Tag Archives: Food Parcels

23RD NOV. 1915: A MERRY PARTY OF TOMMIES AT ‘A ROUGH TIME – A COLD TIME – A NIGHTLY TIME’.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

BRIGADE  RESERVE : LORETTO ROAD

22nd Nov. Mon:  V. Quiet day. Enemy shrapnelled Communication Trenches. Relieved by 4th Batt. KINGS LIVERPOOL Regt from LIVERPOOL STREET to CHURCH ROAD.  1/5th Bat NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE Regt took over trench NORTH of CHURCH ROAD. 1/6th Batt. SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE Regt took over trench SOUTH of LIVERPOOL STREET.

23rd Nov. Tue: LORETTO ROAD.  In Brigade Reserve in  ‘C’ SUBSECTOR Rest Houses.

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BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
BERTIE HIBBETT:
19 in 1914.

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95  Foden Rd Walsall.

Tuesday Night. November 23/ 15

A Merry Party of Tommies.

My Dearest Mum, Dad & all,

What  really ripping parcels you have sent lately, and the best of it  – they have really come at a very happy & convenient time.  The one & the only one which was brought into the trenches that day. Indeed the towel came also very timely  to cleanse my very dirty black fuzzy wig & the toffee too came at an acceptable time,  a rough time, a cold time, a time when my tummy felt cold & frozen, a nightly time. 

Zebra Polish Tin c. 1930.
Zebra Polish Tin.  c.1930.

And oh the handsome Zebra Polish tin, – so neatly packed with rich, delightful, delicious, appetising confectionery – came at a most welcome time & a jolly time.

We came out of the trenches yesterday & after a long tedious march through the long. . . (censored). . . with our packs & overcoats on as usual, we settled down for the night in this barn where I am writing  – or trying to write a letter of thanks, expressing my heart’s love to you for such good, homely comforts.

Round the barn are seated Tommies & in the centre is a blazing warm coke fire.  Such a comfy sightA sight which has set our hearts aglow and which had made us feel like having a sing song of some sort.  At length the Corporal proposed a little concertAfter much persuasion I volunteered to give them one.  I only wished ’’The Highwayman’ (1) had come timely too, at any rate the recitation I gave these men was fresh to them.  Oh how they clapped & how their attention was drawn, they listened with keen interest & all was quiet.

Mum, the Pork pie came ‘at the right’ as Dad puts it.  The Parcel came by the second post when we were all laid down to sleep, but with the help of the candles, thanks so much for them, I laid the parcel outVernon, I am glad to say, got with me for the night & we enjoyed a slice of pork pie eachEverything in the parcel came in nicely, something suitable for each meal of the day; the pork pie & a hot drink of coffee with the milk you sent for dinner, those tasty crisp flat cakes for a sweet after breakfast, the wholesome fancy bread loaf & butter for tea, the apples, one each eaten on waking up this morning. 

Sllep Trenchese93063fb23c8b5fbd33cccfeb68c38a2
Poor Vernon had caught his chill & lost his voice sleeping in trenches like this. <https://www.pinterest.com&gt;

I could only find Vernon’s nose to rub the cold little apple on, he had huddled himself in the blanket overcoat & had his sleeping helmet on, his head was buried in his clothing.

The thick lovely chocolate came nicely between meals & a lump helped to stay Vernon’s coughVernon, poor chap, has lost his voice again & has a cold the same one he had at Saffron Walden (2); don’t say anything to his people, he would be huffy with I – oh my!

Mum, it was a homely tea.  I toasted the two slices of the lovely loaf & spread some of the lovely home butter on & then, Mum, I had that which you love, Damson Jam on TOP of the jolly lot.  Then I had some of the simply superb Genoa  nut cakeVernon said it was very nice & the bread too.  But, poor boy, he could not enjoy a second or rather as much pie as I offered him.  It was fine & he did enjoy it all the more.

Don’t be, I hope you aren’t, anxious about your long & many lettersyou have so laid your spare time, yes & even taken some of your time for attending to domestic affairs.  How my heart leaps in gratitude to you when you talk of being busy in making things for Xmas time.

Just had a most jolly letter from Sydney, he told me not to send it Home it was so childish.

9.0 pm. The conclusion of this letter has been delayed through fatigue duties  & V & I have been transferred from comfy billets to next door where there is no fire

Well Ta Ta.  Goodnight pip, pip.  I pray you will have a good night’s sleep, although you might get this in a morning.

Best love to all, will write to Dodger soon & send a Boomerang to Champion in reply to her champion epistles.

What oh! Jolly old Flo.

Bertram Arfer.

PS   Nil.  Napou.  Finis.  Oosh Cha. (3)

I will gollop down the last piece of bread & butter with cake betweenand Verney will share in & we are both settling down to sleep the night through.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie’s jolly rhymes & school-boy jargon reflects his happy mood at the success of his Concert party-piece, despite the move fromcomfy billets&blazing coke fire‘ – on which he had no doubt made his toast

(1) The Highwayman. Alfred Noyes: 1880-1958. cf Letter: 5th Nov. 1915.  (2) Saffron Walden, Essex. Training. Letters: Dec. 1914 Jan 1915.

(3) Nil (Latin ‘nothing more‘); Finis (Latin ‘the end’); Napou: soldier French for ‘finis; Oosh cha: a tea-time cheer?/ from Hindi cha/tea?  Ta Ta/ Pip Pip are cheery farewells; but what is ‘Jolly old Flo’?

NEXT POST:  27th Nov. 1915.

17th OCT.1915: FOUQUIERES BILLETS: REST AFTER THE BATTLE.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

FOUQUIERES.

16th Oct. Sat:  In Rest Billets. 

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

Sunday Morning. Oct 17/ 15

My Dear Mother & Basil,

I read Dodger’s delightful letter, enclosed in the parcel, with deep interest.  I was especially taken by his flattering remark & I wouldn’t mind having been with Sydney last Wednesday.  I was on guard at the Station at R___n at the time (1).

Vernon and I were put on guard last night at five & came off tonight.  Am writing this in a stable, serving the purpose of a Guard Room.  Vernon & I are sorry we cannot go to the Parade Service this morning as I have no doubt it will be a special thanksgiving service.  St Paul’s will want another Memorial Service soon won’t they?  I am taking it into confidence that you have read about the fighting? (2)

I was very pleased on reading Mother’s letter about Mr. Dixon*  preaching at the Harvest Festival; I was thinking all day last Sunday that you were very likely celebrating Harvest Thanksgiving.  Sydney is writing today, so he told me this morning.

Would you like to know what Harold sent me?  I got his parcel on the Thursday (3) I left Camp , & yours too.  Horlick’s Milk Tablets for the damp, cold nights, cocoa made with milk, soap  I shall need that more now, chocolate, toothpowder to prevent toothache this coming winter, and a nice long letter.  Sydney had a letter from him yesterday & he is sending a parcel to Sydney soon too.  I sincerely hope he will get settled at Wol’ton (4).

Vernon is sorry he cannot be for Best Man at his brother’s Wedding.  I am sending him a Souvenir Card today which will likely reach him by the 20 th.  Arthur Brewin* will soon be having his commission, & he told Vernon this morning that he (Vernon) is going to be made a Corporal & Sydney most likely a Sergeant. Jolly old Sydney again (5).

Many thanks for the emery cloth & flannel which came just at the right time.  And for the Parish Magazine which I read between hours of duty.  I gave Vernon one of those rosy apples to wake him up; it was a cold little apple & he soon woke up.  I shared several things with Sydney, including the pineapples.  I let Sydney read your letter to me in the parcel & he did laugh at the part where you saw him in the street.

