6th Dec. Mon: Platoon and Company Training. 7th Dec. Tue -18th Dec. Sat: Ditto.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
Tuesday.Dec 7/ 15
My Dear Mother & Father,
Since Saturday, we have been very busy & on the move. Your welcome parcelcame last night when we were all busy cleaning our equipment for the Gen. Inspection which was this morning. Just returned & this is the first opportunity I have had for answering all you want to know.
You have jumped down my throat with regard to the Com: I don’t feel at all eligible for one.Today is Brewin’s* Day; he is supposed to go for a month’s training & is tidying himself up now. As forSerg. Sanger*I believe he goes too about now (1). He will beglad to see youhe said to me in the trenches, some weeks ago, & wishes to be remembered to you both.
With regard to that vacancy atDHQ’s orderly room clerk,nothing yet has been said (2).
I did enjoy Ida’s scones & the cheese. Vernontoo said they werevery nice. His voice has improved a little,butunfortunatelyhe has now got a sore and swollen foot (3).
The general idea in the Batt. is that we shall not see these trenches in this part of the country again.
I have your letter enclosed in the parcel for reference & am answering each question as I read on. I am hoping to see you,by the way matters are shaping out, I hope to be Home by the end of Jan/16. (4).
I do not see Allen*much because the billets are so far between (5) .I do not know Sydney’s address for certain at present.His last letter was Z Company, 5th South Staffs Con. Camp Rouen. I sent him an FPC & had it returned.I wish he was with me as far as advice with regard to the Com.
I shall not need any more Porridge in future parcelsas I told you before. I thought we should be in the trenches by now forwe all understood we were in that part of the line till Dec. 27. I have arranged with the cooks to make me some porridge for tonight – so twill be all very well.
I meant to tell you before that the parcelscame with the tag attached, good idea.
Best love, Bertie.
Pte Bertie has reservations about applying for a Commission as a ‘Temporary Officer’. He was ‘eligible’ in that he had attended QMS, a minor public school and had been four years in its O.T.C. but it was not in my father’s nature to push himself forward. That he did not feel ‘at all eligible‘ may indicate his lack of confidence in his health & physical strength at this time.He would have appreciated the privileges & better accommodation enjoyed by officers – and he knew that was what his parents wanted for him. On the other hand he must have been aware, as perhaps his parents were not, that the average lifeof a Junior Officer at the Front was very short, a matter of a few weeks.
(1) Officer Training for A.E. Brown* (Brewin, QMS)and Sanger*: one month at Sandhurst would mean a chance of Home Leave. cf Letter 5th Dec.
(2) Divisional Head Quarters Orderly Room Clerk would involve administration of divisional orders & discipline/ more of a desk job with lots of paper work. More suitable for Pte Bertie with his poor feet, than a commission?
(3) Pte Vernon Evans’ feetwereworseafter a gruelling 6 hours trudge over 6 miles of rough waterlogged ground to Rue des Vaches.(Thankfully neither he nor Pte Bertie had feet quite as bad as they might have been according to some on-line images!). See previous Letter 5th Dec.1915.
(4) Eastern Front Rumours? Pte Bertie hints that 1/5th Staffords could be on their way to warmer climes where Home gifts of porridge & warm clothes might not be needed.
(5) Serjeant Herbert Allen* QMS friend of Sydneys?(2nd Lieut H. Allen. Killed in Action, Gommecourt/ Fonquevillers: 1st July 1916. Battle of Somme).
NEXT POST: 8th Dec. 1915. Serjeant Sydney’s whereabouts revealed.
12th Nov. Fri: Enemyvery quiet. HILL STREET REDOUBTtaken over from1/6th Batt NorthStaffordshire Regt. and fire trench fromHILL STREET to OXFORD STREET from 4th Batt Kings Liverpool Regiment.CASUALTY: KILLED: 9308 Pte E Stevens.
13th Nov. Sat: Enemy very quiet.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings: ‘Neuve Chapelle Trenches. Listening Post. Trench full of water; bay at end of Seat 6. Corp. Brewin* in charge.’
LETTER to Mr & Mrs ARTHUR HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
24th Sunday after Trinity. Nov 14/ 15
‘Unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness’.1stEpistle. Col.13.1.
