Tag Archives: Little Grey Home in the West.

5th NOV: GUY FAWKES NIGHT IN THE TRENCHES & A GRENADIER SINGSONG.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

FOUQUIERES

3rd – 4th Nov. In Rest Billets. (Refitting Bn after Battle)

5th Nov. Fri: Marched at 8.30 am to PARADIS  near MERVILLE  and went into Billets.

Map Bethune to Nevee Chapelle.
Map Bethune to Nevee Chapelle.

Bertie in Uniform Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

GUY FAWKES DAY. 5 th Nov/ 15

My Very Dear Mother,

parachuteflare
PARACHUTE FLARE.

Another coincidence MumToday, or rather tonight, will be the unique Bonfire Night.  For the purpose of seeing the enemy’s movements at night star lights (1) are used & these lights have been improved & there are many different kinds, some giving off an illumination like those of the Flower Show (2)  Indeed every night in the trenches is a Guy Fawkes  affair, what with shells & star lights.

And again another feature, which is all the more unique, is that I am undergoing a course in bombing.  I was examined in the oral part yesterday (3).

The Batt. has moved further away todaySydney I’m partly sorry to tell you is in Hospital with influenza, but I think it is the only way of obtaining a rest, – as the Doctor put it alsoThirteen went including Arthur Brown* who came back, I think on Wednesday, after 3 or 4 days.

I hope you aren’t giving up making toffee on this bonfire night  & I hope Dodger will enjoy a lump and not deny himself a second piece either. I was not able to see the Observer  about the attack, (Vernon having gone to Hospital when your letter of  Tues 26th arrived, about the Bishop at St Paul’s) – but never mind I am not the worse off. 

The bombing party will go near the Batt. tomorrow.  I am afraid this letter will not be accepted here.  I shall have to keep it until I get to my Company.  I shall be rather glad when I get back to my platoon again.

Mrs Evans sent a parcel to Vernon when he was in Hospital, the parcel went to the trenches & I had a letter from her saying the contents were for Sydney, myself and pals.  Wasn’t it jolly good of her to think of us.  We must bear in mind it is not so much the gifts as the thoughts, especially nowadays.  I am looking forward to a parcel from you as I expected one today if the Batt. had not moved.

I suppose all the little boys in Walsall will substitute the dummy of Guido for William eh! 

News in the papers has somewhat surprised us out here.  Oh! that reminds me, we Grenadiers (4) had a bit of a concert in the barn here on Wednesday last & I gave the men an effort of mine.  We shall very likely have another soon. When I entertain any party I like to give them a really good piece of recitation or a jolly good song.  So I wonder if you could try & send me that poem Ida loved so much ‘The Highwayman came riding, riding, riding up to the old inn door’ (5). I should be delighted if you could.  Don’t think that I am absolutely theatrical with the men, but I have come to the conclusion that one cannot get on with such a crew of chaps like these without chumming up & being merry with them.

Any other humorous poem you’ve got just send along by return post & obligeIda loved to gather us around the study fire & have a little ‘Sing Song’.

Well, what think you of these two I’m enclosing? Laddie in Khaki’ (6) was sung by a lady (of means) in the YMCA at the Base when I was thereIFSL01532

As for the other it is appropriate for a fireside song & reminded me of the singsongs we had round the fire at Home Sweet Home, the Little Grey Home in the West.

Best love to all,  Father and bestest love to Mummy, 

Bertie Arfer.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) “Star shell”: artillery shell for illuminating Battlefield & No Man’s Land at night, to catch enemy patrols or wiring activity.   Fuse burst at a given height igniting a magnesium flare which burned while the shell, with parachute, gradually fell to earth. Multi-coloured flares used for passing signals. <https://www.firstworldwar.com&gt;

(2) Flower Show: Aldridge near Walsall held a annual Flower Show and no doubt Mr Frank O. Bates*,  exhibited his roses. cf. Letter: 12th July 1915.

53px-N°23_MkII-Version_Fusil(3) Bombing Course: Training in throwing  & firing Mills grenades: stick attached extended their throw.  Used effectively in Battle of Loos/Hohenzollern. See Post 13th Oct.1915. Also 20th -31st July 1915.

Alfred Noyes. 1880 -1958.
Alfred Noyes. 1880 -1958.

(4) Grenadier: (from French ‘grenade’) ‘bomb thrower’ from 17th cent.

(5) Alfred Noyes: 1880-1958. English poet, short story writer & playwright. Born Wolverhampton. The Highwayman: ‘best narrative poem in existence for oral delivery‘. Voted 15th in The Nation’s Favourite Poem. BBC poll. 1995. Film made.

