Tag Archives: Hymns 1915


South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

25th March, 1915.  Marched 10.00 am to return to old billets near Bailleul & Meteren, arrived about 1.00 pm.  GOC NMD witnessed march thro’ Bailleul as also did GOC III Corps (Compliment). (1)


26th March, Thur.  Remained in billets. Coy Trainingphysical drill, short route marches. 27th March, Fri.      Moved Hd Qrs & ‘C ‘& ‘D’ Coys billets nearer to Meteren & Oultersteene.  Company Training carried on, musketry instruction, physical drill, short route matches.

28th March. Oultersteene. Church Parade Service in the morning.

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

28th March 1915

Palm Sunday Morning.  28/ 3 / 15  (censor C.Lister)

My Very Dear Mother,

I want so much to write you a very, very ‘nice’ letter, but I regret to say I don’t know how to begin.

Palm Sunday, and thinking about processions, the Brigade paraded to a fresh green field some miles away in the open country.

Marching to the Front.
British Army Marching in France. 1914-1918..

Our company marched gaily along in the sunshine & cold wind with our rifles & equipment.

We formed up in a quadrangle again & our Chaplain administered a short form of service.  We had three pleasant hymns, –  your favourite Mother, 

Fight the good fight  and we had  O God our help in ages past  and lastly we had that good old hymn which goes well with many voices  – The Church’s One Foundation. (2)

I am in a dilemma, this very moment whether to confess that I could hardly get some of the words out in your favourite hymn, so deep were my thoughts of you, dear Mother.

I believe in giving way to one’s feelings & not keeping them penned up, yet ‘cast care aside’ touched me & I tried hard to think its my Duty to stick firm & not give in to imaginations & every high thing that exalts itself against principle. (3).  I am serving my King and Country, & you dear Mother are, I am sure, proud to have done your share & I am proud to the excess that you have borne our absence from home these many weeks and months.

‘Trust’, again I repeat that motto ‘Trust in the Lord & he shall bring it to pass’.  

I will keep my eye on the knife, fork and spoon this time.  I have seen the novel arrangement of  knife and fork in Luton & almost expected you would send something of the like.  I do feel so grateful & can’t express my thanks for your extreme kindness & constant thoughts & consideration.

I should, & I guess Sid too, like more correspondence from Ida & a letter or two now and again from DadHe takes the important bits in hand –  of writing in his careful hand, as he generally does, our lengthy address, yet I should like a little more from him.

As for Dodger, I guess he is enjoying hot beef & York  pudding with vegetables and gravy, the meal he likes so much.  I have replied to Harold’s letter I got yesterday, 27th, & told him Basil will miss such dinners.

I thought it my duty to write & answer the small parcel of yours before setting down to my dinner of Bully beef, biscuits etc .  Cyril Hind* has just had a parcel & given me a small piece of his cake as a sweet.  I must tell you before I close that I got a lovely parcel from Fernliegh* (4) & enjoyed some of the contents, namely, Shrimp and Salmon Pate, Cadbury’s Mexican Choc. & Horlicks Tablets.

Dear Mother this letter is getting long.  I have written a long letter to Harold,  so long that I’m afraid the censors will have their patience tried.  So I must pack news in close, and brief.

Sid has been on duty some miles away since Friday Reveille &  will be pleased to see, on his return, something from Home & from his Bible Class.

NB    I have all your photos still & have them in a bonny little khaki case with gelatine to cover the photos. Little Khaki Case

Khaki Case: Abergele PhotoAll of you round the tent at Abergele

& Dodger, Sid & I with our knuts poking out of the tent – 

Sydney, Bertie and Basil.
Sydney, Bertie and Basil: Abergele. .

and Ida sitting on a chair.  I look at them now & again especially on Sundays.

Our Colonel said that should anyone find anything of sentimental importance on the person of anyone wounded to death he must see that it will get into reliable hands to be sent to his home.

The handsome tin comes in useful & we keep Harold’s things & Miss K.E.Brookes* things in, they just fit.  You will be pleased that Sid, Vernon and I were together in the trenches last Tues. night & we are in this loft now with the majority of QMS boys,  Norman Cope*, Cecil Jackson*, A.E. Brown*, Jones*, Cyril Hind* etc.

Will close now & Harold will give you more news – & Sid.  I hope you will get this letter – tell me.  I have got all yours since we were in this country.  You will be glad to know they came quicker than those sent to you.

Best love,    Bertie.  



