soldiers stuck in a trench, during a battle in World War One. This famous illustration for The Bystander was by Captain Bruce Bairnsfather (1888-1959) whose bittersweet cartoons in the magazine depicting the ordinary Tommy in the trenches during World War I. 1915
‘Well, if you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it’. Cartoon depicting the ordinary Tommy in the trenches during World War I.
Captain Bruce Bairnsfather. 
wiki 200px--Old_Bill-,_by_Bruce_Bairnsfather
‘Old Bill’ the typical Tommy. Bairnsfather.

Now Ida see if you can rival me & out-wit me.  I think I have already been outwitted, for this afternoon I saw The Bystander’s (12) ‘Fragments from France’, 1/- net and how I larfed at the drawings, and at the same time being envious that I could not think of anything original, for they seemed to deal with everything in Tommy’s Ways and Manners.

I must not forget to thank you for the pretty Bookmark Cross. I have grown rather vulgar being out here with men, men, men, & yet I loved the sight of that little Cross & immediately thought of you all. Yes ‘Jesus ever lives (13) and ‘He is the same yesterday, today & forever (14).  Just think of some time past when you have felt God’s love especially.  Well He has that same love for you today & He will have that same love for you in the future.

The Vicar’s letter was very satisfactory, but of course there must be no extra unnecessary taxes upon the congregation & then there will be no occurrence of debt (15).

A.O. Jones* is writing to Sydney himself, he told me last night, & so he went farther than letting me just remember him to Sydney in my letter to him.  I saved two boxes of cigs that Miss Brookes* sent himfor fear he would return before today.  As he has not, I am giving them to some of the old boys in his Platoon who have been out since the Batt came out (16).

Church of Our Lady, Fonquevillers. Water colour. Adrian Hill. Imperial War Museum.
Church of Our Lady, Fonquevillers. Water colour. Adrian Hill. Imperial War Museum.

The country looks beautiful & I even overlook the sight of ruins as being awful.

Again I had the little blue birds to come to greet me; they were the martins and their white tipped tails & blue wings struck me with their beauty.

I particularly thought of Basil’s Birthday [Ed.1st May]  I could see Ida ‘compris’d’ my meaning of Basil joining.

I wonder if Sydney has got any parcel today.  How lucky I am to get your parcels so that I too can share in with Sydney’s festivity. When I have my tea of currant bread & brown bread with the biscuits I shall feel more in keeping with the occasion.  We are all thinking of the broad shouldered, tall, officer-like Sergeant  who has been favoured by more than one superior.  Lieut  Robinson*, Moore*, Lister* etc – ‘I’l tres bien magnifique soldat’Mother heads the list, Dad is bracketed with her, then Ida, Harold, Dodger, Miss Bore, Miss Foster*, Auntie Patty – and Leeena has, I guess, also got him in mind, as also has May O & the other Overends.

What a pretty poem that is in the Magazine:I guess Mum has read it:-

Mother’s Meadow:-

‘Boys be like the meadow grass, Constant firm & strong, Spreading good with quiet force To help the World along’.

Just appropriate & in keeping with Spring as I gaze on the open fields full of buttercups & daisies.  Even ‘burly’ Sanger* has sent home a buttercup. Yes, a Tommy might be rough, but, as I heard aptly from the Chaplain at Christmas, some have hearts ‘snow white’ (not at all insinuating that I am classed with them).

Kindest Remembrances to Miss K. E. Brookes*, Mr & Mrs Overend*, Mrs M.A. Jones* and Mrs Evans* etc & Miss Bore*. The watch is safe for Sydney.  Sorry to hear of A. Brown* & Vernon* [Ed. both ill in UK?]. I am writing to Vernon’s peopleI cannot very well write to Vernon as I do not know his present address.  I wrote to him in Hospital when I was with Cliff Hackett. Hackett often used to tease Vernon in joke.

I have not had the parcels from Mrs Evans* and the Machins*Mr Machin likes my ‘doggerel ‘so if you wish you can show him a copy.  I am expecting a letter from the Vicar as I wrote an Easter Letter to him that would, I think, solve his query about Tommy’s Easter time.