The Highwayman: The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.  The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.  The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   And the highwayman came riding—Riding—riding—The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard. He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.  He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, Bess, the landlord’s daughter, Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair. (Part I verse 1 & 3).1906.

(6) Laddie in Khaki: Ivor Novello. 1893 -1951. Words: James Edward Myers. 1915.

There is a girl who waits at home Who’s full of charm and grace.  Tho’ her heart is saddened She keeps a smiling face. Ask her whom she’s thinking of All the livelong day With a smile that lights her face. She  will softly say: ” Laddie in khaki I’m waiting for you. I want you to know That my heart beats true.  I’m longing and praying And living for you, So come back little laddie in khaki!”.

NEXT POST: 7th Nov. 1915.

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19th SEPT.1915. ‘SUCH A COLOSSAL STATE OF CONFUSION’.

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
BERTIE HIBBETT:
19 in 1914.

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL ROUEN: LETTER to MOTHER, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

Mother at Tea.
Mother at Tea.

Another Sunny Sunday Afternoon. ‘In the easy chair’. Sept 19th / 15

‘O prosper thou our handywork’ (sic). Psalm 90.

My Dear Mother,  

Beginnings.   I’ve missed out the ‘very’ & was thinking of beginning afresh, but then it would be waste so you will forgive me won’t you Mum.  Now I have got a lot to say and didn’t know which end to begin so I’ve adopted little headings. I do like to make a good start to a letter.

A Striking Coincidence.   Oh Mum you have begun your letters of late capitally Your last two did thrill me, especially the long one enclosed in the last parcel What a queer thrill went through me when I read that you were thinking about us both in the garden in the sunshine.  Now it is natural that both sides should be thinking of one another, but after me writing last Sunday afternoon just when you were thinking about us & me writing about the fact too & then to hear from you in writing It was indeed a striking coincidence.

I’ve just sharpened my pencil & popped the last of your Nestle’s chocs: in me mooth (1) – no more details now, you’ll understand I guess. I have your letter in my hand. 

Well Mum I should like to say I’m TOP HOLE – but will put it that I am happy & grateful at present.

A Victory.   I was going to begin my letter dramatically & shout Hurrah! – for I managed to coax round the cook & get three apples roasted on the day I got your last parcel.  ( Oh! I say to me sen, I’ve let the cat out of the bag. I wrote to Mr Darling* yesterday & had to start twice, the first attempt was on this sheet and I haven’t a rubber to let the cat in the bag again (2).

Parcels.  Yes Mum I’ve had both parcels all right, the one addressed to the Base came up without fail. I don’t think there is any harm in hard boiled eggs, I think they have done me good, having had no signs of further illness through eating them.  I guess they are dear in Blighty now.

Lissie’s* Toy Gun. I had a parcel from Okoo when I got yours as well.  How the patients eyed me with envy carrying the parcel post away again.  I opened your parcel 1st & found the treasure Dodger told me to look out for, Lissie’s gunI sent her a card & she will get it today & you will have got my F.P.C.   It was too bad of you to send another bit of cash.  I tried  to get some of the apples roasted, but I was late at the cookhouse.  The cook hadn’t got the ovens going then. Then I opened Harold’s parcel  after reading your letter.

Mummy’s Photo. . .  Oh! Mummy! Let me see you again.  How lovely you look, your light hair in contrast with Miss Bore’s  and the pretty frill.

Hibbett Family Whitby 1915. From Left: Basil, Hilda Bore, Mother & Father. Photo Harold.
Hibbett Family  under the Bridge at Whitby. 1915.  From Left: Basil, Hilda Bore, Mother & Father. (Photo Harold).

I see you are busy with yourfissies’ as usual – (tissies) as Basil called them (1).  Yes! I have looked closely & well I never!  its a pair of socks you are knitting & very likely the ones I’ve been wearing.  Oh! you are nearer to me now Mummy  – & you felt so near to me all day Thursday that I almost saw you by my side.  I know you are thinking of Sydney & me againbut I trust you are thinking happily.

Sister’s Address.  A very nice letter indeed & I was in raptures when I read near the conclusion & went to read that little bit to the Irish Sister & showed her your photo Harold sent.  When she heard of such a generous exclamation as ‘Bless all those who are kindto Sydney & me, and that  you would send a little present,  – guess what she saidshe said it quite naturally, not as if she was posing & aware that I should write down her wordsWhat a nice kind Mother she must be’.

