21st Feb. Mon. Battalion marched to new billets at PROUVILLE (1). 22nd – 27th Feb. Sun. Battalion Training.
Treasured Sayings in Letters from Ida and Mother: ‘On my photo, taken at Marseilles with a Leica, Ida thought I looked ‘a wee bit sad’. Mum altered the opinion – ‘I think your photo simply lovely & very happy. You look alright & everybody likes it & thinks it fine to be taken with an Indian* (2). (I did not send Miss Foster* one), Mother’.
LETTER to Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall.
Sexagesima Sunday (3). Feb 28/ 16
In weariness & painfulness; in watchings often, In hunger & thirst, in fasting often (4). Be not anxious, but by prayer & supplication Let your requests be made known unto God (5). Bring forth fruit with patience (6).
My Very Dear Mother,
How can I express my feelings after reading such delightful letters & enjoying the parcels. The currant bread was fine & I toasted a slice, it was excellent with butter. I think you have set me up for some considerable time with this pad, the three pencils & other paper & envelopes. I will do my best to use the paper in writing comforting letters to you.
I feel a little better to day after the shock I got yesterday when you so much wanted me to get to England straightaway. I will put the matter to a chummy officer I know. I should have thought Sydney would have explained my circumstances to you. I believe a candidate for a Commission has to be an NCO for 2 months, that is why A.O. Jones* is a Lance Jack (7). As for keeping on arsking (sic)- worrying the officers it is counted as a breach of discipline. A private is supposed to be escorted by an NCO if he wishes to converse with an officer.
And then again, dear Mum, there are NCOs, even Sergeants, who have been out here as long as I have & NOT been home yet.
You ask me to say more about myself. Well all I can say is that I was keeping very happy & in good health, but reading your letter wanting me so to get to England worried me a little. Yet I am very anxious & do so hope that you, including the others & Harold (are) calling the photo a ripping one (8).
I was a little disappointed with the photo, yet I risked sending it you & hoped you would like it & – please take note that (I thought) you would not detect the slightest sign of sadness, but rather that I should cause you at least another brighter ray of happiness & comfort to you, Mother, & all of you. I only wish I could send you a really jolly one of myself with the sleeping helmet you sent me & Miss Foster’s handsome muffler round me, & taken in my bed of blankets. I guess there are several people at Home who live the life of Tommy just for fun.
Tell Basil I have had all his letters up to date & they were rippers.
PS M.P. HIBBETT: I meant to say a word of congratulations towards Dad after praising Mum for her calmness during that awful time at night, before the glow of the fire in the darkness, with Basil & Ida doing Sentry Go (9). I meant to say how self-sacrificing in everything is Dad. I thought of that trait in him when I read what Councillor Evans* said at the meeting with regard to Salaries (10).
Three cheers from France to my brave & loving parents & hearty handshakes to jolly jolly Dodger & excellent Ida.
I wrote to Sydney the other day too, but he has not sent me his address. I had to risk the one at the Assembly Rooms at Derby (11). I enclose you his jolly letters. My word I wish I could write like him. Aren’t mine absurd & hard to understand? I really am of no reputation that you should all so want to see this poor self.(12).
I am quite happy, yet I do hope what Basil said – to kiss your dear cheek in reality & not in mere dreams. Yet again I hope you will have ‘beaucoup’ happy dreams till I see you ‘face to face’.
God bless you all.
PS I went to Holy Communion in a barn this morning & of course thought of you & Ken Marshall* (13) & the Mayoress* (14) etc.
This letter is a good example of how Pte Bertie Hibbett, in the increasing anxiety & uncertainty of the War, found comfort in the words of the Gospel and Epistle each Sunday; identifying with and applying the biblical message to himself & his family.
(1) Prouville, Picardie N. France; 15 miles northeast of Abbeville. (2) Buckshee Ichbye Singh Waltu, Indian Expeditionary Force (Hindustani Sikh). Photo above: Indian Soldiers arrived in France 1914. <ww1blog.osborneink.com>
(3) Sexagesima Sunday: Sunday within sixty days of Easter. (Book of Common Prayer, 1662). Term rarely used today.
(4) Epistle and Gospel for Sexagesima Sunday (Book of Common Prayer 1662): 2 Cor. 11.27. (Paul’s description of his sufferings for the Gospel) and (6) Luke 8. 15. (Parable of the Sower): (5) Philippians 4.6. (AD 60-62, Paul, under threat of death himself, writes to the first European Church which had suffered great persecution & poverty since AD49).
(7) Lance Jack: Lance Corporal in the Army. An informal promotion/appointment; became a rank in 1961). From Italian ‘lancia spezzata’ – broken lance (i.e. when unseated from horse in battle he joined the infantry on foot. WW1 Army song ‘If you want to find the Lance Jack . . .’
(8) Leica photo of Pte Bertie Hibbett and Buckshee (i.e Private) Ichbye Singh Waltu at Marseilles.
(9) ref. Zeppelin Raid, Arthur Hibbett acting as ‘M.P. like his son in Bellancourt. (10) Walsall Education Department Salaries. 1915. It appears Councillor Evans, (Vernon’s father) praised my grandfather for declining a pay rise to help the War effort.
(11) The Assembly Rooms, Market Place, Derby. Gutted by fire,1963. (12) ‘Of no reputation‘. Pte Bertie accepts he’s a Private and must not expect preferential treatment re Home Leave. Unconscious ref. to Philippians 2.7 ? (humility of Christ the Servant).
(13) Ken Marshall, wounded/ missing son of QMS Headmaster, E. N. Marshall*? (14) Mrs: Maria Julia Slater*, Walsall Mayoress.
NEXT POST: 28th FEB. 1916.