Tag Archives: Homesickness.

24th JUNE 1915: STAFFORDS ‘A MODEL TO THE BRITISH ARMY’

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE

In Hutments, BULFORD CAMP

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to IDA, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

Mid-Summer Day. June 24/ 15 (1)

My Very Dear Sister,  

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

Have just read your usual three paged letter & its bucked me up further.  We have been inspected by the Army Corps General (2) you’ll know his name later; I guess it will be published.  He gave us a very encouraging address.  The Division is to be ‘lent’ to another part of the line for about three or four weeks.

Our trenches have been highly commended.  In fact our Colonel (3) said  in his personal address afterwards, that we have been praised by several other officers & our trenches were a ‘model’ to the British Army.  But we must not go with swelled heads, but in quiet determination to keep up & improve the high standard we have gained since the weeks after we started going into the trenches.  The General gave a very well spoken address, fluent and natural.

I’m comforted to read at the end of the PS, on the slip of paper, that you were not ‘put out’, or disagreed with my green envelope (4). Sydney did disagree and I was half sorry I wrote, but the lesson I can screw out of it now is what it showed we are all of us quite human, and are not always in the mood to write letters.  I think what put me down were two feelings within me, fighting one another.  One said ‘don’t fag about writing’ – another said, ‘think of Mother & acknowledge their kind thoughts & continued remembrance – & the Parcel’.   And dear Ida I hope you do, and all the others at home, appreciate the effort it takes at times to write, when one does not feel like writing sometimes.

Generally, I am very grateful to say, I love writing & think it is the best way of spending my spare timeThat is why I think I am so disgusted with myself when I feel I ought to write yet can’t collect my thoughts together.  You said it seemed a small thing to worry about, but dear Ida, small things can upset one enough to make men incompetent for THE work i.e. fighting the enemy.  

I was looking forward to a letter from home & my anxiety was completely dispersed & I was delighted when Sydney (who went for the parcels & letters for the Platoon) handed me your letter.

Best love to Mother, Father and all of you.    Bertie.

 PS  My greatest wish is that I live through the whole of the campaign & take part in it till peace is declared.  If I had Home Sickness ever so much I still don’t think I should care to be at home –  of course I could not be at home even if I wanted.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertrie Hibbett belonged to the 137th Brigade, relieved by the 149th Brigade on 22nd June 1915).

‘Lent to other divisions fatigues’. CHAIN OF COMMAND numbers approx: CORP: 2 or more Divisions, 50,000 – 100,000 soldiers.  DIVISION: 18,000 (full strength) with 3 – 4 Brigades. Infantry BRIGADE: 1,500 – 4,000 in 3 – 4 Battalions. BATTALION: 1000 (full strength) 3 – 4 CompaniesCOMPANY: 500 – 800 in 3 – 6 Platoons.  PLATOON: 15 – 30 soldiers.

The Staffords, many familiar with mining and explosives, had impressed the Army with their efficiency & digging speed at Wulverghem and were now needed near Ypres (Ieper), approx. 11 miles north.

Rough Map of Wulverghem & Neuve Eglise 1915, with modern roads deleted.
Rough Map  showing Wulverghem; Neuve Eglise ; Messines (Mesen); Ypres, Ouderdom & Zillebeke. with modern roads deleted.  Adapted from Michelin Map.  EFW. 2015.

(1) The Summer Solstice/ Mid-Summer Day (when sun appears highest in the sky usually 21st -22nd June) was 24th June in 1915. (2) VI Army  Corps: formed in France 1st June, 1915, under Lt. Gen. Sir John Lindsey Keir, took over the British Lines at Ypres and first engaged at Battle of Loos, October, 1915.

(3) Lt. Colonel R. R.  Raymer, Cmdg. 1/5th S. Staffs.  (4) Green Envelopefor personal information only/ ref: Letter to Ida, 5th June 1915) .

NEXT POST: 30th JUNE, 1915.  Bagpipes & Indians.

 

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5th JUNE 1915: ‘SOMEHOW I DON’T FEEL QUITE HAPPY’.

 South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE. 

5 th June, Sat. In Hutments, Bulford Camp. Proceeded to Trenches in relief 6th Souths.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

IDA HIBBETT VAD Nurse.
IDA HIBBETT VAD Nurse. 27yrs.

Saturday May June 5th / 15.

My Dear Sister Ida,

I have addressed this to you for a reason, I should not like Mother to know, but I know you will take it in a stronger light.

Somehow I don’t feel quite happy; what causes it puzzles me.  Whether it was the bananas that spoiled all the lovely contents of the parcel; whether it was because I’ve had to borrow got no paper of my own to acknowledge the topping comforts & had to borrow this from Vernon who is lying with me on the grass listening to the army band playing waltzes – whether it’s because the latter is somewhat sentimental music or what. Could it be homesickness?