She was delighted with the photos; she knew Whitby & had a sister who had been there & seen the old bridge, underneath which you were taken, & the old houses on the cliff.  She gave me her name so that if you wish to keep to your generous promise, dear Mum, you can send a little present to Miss M.E. Boyd*, No 9 General Hospital B.E.F. – that is enough to find herAll the Sisters are right for their work & take things lightheartedly, amusing the patients & asking them how they are getting on. But this Irish Sister, who I have said reminds me of Winnie Overend*, often gives us cigs & sweets, which I believe she buys out of her own pocket.

The other dark-haired Irish Sister is always prodding into me when she sees me writing. (She is going to give me some cigs; she interfered with my writing again jokingly & I showed her your photo which she greatly admired – & then promised me some cigs this afternoon).

Miss Foster.  I wrote to Miss Foster on Thursday, in time for the letter to reach her on her birthday yesterdayThis sister picked up my letter when I showed her my drawing of a patient in Hospital Dress & she just glanced at the introduction. How she larfed.  ‘No it isn’t’, I said as she expressed the idea that it was my fiancee.

I thought I would draw something for Miss Foster, not being able to give her anything more than a letter, but as I was half way through a newsboy came to the Ward door & instead of buying a paper I bought a Souvenir Card he tempted me with.  I put some of Ida’s W.H. scent on it & enclosed it in Miss Foster’s Birthday letter.

Dr Hibbert (3). Now here’s another funny coincidenceduring yesterday I came across a patient who had been to Nottingham Goose fair every year & never missed up till the War. He was a Lincolnshire lad who knew all about Uffington (4) too – the conversation started with reference to mushrooms.  Another patient I came across was in the Royal Scots Greys & came from York.   By the by, these acquaintances remind me of Ida at Leicester HospitalThe Head Sister of the two Wards said once when she was giving me medicine, ‘Call for your medicine Hibbett – let’s see – I know  a Hibbert, I have a friend related to a Dr Hibbert’.  That’s the limit – now on to something more serious

Besides the photos of you all at Whitby there was one of Harold.  Who took it?  I must congratulate the photographer for it is very artistically arranged, but Oh dear Okoo, why isn’t there a smile, eh.    

Kaiser Wilhelm II. 0b8b32410ace7beea86e0cbaa1681fb2546a2f74
Kaiser Wilhelm II. Last German Emperor & King of Prussia. 1859 -1941.

The Marriage. I say Mummy, & all of you at home, wouldn’t it sound nice to read & hear of a Lieut. Harold Victor Hibbett R.A.M.C. will be married shortly to Miss H.B. eh. what oh!  & to hear that his brother, Mr. A. Hibbett’s second son, who is fighting at the Front will act as best man.

 

Best Man.   Oh Sydney! how can we buck up & ‘singe his whiskers’ (5).  How can we bring such a colossal state of upheaval to a close  – & get Home to witness a fine bust up at Home, Sweet Home.

Boils.  Now, Mum, that leads me to tell you the answer to your anxious enquiry Yes, I will let you know all in this my (next) letter.  I daresay you were disappointed in all the letters you’ve had since the 12th thinking I should answer your queries in themI don’t think for a moment now that I could get Home through my complaint for I am quite better now;  the ‘excavation’ into my neck has been finished with & the ‘cavity’ is practically closed up now.

Home Sweet Home. I was expecting to be marked out (6) today, but the Doctor said I should be in tomorrow, MondayThe Doctor was very amiable & knows his business, but I do not think he could do anything to send me Home & I know it is of no use whatever to try & put the matter to the Colonel.  You see there are many more cases & some are worse than mine & too there have been many cases such as mine & they have been able to put them right enough for Active Service.

Blighty, My Little Grey Home in the West.  No, I don’t think Dad could do anything; it is all very well for Sydney to say what he has said to you & I’m grateful to him at the same time.  I believe the great majority of patients want to go to Home Sweet Home – Blighty as we call it.

Dining Hall Talk.  It is ‘Dining Hall talkon how chaps are favoured & work their ticket marvellously & that it is one in 1000 who want to go up the line again.

The Three Calls.  But oh Mum I have told Mr Darling* that I feel I am on the balance in Hospital here. I can hear three calls.  I can hear Sydney calling me (seems funny, although he doesn’t wish me to join him).  I can hear the call of Duty.Rise! fellow-men, our country yet remains, By that dread name we wave the sword on high & swear for Her to live, for Her to die’ (7).  

At Duty’s Call.  My New Calling. Ready Aye ready. The third call comes indirectly through Hopes of living through the campaign & taking up a new career.  His calling, that came to me through Bishop’s Stafford’s text for the confirmation candidates of 1911.  Blessed is the man whom thou choosest & receivest unto thee.  Here am I  – send me.’ (8).