Dear Dodger,  Sydney has just shown me some Whitby photos (6).  How I laughed at you in bed. How large & a really ripping photo.

Best love,  Bertie.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

This Letter is another example of how Pte Bertie Hibbett raises questions in his reader’s mind about dates & times and answers them a few letters further on.

(1)  Battle for Hohenzollern, 13th Oct.  Pte Bertie was on his way up Line to Bethune. (2) Thurs.14th Oct. 1915.  (3Wolverhampton, Black Country, Midlands, UK.

(4) Sydney Hibbett’s rapid promotion from Private to Sergeant  indicates the severity of the losses of 13th-14th Oct.  (5) Bertie was immensely proud of his brother who is just 1 year 2 months older than he is. I have no official record of when Sydney Hibbett was promoted to Serjeant until this Letter.  (6) Hibbett Family Holiday, 1915.

NEXT POSTS: 21st; 24th Oct. 1915.

These will be posted late (possibly 25th, 26th Oct) as I am taking part in Stephan Mc Neff’s award-winningTarka the Opera’ in Exeter Cathedral (20th & 21st. Oct).  Commissioned by the Two Moors Festival, it was premiered at RHS Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon, on 20th October 2006.  

This is an Opera very much for our time. Based on the novel by Henry Williamson, it describes his struggle to understand the madness of the First World War.  ‘Who is wild?  Who is civilised?’Why do we kill, is it an act of will? All around is the beauty of nature, of light and seasons  and wild creatures – yet Nature is ‘red in tooth & claw‘ –  Man hunts man and civilisation is turning back into darkness.  Williamson is powerless to stop it.  

One day he tries to tell his wife about the War but ‘words and imaginations’ fail him and so he begins to type the story of Tarka the Otter.  The Otter Hunt with hounds, in North Devon 1927, is juxtaposed with the Battlefields of France & Flanders and the release of the Dogs of War.  Just as Williamsons‘ philosophical questions end in nothing but deadlock , so Deadlock the Hound and Tarka the Otter are bent on mutual destruction – they die locked together in death. 

Librettist Richard Williams has made brilliant use of Williamson’s evocative language.  Director Tom Guthrie, (Royal Opera) has turned  the Cathedral into a riverbank and bridge, with performers moving in and around the audience. Conductor Nicholas Cleobury, who conducted the premiere in 2006, is bringing professional singers and orchestra together, with a  non-professional adult choir and local children’s choirs, to create a most exciting and wonderful whole.

 

1st AUGUST 1915: HILL 60 WHIZBANG DUGOUT & RUMOURS OF ‘REST’.

 Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, on her own at 95, Foden Rd Walsall. (Mother, Father & Basil on holiday at Whitby). 

In the Trenches.  Whizbang DugOut (1).

IDA HIBBETT. 27 in 1914.
IDA HIBBETT.
27 in 1915.

My Dear Sister,

By the time this letter gets to you you will have settled down at home.  I guess you are on your way from York – it is about two o’clock now pm.

I read your letter to Sydney.  How queer, Ida, I suppose you saw the Field Postcard with the line :- ‘I am being sent down to Base’. This ought to have been crossed outIt was a mistake, a rather foolish one of mine, but queer enough I did not know I had made a mistake till Mother mentioned it in her letter  – & on the very day I got Mother’s letter a strong rumour got to my knowledge that I was going to the Base for a rest & yesterday I went before the Doctor & eventually I have my name down to go to Base (2).

  –  I conclude I am going but do not know exactly when.  I have heard that I shall be going while in the trenchesAnother queer part about the  matter is that I had long been recommended for a rest  & had been before the Doctor before I sent the PC to Mum .

Well, Champion, how have you enjoyed your stay at Ashton & YorkI should think you have no difficulty whatever in travelling now.  Did you pass through Crewe again ?  – & have a tray brought to you?

You will feel  the difference being at home, practically alone, after being with the relatives in the hub bub of the great centers.  But I guess you will have the Overends* to tea in our sunny gardenYes, I well remember May* (3) coming to tea & we had the basket table out & the silver.  I shall indeed appreciate dining at table with a white cloth, flowers & chinaHere I squat tailor fashion with my mess tin lid in which I eat my bacon & pontoon.WW1 brazier

You tell us not to eat so much cake, very well then we will take your wise advice, but we get to long for such luxuries after biscuits & cheese  – & yet we can eat anything after a long march,  – as for the case for Auntie’s cake – ate that at night after marching up the trenchesInstead then of cake we should very much appreciate one or two of your tea cakes with currants in – & you can put some caraway seed in mine.

While in the trenches, last time, I was called to the Brigade Headquarters (4), together with three other chaps from the other Battalions, as being picked for surveying work (5) I was to go & have my rest with my Battalion & then when I come back to the trenches I shall be liable to go & do some surveying I have not been called to do this surveying as yet.

Can  you read my writing?  Yes I am afraid it will take some effort to improve upon this. I get agitated somewhat & when I start a letter I lose patience trying to express the great stock of news I have in my mind.  

Sydney forgot to return the Copy (6) Mother sent & so I will return it in the green envelope, in which also is enclosed the souvenir card I meant to send you.  I thought of sending it to Auntie* & then Miss Foster*, but I have decided to send it to you because I dare say you will like to have it on your mantelpiece in your bedroom.

You can send the Copy off to Mother who will be at Whitby won’t she? with Dad & DodgerI would like to send them a letter while they are there but I am running rapidly short of notepaper & this pencil is getting short too.

I hope Dodger has done well at the Grammar School & passed with Honourswhat say you?   Yes,  he was the scamp who chased the pigs at Uffington (7) – those good old days when we used to number off the days for the holidays & stop away from school on the day we travelled. 

German Raid on whitby 16th Dec. 1914.
German Raid on Whitby 16th Dec. 1914.

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey after German Bombardment. Dec. 1914.

I wonder if Basil will do what he said in one of his past letters  i.e. if they bombard the town again – to lie down full length in the grass on top of the Cliffs & watch the excitement .

Leuy Cozens 1914
Captain Leslie Cozens. ‘Tim’.  Family friend of Hibbetts.

Capt. C. (8) is back now & he does look ‘andsome on horseback does Tim.

Tell Dodger he can send us some picture PCs. – they come in handy for decorating our dugouts & are a pleasure to look at them.  I have several up in mine now.  I have still the one of our home with an Alexandra Rose (9) in it from one of my scholars, and Tamworth Castle (10), Sutton & Sunday School group.

Tamworth Castle PC.
Tamworth Castle .

Hoping you will have a ’appy time on your ony own.

Best love,  Bertie.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

The Hibbett Family were not deterred by the War from taking their usual summer holiday. It is likely that they purchased the  German Bombardment Book of Photographs, in aid of Whitby victimsat this time.

(1) Whizbang: Tommy’s name for a small high-velocity shell, which made a whizzing sound in flight & a bang when it hit.

(2) Rouen on SeineB.E.F. Main Base. (3May/ Mary Overend*. (4) Brigade HeadquartersRailway Cutting, Hill 60. (Divisional Headquarters was at Ouderdom). (5Surveyors were being brought together from different battalions to form special units & Tunnelling Companies. Pte Bertie Hibbett was a mining surveyor apprentice before the War

(6) Gazette Press Cutting re:- Colonel Wade & his son Jack Wade (missing on Eastern Front). (7) Uffington: village near Stamford, then in Rutlandshire.  Home of Uncle TomHibbett cousins.