My Dearest Brave Mother, and Ida, as well as Daddie and Dodgy,
Mud, mud, muddy, muddy – MUD & clay too – now laugh! Up to my eyes in mud. There aretwo Tommiessquatting in a muddy, muddy, mud-hole trying to write letters HOME with our hands all over mud & clay, just like gloves. Yes I am not going to be done in. I am not going to break the record of Sunday letters, and todayespecially. I received Ida’s letter & Basil’s enclosedyesterday & read them with jollification, they did make me feel happier afterwards.
Vernon & I – Vernon, I am fonder of him now – felt awfully fond of him last night when we had to do the work of impossibility – The Slough of Despond – clear some thick clay out of a trench (1).
A parcel, the only one in the post, came this morning– a sergeant brought it up – it was MINE – I saw with delight Dad’s writing.But I had to hurry & go on a working party from 9 – 12. 30 this morning so Iopenedit this dinner time.
Stop a minute while I just pop one of those lumps of toffee– Mummy’s homemade butterscotch made with butter, treacle & sugar – what nice sugarit is in the parcel. What lovely TOFFEE dears. I’ve just given Vernon a Chief of Whip Cig.I don’t smoke on Sundays. Aren’t I narrow minded eh!
Now I will answer & tell you about everything.I could write lots & fill heaps & piles of note paper but have got only three left like this. I read Mum’s & Ida’s letters in the parcel. Mum’s of Oct 31st. and Champion’s long, interesting letter. I vidided (sic) a lovely apple – they are nice & juicy – among two othermuddy Tommiesbecause, you see dear Mum, I’m like you,you said you would have liked to be with me looking round the shops in Rouen, to share with the pleasure, – so I cannot, I couldnot enjoy your parcels if I eat all myself. I want others to see & taste how good the things are I have from Home. I made some coffeeout of the parcelyou sent to Sydney & I did enjoy it. – – – –
Shall have to stop here, I have been called to the working party again to fill sand bags.When we come back I shall havea good teaout of thecurrant bread & fresh butter.
10.30 pm. Oh dearest Mummy I could say heaps & heaps.Post came while I was on fatiguetonight & I got your letterdated Nov 10th, also another letter but I read yours first & cannot wait until I have read the other but I must finish this first.
Well Verny & I had a ripping tea out of the currantbread & butter,which he said he quite enjoyed, he also wants me to convey thanks to you for an eggI gave him – he loves eggs.Also I gave him ahankiebecause we have been using an old rag this wet weather & poor boyhe is longing to hear from home & get a parcel.Hospitalhas upset such a lot.
The toffee was lovely & I wished I had taken some out on fatigue as I thought of doing, but decided to save some for an emergency. The jujubesare good too. Oh of course I have not finished thetea, but I thought I would have a change & make some coffee. We have been working all day & had very little time to fetch & boil water.
Vernon was giving up the idea, but I made up my mind to have a hot drink of some sort, so I coaxed a chap for the use of a fire & some water & consequently, with the timely aid of Mrs Hurst’s* milk, I made some Homemade Cafe de Luxe,better far than the Cafe au laittinned you know.
Dearest Mum, & all of you I’m afraid I shall have to conclude my Sunday letter, but must just have a word about rats.
. . . . . . Oh! rats, owls & cats. Lean rats, fat rats, scrabbling rats, squealing rats, biting rats & gormandizing rats. Muddy rats and – oh! mice, little mice, wee mice, muddy mice & sprinting stealing, thieving mice & oh my! can you just picture a bright moon & a frosty night, an owlis seen to fly over the trench & our heads & gives its weird ‘too hoot’ & astealthy pussy cat, a black cat, comes crawling on the top of the trench of sand bags after vermin. . . . . . .
Such is the life, but very VERY HAPPY & Jolly at times because of news from Home Sweet Home.
Oh Mum, & all of you I pray that you will comfort one another, especially Ida. I think she is really splendid, her lettersare so chatty & interesting, (of course I firmly believe she has no influence under or from PhyllisC* (2 ).
So Mr Henry Cozens* wanted my address.I think this other letteris from him, let’s see.Oh so it is & such a pleasant one too. Yes, Capt. Tim*(3) made himself like one of the Privates when talking to us. Sydneywill be excused writing lengthy letters in Hospital, but I think I shall have to stop now.
Our late Capt L. (4) kindly asked afterSydney, but all I could say was that I had not heard from him yet, but read about him from a Sergeant who said he was having a ripping time, ‘I hope he will have a still better one at Christmas if he stays there till then’.
