Tag Archives: Green Envelope.

17TH MAY 1916: HAPPY 22ND BIRTHDAY SERJEANT – UN TRES MAGNIFIQUE SOLDAT!

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

FONQUEVILLERS.      

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

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

13th – 15th May. Very Quiet day.

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

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

17th May Wed: V. Quiet day.                                                                                   

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

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

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

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

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

My Dear People,

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

Chapter XXII. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wiki 200px--Old_Bill-,_by_Bruce_Bairnsfather
‘Old Bill’ the typical Tommy. Bairnsfather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother’s Meadow:-

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

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

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

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

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

By Bye.  Your affec. Bertie.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEXT POST: 21st May 1916.

 

23RD APRIL 1916: EASTER FINDS ME ‘UNABLE TO KEEP THE FEAST’.

Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 3 FIELD AMBULANCE, NORTH MIDLAND DIVISION B.E.F. (1): LETTER to ALL at 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

Easter Sunday. Ap 23rd 1916

‘Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the  Feast’. (2)

‘Now the Queen of Seasons bright With the Day of Splendour, With the Royal Feast of Feasts Comes the Joy to render’. (3)

My Very Dear People,

Bright, sunny weather greeted us all as we got up this Easter morning.  I do so hope you too are having the same. But, queer enough, between the two great days it has rained somewhat heavily.

What a capital, ideal Easter parcel you sent dears – Mum, Dad & all.  I went down to Sydney & we opened it, with another parcel from Miss Foster* to us both in front of us .  How striking the beautiful Easter picture looked, the first thing that proclaimed itself as we took off the lid.  The parcels came just in time for Easter & before I left the Coy. for this place, No 3 Field Ambulance, North Midland Division, B.E.F.

This Easter morning, the parcels arriving yesterday, Saturday, I took them down myself to Sydney.  What a delightful brotherly feeling pervaded the air while I was with him, but now it has come my turn once again to leave him, for how long I can’t say. My case is not bad, it is prevalent among the majority of the men, my usual skin disease (4).

So eventually Easter Sunday finds me here, unable to ‘keep the Feast’ (2) as I should have liked, attending Parade Service, & Holy Communion which generally follows But I have reaped a little consolation from Miss Foster’s little book ‘Wayside Memories’ (5 which I will send as soon as I get a green envelope. There is a quotation which says: ‘a little lifting of the Heart suffices –  – – one act of inward worship, though upon a march & sword in hand, are nevertheless acceptable to God.’ (6).

Easter Dawn. Postcard sent to soldiers from St peter's Church Paddington. 'At our Easter Communion we are Praying for You.
Easter Dawn. ‘Lo I am with you alway’. 

I was so sorry on reading that you thought of not going to St Paul’s today, if I was not with you. But, dear Mum, what does the title for the Easter picture for the soldiers say; ‘Lo, I am with you alway’ (7). Does Ida remember the Happy Easter morning when we all went to Communion (Choral) & sang ‘Jesus Christ is risen today, Allelluia’ (8) and does dear Mum remember scooting off to Sunday School on the cycle?

Many thanks for the Hot Cross buns, cake, cigarettes & the Easter Egg.  I left the sardines for Sydney, also the cocoa, milk & sugar.  I have enjoyed a lovely day & ate the chocolate egg when Basil & his two brothers used to eat them –  ie after Easter dinnerI enjoyed a ‘nice’ tea with the cake today & pictured you all with Harold &  Miss Bore at tea.

I let Sydney have the pencil as it is of more use to him, being one who has to make notes etc.  After reading & digesting in little time to enjoy it as well, the Q.M.S. Magazine, those articles that Dodger earmarked, I left the magazine for Sydney while I brought the Parish (Church) Mag. with me.  While squatting by his side I heard him give acclamations of sad surprise on seeing the photos of the OTC casualties, but the smiling face of Sergeant Fenton* reminds me of Sydney’s quick answer to Mother’s question which was his favourite hymnRejoice again I say Rejoice’ (9) – ‘being sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’ (10). I shall put in for sick leave when possible, so be not anxious dearies.

I see that you are having the Hallelujah Chorus tonight, which I loved Dad to play.  I hope Dad will have a good rest this holiday & Mum will get well soon.  Perhaps you will think this letter not such a nice one as my usual, but I have such a great thoughts of you I can’t express or know what – or how much to say.

Silk Cigarette Cards: belgium & Serbia.
Silk Cigarette Cards: Belgium & Serbia.

I enclose some more silk cards (11), tell me if you get them, which I send for you Mum  – & Ida if she would like one, & Basil, with my heart’s love to you all.  I am writing to Harold, Ida & Basil soon. 

With our combined love & wishes from

Your loving Bertie.

PS Am sending little book later – tell me if you get it, it will be in a Stationary Envelope (6).

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett may have felt that he could not ‘keep the Feast’ in the traditional sense of attending Church services and family gatherings but to me these Letters Home show how deeply my father understood the true meaning of Good Friday & Easter. Like Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, he practised the Presence of God in the midst of suffering & sacrifice,   ‘As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’.  

The Hibbett family sent a picture in their Easter Parcel with the message ‘Lo, I am with you alway’.  The sight of it gave great comfort and strength to him & his brother, and I am almost certain it was the same picture sent to Bandsman Thomas William Stubley, Killed in Action, 16th May 1916 – see Derby Church House website <http://www.derby.anglican.org&gt;Grateful thanks to Wendy Pockson & Dave Feltham.

(1) Field Ambulance: a Mobile Front Line Medical Unit (not to be mistaken for a vehicle), organised by the RAMC. Each Infantry Division had 3 F.As, each divided into 3 sections, each with 10 officers, a stretcher bearer & tented subsections. See The Long Long Trail <http://www.1914-1918.net/fieldambulances> 

John of Damascus.
John of Damascus.

(2) ‘Christ our Passover . . .’: 2 Corinthians 5.7. St Paul Approx AD 57. cf Exodus 12/ Angel of Death passes over the houses marked with the Blood of the Lamb. (3) ‘Now the Queen of Seasons bright. . .’ verse in Easter Hymn: ‘Come ye faithful raise the strain of triumphant gladness ‘John of Damascus c 675 -749. Syrian Monk & Christian Priest/lived in Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery. English Transl. 1853. John Mason Neale 1818- 1866. Anglican Priest & hymn writer/ Oxford Movement.

(4) ‘Skin Disease’: blood disorder/ boils that put Pte Bertie in Hospital, Aug -Oct 1915 & Dec. 1915-Jan 1916. cf Hibbett Letter 2nd Nov. 1915. (5) Godmother’s Little Book Wayside Memories/ which Bertie sent on to his Mother in a green envelope.

(6) ‘A little lifting of the heart: Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. Practised the Presence of God’ cf Hibbett Letter 16th April 1916.

(7)  ‘Lo I am with you alway even to the end of the world’: Matt. 28 20. c AD 85. (8) ‘Jesus Christ is risen today’: 14th Cent Latin Hymn ‘Surrexit Christus hodie’/ author unknown. English Transl. John Baptist Walsh. Charles Wesley added a 4th verse. Music: ‘Easter Hymn'(Lyra Davidica).

9) ‘Rejoice I say . . ‘:  Philippians 4.14. St Paul approx. AD 49 -51.(10)  ‘Sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’. 2 Corinthians 6.10. KJV. St Paul AD 57 approx. 

(11) Silk Cigarette Cards: See Hibbett Letters 14th April 1916; 18th June 1915.

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NEXT POST: 25th April 1916.  (Letter, posted in Derby not received by Bertie Hibbett until April 1918). 