(8) Captain Leslie (Tim) Cozens*, 1/5th S.Staffs ‘A’ Company. QMS scholar, Sunday School teacher, Walsall. (9) Queen Alexandra’s Rose: charities & hospitals for poor. (10) Tamworth Castle: Norman Castle overlooking River Tame, Staffordshire. 2nd largest motte & bailey castle in Uk to Windsor).  <www.visittamworth.co.uk>

NEXT POST: 1st AUGUST 1915: Wizbang Dugout, Hill 60 & Family Holidays.

1st JULY 1915: OUDERDOM – ‘BULLY BEEF BUNGALOW’.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

YPRES SALIENT – OUVERDOM CAMP.

1st July, Thurs:  Moved into Bivouacs.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.     Censor: 447 WE Wright.

Mother at Abergele, August, 1914. Watercolour. A.H.Hibbett.

Dominion Day.  July 1/ 15. (1)

My Very Dear Mother,

Glad to hear you got our letters all right.  We both always like the parcels you send, with a fresh liking & delight every time we get one from home.  We got the last parcel the day we settled in the new hutments.  We have moved again today & will bivouac for some time now.

Leut Cozens 1914
Lieut. Tim Cozens.

I was so sorry on hearing of Jack Wade* getting wounded.  You wish we were lieutenants?  Well for my part, every time I see Tim*(2), who is the bright spark, I wish I was like him, but I am generally content & my only wish now is that Sydney will get to be a full Corporal (3).

So the Vicar (4) gave a pleasant sermon?  Do you remember me giving you a form of intercession with a picture of an angel guarding a soldier & a sailor?

My word another parcel.  I have your letter by me & am answering & referring as I read on Anything will be welcome, but don’t let us put you to any out of the way trouble. The last tin of cream was lovely & thick – send the same another time.  Many thanks for the bit of cash which came in useful.

Vernon, Sydney & I had a letter each from Mrs Penning, dear old lady (5).  Mine was a long one too & all of them written in a motherly way.  She said we had been there a long time & she was getting to know us & we were as children to her.  She said, in Sydney’s letter, that she would very much like a line from you Mother;  she must sympathise with you.

I have managed to get with Vernon in our bivouacsmade of oil sheets we carry on our packs & any poles or sticks we find in the field.  It has been a fine day today.  America will be having celebrations today & Miss Foster* (6) will be seeing the Royal Show (7) pass her window in Lenton. There’s signs of Parading soon – digging I suppose –  so I will close.

What can I send you on your birthday Mother dear?

Best love from The Trio –  V. S. B.  (Bertie).

PS  You need not send any watercress, but we get very little or no green food.

Tell me if you got letter to Basil dated 30 June/ 15 Woden’s Day(8). Could you of your generosity send Bailey* (9) that small parcel in next parcel to us,  – you promised, but just as you please.

PPS All the men are giving their tents names.  I have named our bivouac Bully Beef Bungalow (10).  Everybody is cheeringthe Brass Band has come to give us a tune.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1Dominion Day/ Canada Day : Canada received national status on 1st July, 1867(2) Lieut. Tim Cozens*, formerly Sunday School Teacher, St Paul’s Walsall.

(3) Pte Bertie’s Mother perhaps thought her sons would be better & safer as Officers, but life expectancy was 6 weeks for a young subaltern (2nd Lieut, most junior commissioned officer/ led a platoon of 50 men). Six Weeks – The Short & Gallant  Life of a British Officer in the First World War. 2011. John Lewis- Stempel (historian, author & farmer).

(4) The Revd. E. More Darling*. (5) Mrs Alice Penning: the Trio’s landlady, Saffron Walden. Not I think all that ‘old’,  she was to lose her only son, Arthur Penning* in August, 1915. (6) Miss Foster: Bertie Hibbett’s Godmother, lived in Lenton Sands, Nottingham.

(7Royal Agricultural Show. 1st July 1915, Woollaton Park, Nottingham (103,883 visitors). Commercial Motor website. The Wheel of Industry. ‘Exhibition of steam & internal combustion engined vehicles, tractor engines & agrimators’. The 1915  (&1916 Show at Manchester) ‘suffered from hostilities’;  those of 1917 -1918 were cancelled.  NB Interestingly, one exhibitor was an Edwin Foden,  Son & Co. Ltd. Elworth Works, Sandbach, producer of commercial vehicles. Any connection with Foden Rd Walsall? (

8) Woden’s Day: : Old English wodnesdaeg/ wednesday.(9) F.S. Bailey or Leonard Bailey*: probably a few cigarettes.(10) Naming of Places: an attempt to take some control in a life of total uncertainty.

NEXT POST: 4th JULY, 1915:  Rumours of Home Leave.

30TH MAY 1915. FRIENDLY FIRE & FAVOURITE FOOD.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

WULVERGHEM TRENCHES 

22nd May, Sat:  N. M. Farm 10 A.R. and 10A support shelled. CASUALTY: 8533 Pte H. Rochford  (wounded?). 23th May, Sun: 50 yards of enemy parapet blew up on our left.  Artillery on both sides very activeInaccuracy of our supporting Battery reported to 1st Brigade RFA (1) & 137th Inf. Bde.

Trench 8 Wulverghem. May 1915.
 Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Trench 8 , Wulverghem, May 1915. http://libguides.juniata.educ/

24th May, Mon:  Enemy shelled Trenches 8 (Bertie’s), 9A, 9B, 10B and 10B (support) damaging parapets and traverses.  Inaccuracy of our own supporting battery again reported. Relieved by 6th Souths about 11.20 pm.  ‘A’ Coy  (Bertie’s) remaining in support. CASUALTY: 7787 Pte (Dr) A. Fitzer (2) slightly wounded.

25th May, Tue: In Hutments, Bulford Camp. (‘A’ Coy supporting 6th South).  26th May, Wed: ‘B Coy relieved ‘A’ Coy in support. 27th May, Thur:  In Hutments, Bulford Camp. 28th May, Fri: Proceeding to trenches in relief of 6th Souths at 8.15 pm. CASUALTY:7251 Sgt B. Stephens wounded.

29th May, Sat: Wulverghem. Enemy shelled 9C, otherwise quiet day.  ‘C’ Coy, 8th R. Brigade (3) attached for instruction in Trench duties.  30th May, Sun: Very quiet day.  CASUALTY: No 9218 Pte E. Hayes wounded.

Sap Trench into No Man's land. Soldiers had to bend their backs.
Sap Trench into No Man’s Land.  Soldiers had to bend their backs before ‘going over the top’.

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
BERTIE HIBBETT:
19 in 1915.

A.H.H. Own War Diary: A Little Book of Words & Doings‘. ‘Trinity Sunday. 30th May 1915. New sap (4).  Picket duty in the rye in front (5). Found good souvenir of nose of shell. Read Revelation’ (6) .  

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

Trinity Sunday.  May 30th / 15

My Dear Mother,

A lovely sunny afternoon again with a cool breeze. I am with Vernon & one Cecil Jackson*, a bank clerk in the United Counties (7).  I can picturemysel’ coming away from Sunday School for it is after 4. 0’ clock.

I have just re-read your letter & Basil’s jolly one. Some weeks ago a Tommy made the pun that ‘Kitcheners were with us‘ – yes in packets; we get some of the ‘Express & Star’ Martins cigarettes once a week – but last night Kitcheners, in the flesh and blood, came from London lot of  RBs. (8)

Yes we all miss Lieut P.* both officers and men (9). He was our Captain’s right hand man & before you told me he was a clergyman’s son he put me in mind of the Rev. E.M. Darling* in his manner, stature & many other characteristics.  