– – – I must not leave out thetinned cream.How funny Mummy it goes well withfruitbut not so withtea. Vernon hadcreambecause of thefruit – – –
You will not have had my letters so promptly& this one will be sometime for I am, as you will know by the nature of this letter, in the trenches. I count it ‘Happy to Endure’ (5) & have had speedy answersto my prayers when feeling or inclining to feel in the blues.
Warcan be turned to a blessing&makes several differences in one’s character. I am fonder of Vernon now.
Hoping you had a happy Thursday with H. & H. Bore* and a Happy Sunday.
Best love from Bertie.
PS Got FPC from Sydney tonight as well. He sais ‘I am quite well. Letter follows 1st opportunity.’
PPSI scented the lovely Khaki hankieswith White Heather Scent(6). The towelis a nice one.
The Hibbett family is brought poignantly close together when Pte Bertie receives Basil’s letter & Sydney’sposted on from Home and returns them with his own & the mud of a Neuve Chapelle trench. My father’s blues – and his emotional dependence on his family at this time – can be seen in the family endearments & language of childhood – and his delight in Mother’s Guy Fawkes Toffee.
(1) ‘Slough of Despond’ –miry bog/swamp of despair into which Christian sinks under the weight of sin & guilt in Pilgrim’s Progress: John Bunyan’s allegory of a Christian’s journey through life. Written in Bedford Jail. 1678. <http://www.chapellibrary.org >
The mud & heavy clayPtes Bertie & Vernonhad to clear would have been almost certainly contaminated with dead vermin, human waste and even parts of human bodies, missing on both sides since the offensive of March 1915.
(2) Phyllis Cozens? sister of (3) Tim Cozens* Killed in Action 13th Oct. 1915.Battle of Loos/Hohenzollern Redoubt (cf Letter: 10th Aug. 1915).
(4) ‘Late Captain‘ i.e. not ‘dead’ but promoted toMajor Cecil Lister*.
(5)James 5.11. King James Bible. ‘Happy to endure’(with the patience of Job). (cf Col. 13.1. quotation above).
(6) White Heather Scentfrom Whitby, sent by Ida to help cope with the stench of trench life. (See Letters: 29th Aug. & 6th Sept. 1915).
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
23rd Sunday after Trinity.Nov 7/ 15
Send a candle or two so that I can write to you at nights.
‘Hope thou still in the Lord & abide patiently upon Him.’ Psalm 37 .7
My Dearest Brave Mother & Father,
I will write Home first.Have heard from several people since I rejoined the Company (1) last night& they have all sentparcels, with the exception of the letteraddressed by Ida,but the enclosure was written by one of my little scamps, much to my surprise.(2)
Vernon came back from Hospital last night & is now squatting beside me; we are both busy, very busy puzzling our brains on how to write interesting lettersto all the people in dear old England who have so kindly remembered us. Vernonhad quite a bundle of letters on his return. I got the comfy shirt & delicioustoffeethis Sunday morning & Mother’s nice letter of 29th Oct & Champion’s generous little gift of Turkish cigarettes, my word.
Poor Vernon, he has had a lonely time in Hospital, no cigarettes, no letters from Home, no anything of any sort. So, Ida, I offered him a few of yoursuperb smokes.And now,dearest people– do forgive me for I opened Sydney’s parcel as well, because they could not send his parcel without great risk of getting it mislaid.So I am keeping thetoffee& Chief Whip Cigarettes.
To have to break into his parcels is not at all pleasant & rather tends to make me unhappy, but I have to open them consequently, because I cannot very well carry so many parcels about with me.
Since I rejoined the Company things seemed to be making up for the time I have had with the BombingParty. (I can tell the difference so much, between the man who has been in the trenches & the man who has not, the former are so much sober than the latter).
I have had no less than four parcels, but of course one was for Sydney. Auntie sent a parcel for us both, poor Sydney, never mind, I am saving him some of the thickRowntreeschocolate Auntiesent, but could not very well save him some of theParkin & apples. Auntie Patalso sent somesoap& I only want a nice towel now.
If Harold sends us both a Sleeping Helmet,I shall be much obliged to him, but I should treasure a Home Knitted one& would like to feel thehome knitted wool round my cheeks at night; I should conjure up jolly thoughts of Mummy& you all (3).