Now I will write to dear Sydney. Beaucoup correspondence’.

By Bye.  Your affec. Bertie.



The length of Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Letters Home in May 1916, together with the creation of Sniper Atkins & its detailed illustrations, indicates how much time he had to himself at this time. The enemy was comparatively quiet and my father’s sniper observation post meant 2 hours off in every 4. The fact that he drew his sniper pal in action indicates he did not retreat from the post, despite its dangerous position beyond the British Front Line in No Man’s Land.  

It is interesting to compare this letter with that of 17th May 1915, Sydney Hibbett’s 21st Birthday.  His brother was still away training for the coming ‘Big Push’.  Whilst anxious about missing Birthday parcels Pte Bertie was careful not to dwell too much on the future & what might happen when they both ‘went over the top’.

(1Pte J. Bird: missing since April 2nd was found drowned in a mineshaft, possibly when constructing subways in Zouave Valley, Vimy Ridge. 182 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers: one of 8 Coys formed by Brigadier George Fowke Feb 1915 for offensive/defensive mining under enemy lines/ also construction of deep dugouts/ subways/ saps & underground chambers for signals & medical services. Involved in 2nd Battle of Ypres and by March 1916 182 were at Vimy Ridge.  (Strangely no record of Pte J. Bird’s death in CWGC data base).

(2) Gooch Street: ‘300 shells fell on South Staffords lines from Gooch Street towards southern edge of the shallow depression south of Fonquevillers that gave Valley Avenue its name’. Alan MacDonald 2008: A Lack of Offensive Spirit?  <http://www.gommecourt.co.uk/lack&gt; day by day account of 46th Midland Division preparation for Battle of Somme. 

(3) Psalms for 17th day of the month. Book of Common Prayer. 1662.

Robert Baden Poweel
Robert Baden Powell & Officers who outwitted the Boers.

(4) Mafeking /Mahikeng Relieved: Sir Robert Baden Powell with 800 men held out for 7 months in 2nd Boer War against 7000 Boers led by Piet Conje. See Hibbett Letter, 17th May 1915 for more details.

(5) Revd E. More DarlingVicar of St Paul’s Walsall. (6) Officer UniformsSanger*, Machin* & ‘Allen’* had recently received commissions/promotion.

(7) Yorkshire Evening Post 1819-1954 or Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer 1866-1955. (8Godmother Mary Foster*, of Nottingham (Bertie & Sydney Hibbett’s birthplace). (9) Stainer’s Crucifixion: a Meditation on the Passion of Christ. Oratorio for Parish Church choirs with 5 congregational hymns. John Stainer Feb 14th 1887. 

(10) ‘Old’ garden:106, Rowley Street ? (first Hibbett Home in Walsall opposite 95 Foden Rd. (11) Major H.Lord Commanding Officer 1/5th S Staffs during May 1916.

ebay The Bystander.
Copies of The Bystander’s Fragments of France. <http://www.ebay.com&gt;

(12) Fragments from France. Humorous Cartoons by Captain Bruce Bairnsfather published by The Bystander 1916. Sold 200,000 copies of 1st & 2nd edition by end of March 1916 <http://www.brucebairnsfather.org.uk&gt;

(13) ‘Jesus ever lives’ to ‘make intercession for those who draw near to God through him.’ Hebrews 7.25. (13) ‘Jesus is the same yesterday, today & for ever’ – an eternal divine presence in the midst of a changing world. Heb. 13.8.

(14) Church fund raising: a constant anxiety for the clergy/ especially in time of War. (15) March 2nd 1915, 6.19 pm: 1/5th S Staffords sailed from Southampton & arrived in Havre, March 3rd 1.0 am.

NEXT POST: 21st May 1916.



Staffordshire Regt. Brooch.A Short History of South Staffordshire Regiment: After a month’s hard earned rest S. Staffs began to prepare for the Battle of the Somme.’

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY:


2nd May Tue: Battalion Training. 3rd May: Wed. 9.45 am: Marched to new billets at CONETTEMONT and HONVAL4th May Thur 7.0 am: Marched to new billets at ST. AMAND (1).