28TH MAR.1916: ‘WE LIVE IN A CAVE – A LONG WAY DOWN & ‘SQUEEMISH’ – LIKE LINLEY CAVERNS.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5TH SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVILLE ST VAAST

28th Mar. Tue: Battalion in Brigade Reserve. Carrying Parties. Draft of 191 men arrived at 8.20 pm. V. Quiet Day.

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

The way may be rough, but it cannot be long And then oh how joyful the Conqueror’s song. (1)

Behold, we count them Happy which endure.  James 5:11.

                                                 Mar. 28th 1915

My Very Dear Mother & Father.

After coming from fatigue I read Mother’s two very long but interesting letters (& touching too they were)  before settling down to snooze, although it was 3 in the morning.  I was sending you a green on Sunday but have kept it for this to answer, in a more detailed way, your ripping parcels & lettersYou will get my letter of yesterday & Sunday together before this. 

1st  I will answer Mum’s letter of 14th. That, which you started with, holds good in my case:-  My head seems to be so full of things that I hardly know what to say’ (& how to begin) (2) .

Now I must go back to the Sunday letter of Mum’s to say that I too went to Holy Communion so that makes a third & Providential cause of your going, for it was the Sunday night we went to the trenches.  I was very pleased & amused on reading that you got a letter from me on Sunday.  I should like you always to get one on a Sunday, as well as for me to write to you on a Sunday

Do you know, dearest Mum, & all of you, that I am sorry for Dear Sydney & that sorrow sometimes takes away the hopes of the pleasure  of seeing him –  I  mean the pleasure of seeing him.

2nd Lieut.W.A. Thacker. Yorkshire Regt. Killed in Action May 1917. QMS Walsall.
2nd Lieut. W.A. Thacker. QMS. Yorkshire Regt. Killed in Action May 1917. 

Glad you like Thacker* no doubt then, if you should like him, Sydney would, as he told me in his Christmas letter.

I expected to see dear Sydney when I came off fatigues last night.  We live in a cave while in reserve & do fatigues at nightThe way down to this dark hole is long & ‘squeemish’ & at the end I quite expected Sydney’s voice to be heard.  Well, I suppose he will come today.  Yes, I am so grateful he is Sergeant & he has a nice chum Burton*, who was made Sergeant Major after the bombing accident (3), & was formerly Sergeant when Sydney made chums.  Burton is TT & only smokes select tobacco & a Woodbine now & again, he does not care for dear cigs.

Yes the shirt is most lovely & comfortable & what I say is:- ‘A Comfortable Shirt is half the Battle’.  A light pair of pants is my next requisite for underwear The socks I must especially thank you for, with the exquisitely beautiful scented soap within, for they have come at a very acceptable time amidst rain, water & dirt —— I am telling you more about me sen.

Oh dearest Mum, I should so like to write you a letter you would really like & which would prove a comfort to you dear ones.  Wouldn’t Ida & Dad say that, if I said more about myself & what I do, I might take a stride too far & then you would feel more anxious & unhappy.  And then there is the Censor too; some censors I’m afraid would burn the letter if it contained news of importance to the enemy –  or hints even. But as you were so brave & collected dear Mum during that alarm (4) I will venture to tell you more aboot me sen, without gobbling up the fishing rod & hook, as well as the fish.

I shall need more candles if we are down here for any considerable time.  Another reason why I couldn’t write to you, as I would have liked, is that we could not get any lights & it rained up at the top I wrote my Sunday letter at the entrance – tell Ida it’s like Linley Caverns (5) & would be jolly for a picnic in Peace time, –  but oh its far from a pic-nic in War time.

You are most self-sacrificing to put butter in the parcel & eggs too, my word.  If you like you can send currant bread & I will eat this without you putting butter in the parcel. Dad said he hoped I had as much pleasure in consuming the contents as you have in packing them up.  Ah I am more than indebted to you & can hardly find words.  I fairly shivered with emotion on opening your parcel & reading the letters.  The parcels acted as a good stimulus when I was on that tiresome fatigue & I thought of Miss Foster’s* apt quotation in Wayside Memories.  ‘And then Oh how JOYFUL the Conqueror’s Song’  – & indeed it was like a beautiful song which was wafted with the parcel & good thoughts from Home.

Can you read this awful letter dears? –  surely I am not so ‘bad’ as George*(6) & Mrs Jones’s* writings.  Do you really & honestly think the photo a good one and DO I GIVE you a cheerful impression when you see me?  I did think of Miss Foster* but I did not want to send her a photo which would make her think I was a WEE bit sad (7).  Shall I send her that photo? I have one left in that little khaki case of mine.  Khaki Case with Photo

Yes, I still have your dear faces left & my poor, poor Prayer Book & khaki Bible look all the worse for wear and I am anxious that they will last until I come on Home Leave.

 

Oh dears, I have a little better & hopeful news. Home Leave, as I told you in my last letter, is going at a more satisfactory pace & if it does not stop suddenly, like it has done in times past, I shall, or rather hope to, spend Easter with you & oh how joyful it will be if we spend Easter Sunday together & go before the altar to thank God for His mercy.

I told you in my last that Sydney sent me a F.P.C. from the Base with the line ‘letter follows at first opp.’  so I took it that it was another of Sydney’s ways of taking the letter to be himself following.  I will let you know as soon as he comes and at my 1st opportunity.  Yes, I expect Sydney will be exceptionally full of talking, although he is not one for ‘gassing’ as I am.  I hope his Com. will push on with greater speed now our Colonel*(Lt Col.R.Raymer) is back.

Now I must say how my heart leaps to you in congratulations for your extra good work at Mrs Venables* (8) Yes, if you can spare me one of those squares I should indeed be delighted with one & treasure it to think of you whenever I use it (9).

I am glad you have lost that wretched snow & hope Spring weather will soon be there for you to enjoy.  Yes SPRING, & I hope it will bring me with it. How most Providential, you being so cool during the Raid I too have been surprised at myself for I could not have been frightened if I tried during some shelling we had.  I felt it a duty to cheer up those who were nervous. You were most apt in your description, yes, it is just like a Peace within one (10). 

I think I mentioned the bombing accident before, but of course I refrained from telling you details for two reasons, we are forbidden to mention casualties in our letters until we see them published in the papers, & also I thought you would be more anxious with the sudden news from me.

Remember me kindly to Mrs Brown* & the Venables*.  I should think Arthur*(11) is one of the youngest subalterns in his Regiment.  You say you feel very, very sad at times dear Mum, well, I too felt sorry that you were like that, but I do not disbelieve my prayers have not been heard. I must persevere more (12) Yes, I think Sydney & you all, will feel the parting sore for a time, but I hope it will be short.

Victorian Arcade Walsall. 2016.
Victorian Arcade Walsall. 2016.

I conjure up all sorts of  things that I will do when I go Home to you. How it puzzles me to get Home clean  & how I shall have to try to dodge being seen & pressed on going from the Station to the House.  How I shall pop into the Arcade Restaurant (13) & buy you some pork pies and then go to Sammons for some tomatoes & flowers.  I might think of playing a practical joke, but now I think it would be best to go straight forward.

Now for your delightful letter of 19th.  So Dad was playing hymns –  ah! they seem to have their truer meaning nowadays & I think we shall sing them with the understanding also (14).  Although it has been such a long time since I heard the Psalms sung I can remember some quite well & they remind me of Sydney liking them.  How beautifully happy, yes, that is how I felt when I read that you were happy although it rained on Sunday.  You see you kept your promise that is why, & jolly old Basil, he did do a ‘dodge’ out of his cosy bed and dodged firstI remember well you saying you liked walking in the fresh rain. 