How its come about I don’t know, but there it is.  Perhaps it is very likely with regard to acknowledging this ripping parcel with topping comforts.  So I will set my pencil to work – not my pencil there it goes again, its a borrowed pencil –  Ah perhaps its because I keep writing to you to send so many articles.  Syd(ney), I at any rate, was looking forward to this parcel & was anxious about its coming when we shall be in the trenches.

Good – how delighted I felt when I saw Dad’s writing on the familiar & usual shape of the hamper.  So we shall be able to enjoy the pineapple apricots and cream in the Listeners’ Lounge. Not just because the things are good in themselves, but they will remind us & fill our thoughts of home as well as fill our tummies.

Now in my last letter to Mum on King George’s Day I said when I would write the next & would enclose it in green envelope, so no references to the army.

Mrs Evans, as Vernon has told me, in every letter she writes to him,  wishes to be remembered to Sydney & me.  Vernon said he got quite tired of repeating her wishes,in fact he admitted he had missed more than once to convey them to us.  What had we both better do, putting it frankly and squarely?  I was in puddle (sic) & made myself foolish, I could not find words in response to Mrs Evans kind wishes.  The question arises – shall we write?  Sydney, I guess you trust, has acknowledged her fine box of King Edward Chocolates.

Tea now.  We must arise & then I will put to you another puzzling personal what do you call it.  See how adjusted I am, I can’t write properly today.  There’s another ten minutes yet so I can go on for that length of time.

The Curate* I told you sent me a very nice letter.  Where the puzzle comes in is that he mentioned about his son and described an instance very nicely.  Now its about his having a son that I’m puzzled about, or rather more strictly how it concerns me.  Shall I write & congratulate him, express my pleasure of hearing of the birth or shall I let it slip by?

It’s tea time for sure now, so I’m off. 

Just finished tea. The next puzzle is a practical one.  How shall I cram all the rest I want to tell you on this page? 

I must tell you how I enjoyed the cherry wood pipe with the Lobby’s bacca (?) while with Vernon listening to the band this afternoon.  The weather has been hot again & being evening now it is the best part of the day, excepting the time before breakfast.

You’ll be amused, like Vernon was, when I now say that I struck more than half a dozen matches to keep the old chimney,  no – the new chimney going.  Everyone looked at me and made some ‘rude’ remark jokingly.  Surely its jolly good of you to send a parcel to VernonAlas he’ll have to wait till we come back from the trenches.  Harold sent another good box yesterday & you needn’t send a cigarette holder, but I should have liked a white one.  Yet the yellow and gold of Harold’s looks ‘pretty’ when the smoke curls in front of my face.  

We read the letters generally first, before looking into the parcels, because it is the spirit in which they are sent which primarly ? (sic) matters.  So it goes without saying I could write twice the length of this letter – to thank Mother & Ida for their lovely homely epistles.

Best  love Bertie  (note the ‘ie’  – see PS)

PS  Another reason why I was not up to the mark today is perhaps I was sorry on hearing about the ‘Syd’ & ‘Bert’.  Forgive me but I’m a maddun on cutting words short – ‘he’ll’ in fact means ‘he will’.  I will emphasise the ‘ie’ and ‘ney’.  I do so hope you will fathom out my writing & forgive my bad expressions.  

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Somehow I don’t feel quite happy’ –  Bertie Hibbett is not being ironic.  He is genuinely puzzled about his feelings and writes for advice to his Sister, rather than to his Mother.  The Letter is written on scruffy paper and his writing is rushed, with lots of crossings out and additions. Postscripts are tucked in at top & bottom of pages and up the sides. In short the letter’s appearance, as well as its content, reflects Bertie’s low spirits.

Dictionary of Etiquette.
Dictionary of Etiquette.

In his copy of A Dictionary of Etiquette by Marjory Luxmore (Cassell’s Pocket Reference Library 1914) Bertie has written the following maxims on the fly cover:Manners maketh MAN’; ‘Follow the example of General Gordon, Earl Roberts, Wellington & Nelson’ and most revealing of all  ‘None so great as a Gentleman Soldier‘.

[General Charles George Gordon, 1833 -1835. Gordon of Khartoum;  Earl Roberts, 1832 -1914. Frederick Sleigh Roberts of Kandahar, Afghanistan ; Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wesley cum Wellesley, 1769 -1852. Anglo-Irish General, defeated Napoleon at Battle of Waterloo, June 1815;  Admiral Horatio. Lord Nelson, 1758 -1805. (6th son of a clergyman). Killed at Battle of Trafalgar, 21 Oct. 1805. Famous signal to his fleet: ‘England expects everyman to do his duty‘]

One hundred years on we can see Pte Bertie Hibbett is trying to do the impossible under horrendous conditions. He is trying to be a dutiful son. a soldier and a gentleman  but he is exhausted in mind and body.  In this Letter I see signs of the Shell Shock he suffered from for the rest of his life.

NEXT LETTER:  10th JUNE 1915. Dreams of Enemy Advance.