Mother Abergele 1914
Mother : Marie Neal Hibbett, Abergele. August 1914. Watercolour. Arthur H. Hibbett. Aged 19.

You must go on the usual procedure for the Summer holidays (10).  I’m sure you will need a rest and Father too.

I wish I could say more on the matter but I’m afraid this letter won’t go in the green envelope now I’ve put something in about the army (11).

Basil will enjoy hay-making with Les (12).  I heard from Allen*, with whom I had a long chat on Thursday evening, that Tom (Ser) is not well, got something the matter with his leg & injured his left hand.  He’s as bad as if he were out here I’ll be blowed.

I was on duty as a picket this morning & had to lie in the long tall rye, the sun beating upon my neck.

St Athan; Trinity Shield.
Shield of the Trinity. Creed of  St Athanasius.

I pictured you in St Paul’s singing the Creed of St Athanasius (13) & I guess you will perhaps go to Rushall Church (14) for an evening walk as well as to the service, if the weather is like it is here.

We have had orders to do away with pants & I shall be sorry if you have sent some off to Syd before you heard from me.  The weather is so hot that I am without vest & tunic.   I had a lovely wash with a tablet of oatmeal Mrs Hurst* sent me, another generous lady.

Should you get this letter before you buy or send a pipe then, Mother, as you do not care for a ‘man’ to smoke a pipe don’t go to the expense of getting one, but if you have already taken steps then send the pipe.

I enclose an extract from Harold’s letter I got the time we were in the trenches the Sat before Syd’s birthday.

We relish the following  – & Oh dear Mother, it is so kind of you to say it is a pleasure to you to think out what to send us in parcels – Lemon curd, I tin of Cafe -au- lait, I tin Pineapple with tin cream, Bird’s Lemonade with sugar or  1 bottle of Symington’s Lemonade crystals, 1 loaf currant bread, tea cakes.  I for my part like caraway seed in them and occasionally could you put a cake in?  Although we’ve had 3 cakes Syd couldn’t keep them so long & besides he gave a slice all round the hut with his usual generous manner. (I helped him).  A cake makes the parcel complete, but see that it’s packed well (of course forgive me just saying so for you always send a well packed parcel).

We could do with some sugar to go with the Lemonade or Cocoa and the Cafe au lait needs a little; also if you send any currant bread, or tea cakes, butter would be a great welcome.  Many thanks for the last lot of butter & bread which we greatly appreciated.

Now I’ve said my say with regard to Parcels I can’t help but feel ashamed of my greediness.

Now make a nice Sunday tea.

Bertie Hibbett's drawing of a tea cup. Aged 8.
TEA CUP & SAUCER blue pattern for ‘Dear Mother from Bertie’:  Drawing by Bertie Hibbett.  Aged 8 or 9.

Goodbye for the present.  I pray that Mother will have a quiet, goodnight’s sleep.  

Your affec.  son,  Bertie.

******************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) RFA: Royal Field Artillery. (2ADoctor‘ (medical or academic) was not automatically an Officer. (3R.B. – Rifle Brigade. See Forces War Record website & http://www.1914-1918. The Long Long Trail.(4) Sap: a shallow  trench dug from the Front Line into No Man’s Land to approach enemy without detection. Trenches: useful info. http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki

(5) Picket Duty: Sentry Duty (to warn of enemy advance –fully armed in pairs, 2 hrs) . Pte Bertie Hibbett appears to be out of the sap in No Man’s Land with only the rye for protection. (6) Book of Revelation: the only Book of Prophecy in New Testament. An Apocalyptic Vision of a New Heaven & a New Earth.

(7) United Counties Bank, Wolverhampton. 1907 -1916 when acquired by Barclay’s Bank, together with Birmingham District, Counties Bank & Bradford Old Bank. See Lives of the First World War  <https://www.archive.barclays.com&gt; .(8Rifle Brigade. http://www.1914-1918. The Long Long Trail. Another indication that QMS 1/5th S.Staffs differentiated themselves from Kitchener’s New Army?

(9Lieut. Parr* compared with the Revd. E. More Darling*, Vicar of Walsall. His‘A’ Coy. Captain was Captain Cecil Lister DSO*.  

(10) Family Summer Holidays alternated between Abergele, Wales and Whitby, Yorkshire.  (11Green Envelope:  First issued April 1915. Soldiers were on their honour to write only personal matters. (12) Les & Tom Ser. ref. to Staffordshire farm where Basil (future agricultural engineer) helped out at weekends & holidays?

(13) Athanasian Creed: (Latin: Quicunque Vult). Book of Common Prayer, 1662.  Summary of Christian Doctrine of Trinity & Christology, to counter heresies re Nature of God.  St Athan- Symbol Interpreted[Traditional authorship St Athanasius, 296-373 AD, Archbishop of Alexandria, now questioned. Used in Western worship since 6th Cent. on Trinity Sunday & other festivals. Rarely used today] .

(14) Rushall Church, Walsall where Ida Hibbett is buried & SgtSydney Hibbett is commemorated (a mile from 95, Foden Rd, Walsall).

NEXT POST: 3rd June 1915. Update Welcome.

 

 

21ST MAY 1915: ‘ALL ABOUT SMOKING’ – TROOPS AUTOS & THEIR CIGARETTES.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

WULVERGHEM TRENCHES

18th May 1915, Tue: ‘D’ Coy proceeded to relieve ‘C’ Coy. CASUALTY: KILLED: 9998 Pte Swancott ‘C’ Coy. 19th May Wed: ‘C’ Coy inspected by Bdr Gen. Feetham.  20th May,Thur: Proceeded to the trenches in relief of 6th Souths at 9.0 pm. CASUALTIES: WOUNDED: 9899 Pte A.D.Wood 7855 L/C J. Bird (slightly wounded); 6108 Sgt E. Lloyd. 21st May, Fri: Enemy burst seven shells over 9A support.  Otherwise quiet day. CASUALTY: WOUNDED: 8707 Pte J. G. Bennett.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd, Walsall.

The ‘Listener’s Lounge                                                                         Friday May 21st / 15

My Dear Mother & Father,

                                      All about Smoking. 

To begin with dear Mother you were the Ist to convey the news of our letters being ‘in the paper’. I mentioned the fact to Norman Cope & Cyril Hinde who are in the same hut in camp.  Norman was puzzled, he could not remember writing a letter which would be likely to appear in any paper & we all three could not think of the paper it could be in.  I thought of the AdvertiserSyd of the Birmingham Mail.

Well the puzzle was solved on Syd’s birthday I believe, or the day after, when Cope got The Express & StarHow we roared at the large block heading & how flattered we felt.  We indeed were ignorant of such consequences on acknowledging the bacca which by the by was issued with the rations – little packets of Kitcheners and Roll Call cigarettes & a packet of Matins ‘Arf a Mo’ tobacco with a PC in each packet, having the address of the contributor.   * * * * * * * * * * 

Cigarettes to Front

Maurice Badian Esq. Medellin, Republic de Columbia, U.S.A.
Maurice Badian Esq. Medellin, Republic de Columbia, U.S.A.

An Explanation & A Request. The smokes in this parcel have been subscribed by the United States, as a testimony of their kindly feelings towards the cause of the Allies. They would naturally be glad to hear from you of the safe arrival of the parcels, and would treasure a momento from the trenches, in the shape of a few words from the men ‘who are making history’ at the Front.’   Over-Seas Club, Tobacco Fund, General Buildings, Aldwych, London W.C.   