Yes, Mr Darling * would feel mentally tired, as well as physically. He told me so one night I went to my Preparation (Confirmation) Class & it was Lent then too.  I am sure he takes it more of a duty now-adays.  Of course you will tell me if Mr Dixon* gave a stirring sermon & brought a crowded church (15).

Sydney is true in saying he finds his position as Sergeant an advantage, but he will, and will have done, by what I gather from your letters found correspondence goes against the grain at times & the amount of mind concentration upon his extra duties will cause him & anyone to be inclined not to bring his thoughts on behalf of Home etc into action. 

I am glad you are all well generally, but sorry Mum has those nasty pains.  I am wondering if Sydney will be attached to either another Coy. or Platoon, if so you must send smaller parcels. Compris!  I shan’t mind a toss –  its the thoughts I care forexcept when the rations are na pous ‘finis’ & bread is scarce (16).  We are having better & bigger rations of bread now as we go into the trenches. 

I should so much have liked to have sent my contribution for Mr Darling*.  I was very touched on reading that Sanger*did not go to see you.  Well never mind, everything is for the best.

No, (this time) it didn’t even enter my mind that your parcel was a long time in coming. I mean since your promise of a parcel.  You will no doubt be thinking I am a long time in acknowledging yours, but do forgive me dears, I do try.   Yes, I am sure God is keeping us all safe & I am grateful Sydney had a safe crossing & I have come out safely from six days in the trenches & every night on fatigue so far.  I am quite well enough to manage & peg this War out.

Malted Milk Tablets.I must now answer Harold’s letter & parcel containing Milk Tablets, which came in useful to quench my parched lips on fatigue.  Please dears, I advise you not to depend too much upon the cloth wrapping when sending parcels as the cardboard box is liable to get smashed

Best love Bertie.

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

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett’s family wanted him to write more ‘about me sen’ (more about myself). But true to character this letter is full of the thoughtfulness and understanding of others that my father invariably showed in his life.

NB My father had expected to see his brother arrive with the  draft of 181 men reported in S Staffords War Diary for 28th Mar.1916.

(1) Conqueror’s Song: Hymn: John Newton 1779. Former Slave owner turned anti-slavery.  Collection of Hymns by John Wesley. 1875.

(2) ‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’. Hibbett Letter 13th March. 1916 1916. (3) Bombing Accident: Hibbett Letter 28th Feb. 1916. (4) Zeppelin Raid Walsall. 19th Jan. 1916.

(5) Linley Caverns, Aldridge, Staffordshire. Extensive 19th cent limestone workings now flooded: ‘an incredibly dangerous place’. Used for storing bombs in WW2. See <https:brownhillsbog.com> details of Urban Exploration at Linley Caverns. 1957 (16th Aug.1957 edition Walsall Observer).

6) George Lammerman (Ida’s friend from childhood). (7‘Wee bit sad’: Ida’s comment on Bertie’s photo with Hindustani Sikh at Marseilles. 27th Feb.1916.

8) Mrs Venables*: ref. to Bertie’s Mother helping at her Knitting Workshops & Sales for Soldiers, 1914-1918. (9) Face-flannel squares. 

(10) ‘Peace within’: See below Little Book of Words & Doings & Page: My Memories A.H.H. (I remember from childhood how my father’s sermons were often about ‘Peace’). (11) CorpArthur Venables dressed Pte Bertie’s wound 1st July 1916. Later Killed in Action. 

(12) ‘Very, very Sad’: ‘Little Book of Words & Doings’. Hibbett Letter 27th Mar.1916.

Victorian Arcade, Walsall.
Victorian Arcade, Walsall.

(13) Arcade Restaurant, Walsall.  Sammons (Brothers?)Walsall Greengrocer. (My father’s dream of arriving in Walsall on Home Leave and buying pork pies, tomatoes & flowers I find particularly poignant).

(14) ‘Sing with the understanding also’.  I Cor. 14.5. St Paul ‘I will sing/prayer with the spirit and use words with the understanding also.(15The Revd E. More Darling,  (Vicar of Walsall ) last Services on Retirement.

(16) ‘na pous finis’: British soldiers’ slang for French saying -‘no good/ rubbish’. 

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

 Pte Bertie Hibbett’s ‘Little Book of Words & Doings’. Treasured Sayings in Letters from Home. March 1916.

 ‘My head seems so full of things that I hardly know what to say. Mother’. 

The Zeppelin Raid: ‘Do you know dear Bertie, Mother was the best of all of them. When the raid came I seem to have had strength given to me.  I do not think Basil was frightened at all – he wanted to know where the things were going . . .  Dad looked white & pinched round the nose & Ida took hold of my hand & cried & said ” Oh Mum I am frightened” and I said ” Never mind my love, we shall be all right” and I felt such a peace in me.  Mother. ‘

NB Computer problems meant this Letter was posted with:-

NEXT POST: 30th Mar: 1916.

 

27TH MAR. 1916: HOME LEAVE? – JUST ‘BIDE A WEE & DINNA FRET’

OMITTED BY MISTAKE – APOLOGIES TO FOLLOWERS.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVILLE ST VAAST.

26th Mar. Sun:  NEUVILLE ST VAAST. Battalion in Brigade Reserve. Carrying and digging fatigues.  CASUALTY: 7801 Corpl. G.H. Maybury severely wounded.

27th Mar.  Mon: In Brigade reserve. Carrying and digging fatigues. NEUVILLE shelled at 6.15 pm and again at 8.45 pm.

Great War Forum Old sweats Jack Sheldon post-6447-1178696418
<http://www.1914-1918.com&gt; The Long Long Trail. Great War Forum. Map showing Neuville St Vaast and the Labyrinth, held by 1/5th S. Staffords March, 1916. Jack Sheldon Old Sweats.

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

 Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT & ALL , 95 Foden Rd Walsall.

Monday  Mar. 27/ 16

Just bide a wee and dinna fret. (1)

My Very Dear Mother & All of you,

Mother at Tea.
Mother waiting.

Received your very nice parcel last night, after coming off fatigue.  Circumstances are very hard for writing letters and oh HOW I did wish I could write a long letter just to your liking, but there has been no outward post lately.

I wrote yesterday & was forwarding the Com(mission) form in the green envelope, but will wait till I have answered your very long & nice letters of 14th & 19th Mar.

I also had Harold’s parcel last night. I am absolutely at my wits end to know how to answer all the correspondence received of late.  Miss Foster’s* letters of Friday are waiting to be given in. 

Must stop now as the orderly will be wanting the letters to be given in.

God bless you all.

Ta ta  Bertie.

PS  You will no doubt be seeing some of the 1/5th in Walsall on Leave. Don’t be alarmed, the Leave might stop any time, but grateful to say, if it keeps on at the rate it is doing now, I shall probably spend Easter with you. D.V.  Miss Foster* will tell you also as I told her in my letter. 

Also I expect to see Sydney today & will ‘see how he looks’ and tell you as you wished.

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

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Outward Post from Neuville St Vaast Trenches was stopped by ‘circumstances’ (i.e. the heavy shelling of the enemy, constant need for fatigues to repair trenches & bring in supplies) – but the Army seems to have made sure the Inward Post arrived with Harold Hibbett’s promised parcel and Letters from Home.

