13th July, Tue: Bivouacs.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings. Rheninghelps. ‘Mother’s Birthday. Sent card before, while in trenches. Went on fatigue at Yves Canal (Ypres)’ (1).
LETTER to MOTHER, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
My Very Dear Mother,
Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest & receivest unto Thee. Evening Prayer Psalm 65. (2).
It is evening & I have enjoyed a very nice tea with Mother’s lemon curd & the rest of the lovely cake. I was almost afraid I should not be able to get a line in today to wish you a very Happy Birthday for we have been out digging a long way off since five this morning & returned for tea.
Happy that I have had the opportunity. So I hope you will have had a quiet & pleasant day & will have enjoyed a good night’s repose by the time this letter gets to you. What a lovely & nice one yours was, with Dad’s witty little line at the end. Yes, for Mummy’s sake, I hope to be at Home – sweet Home next year.
Was my day fine? How flattered I felt when you said the flag would be flying. Flying too for Prince John (3). I am twice the age of the young prince, – what think ’bout that eh! I must thank Ida for her hurried letter & Dodger’s thoughtfulness in including Penning’s* letter, which we both read with interest.
Have you, dear Mother, popped the lucky 6d in Dodger’s pocket? Is he keeping fit & not faint? (4). Oh what a chorus we shall both have now with the mouth organs – the cigarettes – well how generous you are. I think I at least ought not to have any more parcels for a jolly long time – these two ought to make up for a dearth to come. And above all to enclose a bit of cash too.
I feel like you Mother. How can I express my gratefulness, after all it is only my duty that I am out here for I am sure I do not deserve such luxuries. Sydney came to my Bully Beef Bungalow & we both tucked into the ripping things, quenched our thirst with the chunks and cream. I am very sorry I shall have to be concluding for there is a rifle inspection soon & Mother would not like me to get into trouble.
What nice Psalms they are for yours & my birthday (5).
You remember the Bishop of Stafford (6) reading out the 4th verse of Psalm 65 at St. George’s Church (7) the year I was confirmed? It was on the 12th day & it snowed on our return home. I feel destined to enter in for Holy Orders. It will be hard I know to pick up Latin & Greek, but with His strong help I hope to get through. The Rev. Darling* said he hoped I should return safely so that I could teach his dear son Scripture – nice of him eh!
And what did you have for tea on this your birthday? Harold’s parcel to us both was also ripping, but at the same time it looked as if a chemist had packed it (to his credit). Would you like to know what was in it? Well I will write again soon, but sorry I must stop now.
Very best love & may our Heavenly Father give you more strength to bear your
anxiety ‘little cross’ with more cheerfulness than ever. Mrs Jones* said you were surprisingly cheerful.
Best love to all. Your affectionate son, Bertie.
(1) Yvres/ Ypres/ Ieper Canal. (cf. Salient Map. July Welcome Page).
(2) Psalm 65 v. 4 continues: . . . he shall dwell in thy court and shall be satisfied with the pleasures of thy house, even of thy holy temple. My father was confirmed at St George’s Church, Walsall and appears to have felt a calling to Holy Orders (as a priest) ever since.
3) Prince John was only 5 years younger than my father in 1915 (he was kept away from public eye and his disability was not made known until after his death, in 1919) cf.12th July Letter. (4) Basil was about to take Junior Oxford Exam at QMS, Walsall.
(5) Psalms 62-70 for 12th & 13th Day. Anglican Book of Common Prayer. 1662. Opening verses include: My soul truly waiteth still upon God; O God thou art my God: early will I seek thee; Hear my voice O God in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy; God be merciful unto us and bless us. (6) Edward Ware, 1846 -1915. Bishop of Stafford 1909-1915. (7) St George’s Church, Persehouse St. Walsall (not far from 95, Foden Rd.).
NEXT POST: 16th July, 1915: Pictures & Memories of Home.