* * * * * * * * * *    Have you had my letter written on his coming of age? another racking of my brains for a real Birthday one.  If  you did I guess, or rather I am wondering greatly, what sort of opinions Mother & Father will have of me for smoking Syd’s health.  Well I have not yet smoked a cigarette & I know Dad prefers apipe

Troops Autos & their Cigarettes. THE QUEEN'S WESTMINSTER. South Africa 1900- 1902.
1)  THE QUEEN’S WESTMINSTER.  South Africa 1900 -1902.. Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Autograph Album 1916 – 1917. The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Birkenhead..

I shall have to be a smoker now.  Miss Foster has ‘done it in’ for meFancyshe addressed the parcel to me & not to Syd. Of course the contents were for us both.  Guess? – why Country Life cigs with a nice letter enclosed.

Miss Foster seems to be puzzled with regard to our ‘diggings’ she had an idea we lived in houses.

Now look here Mum, what can you make of Mrs Jones, isn’t she TOO BAD. Why another couple of tins of Embassy & two more of Nestles.  I gave Syd a good share of one box.  Vernon, Oh Vernon – now I have smoked  a pipe on Syd’s 21st, has jokingly pestered me to smoke one of his cigs.  After tea he sais a smoke is most soothing, and at the rest, on a march when my head ached, he said a cigarette would put me all right.

SCOTTISH REGIMENTS.
2) SCOTTISH REGIMENTS: 1/10th Liverpool Scottish. ‘J. Beck underwent almost 10 operations’.  AHH Autograph Album, The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton. 1916 -1917.

Should you agree to me smoking could you please send me a white bone cigarette holder & if  you are kind enough to consider Syd too, one for him; but  perhaps he doesn’t want one.  Perhaps Harold would subscribe for a cigarette holder.  The smoking will help to keep down bad smells, by the by.  A  Lieut. passed the Listener’s Lounge & remarked upon the ‘Hum’ – ‘What is it?’ he said ‘ a cow or a horse?  ‘An awful smell to be sure!’  

Irish regiment Autographs collected on Cigarette ppares . Hsopital Birkenhead. 1916.
3) IRISH REGIMENTS:  Cigarette Paper Autographs.  Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Autograph Album, The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Birkenhead. 1916 – 1917.

Vernon’s sister has sent him some lovely shortcake biscuits & a few currant cakes & some toffee all of her make & he was very generous in letting Syd & me sample some. 

Your letter Mother written on Syd’s birthday was ripping, long & of course most MotherlyI often picture you in Church alone. Couldn’t Dodger go with you some Sunday evenings now summer is coming?

Talking about Nature which goes on as usualthe war only affecting man’s work such as houses etc – on going & coming to & from from the trenches we often hear the Frogs croaking.  There must, I should think, be an innumerable number of the songsters all along the fields, especially around the stagnant ponds.

Send some lilies, as Ida promised, – the garden will be lovely if all goes on well, considering what Basil said in his past letter.

If you don’t get a letter for some long time after it was written you will know it was written in the trenches where there is no outward post until we get back to Camp I guess Basil will tell you when we are coming out of the trenches & the day we are going into them. Go to Camp next Monday night.

R.A.M.C Autogrphed Cigarette Papers. Red Cross Hospital. 1916.
4) R.A.M.C Autogrphed Cigarette Papers. Pte BertieRed Cross Hospital. 1916.

I promised Vernon I shall not smoke again until I hear what  you & Dad have to say on the matter.  We have had wet weather in Camp, but today, as I am writing this, the sun is scorching & I shall have to close now as I am getting sweaty.  I expect a letter from Harold tomorrow, for he said he was writing to me.   So Fred York* called did he? –  well I wrote to him & Harold on the 6th when I wrote those letters you were anxious about, namely acknowledging the good parcels.

It is not very often that I miss (filling) a page, but I am getting exhausted of reliable news.

Best love to all. 

It was very kind & considerate of you to visit Bailey’s mother*.

Best love,   Bertram.              Censor W.E. Wright.

***********************************

My Memories of the First World War. The Revd Arthur H. Hibbett. 1967.  At The Cenacle, British Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Berkenhead, a friend (Vernon Evans) gave me an Autograph Book in which I collected autos of the patients, written on cigarettes, which I cut in half and pasted on the pages.  I spent my time doing drawings and sketches with my left hand.’

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT’S Autograph Album. Signatures collected at The Cenacle, British Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Birkenhead. 1916 – 1917. Troops Autos & their Cigarettes: 1) The Queen’s Westminster. July 1916. Ward 6. Rifleman G.Hughes, De Reszhe as supplied. Rflm A.J. Bays, Abdullah & Co. Ltd. EW Bond Street. Turkish Fine.  

2) Scottish Regiments:  J. Beck 1/10th Liverpool Scottish. Capstan & Navy Cut. Medium. W.D. & H.D. Wills. ‘J. Beck underwent almost 10 operations’.

3) Irish Regiments. 1st London Irish Rifles. A. Kelly Pte. South Irish Horse, Players No 3 Virginia;  E.J. Leggett, Rifleman. R.E. Notasa(?) Ltd. Picadilly, London. Turkish Grade No 4;  L/Corpl. Sofetig (?) Gold Flake, W.D. & H.D. Wills.

4) R.A.M.C. (Royal Army Medical Corps). J. Whyte. Players ‘Medium’ Navy Cut.  Ernest C. Kirk (ditto).

NEXT POST:   30th May 1915.

1st MAY 1915: Friendly Fire & Forget-me-nots.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

WULVERGHEM TRENCHES

26th April, Mon: Two working parties of 200 men each on G.H.Q. lines.  Bn paraded for Trenches at 8.50 pm & relieved 1/6th S Staffs Regt.   27th April, Tue: Wulverghem Trenches.  Heavy artillery fire all day, mainly on our right. Aeroplane duel about 6.0 pm over Wulverghem. Casualties: 085 Sgt W. Stevens, 9491 Pte J. Parkes both of ‘A’ Coy, wounded by rifle fire.  Gap between 10a & 10b completely closed.

28th April, Wed :  10a support trench shelled. Sniping from Messines. Casualties: Wounded:4468 Sgt W.J. Yardley, ‘A’ Coy 9012 Pte G. Wyley, ‘D’ Coy wounded. 29th April, Thur:  Shell from supporting battery struck 10b Trench seriously wounding Capt. Mc Craith, (North Midland R.E.)  Killing Pte W. Martin, (M.G. section). Other Casualtieswounding 8436 Dr. H. Mills ‘A’ Coy., 8526 Pte J. Lewis. ‘A’ Coy.

30th April, Fri:  Quiet day. Six shells fell in Wulverghem village about 4.0pm.  Casualties – Wounded:9332 Pte N.C. Hilton, M.G. section wounded.  1/6 S Staffs Rgt. relieved us 11.45 pm Bn to Bulford Camp. Casualties: L.Cpl. H. Meyrick, ‘B’ Coy & 8908 Pte V.C. Hough ‘C’ Coy wounded during relief.

CASUALTIES during month : KILLED: 7 OtherRanks  (includes 8990 Sgt J. Sanders (attd R.W.) killed at Dickebusch, 27.4.15);  DIED OF WOUNDS: 2  O. R. ; DIED IN HOSPITAL: 1 O.R. ; WOUNDED: 2 Officers, 25 Other Ranks.   

Signed Raymer Lt Col Comdg. 1/5 S. Staff Regt. 

1st May 1915: NEUVE EGLISE, BULFORD CAMP HUTMENTS.