Bertie Hibbett gives no details of what he had just experienced in the trenches of Armentieres, but he is clearly in shock at the horrific reality in which he and his QMS pals are caught up. His ‘dilemma’ is more than wondering whether to confess his natural emotions during Church Parade.  On Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, the hymn tells him to ‘Lay hold on Life‘ but everything is in  utter contrast to anything he has ever known. To bring him ‘halfway Home’ all he has to rely on now are Family Letters  & Food Parcels, his QMS Pals, carefully named, and the Faith in Christ his Mother has taught him.

(1) GOC NMD: General Officer Commanding North Midland Division. GOC  III Corps.

(2) HymnsFight the Good Fight based on 1 Timothy 6.12. John S.B. Monsell, 1863.  Our God, our Help in Ages Past: Isaac Watts. 1719, based on Psalm 90. [John Wesley altered the first word to ‘O God’]. The Church’s One Foundation: Samuel John Stone, based on the Apostles’ Creed, Book of Common Prayer, 1662 (a ‘statement of belief’ developed from the earliest New Testament preaching). Tune: Aurelia. S.S. Wesley.1864. [Hymn is said to have inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Hymn before Battle’ 1896].

(32 Corinthians. 10 5.  King James Bible. Pte Bertie slips into quotation of St Paul. [Saying appears in 18th & 19th Cent. Enlightenment Essays on the Principles of Human Behaviour]. (4) Fernleigh, Nottingham, home of Bertie’s Godmother, Mary Foster.

NEXT POSTIst April, 1915.


South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY    

18 Feb. Practice March Past  Audley End Park: H. M. the King’s Inspection, trenches filled -in in afternoon.  19th Feb. Inspection by His Majesty the King at Great Hallingbury Park.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LONG FAREWELL LETTER beautifully  written in ink with painting of South Staffords Regt Badge. ‘Hope & Perseverance  to Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

19th Feb. 1915

My Very Dear Mother,

Three cheers for His Majesty the Kingwith hats raised on high – upon fixed bayonets; stretching our arms to their fullest length, each one of us trying to get his hat the highest.  Hip! Hip! Hurrah!  Such was the climax of the day.  We went to ‘wish His Sovereign Majesty goodbye, and on the other hand the King came to bid his soldiers farewell and victorious success.

The Review took place in fine grounds of some aristocratic residence (1).  The ceremony brought back to mind of  those in the past, but with  almost original freshness.  The combined bands played such inspiring music, that during the ‘stand at ease’, our Major & several officers could not help but perform antics keeping in time.  One officer would stamp his foot on the ground; the Major would move his sword up and down with both hands Then came theshoulder arms with fixed bayonets’ and move off in double platoons to march passed our noble King.  ‘Eyes left’ was given out sharply by our Capt. Lister* and every head and eye turned at once towards the King as each platoon passed.

King George Vth. Stamp at front of Bertie's Autograph Album. 1916.
King George Vth. at front of Bertie’s Autograph Album. 1916.

There stood His Majesty, perfectly still and erect facing each line of platoon;  with stern and earnest countenance.

Goodbye everything seemed to suggest, and on we marched, left right, left right with the swing of the magnificent and kingly band (for the atmosphere did have a kingly effect).  But everything was not over for we could see the field kitchens with their smoke issuing from their tall funnels, and  smell the savoury smell wafting towards us.

As we were eating our meal the King scorched passed in a motor, and my word you can’t imagine the shouting and cheering & everyone running towards the drive.  Cheer upon cheer went ringing through the air; everyone left their grub to set eyes on the motor in which was the cynosure (2); then away it disappeared through the park gates.

We were soon on our way back to Bishop’s Stortford Station to entrain back to Saffron WaldenRifles carried at the ease and the band striking up a lively air.  So ended the first half and chief item of the day.

During the afternoon we paraded to show our new tunics and get new  ’ats.

The next Parade was somewhat mysterious, but when we got to see the result it was just what I guessed after I had been to peep in the place during the afternoon.  We marched in belts, most  having bayonets, to the new Y.M.C.A. hut that has been been built, and witnessed the opening ceremony by one of the rich Quakers who inhabit the town.  Within this comfortable hut (which Dad sub(sidised) -2/6) we had a fine time.

The room was accommodated with chairs & tables &  provisions & platform for the use of soldiers.  The opening ceremony began with the usual addresses.  How we clapped when the Gen.Secretary (3) spoke and louder still when Colonel Waterhouse of the 6th North referred to our going abroad ‘to lick Kaiser Bill’ he said.

The short service was very inspiring & stimulatingI sang as I had never sung before. “Faint not nor fear, His arms are near. he changeth not and thou (dear Mother) art dear.”(4)  Yes I sang with greater emphasis behind the words when I thought of you.  The last hymn you will like very much.  Take courage dear Mother and “Toil on, and in thy toil rejoice.  Thy will to do the Father’s will” (5).

