STEAM MILL, Bailleul. March 1915
18th March ,Thurs. Moved Billets. Hd. QRS. (at) Steam Mill, Bailleul & 2 Coys; 2 Coys at Meteren. (1)
19th March, Fri. Remained in billets. Warm clothing, fur coats, horse rugs sent into CHESTRE, returned without ever having been used. 20th March, Sat Marched to Armentieres, about 8 miles. first march on Paves all the way (2). Men ‘stuck it’ very well. Billeted in Hospital in Rue des Routours. Attached 16th Brigade (Gen. Ingouville Williams, G.O.C. 2nd Army witnessed march). (3)
21st March, Sun. Lectured on Sanitation in trenches & billets. Inspection by Brigadier, 16th Brigade, 12.00 noon in Grand Place. Instruction in Bomb Throwing in afternoon. 2 Coys were to have gone into trenches at night, but owing to scarlet fever case would not have men in trenches. ‘B’ Coy went out digging communication trenches behind 1st K.S.L.I. (4). 1 man wounded. (2nd in Command & Adjutant went round trenches with Bgdr early morning).
22nd March, Mon. Batt HQ stayed down at trenches with 1st K.S.L.I. all day. Coys taught Bomb Throwing & Wire Entanglements.
‘D’ & half ‘B’ Coys went in trenches at night. Men mixed up with 1st K.S.L.I. & Buffs (5). 2 men wounded slightly. ‘A’ Coy (Pte Bertie’s Coy) digging Communication Trenches (with) 1st K.S.L.I.
23rd March, Tue . Coys instructed in Bomb Throwing – Construction of Breastworks (6) – Wire Entanglements.
0fficers shown billets Y & L. ‘A’ & half ‘B’ Coys relieved. ‘D’ & half ‘B’ in trenches at night. No casualties. 3 rifles burst.
24th March Wed. ‘C’ Coy not allowed in trenches sent back to old billets near Bailleul. MG section (7) went into trenches for day. No casualties.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT’S Own War Diary. A Little Book of Words and Doings.
24th March, 1915. ‘Trio (Sydney, Vernon Evans & Bertie) – on Listening Post’. ‘Since I first went into trenches in France at Armentieres & was put on ‘Listening Post’, the duty has seemed to fall to me ever since.’ (8).
LETTER to BASIL HIBBETT with Field Postcard to Mother, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall. (Both dated 24th but postmarked 27th March 1915). (H.W.Parr censor).
24/ 3/ 15 Wednesday Morning.
My Dear Basil,
I started writing to you yesterday, on the note paper with flags on, to
celebrate Herald our first night in touch of the enemy. But my writing was bad, & another thing Harold sent me a ripping box of good things, rather in the chemistry line, with the exception of chocolate and cigs. Sid and I enjoyed the malted milk tablets in the trench. We lay snug in the dugout & I wrote to Harold by the candle light (see My Memories. 1967 below).
I got Mother’s letter posted 19th on 22nd & read it with deep interest. Sid read it too. I guess you felt sad on hearing of Capt. Haylands being killed (9). Sid and I received letters this morning & I just read Mother’s last letter posted 22nd. So this last has come pretty quickly.
We are all very busy cleaning muddy rifles and rusty bayonets. Sid’s has no longer that brightest of bright lustre on his bayonet. Yes we have got well into the box right now tell Mother, there is only the oxo & cocoa & cigs left. We enjoyed the dates and chocolate immensely, all the more because they were from Home.
Do please forgive me if you do not get so many & so lengthy letters as before for times are getting busier. To allay your anxiety I will send you a field post-card to say when we get your letters & when one of ours is coming.
Hello. It puzzles me where and what & how came the photo PC of our home. I come to the conclusion that Harold has got a PC sized camera? Talk about miniature ranges.
How jolly to see him in his uniform (10). (By-the-by Harold’s letter was quite a long one & so jolly interesting).
Yesterday afternoon we went to see the different construction for entanglements & dugouts. We all had a peep inside a sniper’s dugout & saw the little window he peeps & fires through. To realise that I have at last experienced actual warfare – a kind of baptism of fire – is somewhat wonderful.