Mrs. Hurst*also sent me a parcel– inside were many different sorts ofluxuries, Nestles chocolate(plain & nut), tin milk, stationery– this I am writing on ——-
Broke off here for a bath, then put on the comfy shirt you sent. Arthur Brown*showed me one exactly like it last night & made of the same lovely soft material; as you told me – very likely fromMrs Venables*’ Sale (4).
Don’t you think I’m greedy for parcels? What a time I’ve had with the Bombers (5) & it seems as though the parcelscame Providentially. But I’m so sorrySydney is not here to share, not only the luxuries, but the happy thoughts. And you will forgive my inquisitiveness in reading Mum’s letter to Sydney which was a beauty.
Oh how glad & happy I felt when Vernon quoted from a letter from Mrs Evans* saying you looked very well.Yes the inward thoughts and temperament are reflected in the outward manner & appearance – ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’.‘The Lord knoweth them that are His’ (6).
Army life is a jolly, jolly life if one suddenly has a surprise of a few parcels.I was not thinking Sydney would be so long away.I suppose you will have heard from him. I have not heard yet since he went. I hope it has not upset affairs regarding hisCommission.
Sorry the time has come for me to conclude – the rotten part of a letter, just the same as the rotten part of Home Leave – le Finis. Hoping you are spending a Happy Sunday again. I guess Okoo is with you. I wrote to him on the 5th.
Bestest love, Bertrum.
It is clear that Pte Bertie does not realise the severity of his brother’s illness.
(1) ‘A’ Company.
(2) ‘Little Scamps’: Bertie Hibbett’s Sunday School pupils, St Paul’s Church, Walsall.
(4)Mrs Venables, (mother of Arthur Venables* who was to save Bertie’s life) held one of Walsall’s fund-raising Sales for Soldiers.
(5) Bombing Party:A Little Book of Words & Doings:‘Bombing Course. Oct – Nov 1915:‘Marvellous escape after 4 bombs, one dud, dropped by feet of Chester Robinson*, unhurt. Ida writes from Home she is making springs for bombs & complemented on by manager.‘ cf The West Spring Gun. A bomb-throwing catapult ‘designed to throw a hand grenade in a high trajectory into enemy trenches’. <https://www.en.wikipedia >
(6) Mtt.7.16 & 2 Tim 2.19.
NEXT POST: 10th Nov. 1915. The King’s Review: waiting inches deep in mud & water for hours.
April 5th Mon: Sniping frequent all night. Searchlightsused on both flanks & our working parties much hampered (1). Damage to breastwork by shell fire made good.10a trench again shelled in afternoon, also Wulverghem village.Casualties: 2nd Lieut F. Eglington& 9531 Pte W. Horton ‘B’ Coy woundedby shells. Heavy rain,much water in trenches.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MOTHER, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
Easter Monday. April 5th / 15
My Dear Mother,
Just a few lines to say I met Sydney on the night of Easter Sunday. The meeting came quite as a surprise, little did I know I should see him in such a place.I was one of the ration party making its way late at night over the country (1) ; we halted at some part of the line of trenches for rations& I came suddenly upon Sid. We laughedWe shared the remains of the parcel I kept in my valeise (sic) this morning. Sid looks very well.
It is raining this afternoon & I am writing this in the dugout. Well I have written to Mr Darling* & acknowledged Mr Hurst’s* parcelin the way of a letter. This is some of the note he sent me.
For the first time since confirmation I have missed Easter Communion dear Mother, yet circumstances could not be helped.I read the Collect & Epistle etc for Easter & part of the Communion service in this dugout.(2)
I remember your very kind letter last. Yes the soap was lovely. We have not yet finished the 1st parcel.Sid has some cigs left & there is some cocoa & oxo left. I did not come across the emery paper until later on for it was at the bottom of the box. Many, many thanks for it – greatly indebted to you for it will come in handy now the rain has rusted the bayonet. Hard up for a wash in these trenches.As for a change did you get my letter saying we could do with one change of shirt and pants – & if you like an under-vest.
I guess Basil is looking very much forward to his holiday in Manchester, what oh! Tell him to remember us to relatives there and hope he will return home the better for his stay there.
I saw a photo of a Captain Sidebottom of the Lancashire regiment reported killed or wounded.A.D. Jones* has promised it me. I hope to send it you later. Perhaps you knew him, I have heard you talk about those people at home.
Well I’ll close now. V. Evans* has come back too with Sid.
Best love to all. God be with you. Bertie.
PSTell Ida we have been to the 2nd place she mentioned in her letter.