********************************  

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MOTHER, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall. (Pages 5 – 8 only)                                                                                                         May Ist/ 15  (Basil’s Birthday)

Page 5 . . . . . .  Our little place under the ground (1) was nice & cool while Sid and I broke into a parcel from Mrs Jones*How generous of her to have sent again & she must have kind thoughts of us to pop a long letter in each time and to say “There is something very pleasant in sending comforts to our ‘dear lads at the front.

Two tins of Embassy cigs for Syd and some Nestles ChocNow this war is on I do not think Nestles Milk choc is such good quality, but I enjoyed it very much because it was from a friend of Mother’s.  She told us you had gone to tea that Monday afternoon.

I am proud of Sydney & admire him for his modesty (2).  He has done some sniping & I shouldn’t be surprised if the result was – well I’ve suddenly taken a serious turn – rather sad to say.

Ask Ida what afiller-inis. I managed to get hold of a Daily Mail.  One of the days I read a jolly article, yet a pretty one, entitled Poor Georgia – she was a ‘filler-inall through life & it ends up something like this  ‘And heaven was full but there happened to be just a little spot that no one would take & so Georgia ‘filled it in’!

Wouldn’t you all like Sid & me to come on Home Leave now?  I have had a new tunic and puttees & bootsYou would admire the little bit of scarlet at the back of our hat badges (red & khaki go well together) and Sid with his a new tunic and stripe

In camp I frequently come across our friend Ball* with his rosy cheeks & kindly smile.  Last time I saw him at the washing place in the field.  He said he had got another boil; the one on his neck has quite gone.  I remembered Mrs Jones* to Cyril Hind* & he went on to say that Miss K. Brookes* had read part of my letter, and his, to her Class. (3)

I’m glad Dodger had a good time at Easter, he will miss the rides with Mr Cox (4) as well now Mr Cox is going to Devonshire.  I received a very interesting letter from Miss Foster* telling of her time in Scotland.  She says she is also anxious about us both.  I got her letter with Basil’s mile long one today.

Sid, I think, would like for his 21st birthday a few crumbs of comfort – cigs, some chocolate 3d and 6d Cadbury’s Mexican & a cigarette case You can pop a few cakes in & perhaps a tin of Nestle’s Milk to make tea taste nice.  A tin of pineapple chunks would not be amiss for we crave sometimes for something cool to eat or drink.

If Miss Bore* wants to send us anything tell her to send some acid drops & bulls eyes again, for its time for those now.  Well I’ll finish up my May Day letter referring to the Boy of the Day (5).  How goes he on the piano now?  I should think he ought to give you real pleasure with some nice tunes.

Vernon’s older brother* has his birthday today the first of May too.  I hope sincerely that Basil will get through & not be excited about the exam after all the long time of preparation.

Remember us both to Tom Ser* [& Bes] (6) – if they are ‘nice’ yet- ha!  ha!

Dear Mother I hope this letter will give you some comfort.  I have tried & I hope my little effort will have good effectalso the lovely little forget-you-nots;  but the pressing has taken the pretty light blue out of them.

They remind me of Rudyard Kipling’s hymn:–  Lord God of Hosts be with us yet, Lest we forget – lest we forget! Lord bless my Home – guide there my affections-  my thoughts – my pen. Tho’ sundered far – by faith we meet   Around one common mercy seat. (7)

Fondest love from your affect. son,   Bertie.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) Listening Post ‘like a Walsall pit’. (2Sydney Hibbett had just been promoted to Lance Corporal. (3) Sunday School Class at St Paul’s, Walsall. (4)  Mr Cox, probably the farmer Basil Hibbett (future agriculturalist) helped out during school holidays. (5May Day 1915 was Basil’s 17th Birthday. His exam was probably Junior Oxford. (6)Tom Ser & wife Bess ( Uffington friends? information pending).

(7) Rudyard Kipling: b. Bombay, India.1865 -1936. The People’s Laureate’. Short story writer, poet & novelist/ children’s classics. Won Nobel Prize for Literature. Lost son at Battle of Loos, Oct 1915. Critical of British Army. Involved in Imperial War Graves Commission.

Poem: ‘Recessional’ (composed for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897) repeats the refrain ‘Lest we forget‘ (i.e. the sacrifice of Christ/ representative of all Humanity). Adapted by the Anglican Church as a hymn/ used especially at Armistice Day/ Remembrance Services. Frequently found on War Memorials.

NEXT POST: 3rd May 1915.

 

24th APRIL 1915. WULVERGHEM: BOMBS, BULLETS & BISCUITS.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE

April 24th Sat.  Drill – Route March. Working Party of 200 men on G.H.Q. Line, 8 -12 midnight.  

SYDNEY HIBBETT 20 in 1914.
SYDNEY HIBBETT
21st Birthday 17th May 1915..

Lance Corp. SYDNEY HIBBETT: LETTER to sister IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall  – in which he gives a description of Wulverghem village, its shattered Church and Priest’s House. (1)

Saturday Afternoon                                                                                                     April 24th 1915        ‘Himley Hall’ (2)

My Dear Sister Ida,

I am taking this, the first opportunity to answer your last two letters to me.  Many thanks  for your interesting chat and also for your good opinion of our doings.  It cheers one up & eggs one on to know that you are all thinking & praying for us when you have time. 

I was very glad Harold got my letter & ‘love’ & that you saw it.  Ask him if he got my instructions about Eddie & George not touching my Velox motor as it is important (3)  & (4).

I received (also Bert) your letter yesterdaythe post always arrives about tea-time here at the Rest Camp. I was glad to hear from the Overend girls & I sent Winnie a Field PC by return, thanking her for the chocolate, or rather acknowledging the receipt of same & her letter you enclosed.  It is very nice to know these people think of you.

As for courage & determination, I don’t think we remember that when they are shelling us, as I described to you before.  If  you are on sentry  you have to still look over the parapet or through the loophole, as a matter of course, just to see if the beggars are watching the shells burst & then of course you take a sight on the blighter & perhaps over he goes& there’s another for Whitby Abbey! (5).

The Lyddite are the worst shells as the fumes make your eyes smart so that you cannot see properly (6).

Our partner ‘E’ Coy. was shelled again on Wednesday & though not a man was hurt their dugouts & parapets were thrown down & in an awful mess.  Several shells did not burstthere was a distant boom, a swish overhead, bump, but no explosion.  Very funny to see the chaps’ faces when it didn’t burst.   Well we came out of the trenches for the 3rd time on Thursday night at the usual hour when you would be asleep in bed.  What would happen if all of us went to sleep then?

My platoon has not been in the trenches this time.  When the Batt. went in last Sunday night we stopped at a farm in the rear which was our billet for the time (6).  We slept in a barn & though bullets at times flattened themselves on the walls & in the yard we managed to keep clear of them, except for one or two who were hit in the arm & head.  They are bullets that don’t strike the trenches’ parapets, but flying over continue until they descend in the farm which is close to a very much shattered village (7).  

This village (about as big as Uffington (8) would be very pretty in peace time & especially now in the Spring but Good Lord!  it is now a disorderly heap of bricks & wood. Every house is shattered, the church has one wall of the tower left, the clock remains at 6.10, the windows are broken & bent beams lie all around; graves have disappeared & only a great hole remainsThe chairs inside are matchwood.  The Catholic Priest’s house opposite was a very beautiful residence once, but all his pictures & library & household effects are littered about  – valuable theological books are there – still whole, but neglected & dusty.  Then his garden is still beautiful with flowers and shrubs but littered with biscuits (9) & refuse.  In short a ghastly mess. 