Restored Church & Mayor's Office Neuville St Vaast. en-wiki
Church of St Vaast & Mayor’s Office  today. Neuville St Vaast. N. France.<www.en-wiki.com>

(1) ‘Bide a wee & dinna fret’. ‘Wait patiently a little while & do not be anxious’ (about Pte Bertie’s Home Leave & Sydney’s return to the Front).  CNDC California Digital Newspaper Collection. California Farmer & Journal of Useful Sciences Vol 48. No 1. 2nd May 1878. Anon. 19th Cent. Scottish emigrant?  Until I read this letter I thought this familiar saying came from my Mother’s Scottish side. 

Is the road very dreary ?  Patience yet. Rest will be sweeter if thou art a-weary, And after night cometh the morning cheery, Then bide a wee and dinna fret.

The clouds have silver liningDon’t forget; And though He’s hidden, still the sun is shining; courage instead of tears and vain repining, Just bide a wee, and dinna fret.

With toil and cares unending art beset’! Bethink thee how the storms from heaven descending Snap the stiff oak, but spare the willow bending. And bide a wee, and dinna fret.

Grief’s sharper sting doth borrow From regret; But yesterday is gone, and shall its sorrow Unfit us for the present, and the morrow? Nay; bide a wee, and dinna fret.

An over-anxious brooding both beget A host of fears and fantasies deluding; Then, brother, lest these torments be intruding, Just bide a wee, and dinna fret.Leisure Hours.

NEXT POST: 28th MAR. 1916.

 

 

 

2ND MAR. 1916: ‘FORCIBLE LETTERS’ RE ‘A COMMISSION IN 3/5TH STAFFORDS’.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

PROUVILLE.  

29th Feb. Mon: 9.30 am. Battalion marched  to new billets at OCCOCHES (1).  1st Mar. Wed. – 2nd Mar.Thur.  OCCOCHES BILLETS:  Battalion Training.

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

Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to ARTHUR HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall. (2)

In the Field.  2/ 3/ 16.

My Dear Sir,

Yesterday I handed in my application form for the Com. in the 3/ 5 South Staffs Regiment (3). I told the Captain you would see to the other form signed by the C.O. of the 3/ 5. (4). I was also told I needed my Birth Certificate.  Of course I guess you will be only too eager to attend to any other necessity.

This morning I carried away the Platoon’s Post; quite a shoal of letters, but they were all of an early date being those addressed to the Notts & Derby’s.  I thank Ida for her very kind letter of Sunday 14/ 2 /16 and the one dated the Friday following (5).  I also received Mother’s of Feb 14 and her’s of New Year’s Day. 

en-wiki200px-Edward_George_Villiers_Stanley,_17th_Earl_of_Derby_by_Sir_William_Orpen
Edward George Villlers Stanley. 17th Earl of Derby 1865-1948.

I was especially pleased to have a letter from Harold, (Feb 16). I was uncertain about his address, I see that he is still at ‘Penarth’ (6).  On reading that he was attested under Lord Derby’s scheme for the R.G.A. I was keenly interested; but hopes of seeing him, after he has joined the R.G.A, were vague. (7)

I will reply to Ida’s & Harold’s letters at my first opp.  (We are on the move again).

Every success to Sydney’s Commission & Best love to all. 

Bertie.

See Over –

PS  You all want me to say more ‘aboot me sen’ Well all that I can say is that Je suis tres bien portent et tres heureuse beaucoup.  Compris? My handing in the form was partly due to Mum’s forcible letters.

I will send those letters of Sydney’s, which Mother sent me in the parcels, in my next green (8).

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

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

My Grandmother’s ‘forcible’ letters were the result of months of anxiety over the health and whereabouts of her two sons.  By March 1916, Pte Bertie Hibbett had been at the Front without Home Leave for a year. Since enlistment he had been in Hospital several times with ‘trench foot’ and ‘blood disorders’.  She must have argued that a Commission in one of the Reserve Battalions at Home would take him out of the firing line, improve his health and give him work more suitable to his abilities & background – and importantly, of course, give the family a chance to see him. 

My father had already informed his family that he felt the life of an Officer was not for him.  His reluctance to apply for a Commission appears also to have been influenced by a sense of loyalty to his pals at the Front and his wish to be near his brother Sydney until the end of the War.

(1) Occoches: a village commune in Picardie, Somme. An 8 mile march from Prouville.

(2Pte Bertie addressed important news, such as this application for a Commission, to his father, as a matter of course,

(3) 3/5th Bn & 3/6th Bn South Staffordshire Regiments were formed at Home Bases in 1915 as ‘third line’ units. On 1st Sept 1916, they were united as ‘3/5th Bn.’.  Interestingly (in view of my father’s later connection with Lincolnshire), in 1917 3/5th Bn moved to Lincoln & Mablethorpe; in 1918 to Lincoln again & Sutton on Sea, ending the war at Mablethorpe, November 1918. 

(4) Name pending. (5) Date on envelope rather than on letter as Sunday was 13th Feb. (6) Penarth. A Victorian resort in Vale of Glamorgan, 5 miles south-west of Cardiff. 

(7) Lord Derby: Secretary of State for War 1916-1918. Lord Derby’s Scheme. The National Registration Act for Military Service was initiated by Lord Derby, and passed on 15th July 1915.  It  required all men, between the age of 18 and 65 years, to register their residential location on 15th Aug.1915.  See Hibbett Letter, 21st Oct. 1915. Ida Hibbett was an admin volunteer in Walsall. See also: <http://www. 1914-1918.net/derbyscheme> and < http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/derbyscheme.htm&gt;.  R.G.A. Royal Garrison Artillery.

ENVELOPE(8) Green Envelope. Official envelope/Army’s attempt to speed up censorship of letters sent home in 1915. Soldier signed on backI certify on my honour that the contents of this envelope refer to nothing but private and family matters. See esp. Hibbett Letter: 17th April 1915. 

NEXT POST: 5th March 1916.

2nd NOV.1915: KING’S REVIEW INFLUENZA: ‘TEMP. 103. 6 & PUT TO BED AT ONCE’.

Centre: Sgt S. HIBBETT when training as a Sergeant.
 SYDNEY HIBBETT.

Serjeant SYDNEY HIBBETT: LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

E 3   Ward, 12 General Hospital, Rouen. Nov 2/ 15.

I am in this Hospital with influenza and am going on quite all rightEveryone is most kind and the ward so clean & nice that it is a rest to look at it.  I have been here since 5 am yesterday, not a long time really but it seems a week I have been in bed, or at least in blankets, since Friday 11 am when I reported my illness at the nearest nursing station up near the line. 

Our company was detached from the Battalion & sent some distance to act as carrying party up the trenches.  This was early on Friday & I felt really ill all the way up so I thought I would  go ‘on sick’ for once.  Temp. 103. 6  & put into bed at once.  I was taken by Motor Ambulance to a Clearing Station some miles back that night & I have been on my back ever since, an unique experience for me eh?

London & North Western Railway. 1915
London & North Western Railway.  Ambulance Train.

I left there by Red Cross train 11 am Sunday, when you would be in church I know, and stayed in it till we arrived here at 4. am Monday – some journey! 

I may say that I don’t think I have been in so fine a trainit was a perfect wonder of design and a miracle of comfort & easy running & of course built by L.N.W.  (1)

I see that I am at the bottom of the letter so will dry up. 

Nov-2nd-1915-x-2.Have found a green envelope so I will write a bit more. 

Fancy me in Hospital!  I don’t know how long for.  I expect your letters & parcel are up at the line I am on a milk diet and I can sympathise with jolly old Hal & Ralph (2) having to drink those 2 pints once.  I can also understand Ida’s troubles at Leicester in the wards.  Bert is somewhere up in the line, but not in the trenches I believeVernon is in Hospital also but I don’t know where with Bertie’s complaint (3).