Although there were many soldiers present every man prayed Our Lord’s Prayer earnestly & feelingly  and responded the ‘Amen’ to the Vicar’s prayersThen with the same untiring smartness we sang the National Anthem with loud voice, standing to attentionSid & I did not stay to see the Concert (6) but with all sincerity  we enjoyed (at least I did) the first part.

The  diary of late has been so good that I determined to write to you a better letter than I have ever done before. After all that has happened, and will happen, the fact that we shall soon be ‘nearer licking Kaiser Bill’  is taken for granted.  For the Bishop’s visit was a farewell, the King’s Review was a farewell, and in the addresses from the Mayor of Saffron Walden (7), Colonel Waterhouse & others,  they have referred to our short stay and early moving. 

Farewell, yes rather sad that word, but it is said with a patriotic wish and above all with a trust, a firm trust in our Best Friend who is with us all, at all times.  Then that word brings cheer and comfort and HOPE to the heart, hoping that we shall see one another again – on earth – yes, in heaven – yes, and the meeting there will  be for the better, for we shall meet in the presence of the King of Kings.  Ah! what a happy and joyful meeting that will be – if  I can see King George’s face as I saw it today there too in heaven and with the best face which is yours dear Mother & conversing with your two sons.

During Lent let our motto be ‘Heaven is our Home’. I will try to lay all my treasures in heaven, and all you at home, then ‘our hearts will be also there’.

Keep on smiling and while you smile other mothers will smile, and soon there will be miles and miles of smiles, reaching to the mothers in Belgium and France & to the hearts of the soldiers in the trenches –  and life’s worth while, because you smile.

I imagined the King had a smile, especially when the ladies bowed to the ground.  I saw the pleasant group, & so stately it was, just behind the Royal Standard  and saluting base where the King had stood as a saluting base – the first time I had seen the Standard flown properly – and the Union Jack was flying on the country mansion.  But the King looked stern and seriousYes we must go & fight till we crush the brutal Prussian dominance,  that hateful German militarism.

I enclose a cutting showing the 5th & 6th LancashiresAre our cousins (8) in the 6th?  At any rate they are helping to wipe the Turk from the Continent of Europe.                                X  X  X  X  X  X  X

Show Ida the poetry.  I am glad you enjoyed reading the ‘Sermon in the Hospital.

I am sorry for Sydney  –  I guess it goes without saying that you are,  – and I am equally sorry for you Mother and Father & all of  you at Home and Harold too,  – but I have prayed about it  –  & you too I’m sure, and I have an inkling that our prayers will be answered before we get to real business with the Germans (9).

Isn’t it good of Sid’s distinction?  Suppose he has a pop at the Kaiser or Count Hindenburg eh?  Well there’s a Regular from the R.G.A. at Armentiers at home on leave.  He looks as though he has been on a gymnastic course of training – not a scratch.  He has been at the Front almost since mobilisation came into force.  Think of his Mother, Mrs Penning, our landlady.

By – the – by she will be sorry she sais when we go for it will be impossible – ‘ Yes’ –  as Vernon repeated –  impossible to have the same luck again at getting such a fine quartet.  For the Reserves are coming to take our place.

The forces stationed in Saffron Walden have behaved themselves most creditably‘ said the speakers at the Y.M.C.A. Hut.

On Sunday, when this letter will arrive at home, we will be thinking of each other more than ever I daresayI shall remember you all at the special voluntary Parade for Holy Communion at 9.15 a.m. and at that service we can be together in spirit, and when that service is over to ‘set our hearts and minds towards our goal, casting aside all sentiment & shameful cowardice, selfish pride & excess of worldliness, to march forward & accomplish victory over principalities and powers & rulers of the darkness of this world’ – (the Troops of Midian) (10) and  ‘Peace shall follow battle, night shall end in day.’

So dear Mother, Sidney & I hope that you will bear your little cross with cheerfulness and ‘Delight thou in the Lord & He shall give thee thy heart’s desire. Commit thy way unto the Lord and He shall bring it to pass’.

Hoping that my letter will be of some good and success,  not inclining to sentiment, but to unite us closer to our Heavenly Father, to whom I pray that He will bless you. 

I remain your affectionate son,

Arthur Hubert.

PS  Matters are not absolutely certain but ‘they say’ we shall embark either Tues. or Wednesday of next week.



King George Vth reviewed 33,000 troops in Kitchener’s New Army  on 19th Feb. 1915; including men from Lincoln, NorthamptonStafford Regiments.