(1) Pte Bertie (night ration party) in danger of snipers. (2)Easter Day Collect. Book of Common Prayer. Thomas Cranmer, AD 1662: Almighty God, who through thine only begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life . . .
Epistle. Colossians 3.1. St Paul, AD 40: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set you affection on things above, not on things on earth. For you are dead. and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Gospel. St John 20.1:The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre and seett the stone taken away . . . (AD 90 -100).
29th March, Mon. Entrenching exercise. 2 Coys moving. 2 Coys afternoon trenches opposite one another 40 X apart (yards?). 30th March, Tue. Entrenching practice and Bomb Throwing practice.
31st March, Wed.Constructing Barbed wire Entanglements, construction of hurdles& improvement of trenches,morning. At 1.15pm orders received to march to Bailleul . Moved off at 3.30 pm. Arrived Bailleul at 5.0 pm. Billeted there for the night. Certain proportion of Officers went to Neuve Eglise to inspect trenches & take over huts for Battn.
March Diary Signed by R.R.Raymer*, Lt.Col. Comdg. 1/5th Bn. South Staffordshire Regt.
BULFORD CAMP: NEUVE EGLISE 1st April, Thur. Morning in Billets. Bn paraded at 2.30 pm & marched to ‘Bulford Camp’ one mile SW of Neuve Eglise – vacated by2nd Bn Kings Own (R. Lancaster Regt). Arrived Camp 5.0 pm. (1)
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to FATHER, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall, (H.W.W.Parr censor)
April 1stThursday Morning.
My Dear Sir,
We are on the move again. I believe we are going into the trenches again & will probably be in on Good Friday and Saturday. I expect to see Sid today. He is still away (1). We were digging trenches yesterday morning & had to hurry back to the barn & go without dinner & dress in full pack & be off.
So what became of your handsome parcel? I carried it along the march for some distance & then it dropped. A. D. Jones then gave a hand (2). I managed to get it here safe & thought best to open it just to see if anything important was inside. What a fine handsome neatly made up parcel it is, some of Dad’s handling I bet; nothing whatever smashed. I just had one cake & opened a neatly rolled handkerchief & read Ida’s letter.
– Yes it would be better to send separate parcels to my opinion, but what say you ?
Dear Dad, it is encouraging just to see the way you address our parcels, forit reminds me of your deep consideration for us & pleasant cheerful face, as though as to express the idea that after all there is no reason to pine over this war. Of course the sooner its over the better, but we must not come to terms of peace on any ground – and then again what is the fighting?
Let’s hope forEternal Life& we shall see one another again in happiness.In past wars there have been men return home safe and sound. Let’s hope that Sid & I will. But what I cannot get cool about is the thought of seeing chums wounded when I myself am not & to return home after seeing fallen chums.
Vernon, Sid and I – wasn’t it lucky we all got together weeks last Tuesday night when we went to the trenches last time.
I was kindly remembered by Mr A.E. Hurst last Sunday. He sent me an interesting letter & a parcel full of good things, stationery, text books and some Cadbury’s Chocolate. I’m glad you got the newspaper. I will begin to conclude my letter now. I still find it difficult to write short letters.
Afternoon. Another long march just finished. Am in a most comfortable wooden hut.A cannon has just gone off, shook the place my word! the loudest I’ve heard. With the old QMS boys again.
Tell Mr Venables* Arthur B.looks very well. We’ve all got parcels. I’ve had to carry Sid’s parcel again, this time I tied it on my pack.
I wish you and Mother & all at home, as well as Harold & Miss Bore, a very pleasant Easter, hoping you will spend it all together round the tea table & remember Sid and me at Church.
The weather is simply lovely and bright; rather warm on the march. We had had very cold weather & I have had chapped hands early part of the week. Basilwould like to be with us, but there are more than myself who think it best & fortunate that he is under age & not with us. I still think of his exam and hope it will come off lucky.
I wrote a letter to Miss Foster before this, & just after the post came I got a parcel of Cadbury Chocolate for Sid and me. Sid is still away. After opening the parcel I put the handkerchiefback again & paperon top & wrapped it up again. I think I shall open it now for I don’t know what we shall do next. Oh how nice it would have been to have had Sid with me & to spread the lovely napkin & divide the luxuries for tea.