Royal Warwickshire Regt. www.en.wiki.org
Royal Warwickshire Regt. <http://www.en-wiki.org.uk&gt;

5th May Fri: 1.30 pm: Marched to FONQUEVILLERS (2) and relieved 1/6th Bn ROYAL WARWICKSHIRE REGT in L SECTOR Trenches.

6th- 7th May: FONQUEVILLERS. Enemy abnormally quiet.  8th May Mon: Enemy fired 10 Trench mortar bombs between No.1 and 2 posts. Our artillery retaliated on enemy front line.

9th May Tue.:  Enemy shelled No. 4 post. 1 Lewis Gun damaged and portion of parapet damaged. 10th May Wed:  Very quiet day.

From Chelers to Fonquevillers/Gommecourt via Canettemont/Honval snd St Amand.
March from Chelers to Front Line at Fonquevillers/Gommecourt via Canettemont/Honval and St Amand: 40 miles (65 km) approx. with  full pack in 2 days.  Rough Map efw.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT’s Own War Diary: A Little Book of Words & Doings’. May 3rd – May 31st.  ‘Sydney went to 6 Syndicate for School of Instruction at 3 Army Corp & returned. Very instructive lesson. Spends his 22nd Birthday there & received parcels from Home on Sunday.  He sent two large photos of Abbeville Cathedral.  Bomb courses, amo courses, attack runs etc.’

‘On Friday, (5th May) at Stand To & Stand Down, I heard  our friend the cuckoo calling as if to say Come to England:- ‘Blighty co-om’.  It was heard in our Reserve of the village of Fonquevillers in the wood. How transporting to the good old days in England.’

Preface Title Page: 'Sniper Atkins composed by a Sniper during a tour in the Trenches and Illustrated with original drawings from the pen of the same'. Signed 'Sniper Hibbett'.
Preface Title Page: ‘Sniper Atkins composed by a Sniper during a tour in the Trenches and Illustrated with original drawings from the pencil of the same’. Signed ‘Sniper Hibbett’.

While in trenches I drew sketch of Gommecourt Wood (3) in Fonquevillers and composed ‘Sniper Atkins’ (4). More observing and taking notes than firing from Sunday May 6th.

‘Sketched position. Man, wearing no equipment & carrying no rifle, seen to come down enfilade trench towards first line trenches, disappear in shrubbery & appear again walking apparently on top of parados of first line trenches, seen then to carry a white can similar to gallon can by hand, tall trees in front, making towards silver birch tree.  Later he returned without the can & went up trench towards enfilade trench.

Quarter of an hour later two men appeared in front trenches, running below in front, crossing each other one went to right & disappeared & one went left.  From S.B. (5), when walking about below, the whole of the figures of the men from the knee could be seen.  [Ed. NB. enfilade trench is where weapons can be fired along its longest axis. Parados – the back of a trench & lined with sandbags.]

LETTER to HIBBETT FAMILY, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. 

Wednesday, May 10th/ 16.

There’s a silver lining through the dark cloud shining, Turn the dark cloud inside out, till the boys come home (6).

My Dear People,

On Monday (8th) morning Sydney’s parcel, with the watch in, had been opened by A.O. Jones* who is in Sydney’s Platoon & was with him & slept by him.  Sydney must have left word to Jones to forward on the parcels etc, if he found his address, but someone told Jones that he had not received a certain parcel which had been forwarded to him (it had been mislaid I suppose) so Jones is keeping the watch for Sydney.  I took the cake & tin (a nice tin for a parcel).

This morning the Railway Magazine (7) with the washing square came & was handed to me.  I am keeping them in my haversack until Sydney returns, which I think will not be more than 3 weeks now.

There are only about 6 men in No 2 Platoon who have been on Active Service since the Division came out in March/ 15. So if I should get leave before Sydney returns I will leave his things with Jones. I had Harold’s parcel of candles, Horlick’s Milk Tablets & ointment which was addressed to 3rd Field Ambulance am yesterday.  Did you post the parcel you sent on Saturday April 2th to 3rd Field Ambulance? the one you said had eggs in?  That makes the second which will have gone astray if it does not arrive soon.