The formal language and serious tone of this 19 yr old’s letter shows how much Pte Bertie understood the significance of the event and the enormity of what is about to happen to him and his family. 

In My Memories of the First World War, 1967, my father writes of the King’s first Inspection of 1/5th South Staffordshire Regt. in Luton Hoo Park, Sept.1914: 

The Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett.
The Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett.

We bivouacked in Luton Hoo Park and were inspected by Lord Kitchener and King George . We marched so close to the King that I could have shaken hands with him.  Sir S. Wortley our Divisional General, praised us as a ‘fine lot of men’. 

(1) Great Hallingbury Park, near Bishop’s Stortford. (2) ‘centre of admiration/ attention‘. (3) J.J. Virgo Esq. (Gen. Secretary, London Central YMCA)  (4) HymnFight the Good Fight. (1Tim 6.2.). Words: J. S. B. Monsell. 1861. Music: Pentecost. William Boyd.1861.

(5) HymnGo labour on: spend and be spent.  Words: Horatias Boner.1843. Tune: Pentecost. William Boyd (6). The 5th South Staffs Pierrott Troupe.

(7) Dr. Atkinson. (8) Yoxhall cousins (Marie Neal Hibbett’s nephews? (9Bertie’s  hopes are still high that something will prevent their having to fight. (10) Ref. to Lenten Hymn. ‘Christian dost thou see them on the holy ground, How the troops of Midian prowl and prowl around’. The Midianites (nomadic enemies of the Israelites) were defeated by Gideon  with a small army of 300 specially chosen men. Judges 7. (‘Gideon ‘means ‘Mighty Warrior’: example in New Testament of a man of faith). (11) It is hard to believe these are the words of a 19 yr old – so strong is his urge to comfort

NEXT POST: 20th Feb. 1915.  Saffron Walden.Y.M.C.A. Recreation Hut Opening Ceremony Programme.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MARIE N. HIBBETT at 95 Foden Rd, Walsall.

Cromwell Road, Luton. Jan 24 / 15

My Dear Mother,

Another Sunday has come along & it finds me writing in another strange house.  Never in my life before have I been in so many houses.

I went to the Parish Church this morning on the occasion of the Dedication of the Someries Chapel restored by Lady Werner (sic) in memory of  Sir Julius Werner (1). The Bishop of St Albans preached and conducted the ceremony.  Two lovely anthems-I was glad when they said unto me’, (2) ‘Comes at times a stillness’(3). On the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany we had that lovely hymn As pants the hart’ (4).

I am sending 3/- shillings homeI got  a 4/- P.O. on Pay Day so that I should make certain of not yielding to spending all my pay.  But when I got here I had to break into it & cash the PO.  I better send it off at once & so prevent further temptations.  I shall not be able to get to Church tonight for I am ordered to be On Guard to-night.

6.30 pm.  Two jolly Privates and a Corporal.  The Corporal is playing on a piano & one is about to singThis is in the Guard Room – funny room ain’t it?  My friend Cope (5) is on the first guard.  I am on from 2 in the morning till 6, the finish.  So I have all night to wait while Cope will finish altogether in 4 hours time.  Of course he will have to wait in the Guard Room for fear the Guard has to turn out.

Ask Father if he knows of Sanger*, a teacher of his – well he is the Corporal in command (6). There is a bonny little boy watching us.  He is very fond of us soldiers, sais he will be a soldier when he grows up, but he is very quiet and reserved, so good. Light hair just like Basil.  By the way how is Dodger getting on now?  I guess he felt it when I had gone.  He wished he was coming in the London train with us.

Does Dad play the hymns we have here on Sundays – those I give you in my letters ?  – 332 & 118 were  two we had this morning (7). You should hear a whole church full of soldiers singThe Church is one foundation’  – my word how thrilling!

When I heard of me having to be on Guard I was thinking I should not have time to send or write this letter –  and  I have forgotten something now.  I remember what you said dear Mother about the present for Miss Foster* – well I could not get the exact pattern of flag I got for you, but will this one do for Miss Foster?   The flag is in the centre & pictured as on a mast.  I will save this letter until I put the kerchief in.  Syd wanted to change guard with me, but I thought I had better do as I was told, – so here’s luck.

Tell Dodger Luton town is full of Kitchener’s Army now & officers do look queer in dark navy blue & khaki short great coats.  When I went down town to get the tie for Miss Foster it was nothing but arm exercise up and down, down and up again with the left hand and the right (8).

Sergeant Hartley*, another of Dad’s teachers, is now an Officer.  They have seen him in town.  Sanger is a funny but sociable chap; he is sick of the long-winded business.  I daresay the Education Committee thought that, when they offered so many teachers, the teachers would soon get to real business.