‘Trust in the Lord and he shall bring it to pass’ is my motto & it will do for you too with regard to your exam & it will do for Mother & all of you.
Just a batch of dear Mother’s Currant Bread & a few of Ida’s Queen Cakes & if you like some butterscotch will be kindly received – Ha Hem! – No don’t. I think you cannot afford it, parcels are so dear. Yet Sid and I need most of all a change of clothing – 1 shirt, 1 pair of pants. Could you afford to send them?
I might say I was beginning to feel in the dumps a bit before I knew your letter had come & was only thinking that letters from Home, especially from dear Mum, do so make a cheerful change, & to read even a line from Dad is delightful & takes me halfway home.
‘They’ say we are being relieved tomorrow night but don’t know where we are going to. I was on Listening Post again last night with ‘Charlie’ H(arrison)*. I think he likes it because we have all the daytime rest with perhaps a sentry duty for an hour or two & there might crop up a little fatigue.
I slept I believe from about 9.30 till a little after 2 o’clock today & shall try & get 40 winks before ‘Stand To’ tonight so that I can be on the alert tonight on this Listening Post; which is like a small trench running underground, reminding me of the pit (11).
I will close now although I have an idea I could say more of what I intended saying. You see I prepare the next letter in my mind during spare time. Well I don’t know how ever I managed to acknowledge letters from York, Nottingham, Sutton & home but I have, either by Field PC or letter. I guess Miss Bore* will tell you about my letter to her next time she sees you.
Very Best Love, Bertie.
MY MEMORIES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR. Lindsey Association for the Elderly. 1967.
‘My first experience of being in the trenches was at Armentieres. The trenches were water-logged and we had to walk on ‘duck boards’. We had no gum boots, as they were called, and I remember slipping off a wobbly board and getting my leg soaked.
Being a ‘tender foot’ I thought our first experience of trenches would be postponed because of the rain, but not so – we bravely set forth and went into the dug-outs. I remember writing a letter home and a frog leapt over the lighted candle and put it out. (See ref. to Harold above).
1/ 5th South Staffords experienced Trench Warfare for the first time: 21st – 25th March, 1915. It is not surprising that the young soldiers thought the rain would prevent them! – it had happened when training in Saffron Walden. (See Letters dated Feb. 1915).
Pte Bertie Hibbett (‘A’ Company) dug Communication Trenches with K.S.L.I, through the night of 22nd March and was relieved on night of 23rd. Were the 3 Casualities wounded by their rifles bursting I wonder?
NB: The Long Long Trail < http://www.1914-1918.net/intrenches.htm > gives a clear, comprehensive description of Life in the Trenches.
(1)‘A’ Coy (Bertie & Sydney Hibbett’s Coy) was at Meteren, nr Bailleul. 2) Paves: hard /road surfaces. (3) Major General Edward Charles Ingouville Williams C.B. D.S.O (nicknamed Inky Bill). Commanded ‘Buffs’ East Kent Regiment, 1881; served in Egypt 1898; S.Africa 1899- 1902 (elder brother, George Arthur Williams, S. Staffords. Killed in Action, S.Africa,1901.)
(4) K.S.L.I: Kings Shropshire Light Infantry. 5) Buffs: East Kent, Regt. (6) MG: Machine Gun.
(7) Listening Post: an underground tunnel into No Man’s Land for listening for enemy laying bombs. (8) Breastworks: when water levels were high ( e.g around Ypres) shallow trenches were dug and walls built up (revetted) with sand/mudbags and wood. Walls could be used as storage spaces or for firing holes. (See Old Sweats useful website). (9) Capt Haylands (unable to trace).
(10) Harold Hibbett (chemist/ photographer) was either a member of the Inns of Court Reserve Corps formed in 1914, which consisted of former members of the Inns of Court Rifle Volunteers or he was a member of the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps (I.C.O.T.C.) London Regiment. (11) Bertie Hibbett mining surveyor apprentice, is referring to a Walsall Pit (lime pit or coal mine).
NEXT POST: 28th March 1915 to be posted Palm Sunday 29th March, 2015.