Must close now.  With every best wish to you all from

Sydney.

I sleep in a perfect fine bed, clean sheets & blankets & pillows, beautiful after the mud of the firing line.

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

South Staffordshire BadgeePrivate BERTIE HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

FOUQUIERES.

27th Oct – 2nd Nov.   In Rest Billets.

CASUALTIES FOR OCTOBER: OFFICERS KILLED 5; WOUNDED 6; DIED OF WOUNDS 2.  OTHER RANKS KILLED  41; WOUNDED 213; WOUNDED & MISSING 52; DIED OF WOUNDS 3.

TOTAL CASUALTIES:- OFFICERS 13. OTHER RANKS 309. (4).

Signed:  R. RICHMOND RAYMER, Lt. Col. Cmdg 1/5th Bn. South Staffordshire Rgt.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Serjeant Sydney’s Letter is written on an opened-out white envelope and is covered in mud.  His Mother sent it on to Bertie to read & return –  so maybe that is how it got so muddy!

Sydney’s journey from a Front Line Clearing Station to Rouen Hospital took 3 nights & 2 days.

London & North Western Railway Company Badge.
London & North Western Railway Company Badge.

(1) L.N.W.R. London & North Western Railway (1846 -1922) ‘The Premier Line’ was the largest joint stock company in the world. Illustration:  Ambulance Train headed by a 4-6-0 Whale Experiment Class, built at Crewe. 1905-1910. ‘Ever increasing need for this type of train in WW1’ cf World Transport History. <https://www.transpressnz.blogspot.com&gt;  NB Sgt Sydney’s appreciation is that of a Walsall engineering apprentice before the War.

(2) ‘Hal’ could be Harold Hibbett.  Ralph unknown as yet, could be a cousin. (3) Trench foot complaint rather than Bertie’s blood disorder & boils I think.

(4) CASUALTY numbers are out of a Total Battalion complement of 28 Officers & 827 Other Ranks. Totals: 855.

Field State October 12th 1915 was reported as:-  Available for Trench Duty 13.10.15 : 24 Officers & 721 Other RanksTransport & Stores: 2 Officers & 56 Other Ranks. Details: 1 Officer & 20 Other Ranks. Sick 1 Officer & 20 Other Ranks (including Pte Bertie Hibbett). 

NEXT POST: 5th Nov. 1915.  Posts for November may be delayed by a cataract operation.

14th SEPT. 1915: ROUEN NO 9 HOSPITAL: ‘I PRAY TWICE A DAY FOR YOU MUM’

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT,  No 9  GENERAL HOSPITAL, ROUEN: LETTER to HIBBETT FAMILY 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

Holy Cross Day. (1) Tues. Sep 14 / 15

I wonder who Dad will give this letter to?  Will he read it himself first?  Let me know if you have got this letter by return of PC.  

My Dears  – Dodger, Champion & Mummy (2),

Just eaten one of those many apples which smelt as good as it tasted, and then I set to work re-reading all the letters I’ve had from Sweet Home since I sent my last green to Mumtaking notes as I re-read them for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time, as I could not hold all of them in front of me to refer to, especially Ida’s long scroll of the Committee’s parchment (3), and also Basil’s many sheeted epistle .

Now I promised this letter to be plain, short & serious, but how ever can I!  I have had something from the post every day I have been in Hospital since the 10th when I got Mum’s letter of the 5th (Sun) –  the record coming to a climax today & yesterday when I got Ida’s letter including Mum’s off the sheet & Basil’s & one from Cousin Muriel she can write well both in hand & in grammar. The final –  The Limit came today when I opened your other hamper of good stuff.

Dodger, you said Lissie (4) had brought you something from Venables*, were they the delicious cheese tarts? –  and Mum you didn’t finish your letter eitherI’ve caught you this time, Ha hee.  Did Basil get his letter I enclosed in the green to Mum & Dad?

I really thought I had thanked you for all.  I’m sorry, very, if I did not say I got  a bit of cash  – which came in useful, as I missed pay day again, coming here on the Tuesday.

Now Dodger your description of Home was simply delightful to read & you’ll be surprised that I did not sentimentally faint, to long all that much to come Home.  I hope you will not look at that in the wrong light  – what I’ve just said – especially Mum. 

Yes I can picture you now Dodger coming down stairs after washing off the smoky grime of the journey.  How miserable too the journey for you must have been, but I was so very pleased you loved the sight of Home again. 

I am human & sometimes long to  come Home & I think Ida will agree with me that if I give myself to that feeling & did not try to master that longing & check it I should not live happily out here.   I say I made short notes but it looks as though this letter will persist in great length, try how I might. 

Did Ida & Mum read Dodger’s letter before he sent it off?  Ida ought to be proud  that Basil loved to meet her at the station.  Ida is a genuine Champion for advice, & if she could not see her way to give advice she would show wisdom I mean she will help Dodger to pass his exam next time & she has bucked me up a lot too, I could say more on this but must stop.

No: I must just say one word more. I am cross at Ida for not taking notice of what I said in my green to her  – & Mummy I cannot let you off lightly ’cos I know you would get to know allas for myself I put all the blame on my rascally pate.  I do feel a hypocrite, yes Ida there are worse cases than mine, & I ought to have trusted that you would know my case was not all bluff (for they do not send anyone to Hospital for nothing) without me saying even a word . 

Oh I am sorry Mummy I have made you all more anxious, it was not at all my intention,  but my intention has been all along to make you happier Sydney, I have no doubt would have ‘scolded & reproached’ me dreadfully & rightly too I now  think.

Just a touch upon light trivials:-  I have mentioned the same Winnie unconsciously of Basil’s thought (you can tell by the time the letters were written). This Irish Sister laughs just like Winifred Overend   Yes Ida is a Champion with a knack of putting one right, & that put me in mind that Basil too becomes his nickname nicely when I read of his whimsical dodge at catching bunny rabbits on his record tramp to R.N.B. (5).

Now will that do for Dodger.  I will just wish him the best of luck in his next attempt. Is he going to school again? I hope so. QMS I suppose.  

Now for Mummy, as I read yours next I will say my say.  Yes I will try & cuddle round the cook to get me some of your nice apples roasted & will tell you if I succeed.  I will not miss out thanking you for every article in the parcel this time, starting with the welcome bit of cash.  I have not unwrapped it yet, but put it in my purse straight away.

I will keep to your advice Mum & buy, if I can get, milk, eggs & fruit.  I am sure of the last, but not so sure about the eggs because I am not at the Base & eggs are nowhere to be found to buy here.  As for the milk there is only tinned milk here, if none at all & if I am out of the Hospital tomorrow the only liquid milk obtainable is at YMCA & that is Horlicks Malted Milk. At any rate I will try my best to spend it wisely & think of Mummy as it dwindles down to a penny & then to a sou.

With regard to Sydney’s Com: I say what Mum sais, you seemed to want us both to be officers, but if you think, as no doubt what you say is true, we shall likely be parted, then I say Down with the idea.  Down with it.

-1
St Helena: Medieval Roodscreen Painting.  Combe Martin, Devon.  Eddie Sinclair Conservator. 2013.

I am quite well now Mummy & am happy, so you will be too in the future won’t you Mum?  I do feel a hypocrite when I am in my deck chair among the flowers & think of  Sydney up thereHow can I reconcile for what I have said & the consequences in the way of making you anxious again.  I pray twice a day for you Mum.  So let us both ‘Look up’ again.

I am writing straight away again you see for your kind things & will tell you how I enjoyed my tea with apricots, cream, sugar & cheese tarts.  I will reserve one for supper, & will make the parcel last out.  I am looking forward to the other part of the hamper & you will naturally have another letter from me but let me keep . . . . .