I read Dodger’s letters to Sydney (you don’t mind do you Dodger?) & was greatly interested in them, but I think you beat me in scribbling.  The first thing I noticed was the ‘Censoring’ & was amused to read you had the same idea. 

Inns of Court Badge.
Inns of Court Badge. The Devil’s Own. <http://dacorumheritage.org.uk&gt;

I have had another swanky letter with seals on the envelope & paper – the latter came from Mr Bates*, who was in the Inns of Court OTC (8) – Vernon* told me that rotten officers were being turned out by its training – at any rate Mr Bates was gazetted last November to the Durham Light Infantry & he is now at Rugeley Camp, Cannock Chase (9).

I have not written to Nightingale* (10) since last December, as you said his letter had been returned when it did not reach me, owing to me being in Hospital.

I think the ‘Dark Cloud’ is drifting by and the sunshine of Home Leave is showing itself. Theysay the number has increased to 12 men a day on leave.  I hope I shall not bhoy (sic) you up on false hopes – ahem!

So, so very, very sorry Sydney is away for the sake of your Birthday parcels for him, but I think if you address the parcels to where he is No 6 Syndicate, 3rd Army School of Instruction (Infantry) B.E.F. it will find him.  What do you think?  I hope in any case matters will come straight & he will not miss them.

I am detached from 2 Platoon while in these trenches, for I am a Schniper (sic) as you knowI do not do much firing – well I have not fired a shot yet as my post,  which is a ‘cushi’ one, is for observation purposes chiefly, as we can see the enemy often.  I make out reports & am on a ‘sketch’ of the enemy line.  You see the Sergeant in charge has somehow found out my natural inclinations.

Macdonald's Export Cigarettes.
Macdonald’s Export Cigarettes.<http://thecanadiansoldier.com&gt;

Mrs Brookes*parcel of cigs from London has not yet come, but I suppose, as Jones* told me Parcels dodrawbackfor sometimes a month before they arrive. (Jones frequently has a wholesome lot of cigs Export or Drawback (11).

6th Inniskilling Dragoons.
6th Inniskilling Dragoons.

Mr Bates*, by the by, had a brother, a Regular in the Inniskilling Dragoons & he was killed in March at the place along the line we are now occupying.  So if Dad asks Nightingale* or Bates*, should Dad see either, you can get to know.

We have had it charmingly quiet & comfortable while we’ve been here.  The country looks ‘Bon’ in the Spring atmosphere.  Am I telling you anything about me sen?  I am keeping well & happy & my sores are very nearly better. I think it was the Spring, partly, that caused them.

Talking about Spring again; you have heard the old saying that Spring brings with itBuddingin every form, not only in trees & such things but ‘Budding Authors’ & ‘Budding PoetsThe latter class includes this humble self.  I caught the fever from copying a piece of ‘doggerel’ from one of Hacket’s* chums in his Mess

Title Page Sniper Atkins
Title Page Sniper Atkins. ‘Wait & See.  A few verses from my pencil written in the trenches, during the reign of Good King George V ‘.  Sketch of one of his sniper pals. Signed A. H. Hibbett. 

So, during my hours off, I began to compose a poem on Sniping, just for a joke. To see if I get any luck I am sending the result off to The Walsall Observer, (which Dad refers to as ‘not up to much in news’ & only gets it to read the Education Notes etc).  

So look out for a poem in its columns entitled ‘Sniper Atkins’.  I think I shall tell them not to put my name to it, but say that it was composed by a Sniper in the 1/5th S. Staffs T. F.  Ha! ha! ha!  Poor old Dad when he sees it!  Look out & tell me what you think on’t.  I will send you a copy in my next letter.  Of course it’s original.  What, what!

Now is there anything else to tell you,  scratch!- scratch!- scratch  my noddle — no!

Toodle oo & Best of Love,   Affectionately yours,


PS  My word Dodger, you  & I will stick ‘we’ mouths togedder (sic) with Turkish Delight when we go cycling round those good old places which you gave such a homely description of.