Well on Monday, a beautiful hot day, & very still & quiet except for an occasional ping from a passing bullet, I had the job of getting all the good timber floors & doors etc out of these houses & handing it over to the R.E. to make trench gratings etc from Will finish this tomorrow as I am wanted outside.       ***************

Sunday 6.pm.   We have been building up the parapets in our reserve trenches from 10 am till 3 pm & so I am rather tired.  The Germans sent some shells over us which exploded near the village. The holes could be seen & the earth & stuff went skying up.  We were all digging hard, about the time you would be having dinner, when suddenly we heard the swish of the first shell coming over – down we all jumped into the trench & crouched thinking we were their blessed objective – but it passed over & I was just in time to see the shell burst near the village a few hundred yards away.  Well we had it like this for about half an hour, our Territorial battery replying & then it ceased.

It has been very warm todaythe artillery of both sides, especially our own, has been very busy lately & today also.  We could see the gun flashes & hear the blessed shells. 

I received a nice writing pad & material from Miss Negus (10) today & also a lovely box of chocolates & parkin from Auntie Pat* yesterday – nothing is left now!  They had Church parade while we were away digging, so I have read the Psalm over for today myself (11).

Bert’s feet are still bad & he does not do many parades so that he can get them better.  Nothing to worry about.(12)

Must close now.    Best love & wishes,  

Your loving brother,   Sydney.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) Bruce Bairnsfather. Bullets & Billets. 1916. Chapter XXIII has a similar but more detailed description of the state of the Wulverghem Church & Priest’s House, 1915. The Project Gutenberg ebook  produced by Jonathan Ingram, Steven desJardin & Distributer Proofreader

(2) Himley Hall, Dudley, Staffordshire: Home of the Lords of Dudley* (since 16th Cent. Owners of coal and iron mines) – playful contrast with Sydney Hibbett’s present billet!

(3) Eddie & George – possibly young Hibbett cousins in Yorkshire. (4) Sydney Hibbett’s Velox was one of only 21  automobiles made by Velox Motor Company of Coventry (established 1902. Directors: George H. Davie & A.F. Harris). Grace’s Industrial History Guide.  

(4) Whitby – 16th Dec. 1914 suffered 7 minute German bombardment from sea, .  Abbey seriously damaged. (5) Lyddite is picric acid (Greek for ‘bitter’ reflecting taste/smell): formerly called ( TNP) 2,4,6 trinitrophenol  – primarily an explosive, also used in medicine/anaesthetic.  Lyddite Shells were high explosive shells, capable of piercing armour, used in Boer War & WW1.  Common Lyddite shells detonated/ fragmented into small pieces in all directions (but no fire). See Pte Bertie Hibbett’s letter of 23rd April, 1915.

(6Souvenir Farm/ Ration Farm? (7 ) Wulverghem. (8) Uffington in Lincolnshire (2 miles east of Stamford, i.e. close to Rutland – early 19th century home of Hibbett family). 

(9) Biscuits. It occurs to me (brought up in a Vicarage) that these  could be large unconsecrated Priest’s wafers ready for the Mass – even if a more humble biscuit they create a poignant image.  

(10Miss Negus (unable to trace). (11Psalm for 24th day of month: Ps.116 -119. Book of Common Prayer, 1662.

(12Bertie Hibbett’s April letters make no mention of his sore feet (no doubt to allay his Mother’s anxiety) but to be excused parade is indicative of something to worry about‘. 

NB  Useful Links: Hellfire Corner. The North Staffordshire Regiment at Wulverghem.  Contains pictures of Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Trench 8. <http://hellfirecorner.co.uk/wulverghem.htm  >

Bruce Bairnsfather: Bullets & Billets ebook

NEXT POST: 25th APRIL 1915. Letter from Godmother Mary Foster, Fernleigh, Nottingham.

23rd APRIL 1915. WULVERGHEM: ‘EXCITING TIME’ RATION FATIGUE & GAS ALERT!

GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT Dec.1915.
A CHRISTMAS GHOST:  GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT. Dec.1915.  ‘They rose suddenly from the earth,wearing  smoke helmets over their faces, and looking not like soldiers but like devils.’

SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE.  April 18th. Sun Practice in crossing barbed wire entanglements. Bn paraded for Trenches 7.20 pm. Casualties. Wounded: 8948 Pte C. Weaver, ‘C’ Coy wounded during relief.  83 02 Pte L. Benton ‘B’ Coy wounded while carrying rations. Now possible to visit all Trenches by daylight.

April 19th Mon.  WULVERGHEM Trenches.  Fired on German working party opposite 10b trench. Outburst of rapid fire from German trenches about 3.30 a.m. Two H.E. followed by two shrapnel fired at S.P.4 at 6.0 am. No damage. Casualty: 9468 Pte J.T. Stanley ‘C’ Coy wounded.
April 20th Tue.  Six rounds shrapnel fired by German artillery at 120a left. No casualties. Trenches  8 (Bertie’s) & 9 troubled by German sniping from MESSINES..
April 21st Wed.  Further sniping along 8 & 9 trenches. Casualties: 9199 Pte A. Walker; 8817 Pte R.W. Hempshall, both ‘A’ Coy, wounded. Two HE shells & two shrapnel  burst near & over SOUVENIR FARM about 1 pm. Casualty: Major J. Lees wounded.  6 H.E. shells fell in Wulverghem about 1.30 pm. 16  H.E. shells burst in & near Trench 9, doing much damage to parapet of 9b.  Working parties brought in & fire 10 rounds) opened on German Trenches at 10.30 pm.  Casualty: Pte Hounslow  ‘D’ Coy wounded (died later).
April 22nd Thur. Lt Cozens* & Pte Thorne exploded grenade in German Listening Post at 2.am and returned safely. Relieved by 1/6th South Staffs.  Marched to BULFORD CAMP. Fumes of asphyxiating gas caused smarting of eyes. Received warning to be prepared to embus at short notice. (1)
April 23rd Fri.  NEUVE EGLISE.  Bath & cleaning up. Working party of 200 men on G.H.Q. line. 8 – 12 midnight.
**************************************** 

Bertie in UniformPTE BERTIE HIBBETT LETTER to sister IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.                                                                                                            Friday April 23/ 15 (White envelope, Post Date 27th).

My Dear Sister,  

A simple address  –  I won’t say dearest or dear dear or very dear and couldn’t say darling!  Yet I guess that Sid and I love our only sister with infinite love & I find it difficult sometimes to keep it from sentiment, for we seem to love one another more when we are apart than when we are together at home, what say you? yet again I guess you often wish us to be at home again.

The censor is growing stricter.  I am afraid of letting you know in detail the exciting time we have had this week. 

We have not spent our time in the trenches but have been on fatigue carrying rations & other things to the trenches, making about 3 journeys each night.  Pretty exciting. (2)   Well I must keep this letter quite free from officialism.

The more you say or think your letters not good enough the more we like them.  Your last letters we received today are simply ripping and so homely and above all the letter from E. Overend* brings back old 106 New Rowley Rd Days (3).

The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905.
The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905: scribbled note amongst Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Letters.

Has the 13 years gone yet?  Where are the members of the Pickwick Club? (4)

October 1905. The Pickwick Magazine.  Editor: Sam Weller M.P.C. (M. Overend)

Motto: NIL  DESPERANDO (sic) (5)

Sam Pickwick PresidentI. Hibbett. Augs. Snodgrass MemberS. Hibbett. (8 yrs).  Sam Weller MemberM. Overend*. Tracy Tupman  Member – Bertie Hibbett (7 yrs). Sam Wardle Member I. Cozens(?). Nath Winkle MemberD. Cozens(?).