(end is missing)

************************** 

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) Holy Cross Day:  Feast Day of Veneration of the Cross of Christ. St Helena of Constantinople 250 -330 ADPatron Saint of Archeologists is reputed to have discovered the true  Cross in Jerusalem. Mother of first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine (‘In hoc signo vinces – by this sign I will conquer’).

Sponsored walk from Bertie's old Theological College, Burgh to Skegness, in aid of Christian Aid.
The Revd A.H. Hibbett. Sponsored walk, Burgh to Skegness, Lincolnshire. 1967.

One of Dad’s favourite hymns: ‘Lift High the Cross’ 1887. Words: George Kitchin, Dean of Winchester. Revised 1916 by Michael R. Newbolt. Hymns Ancient & Modern.

(2) Basil, Ida & Mother. (3Education Committee paper from Arthur Hibbett’s office? (4) Lissie: Arthur Venables* little sister? (5) R.N.B. :  ?

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South Staffordshire BadgeeLance Corp. SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

14th Sept. Tue: CANADA HITS NR DICKEBUSCH.  Divisional Reserve.

NEXT POST: 19th Sept 1915.

13th SEPT. 1915: ‘ITS ONLY THE TIE OF FAMILY LOVE I WANT REALLY’.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT ROUEN: LETTER continued to Mother, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall

6.30 am about.

Another Sunday Monday letter. 

I am indeed making the most of my time in HospitalI have written no less than eight letters, including Ida, & Harold & there’s Sydney’s too, besides Miss Molly Evans, Mrs Hurst* & Her Ladyship Mrs Jones* & to make the list complete I must write to Mum, that’s one reason why I wrote last Friday.

Whatever the others say  Mum, I say it is a Rest to write to Mummy and I think Mum will sympathise with me & be happy at the thought of her very affectionate son,    Bertie.

PS  Of course I must have a Post Script else the letter ain’t complete. 

Now I don’t expect a long letter from Mum, although I have had comparatively long epistles which have surprised me as well as pleased me .  So I enclose the size of the letter you need to send me next if you wish. It is from the Writing Pad in the Lucky Bag I chose from the bundle sent from Ireland (1).

I enclose too some cuttings from John Bull, my word ain’t it tolerantIt does use strong views.  But I quite see in the article about ‘Blood will out’I remember Capt Tim Cozens*, so popular with the Tommies getting quite a crowd around him & he said he loved a charge.  It was when he told us about the knut leading the charge dressed practically in mufti (2).  The article also puts me in mind of the Lancashire lads you know Mum (3). Ta ta.

PS  Sorry I am not in a hurry about a letter –  its only the tie of family love I want really.  So (if) you are busy, forgive me for insinuating.  I expect I shall get your long letter tomorrow, but I will send this off tonight at any rate. 

Kind regards to Woody – safe journey back to Hospital I hope (4).

NB  Pickwick Club (5) reminds meSnodgrass (6) had a letter from May (7).  I hope Capt Flo* is a good help to Sydney getting a Commission.

 Something for you to fathom about in your spare time –  I like letters which last a long time for  you to read.  Isn’t Mrs. Hurst jolly good, I enclose her letter.  Thank you Mother for the magazine. It goes without saying that I enjoyed the perusal so to speak eh what!  Sorry Mrs Hurst’s letter must be in the incinerator with Sydney’s letter I told you about (8).

Bertie.

PS  NB 13/ 9/ 15  

Oh! I shall fall through the earth next. I have just received Basil’s long epistle  – & nearly banged my head through the back of the deck chair when I unrolled Champion’s mile long letter of such black writing but so neat.  I had another letter too, it was from Cousin Muriel*.

Have I to write in turn to such a windfall, such a gasping slap.  I think you will think I am taking things to extreme but I shall have to write a letter to you all soon & will let it be just plain & serious, so you will forgive me for this my long letter.

Oh! Basil dear Dodger. Oh! Mummy (Hush I saw your writing in Ida’s & read yours before her’s, – don’t tell her though) & Oh! Ida’s was a record for a Champion.  Yes I will tell her of a Jock we call the ‘Scotch’32 beds in my Ward.  Did you get my letter to you & Father in a green envelope dated Sunday 6th?  

Now you won’t lose any of the sheets as this last letter marked PS NB is important. 

Bertie. 

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

This Letter clearly shows how important writing & receiving letters was to Pte Bertie Hibbett.  In his heightened emotional state, in an agony not to break this ‘tie with Home‘, he adds Postcript after Postscript.   

 (1) The Hospital Bag Fund (one of WW1’s many ‘morale boosting & practical schemes for soldiers’) was set up by Lady Smith-Dorrien 1881-1951 for the benefit of the sick and wounded in Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations. In <http://easttextile.co.uk/onewebmedia> Janette Bright 2015 writes that Volunteers produced an estimated 5,000,000 ‘Treasure Bags‘ to provide a store for a soldier’s personal treasures: papers, pay-sheets, photos & letters.  Around 12″ x 14″ in size, made of strong material (flowered cretonne preferred) each had a drawstring and could be hung where a patient could easily reach it.  Volunteers often added little gifts such as sachets of lavender and lucky charms.  In Pte Bertie Hibbett’s case his ‘Lucky Bag‘ arrived with a little writing pad & envelopes and amongst his treasures would have been his Prayer Book – & the Bible given to each soldier by the Army. Sadly it did not prevent some of his letters being lost in the Steamer De-louser when, for a day or two, he was put back into khaki.  

General Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien.
General Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien.

NB Lady Smith-Dorrien was the wife of General Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien who was relieved of command of 2nd Army in 1915 ‘by Lord French for requesting permission to retreat from the Ypres Salient to a more defensible position‘. Wikipedia.

(2) Lord Cardigan. Letter 10th Aug. 1915. (3) Marie Neal Hibbett’s relatives/ close friends in Ashton?

(4) Leicester Hospital.(5)  Childhood Pickwick Club. Letter 23rd April & 7th Sept. 1915.(6) Sydney’s Club nickname. (7Mary Overend.

(8) Steam Disinfectant De-louser. Letter 7th Sept 1915. (9) Dickebusch: in parish of Ypres (Ieper). Divisional Rest Camp; notorious history of soldiers ‘Shot at Dawn’.

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South Staffordshire BadgeeLance Corp. SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

CANADA  HUTS  NR DICKEBUSCH (9). 

13th Sept Mon:   In Divisional Reserve

 NEXT POST: 14th Sept. 1915.

7TH SEPT 1915: IN RED WHITE & BLUE AGAIN WITH BOILS ‘LIKE TOOTHACHE IN THE NECK’.

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
BERTIE HIBBETT:

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, ROUEN: No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL. No 12 Ward. LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

NB  –> In Red White & Blue. Tuesday Sep 7 / 15   

PS The lavender was given me while in 5 Ward. Take care of the Twiddly bits in this letter (1).

IDA HIBBETT. 27 in 1914.
IDA HIBBETT.

My Very Dear Sister,

Now I ain’t made no mistake loike (2) as one does at th’ beginnin of year & puts nineteen 14 ’stead of 15 and begins with D instead of J eh! 

This bit of touchy ‘chirpy’ (as you calls it) nonsense, is the effect of hearing a comic song at a concert – well I will tell you that later).  I have soon been sent back to Hospital again & am now in No 12 Ward at the same local Hospital  – ie No 9 General Hospital.  There is such a ‘nicenurse’ here, her hair reminds me of yours & making me wish I had you & Woody (3) to look after me. 

