18th June, Fri: In Hutments Bulford Camp.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings. 18th June. ‘Battle of Waterloo (1). In Camp. Got some souvenir cards for Rev. E. M. Darling’s son*, of ‘The King of Belgians‘ – & ‘Entente Cordiale‘ for Mother. 100 years ago French were against us, now French are allies – & Germans opponents’.
LETTER to Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
I guess Ida & Dodger can picture the neighbouring country our allied enemies 100 years ago – just such another fine sunny afternoon. re Colonel Wade (3): Great Men all remind us They can make our love sublime And departing leave behind them Footprints in the sands of time. (4)
Centenary of Battle of Waterloo. 1815. ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation’. Friday June 18th 1915.
My Very Dear Mother,
Another sunny day. The Battalion went its usual route march before breakfast this morning. Certainly the march gives one an appetite for the fa’ bacon, but I think there’s no exercise in marching in full pack.
Well I must get on & answer all your past letters & I am very sorry Mother that I have not addressed enough letters to you, but I guess you will have seen that you are remembered & mentioned in the letters addressed to Basil & Ida etc. Sydney received quite half a dozen letters Wednesday, including the ripping long one from Dodger; the others were from Miss Foster*. She sent her usual page letter, always the same note & a box of Egyptian cigs. I don’t think she must be so well off, for she took the cigs out of the tin box to save postage; at any rate it was very good of her to remember us so.
Sydney gave me his letters (home) to read yesterday & I popped in a line to say I was writing today. Isn’t Sydney a knut eh! see where I underlined his comic phrase. We both thoroughly enjoyed the currant bread at tea-time outside the hut in the sunshine together – & Vernon handed us a slice of currant cake which made a pleasant appetising tea. Many thanks for the useful sugar & we shall treasure the tea from home.
You do surprise – 2 parcels coming on top of one another almost. I forgot to put the photo of Colonel Wade in the letter I wrote at Souvenir (5). I must congratulate you on the improvement of 11/- extra in the collections for the Hospital. I guess there are a few wounded there & the beds are full up. Sorry the service on the Sunday School Festival ‘Flower Sunday’ was not so happy as it might have been owing to the inappropriate hymns & I myself agree that on such an occasion the Curate or Vicar should preach (6).
I did not want you to read my letter to Ida for your own good, but as Miss Kathie Brookes* said once in Bible Class (I shall never forget it) – that we must let Mother know all our secrets. I am in very good health & condition now, excepting feet – owing to the fatigue ration party at Souvenir.
We had two exciting & arduous journeys up to the trenches the night we were relieved (7). I had to carry ammunition & after, within half an hour of being relieved by our ‘sister’ battalion, I chased after the rest of the party with a mile length of foot board for laying along the trench – supposed to be carried one between two men.
Well ‘they’ set the machine gun on us along the road & I nearly ran with the foot board. Tell Ida if she remembers the day in Abergele when she sprained her ankle, well my ankles gave way suddenly, but I didn’t want to be left behind, you know why I guess, but bear in mind it was not my fault I was left behind.
Well I must not rest too much on what we’ve been doing for it will take all my time & paper to answer your requests. I am indeed very sorry Basil has had to go under the dentist’s hands & I guess you will understand that I quite sympathise with him; when I remember the time I went I shudder, but there is also another reason & I sympathise with you in the latter respect which you will know without me saying so (8).
We heard on Parade – here I am again saying what we’ve done & heard – but I think you will be interested to know that the Notts & Derby Sherwood Foresters have done some hand to hand fighting & it was read out to us this morning on Parade. They are on the same line of trench as us.
You will I trust let me know if you get this letter, for I am dubious about the badge being on the paper (5) but I sent it because of the red letter day. I suppose there will be great doings in the great centres of patriotic societies ahem!
Oh Mother – the gum has mended my prayer book capitally & I hope it will last me the duration of the war. To be handy on the march & elsewhere I should like a small khaki tobacco pouch. I told Sydney to let you know what I wanted because I am always sending ‘begging letters’ . A bottle of barley sugar would be welcome if you cannot make some butter scotch; the latter I prefer, but it doesn’t matter much which you send. Send a small pot of lemon curd for we both relish that above all. As for the butter, I think we shall manage, though I prefer butter from home & it won’t go bad at all if put in a little pot like you did last time but one.
Sorry I am scribbling. The time we went on ration party those days have upset the routine, but you were right in saying we went to the trenches on Saturday 12th. So Basil will be sitting (exams) very likely during the week of my birthday. How capital of you to have saved the lucky 6d. I too hope it will bring him success.
Sydney has received a letter & paper (9) from Harold this morning, but has not opened it yet. I am going to try to get a pass to buy you a lovely souvenir card worked in silk for this occasion. I have marked all the special days off in my diary (10).
Oh thank you for the mirror, it will come in useful. I was needing one & I hope my old 1914 diary is safe. That reminds me – did you get the Staffordshire Swanking Song – do you like the music? (11)
I like the Bournville Choc do you? – have you tried any? Generous Mrs Jones sent her monthly parcel, – the same welcome contents as usual. This time I had a tin of Embassy & one of the box of Nestles.
Sorry Tim Machin* is ill. Have you had the letter from Allen*? I wish I could write better, but to write such long letters in decent hand is arduous. I re-read your past letters & make drafts for my next letters, but I cannot help but miss things out. Now is there anything else? I guess Sydney has helped me out a bit in his long letter.
Oh with regard to my 20th don’t let it be mentioned beyond the family circle. I have warned Sid not to say a word to Vernon & we shall both spend the 12th day of next month quietly. I remember you saying that yours and my Birthday are one & we have tea together on the lawn Mother like little children.
You will laugh at Sydney’s letter, where he mentions the ‘little scamp smoking’. We have seen on the march a little chap, not above 3ft tall in height dressed in khaki wearing his 3 stripes. He saluted and kept at the salute as we all passed. English good. Lallerman no good (11).
I will close now, thank you again for the long letter. I will write & finish ‘my say’ later.
Your affec. Bertie.
(1) Centenary of Battle of Waterloo: British defeat of the French under Napoleon. 1815. Another example of the importance to my father of events in British history. (2) Proverbs 14.34. (3) Wade: info pending. (4) A Psalm of Life.1838. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poet 1807-1882 (published in his first collection: Voices in the Night).
(5) Souvenir Farm/ Ration Farm. Strange to find a military name in Pte Bertie’s letters (especially as he’s worried if the censor will accept the Staffords Knot letter-heading).
(6) Whilst the father I knew was enthusiastic about post 2nd WW new Bible translations and took most of the liturgical changes of the 1960s in his stride, he always wanted everything to be done reverently – ‘decently and in order‘ (St Paul: 1 Cor. 14.34) – i.e. suitable to the occasion – and this he seems to have learnt from his Mother at an early age.
(7)15th June night fatigue. Until communication trenches were completed at Wulverghem, soldiers had to approach the Front Line, 600 yards from 57th Brigades HQ at North Midland Farm, across open & higher ground and were exposed to danger from snipers, shells & machine guns. (8)’Newspaper‘ is meant here, as distinct from ‘note‘ for writing paper which he also refers to as ‘paper’.
(9) Mother’s Birthday:13th July; Bertie’s Birthday 12th July. (9) Basil’s dental appointment was in preparation for joining the Army I presume. (10) ‘Lallerman’: a child’s pronunciation of ‘Allemagne’, French word for ‘Germany‘.
(11) Staffords Swanking Song. I think I have seen this written somewhere; does anyone know of it?
NEXT POST: 20th JUNE 1915.