I have carried V. Evans’ parcel & Sanger’s. Vernon is with Sid & Corp. Sanger*. I shall have to close now with the very best of wishes & happiness. I am keeping jolly well. There goes another Jack Robinson – I don’t think! (4)
PS Have written to Miss Foster & will write to Mother later.
(1) Neuve Eglise Fr. /Nieuwkerke Flemish. (2) Sydney Hibbett (with Vernon Evans & Sanger) was no doubt involved in preparations for move to Bulford Camp, & Wulverghem Trenches, opposite Messines.
(3) Bertie was trying to carry a parcel about 8 miles to Bailleul on top of his full pack.By the time he finished this letter he had carried it another 9 miles to Bulford Camp. (4) A ‘Jack Robinson’: 1st WW nickname for a shell or bomb . (Identity 18th C. real person lost: term assoc. with immediate/ sudden change ‘as quick as you can say Jack Robinson’).
NEXT POST: 2nd APRIL, 1915. Also Update of Welcome Page.
18th March ,Thurs. Moved Billets. Hd. QRS. (at) Steam Mill, Bailleul & 2 Coys; 2 Coys at Meteren. (1)
19th March, Fri. Remained in billets. Warm clothing, fur coats, horse rugs sent intoCHESTRE, returned without ever having been used. 20th March, Sat Marched to Armentieres, about 8 miles. first march on Paves all the way (2). Men ‘stuck it’ very well. Billeted in Hospital in Rue des Routours. Attached 16th Brigade (Gen. Ingouville Williams, G.O.C. 2nd Army witnessed march). (3)
21st March, Sun. Lectured on Sanitation in trenches & billets. Inspection by Brigadier, 16th Brigade, 12.00 noon in Grand Place. Instruction in Bomb Throwing in afternoon. 2 Coys were to have gone into trenches at night, but owing to scarlet fever case would not have men in trenches. ‘B’ Coy went out digging communication trenchesbehind 1st K.S.L.I.(4). 1 man wounded. (2nd in Command & Adjutant went round trenches with Bgdr early morning).
22nd March, Mon. Batt HQ stayed down at trenches with 1st K.S.L.I. all day. Coys taughtBomb Throwing & Wire Entanglements.
‘D’ & half ‘B’ Coys went in trenches at night. Men mixed up with1st K.S.L.I. & Buffs(5). 2 men wounded slightly. ‘A’ Coy (Pte Bertie’s Coy) digging Communication Trenches (with) 1st K.S.L.I.
23rd March, Tue . Coys instructed in Bomb Throwing – Construction of Breastworks (6) – Wire Entanglements.
0fficers shown billets Y & L. ‘A’ & half ‘B’ Coys relieved. ‘D’ & half ‘B’ in trenches at night. No casualties. 3 rifles burst.
24th March Wed. ‘C’ Coy not allowed in trenches sent back to old billets near Bailleul. MG section (7) went into trenches for day. No casualties.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT’S Own War Diary.A Little Book of Words and Doings.
24th March, 1915. ‘Trio (Sydney, Vernon Evans & Bertie) – on Listening Post’. ‘Since I first went into trenches in France at Armentieres & was put on ‘Listening Post’, the duty has seemed to fall to me ever since.’ (8).
LETTER to BASIL HIBBETT with Field Postcard to Mother, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall. (Both dated 24th but postmarked 27th March 1915). (H.W.Parr censor).
24/ 3/ 15 Wednesday Morning.
My Dear Basil,
I started writing to you yesterday, on the note paper with flags on, to celebrate Herald our first night in touch of the enemy. But my writing was bad, & another thing Harold sent me a ripping box of good things, rather in the chemistry line, with the exception of chocolate and cigs. Sid and I enjoyed the malted milk tablets in the trench.We lay snug in the dugout & I wrote to Harold by the candle light (see My Memories.1967 below).
I got Mother’s letter posted 19th on 22nd & read it with deep interest. Sid read it too. I guess you felt sad on hearing ofCapt. Haylands being killed (9). Sid and I received letters this morning & I just read Mother’s last letter posted 22nd. So this last has come pretty quickly.
We are all very busy cleaning muddy rifles and rusty bayonets. Sid’shas no longer that brightest of bright lustre on his bayonet.Yes we have got well into the box right now tell Mother, there is only the oxo & cocoa & cigs left. We enjoyed the dates and chocolate immensely, all the more because they were from Home.
Do please forgive me if you do not get so many & so lengthy letters as before for times are getting busier. To allay your anxiety I will send you a field post-card to say when we get your letters & when one of ours is coming.