I hope Mummy & Daddy will take to Woody.  I fancy she is somewhat tall & dark – is that so?  Tell me about the time you are spending with her.  I discovered after all that the little scentiment of scent sent to me in the parcel was sent from you.  I mean the lovely Whitby Heather scent.  Do you remember Sydney sending you a bottle while you were in the Royal Infirmary? (4).

I have just had one of those round biscuits, Crawford’s Kings, they are a delicious assortment.

Crawfords City Assorted packaging: used when paper was scarce.
.BISCUIT WRAPPING PAPER, Request for eggs & biscuits – ‘send just as you please, you know. Forgive me,  Bertie.1915.. (For full transcript see Page: ‘PARCELS’).

Idait is simply  a glorious, lovely, bright afternoon -that sunny effect at teatimeI’ve just had teaEverything seems sunny & the spick an’ span cleanliness of the Ward makes a great effect of brightness doesn’t it?  You know, for I’m sure The Leicester Hospital was something like this, sunny & bright.

I am scribbling this seated in a comfy easy chair facing down the Ward.  I close my eyes & fancy you strutting along the centre between the neat cots; you are dressed in spotless white apron & the uniform of the Hospital.   

 * * * ‘Does Dodger depend  —‘  Oh! Jocks just been in  – with  the Chaplain of the Hospital;  Jock was the comedian who made us all roar with larfter at the entertainment this arfternoon.  ‘Does dear Dodger depend drastically— * * *

I came into the Ward this morning in time to go to this concert party of Miss Ashwells* held in the Dining Hall at 3.   Beautiful songsters, but I felt queersomelike when a man sang a patriotic song with appealing wordssort of practice what you preach sort of effect.  But I suppose he wanted to show his fine voice for the benefit of entertaining the sodjers eh! what? 

Jock could imitate a larf an’ no mistake, a fat little chap he was & he screwed up his nose & opened his mouth & wrinkles all over his fizog, but the effort did make him sweat.  I saw him mopping his brow with his handkerchief afterwards.—

* * * ‘Does dear Dodger drastically depend on his – –  (I can’t make a sentence of dees) pocket money – his weekly allowance –  for his contribution in parcels to his two bruvvers at the front eh! what!?

I enjoyed the chocolate while a listnin’ to the singin’.  There was a violinist, I mean the one who played a large violin – forgotten the name of it –  but although she was elderly she reminded me of  your picture ‘The Violin Player (5)you. 

Thye Violinist: mary neal Richardson (American) 1859 -1937.
THE VIOLINIST: Mary Neal Richardson (1859 -1937..

Have you, by the by, got a good collection of your favourite pictures – & framed?  

Tell Mummy I quite enjoyed the eggs & ate two this morning, without salt, with a few biscuits & they tasted so creamy like, beautiful –  and I’m sure they will do me good. 

Of course the sisters came to see the fun & oh! I saw the ‘ode sisters’ of No 6 Ward & guessed they’d be somewhat disgusted, if not surprised, on seeing me again.   I did make a mistake arter all aboot the ’eddin.  The trio [Red White & Blue] was not complete  – it is now for I have just had a clean red tie given me. 

When I was discharged from Hospital on Saturday I had to get all my togging on the Sunday kit & pack & ammunition & rifle etc.  All of it had to be handed in again this morning & my khaki clothing disinfected againSo particular they be here, although I had only been in Camp 2 days

Sergeant Wilkes (a teacher) (6) really thought I had gone to Blighty when I made my appearance in his tent on Saturday I will not buoy your hopes up falsely.  He said if I had stayed in Hospital & lingered over 4 weeks  I should have gone to Blighty automatically  – & a chap with the same sores on his legs (only) went to Blighty while I was in 6 WardI saw him go.  

Hush! Ida! scribble this out with the blackest dye of ink when you’ve read it:- I have endured toothache in the necknow don’t larf that is the best description of the pain of this boil on the back of me neck. For 4 nights running I have not had a whole night’s sleepJust like toothache & as bad too, for toothache does go away sometimes during the day, but this pain lasts all day & night as well. 

Dear Ida, I do believe in some sort of transformation (sic) of the minds of people, more especially of relatives (7). You understand my meanin’?  I mean that I have no doubt that you overlook my touch of chirpiness & can see in the depths of it all that my complaint is not all bluff .  

Vernon thought boils didn’t hurt, but I know now.  And there are so many cases among the men that one doesn’t get so much sympathyAnd dear Ida that is why I do not think for a moment now that I shall come Home through boils.   I hope to get up the line with Sydney & then there might be a chance of coming Home on Leave see, more than there is in here.  

Now methinks this letter is getting long for the  censor. It looks as if I shall have to enclose it in a green

Foden de-lousing 464Foden_WD_disinsector_3About my khaki suit being disinfected (8)  It is put in a steam chamber with some chemicals in the steam to kill the — never mind! 

Well I left a letter to Sydney in one of the pockets.  It was in answer to his I sent  you & in it was Mother’s lovely letter and yours.  I did want him to read them.  I did like to send you his to see how brother writes to brother.  It was indeed unique to get a letter sent to me with the triangular Field Postage stamp.  I knew t’was from Sydney when I saw it.  

Just another thing I should like to tell you & that is you would remember the good old days of the Pickwick Club (9) (when you read Miss Edith Evans’  letter I enclosed in Mother’s letter about the childrens’ party in the Cycle Shed, an annual affair? ) I mentioned the fact to Vernon about Sydney nicknamed Snodgrass

When you were in York did you see Mr Walker*?  By the by that reminds me, did you send him those Bible markers after all?  That is the question you will answer me in your long letter.  Oh!  but I suppose it is already on the journey now from the Little Grey Home in the West, from that little white table in the little white room of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (10).

Ta Ta.   I remain, dear Pickwick, your affectionate brother at the front.   

Winkle’.  (11)

PSS  Have you managed to get through this puzzle of a letter?  I have had several goes at smothering my nose in the delicate khaki fabric saturated with Whitby Heather Scent. 

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1)’Twiddly bits: Many additional comments tucked in margins/ as well a lots of underlining. (2) ‘Chirpy bits’: mixture of Black Country dialect & childhood language with lots of rhyming words, deliberate misspelling & alliteration:- e.g. scentiment (sentiment) of scent sent;  loike-like; th’ beginnin – the beginning; nicenurse-nice nurse; spick ‘n span – tidy/clean/in order/as new; sodjers – soldiers; larf/larfter – laugh/laughter;  arfternoon– afternoon; fizog – face; bruvvers – brothers; listnin‘/ singin/ meanin‘- listening/singing/meaning; ode – old; ‘eddin-heading; togging– uniform & kit ; unique – unusual; Ta ta – Goodbye.

(3) Woody: Ida’s nursing friend. (4Leicester Royal Infirmary, Infirmary Square, where Ida appears to have done basic training, 1914-1915.

(5) The Violin Player: Ida’s copy could be one by Joseph de Camp 1858 -1923 – or The Violinist. 1912Mary Neal Richardson (American) 1859 -1937. Both paintings would match Ida’s white bedroom.

220px-Edwin_Foden_1841-1911
EDWIN FODEN. 1841 -1911.

(6Serjeant Wilkes: the kind Serjeant referred to in Letter: 5th Sept. 1915. (7) Foden Compound Steam Engine/ Lorry adapted for De-lousing  & Disinfecting in WW1.  Edwin Foden, Sons & Coy Ltd :  British Truck & Bus manufacturer, based Sandbach, Cheshire. 1856.  [No connection with Foden Road, named after E.A. Foden, Lord Hatherton’s land agent, responsible for creating Walsall Arboretum 1871]. <http://www.steamscenes.org.uk&gt; Wikipedia. <http://www.1914-1918.invision.com&gt; Great War Forum Old Sweats description.