I had an egg for breakfast with my bacon & an egg for tea, both new laid. This was on Friday.  Does Ida remember me having a letter from one of my scholars?  – that one the Deaconess (9) gave her?  & does Mother remember picking up another letter with note like hers  with flags?  Well another PC awaited me when I got back that Friday night.  It was from another little chap.  So you see the little beggars have not forgotten me.

I expect Syd will come out a crack shot after the course.  Everyone knows he is THE SHOT, but he’ll have to control the cig. smoking.

Well the letters are getting long again.  I try to keep ’em short, but my agile fingers will scribble.

I have something at the back of my mind & can’t just think of it. . . (‘Oh its nice to get up in the morning, and its nice to stay in bed’, so the song goes. . . Let’s see when is the Conversion of St Paul?  . . .  Has the Revd J.W. Dixon our late [former] Vicar, been to see you lately? . . .  . . . . . .) (10).

Now what can I say to fill this page?   

Oh the people of my billet ARE just all right.  They don’t interfere wiv we & we don’t interfere wiv them, except wash our crockery up.  They are paid to provide us with the food – no more trolling out with the jug & coming back with arms full of provisions.

Today we had sausage & bacon cooked in butter, beef – brussels or Belgian sprouts & Yorkshire pudding for dinner & of course apple pie 2nd course; tea –  jam, bread and butter & cake.  We don’t expect any luxuries on weekdays & especially washing day tomorrow.  ‘See’ sais the landlady ‘its Sunday today’  Ho! Ho! that’s why.

I think its best to send the money home, then it’s safer for it can’t keep even in a money belt.  I sent a PC to Harold.  You will larf when you see it.  I was interested in Ida’s last letter.  What a joke it was about that beggar and so Dad reads our letters aloud does he?  I can see I shall have to be rather careful in what I say in my letters.  I guess Dad was rather disgusted at the beggar (11).

Can you read my writing?  I always am tempted to scribble when I write in pencil.

Best love to all,

Yours affectionately,  Bert.


Kitchener’s New Army Firing Courses in Luton, were there to test the quality of its recruits and who was the ‘best shot’.  Bertie’s mixed emotions about what he and his brother were soon to do ‘for real’ in France, are evident in this long letter.

(1)Sir Julius Wernher. 1869 -1948. German banker/ diamond magnate: art collector with his wife Lady Wernher (later Lady Ludlow).  In 1902 he bought Luton Hoo (the de Hoo Family Manor since 1455, which passed through the Someries Family); setting for Steven Spielberg’s film War Horse.

(2Coronation Anthem/Introit: Sir Hugh Parry, 1902, Psalm 122 v1-3, 6,7 (PsalterBook of Common Prayer. 1662.  (3) The Revd Isaac Gregory Smith, parish priest & academic, author of books on ethics and philosophy; born 1826. Music Sir Herbert Oakley.

‘ Comes at times a stillness as of even, Steeping the soul in memories of love; As when the glow is sinking out of heaven, As when the twilight deepens in the grove. Comes at length a sound of many voices, As when the waves break lightly on the shore, As when the dawn the feathered choir rejoices, Singing aloud because the night is o’er. 

Comes at times a voice of days departed On the dying breath of evening borne; Sinks then the traveller, faint and weary-hearted”,  Long is the way” it whispers – ” and forlorn!”. Comes at last a voice of thrilling gladness Borne on the breezes of the rising day, Saying the Lord shall make an end of sadness; Saying the Lord shall wipe all earthly tears away. 

1884.  Written for the unveiling of the Albert Memorial, Edinburgh.

(4)Handel Anthem on Psalm 42, composed for Chapel Royal. (5)Norman Cope* one of the Four billeted at 29 Gold St. (lived same street as Hibbett family in Walsall.  See Menu Page). (6Corporal Sanger*.

(7)Hymns Ancient & Modern, early version?  NB  Bertie was to find great comfort in the fact that the Church of England at this time followed the Christian Calendar as set in the Book of Common Prayer, 1662;  he knew that his family would be hearing the same readings, saying the same liturgical prayers  – and mostly singing from the same Hymn Book (either A & M or the English Hymnal. 1906).

(8) Saluting with both hands? – must be Bertie’s joke! (9) Kathleen Brookes*or Mary Brookes*. (10) Typical habit of Dad when he couldn’t remember something – think of something else. (11) Possible ref. to his description of Sunday School children as ‘little beggars‘ or ref. to story of a real beggar?

NEXT POST: 26th Jan. 1915. Luton Musketry Course – Good Scores.