May 29th May – June 1st Thur: LUCHEUX. In Rest billets. Battalion Training.
CASUALTIES for May : OTHER RANKS: 1 found drowned. No 957 Pte J. Bird (attached 182nd Tunnelling Company R.E.). 3 WOUNDED: 8434 L/Corp. S. Goode; 8375 Ptre R Harris; 9724 Pte G.Bradford. (1)
Signed: H.LORD Major Cmdg 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt.
Ascension Day (2). Thursday June 1st
The Glorious First of June (3).
My Dear (Mother) Father,
No – sorry, My Dear Father.
I have a reason for writing to you Dad, although the letter is really intended for you all to read, but on condition that you ‘censor’ it first.
Mother’s & your letters were read with great interest. Sydney returned from his course of instruction last night & was ‘full up to the brim’ with all he had done. He was given a highly good report, with the exception that he had not such a good word of command.
My idea of him going there for a Course of Armoury was incorrect (4). He thought it time I was going on leave; he expected I should have gone while he was away.
Now this is where I wish you to use your usual good discretion. I think there is no need for me to ‘use every opportunity‘ to hasten my going on Home Leave, for I went to the Orderly Room this dinner time to give my address to the Serg. Major, & tonight I heard that I am due to leave tomorrow & am going with another, Drummer Woodfield*. If his word is true, as he seemed to be quite sincere, I shall fulfill what Mum said in her letter -i.e. I shall see you very soon with the ‘very’ underlined, as Mum generally does when she wishes to emphasise anything.
I thought of not saying anything until matters get more certain & definite, & Sydney also suggested that idea when I saw him this morning. But the actual time of informing a chap to Parade for Home Leave comes suddenly & unawares, just like when Sydney went, & he only had time to write to you when he got into England. At any rate I am in the next six & I hope matters won’t turn out like they did before Easter.
I conclude my reference to this sudden ‘attack’ by saying I promise you a telegram at my earliest opportunity when I arrive in Angleterre & I hope Mum’s patient look-out for the bearer of The Telegram will be speedily gratified. (5)
I had a very interesting letter from Ida. She is living the typical farmer’s life & Miss Brookes* said in her letter how she enjoyed the tea with Ida & admired her economical jersey for the farm work. No wonder dear Dad called her ‘Champion’.
I shall have lots to tell you when I come Home, but the idea I have had lately is to do as Sydney did, according to Mum’s letter – ‘take things as a matter of course’.
Should you ‘let the cat out of the bag’ (6) to the others tell Mum not to be in a hurry to buy luxuries and such things that will cause you to deny yourselves unnecessarily. I shall be only too pleased with bread & dripping & shall think of rice pudding as much as I loved an expensive dish when I was at Home. All I am worrying about is that I hope so much that I am not buoying you up with false hopes. My opinion is to keep the news quiet until I send the telegram.
Now I will start another page with news that Mum can read.
All good wishes,
Your affec. son, Bertie.
Pte Bertie Hibbett was well aware that a ‘Big Push’ on the Somme was imminent but he had not given up hope that after two years at the Front he would be granted Home Leave. His parents had been frequently disappointed and he did not want to buoy them up with false hopes, especially his Mother. Once again Bertie addresses important news to his Father first.
(1) Found Drowned: Pte J. Bird had gone missing on Vimy Ridge when attached to182 Tunnelling Coy. 2nd April 1916. See Hibbett Letter: 17th May, 1916.
(2) Ascension Day: Christian Festival, 40 days after Easter. Ascension of Risen Christ to Heaven. Based on text of all 4 Gospels/ mainly Luke-Acts AD 75-90. Celebrated at least since 4th Cent AD.
(3) The Glorious First of June: Naval Battle, French Revolutionary Wars, Bay of Biscay 1794, when British won a tactical victory turning their ships towards the enemy & French won a strategic victory breaking food blockade.
(4) Unclear whether Sydney Hibbett had been on an Armoury Course at Abbeville (‘to get out of the way of these new draft of officers’) or on an Instruction Course for Serjeants in preparation for the Battle of Somme. Most probably the latter. See Hibbett Letter: 28th May 1916.
(4) ‘My Memories of the First World War’ re Mother watching out for weeks to see whether Pte Bertie was coming up the road to No 95. See Top Menu. (5) ‘Cat out of the bag’: colloquialism for disclosing a secret. A favourite Hibbett family saying. Origin obscure: possibly discovering the buying of false market goods. cf 16th Cent. German & Dutch refs to buying ‘a pig in a poke’.
NEXT POST: 1st June 1916 (enclosed letter to Mother).