Has Dodger come back from his holidays yet? –  if not he is thoroughly enjoying himself?   Did all your ears burn ?  I mean those of Mother, Dad’s as well as yours, on Monday teatime? – because you can picture us in a ruined farmyard eating with enjoyment the sardines, butter & finishing off Mother’s currant bread.  Tell Mother the bread kept lovely & light, not dry in the least.  We get tins of butter now & again, but we preferred the butter from home with the currant loaf.

Don’t forget to try & send us one or two different photos of the family, especially a good one of MotherI have not one of Mother close to.  I hope Harold will get settled well at Bedale (6) rather a long way from Mother.  He will make a third one away won’t he?

Miss Foster would be greatly interested in what and where we are, so could you send her a Walsall paper now and again giving her a description of our experiences?  as I dare not say much in these letters.  You can tell the Overends* we QMS (7) boys manage to keep together most times.  Lucky isn’t it? 

I will finish this in the candle light.   Sid and I received a parcel of chocolates and parkin from Auntie* (8), so have you written to York then?

I could do with another towel.   Best love, Bertie.

PS I should like to say a lot  – what the censor will not allow but you will be patient won’t you & wait till we get home –  it is with regard to an officer I like very much indeed.  You will hear of him in the Walsall papers I dare say. (9)

Sid will tell you of the queer coincidences with regard to a parcel from good Mrs Penning*.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) ‘Fumes of asphyxiating gas’: April 22nd 1915 marked the first use of POISON GAS by the Germans on unprotected French troops at Ypres. Until I read Simon Jones‘ article in the Guardian (for 22nd April) that the smell of chlorine gas spread for ‘miles around’, I thought this 1/5th S. Staffs War Diary reference was to the fumes caused by exploding  Lyddite shells (see Sydney Hibbett’s letter to his sister, 24th April 1915).  Wulverghem is less than 8 miles from Ypres and the order to be ready to ’embus’ at short notice could well indicate poison gas alert.

My father’s drawing ‘A Christmas Ghost’ is included in his Christmas Letters of December 1915 – as if he had only just been issued with a ‘smoke helmet‘.

2Ration fatigues had to be made at night because of the danger from snipers.  Ration Farm,  (La Plus Douve) half a mile east of Wulverghem, south of road to Messines (Mesen) was most probably where Bertie met up with his brother after his absence in March.

(3) 106 New Rowley Rd, Walsall; where Hibbett family first lived in Walsall, before moving opposite to 95, Foden Rd. (4) The Pickwick Club seems to have been formed by Ida & Mollie or May Overend  for adventures and to share observations  – vis a vis Dickens’ novel Pickwick Papers. (More to come in 1916 Letters Home).

(5)Nil Desperandum – Never despair!  (6) Bedale, Yorkshire; Harold’s new post as Shop Manager, retail Chemist (cf.1911 Census)(7) QMS i.e. Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall. (8) Auntie Pattie (Pat) Yoxall/Neal? unable to trace on family tree/ possibly lived in north Manchester.

(8) Lieut Tim Cozens* see S. Staffs War Diary above 22nd April 1915. Also Walsall Observer for April 1915. 

NEXT POST: 24th April, 1915. Wulverghem Village: bombs, bullets & biscuits.

8th APRIL 1915. NEUVE EGLISE: EASTER JOY, A BATH & AN EGG!

 South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY

BULFORD CAMP – NEUVE EGLISE

April 6th Tue:  Damage to 10a Trench repaired good progress made with improvement. Trenches dried up quickly.  Bn relieved by 1/6th S Staffs Regt & reached ‘Bulford Camp’ about 1.30 am next morning in pouring rain.(1)

APRIL 7th. Wed:  Neuve Eglise‘A’ Coy inspected at 3.0 pm by Brigadier.  Working Parties sent to trenches.  Baths provided for men.  APRIL 8th Thur:  Short route march. Working Parties in trenches. Baths. Refitting.

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Bertie in UniformPTE BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to  MOTHER, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.    

April 8 /15  

My Very Dear Mother,

You will be very pleased to know that I (at least) have had a very very happy day. We had the opportunity of attending not only a Church Parade, but Holy Communion afterwards.  Sydney and myself went & there were several others I knew.

To add to my happiness Sid and I received your very welcome interesting & jolly ripping lettersI appreciated Dad’s especially.  I think Mother that the little sermon we had on Good Friday about struggling a necessity to gain the cross has come true on a smaller scale for the weather was wet in the trenches & circumstances not at all ‘pleasant’ but this afternoon has turned out bright and sunny & the evening sun shone in the little hut where Holy Communion was administered by our Chaplain.  Again all seemed queer to see each soldier in skeleton equipment form up in line to receive the Holy Eucharist.

We had that lovely Easter hymn – one verse reminded me of you and Home.On that happy Easter morning All the graves their dead restore, Father, Sister, Child and Mother meet once more.(2)

Sid is writing.  He told me on the little route march we had this afternoon that he had not written often, but he had no means at all & was not allowed to write & send correspondence during his time away.

I read about Harold and hope like Father that he will get the post & stick there, yet he will be far from home won’t he?

Mother, your parcel of underclothes came just in time luckily.  We went to some baths this morning at about 6 am and they came in useful, also the lovely Calvert’s Carbolic soap (3).  We are looking forward to the currant bread & could you afford a little, just a little, butter?

You will be interested, all of you, that the Colonel praised us for our behaviour in the trenches.  We are now out for four days rest & probably going again on Saturday.

I am, after finishing this letter, going to boil my Easter Egg.  Yes there are hawkers at this camp, eggs can be got at 2d each (4).  I will answer the many letters we have received lately in a day or two.  But Dad knows well how difficult it is sometimes for us to scratch a line;  – you will appreciate the one I wrote in my dugout in the rain!

Best love,  Bertram.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) 1/5th South Staffs alternated every four or five days with 1/6th South Staffs, but not to rest; working parties continued to service the trenches at  night. See Andrew Thornton’s interesting website Hellfire Corner.The North Staffordshire Regiment at Wulverghem.<www.hellfirecorner.co.uk/wulver.htm>

Sabine Baring-Gould(2) On the Resurrection Morn. 1864. Sabine Baring Gould, 1834 -1924. (Born Exeter, Devon. Anglican priest, married daughter of mill-hand, called her ‘Half my Soul’, 15 children. Author of many  popular hymns, including ‘On ward Christian Soldiers’. Interest in archeology, folklore & architecture; designed. Lew House & St Peter’s Church, Lew Trenchard, Devon. See <www.sbgas.org/SBG>  (Tune Resurrection Morning. Ira D. Sankey, American Gospel composer, ‘The Sweet Singer of methodism’ associated with Dwight L. Moody).

Calvert's Soap(3) Calvert’s Soap: carbolic/medicated soap for lice & fleas that plagued soldiers.  A blue plaque in Princess Street, Manchester, reads: ‘Frederic Crace Calvert PhD FRS 1819-1873. 1846 Professor of Chemistry at the Manchester Royal Institution (City Art Gallery) 1850 F C Calvert and Co near this site 1857. First commercial production of phenol, carbolic acid, used as a disinfectant in soaps and powders and for making dyes’. See <http://www.postersoftware.co.uk&gt;

(4) Hawkers/peddlars frequented 1stWW Camps with cheap wares. 2d (pence) – worth 1p today.

NEXT POST: 17th April, 1915.