8)’Transference’ is the word Bertie means (probably not in the full 19th cent theory sense of ‘transference of thought from one person to another without the sensory / physical channels’) but his belief that Ida would understand his ‘chirpiness’ masked a real pain & his bitter disappointment at not getting a Blighty.

(9) Hibbett Pickwick Club (childhood club based on Charles Dickens‘ Pickwick Papers): begun at 106, Rowley St. in 1903 (before moving opposite to 95, Foden Rd). Aim: to collect interesting observations and report adventures.

*****  Sam Pickwick President: – Ida Hibbett.  EditorSam Weller – May Overend*. MEMBERSAugustus Snodgrass – Sydney Hibbett (8 yrs);  Tracy Tupman – Bertie Hibbett (7 yrs);  Sam Wardle  I. Cozens* (?); Nath Winkle – D. Cozens* (?) *****

10) Ida’s bedroom at 95, Foden Rd. (11) Winkle: Bertie has changed his Pickwick Club membership name.

(12) Crumps: German 5.9 inch shell or loud thudding sound as it burst. ‘the last crump’ meant the end of the War.

South Staffordshire BadgeeLANCE CORP SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

S.W. SLOPE OF HILL 60

7th Sept. Tue:  Enemy repairing parapets damaged by rainstorm, fired on at intervals during the night.  Between 11 am and 12 noon enemy fired six crumps (11) behind 35 and 36 supports and at 2.30 pm shelled West end of wood.  CASULATY: WOUNDED: 9784 Pte D. Hunt.

NEXT POSTS: 10th SEPT. 1915. 

6TH SEPT. 1915. IN KHAKI AGAIN WITH COMPASSIONATE SERJEANTS.

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

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 6 GENERAL BASE ROUEN: LETTER to MOTHER & FATHER, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. 

Monday Sep. 6 / 15

My Very Dear Mother & Father,

Another repetition of having to include a Monday’s epistle with a Sunday’s.  If I had managed to get a green envelope yesterday the 1st part of this letter would have gone. 

Egg Week Chicken-poster-1-revisedIt seemed as though the letters I wrote yesterday must stay to acknowledge the ripping parcel I got this morning.   The eggs came in good condition, –  just the shells broken, but that’s all  – no mess whateverHard boiled eggs seem to be in ‘great demand’ (as Miss Bore* sais) among the SoldiersA chap had some sent him too this very morning that I got yours.Million Egg chicken-poster-2-revised 

 

I feel I ought to answer the parcel straight away, although I have not broken into all the lovely contents.  Oh Mummy I am in raptures again.  I guess you are smiling to know that your effort in sending such good ‘stuff has been another good successThere was some crossings out on Dad’s address – how dare they spoil such neat writing,  but I got it safely I shall have to write another letter shortly to say how I enjoyed the ‘assortment‘ – you have good taste for biscuits, they are fine.

I was amused at the Whitby Heather scent  – after sending the Whitby Heather soap.  I guess Dad twitched a smile when he got to know you were sending me scent, but I was sincerely delighted with such a sentiment.  Mummy & Champion’s doing I bet.  And I was doubly glad on getting a handkerchief & more so being khaki.  I intended getting one with my next pay if I get any.  I needed a hankie so.  

I was very happy indeed to see Dodger’s few words & promising me a letter I guess he was writing it for me when I was writing to him, this letter enclosed yesterday afternoon. 

I have already bought a few apples, I think fruit will do me goodPoor Sydney again.  I was rather or felt  glad now that he kept Mrs Hurst’s parcel & shared the contents with ‘Brewin*’.

I enclose Sydney’s very, very nice letter. It is isn’t it? eh what?  I want you & Ida to try and persuade Mrs Hurst* not to trouble about sending another parcel to this address.  You may think I’m mercenary, for being inclined to expect another as Sydney had the other.  As Sydney sent me her lovely letter I must write back, but if I were to tell her myself not to send me another she might take it as an insinuation – at least I do.  And you can tell Mrs Hurst it was very kind indeed of her to offer to send me The Graphic (1) . Of course now that I am out of Hospital where I got reading matter I could do with something to read, but I leave that to you.

Now when our Company Sergeant Major* went on Home Leave (sergeants 1st then privates) he saw you Mother & told me so on returning to trenchesHe said he was thinking of going up to you & telling you how I was, but he did not like the idea when he thought of the life out here.

Now, as you read in Sydney’s letter, he too has gone where Corporal A. Penning* is (2). But I think his death did not linger with pain, as I have no doubt Mrs Penning’s son did.  Gee* was his name, a relative of Queen Mary’s O.T.C. Drum & Fife Instructor. 

I am sitting on a box in a Sergeant’s tent. I was interrupted half way through this letter by the sergeant who handed me this box & told me to go & sit inside the tent as I was squatting in the grass just outside. It is sunny & fine but we have had some heavy rains lately. 

Now I must write to Sydney.  I am glad you got a letter from him.  I told him to write to you & me & got his letter with your parcel. What a happy coincidence eh!   When I read that you are kept happy in hopes of seeing Sydney & me I do pray that happiness will be fulfilled.  ‘Put your trust in the Lord & He will fulfil your heart’s desire’ (3) and the 34th Psalm, for today – The Lord delivereth the souls of His servants; and all they that put their trust in Him shall NOT BE DESTITUTE’. (4)

Best love to all,   Bertram.  

PS  Oh I am glad Sydney had opened Mrs Hurst’s parcel of chocolate (see the stains of chocolate from his finger prints) sardines (they would not make my boils any better) condensed milk (he needed that to make his tea taste nice) and yes, I am doubly glad because his rations were thin & nasty. I hope he gets a Com.  You see, I told you so didn’t I –  if not then I tell you now, that he wanted me to go to Blighty.  I know the reason & sympathise with him & it is that feeling of his that makes me want to be with him, a sort of reaction. 

We were sleeping in those beds last year at this time Mother although firing our course and in training.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Two pictures. Two Serjeantsone saving a Mother from further anxiety – and another fetching a box for a young Private to sit on and inviting him into his tent to write home. Such simple acts of thoughtful kindness fill me with gratitude to all those who helped my Dad cope with the disappointment of not getting Home to ‘Blighty‘ with Boils.

(1) The Graphic: Illustrated Weekly Newspaper. London. famous for centre-page illustration of the Sinking of the Luisitania, May 1915.

Sinking of Luisitania.

(2) 6515 Company Serj. Major H. Gee. Killed : 26th Aug. 1915. (‘Shot through the lungs’, Sydney’s letter 29th Aug.).  Arthur Penning: only son of Mrs A. Penning, Pte Bertie’s landlady, 29 Gold Street, Saffron Walden.

(3) Psalm 37.4-5.  (4) Psalm 34 interestingly is an acrostic poem with each verse beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

South Staffordshire BadgeeLance Corpl SYDNEY HIBBETT 1/5th & SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

 

6th Sept. Mon:  In BRIGADE RESERVE  – detail as 1st. CASUALTIES: WOUNDED: 8909 Pte V.C. Hough, 9149 Pte L.J. Bayley; No 9585 Pte C.F. Girling.  Relieved the 6th North Staffs in the trenches at 10.15 pm. Slightly wounded 8067  Pte J. Bradley, remain at duty.  

NEXT POST: 7th SEPT. 1915.  In Red White & Blue – no mistake.