Hello. It puzzles me where and what & how came the photo PC of our home. I come to the conclusion that Haroldhas got a PC sized camera? Talk about miniature ranges.
How jolly to see him in his uniform (10). (By-the-by Harold’s letter was quite a long one & so jolly interesting).
Yesterday afternoon we went to see the different construction for entanglements & dugouts. We all had a peep inside a sniper’s dugout & saw the little window he peeps & fires through.To realise that I have at last experienced actual warfare – a kind of baptism of fire – is somewhat wonderful.
‘Trust in the Lord and he shall bring it to pass’ is my motto & it will do for you too with regard to your exam & it will do for Mother & all of you.
Just a batch of dear Mother’s Currant Bread & a few of Ida’s Queen Cakes & if you like some butterscotch will be kindly received – Ha Hem! – No don’t. I think you cannot afford it, parcels are so dear. Yet Sid and I need most of all a change of clothing – 1 shirt, 1 pair of pants.Could you afford to send them?
I might say I was beginning to feel in the dumps a bit before I knew your letter had come & was only thinking that letters from Home, especially from dear Mum, do so make a cheerful change, & to read even a line from Dad is delightful & takes me halfway home.
‘They’ say we are being relieved tomorrow night but don’t know where we are going to. I was on Listening Post again last night with ‘Charlie’ H(arrison)*. I think he likes itbecause we have all the daytime rest with perhaps a sentry duty for an hour or two & there might crop up a little fatigue.
I slept I believe from about 9.30 till a little after 2 o’clock today & shall try & get 40 winks before ‘Stand To’ tonight so that I can be on the alert tonight on this Listening Post; which is like a small trench running underground, reminding me of the pit (11).
I will close now although I have an idea I could say more of what I intended saying. You see I prepare the next letter in my mind during spare time. Well I don’t know how ever I managed to acknowledge letters from York, Nottingham, Sutton & home but I have, either by Field PC or letter. I guess Miss Bore* will tell you about my letter to her next time she sees you.
Very Best Love, Bertie.
MY MEMORIES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR.Lindsey Association for the Elderly. 1967.
‘My first experience of being in the trenches was at Armentieres. The trenches were water-logged and we had to walk on ‘duck boards’. We had no gum boots, as they were called, and I remember slipping off a wobbly board and getting my leg soaked.
Being a ‘tender foot’ I thought our first experience of trenches would be postponed because of the rain, but not so – we bravely set forth and went into the dug-outs. I remember writing a letter home and a frog leapt over the lighted candle and put it out. (See ref. to Harold above).
1/ 5th South Staffords experienced Trench Warfare for the first time: 21st – 25th March, 1915. It is not surprising that the young soldiers thought the rain would prevent them! – it had happened when training in Saffron Walden. (See Letters dated Feb. 1915).
Pte Bertie Hibbett (‘A’ Company) dug Communication Trencheswith K.S.L.I,through the night of 22nd March and was relieved on night of 23rd. Were the 3 Casualities wounded by their rifles bursting I wonder?
(1)‘A’ Coy (Bertie & Sydney Hibbett’s Coy) was at Meteren, nr Bailleul.2) Paves:hard /road surfaces. (3) Major General Edward Charles Ingouville Williams C.B. D.S.O (nicknamed Inky Bill). Commanded ‘Buffs’ East Kent Regiment, 1881; served in Egypt 1898; S.Africa 1899- 1902 (elder brother, George Arthur Williams, S. Staffords. Killed in Action, S.Africa,1901.)
(7) Listening Post: an underground tunnel into No Man’s Land for listening for enemy laying bombs. (8) Breastworks: when water levels were high ( e.g around Ypres) shallow trenches were dug and walls built up (revetted) with sand/mudbags and wood. Walls could be used as storage spaces or for firing holes. (See Old Sweats useful website).(9) Capt Haylands (unable to trace).
(10) HaroldHibbett (chemist/ photographer) was either a member of the Inns of Court Reserve Corps formed in 1914, which consisted of former members of the Inns of Court Rifle Volunteers or he was a member of the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps (I.C.O.T.C.) London Regiment. (11) Bertie Hibbett mining surveyor apprentice, is referring to a WalsallPit (lime pit or coal mine).
NEXT POST: 28th March 1915 to be posted Palm Sunday 29th March, 2015.
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.