‘To Tamworth (13)- had a drink of stone ginger & Turkish Delight’.   

PS  I will address my next to Ida as she takes an interest in poems – I suppose you’ll be amused at the crossing out – the Censor so to speak. My last letter was sent on Monday, dated Sun.  Hope you get it.



With Pte Bertie Hibbett only just arrived back from Field Ambulance/ Hospital and his brother Serjeant Sydney on a course in (or near) Abbeville, the Hibbett family were anxious about the safe arrival of parcels, especially Sydney’s 22nd Birthday Parcel containing a watch. 

My father was officially detailed to make sketches of Gommecourt Wood. He brought a copy Home and kept it for over 50 years until, sadly, it disappeared after a Toc H. Exhibition in Skegness. I have yet to discover whether his illustrated doggerel ‘Sniper Atkins’ was ever published in the Walsall Observer.

1) A march of 40 miles (65 km) approx to Fonquevillers from Chelers, via Canettemont, Honval & St Amand (farming villages, Pas de Calais). (2) Fonquevillers: farming commune, 12 miles south of Arras. On British Front Line almost all of 1914- 1918. Village & Church of Our Lady destroyed & rebuilt with help of Derby & Nottingham. Plaque to ‘Derby Notre Marraine’ ‘Derby our Godmother‘.

(3) Gommecourt: farming village approx. 1 mile south of Fonquevillers, held by German Imperial Army (52nd Infantry Division, Baden & 2nd Guards Reserve Division, Westphalia). Diversionary attack by 1/5th S Staffords, 46th N. Midland Division, 1st July 1916. <www.ww1battlefields.co.uk>

(4) Sniper Atkins: Doggerel poem written & illustrated by Pte Bertie Hibbett. Tommy Atkins‘ – name adopted by Duke of Wellington 1815 for the common soldier in British Army. Origin: Pte Thomas Atkins, Battle of Boxtel, 1794. cf Rudyard Kipling ‘Tommy’, Barrack Room Ballads. 1892. See < http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems&gt; and <http://www.historic-uk.com/history&gt;

(5S.B. abbrev. of ‘Subject’? ie Pte Bertie?

en-wiki220px-KeepTheHomeFiresBurning1915(6) There’s a Silver Lining through the Dark Clouds shining: WW1 Song: Keep the Home Fires Burning’. Ivor Novello, Words: Lena Guilbert Ford. 8th Oct. 1914.

(7) Railway Magazine: See Hibbett Letter, 10th Nov. 1915. (8) Inns of Court O.T.C.: Harold Hibbett was intending to join.

(9) Rugeley Camp, Cannock Chase: one of two large Transit Camps for Service Battalions begun March 1915 at Cannock Chase (68 acres (AONB) Staffordshire). Timber huts, a Church, Post Office, Theatre – and a Hospital at Brindley Heath (1000 beds). Known for its ‘Tackaroo Railway’.(10Nightingale: Mining Surveyor, Lichfield Street, Walsall, Pte Bertie’s former boss.

(10) ‘Export & Drawback Cigarettes’: ref to drawback/tax relief: cf Houses of Parliament Hansard: 14th March 1916: The Secretary to the Treasury (re delay in payment of drawback on tobacco to manufacturers.  ‘The recent increase in tobacco drawback rates involving special inquiry into many claims submitted, combined with heavy & continuous increase in numbers of exportations, particularly those by parcel post to the Expeditionary Forces, has led to some unavoidable delay in the full payment of claims’.

(11) Camwell: near Sutton Coldfield. Church of St Giles, Mary & All Saints ‘an architectural gem’, Sir John Betjemin.

Tamworth castle.
Tamworth Castle. <http://www.en-wiki.org.uk&gt;

(12) Tamworth: large market town on River Tame, 14 miles from Birmingham/ renowned for Castle. See Hibbett Letter. 1st Aug. 1915.

NEXT POST: 17th May. Sydney’s 22nd Birthday Letter.  Also Sniper Atkins Page with doggerel transcript sometime before.