Khaki Case with PhotoMy Little Khaki Case.  Another look at you dear Mum.  I have scented you with Ida’s White Heather Scent.  Mother it reminds me of the lovely scent you had on you. I have scented the case. And there’s ‘CrippenMummy – oh don’t say that of dear Dad, but it’s a joke eh Mum, ‘Hoo Hic! ain’t he strict.’ (9).

Thinking.  Another look at Mum Yes you are thinking of me & I of you.  I wonder if you are peeping at Sydney too & my photo.

Today’s Post.  I had a letter from Cousin Stanley* this morning.  My word what a change in style and manner, – of course he is 17 He seems to have grown out of his shyness by the way he writes.  And I have had a nice, delightful, little letter from Miss Jones* & Miss Humphries*. . .  There was to be a box of cigs with the letter but I have not had it yet, perhaps it will turn up tomorrow. Miss Humphries says rightly, ‘The Lord is the same yesterday, today & forever’  (10).

Keep Looking Up.  There is a happy thought to conclude withKeep looking up, it is a bright blue sky & the sun is ‘nearing’ the West where you are.  Let your two sons push forward to the East & singe his whiskers, as Harold said, & do our Dooty, as England expected in Nelson’s day, & ought to now, & does now (11).

God bless you dear Mother, my very dear Mother & the same to my Father.  I do love him whom Ida once said is ‘kindness itself’  – she knows.

Best love to all,  from Bertie.

Church of England's Soldiers Institute, London.
Church of England’s Soldiers’ Institute, London.1915.

Post Script. Another Victory. Of course you must always expect a Post Script.

I have been unable to obtain any milk or eggs, but I should think I shall be at the Base before this week is out & then I shall be able to get some eggs.  But you must understand that we have not the conveniences like at Home.  Men won’t be troubled with boiling milk & eggs for me or anyone else.  But I managed by coaxing the chap at the Soldier’s Institute Canteen to make a bowl of coffee with the coffee you sent me in the parcel & it was ripping with those digestive biscuits & I enjoyed a good little supper that night (last night).  I wondered whatever to do with that coffee.   The shirt will come in useful when I am out of Hospital but you need not send me another as I have lately been given a new outfit & Sydney could do with them.

Hoping I have satisfied your queries. I have not said all yet.  I wonder if I was thinking of you before you were thinking of me today when I went to Holy Communion in the same lovely little tent.

It is a lovely evening again & I am going to Church, are you?

Bertie.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett’s longest letter yet in which his little headings help him to sort out his own confusion between Three Calls: Duty to his Brother, Duty to his Country and Duty to God.

(1) Hibbett Family Jargon/ Slang: moothmouth; senself; ‘cat out of the bag‘ –let out a secret by accident;  fissies (Yiddish for ‘feet) – hence knitted socks; Hoo Hic– nonsense words;  dooty-duty.   NB. ‘Okoo’ & ‘Dodger’: nicknames for Basil Hibbett, Bertie’s youngest brother. 

(2) Bertie has written  ‘Saturday Sep 18/15  ‘Dear Sir’ along the side of paper).

(3) The Hibbett Family was proud to differentiate itself from the ‘Hibbertdescendants of the Ibbot Family. Spelling: from my (6 x great) grandfather John Ibbot b. 1690; William Hibbett/or William Ibbot b. 1735; Luke Hibbitt b. 1765; William Hibbett b. circa 1790; Henry Hibbett b. 1824 (my great grandfather of Rutland & York); Arthur Hibbett b.1860 (my grandfather); Arthur Hubert Hibbett. b.1895 (my father). Sydney Martin Hibbett  b. 1931 (my brother). NB Observant folk will notice the number of years between father & eldest son is mostly 35 years.

(4) Uffington: Lincolnshire home of Hibbett cousins(5) ‘Singe his (Kaiser Wilhelm II’s) whiskers‘: get close enough to defeat him. Found in WW1 soldier’s story.

(6) ‘Marked Out’ (by R.A.M.C.): to be sent back to the Front  Line.  (7)’Rise fellow men. . . ‘Wanderings of Childe Harold’: John Harman Bedford, Lieut. R.N. ‘A Romance of Real Life’ (Lord Byron). 3 vols. 1825. London. (8)  Bertie has conflated two biblical sayings on God’s calling: Blessed is the man…’ Psalm 65.4.  ‘Here am I send me‘: First Isaiah 6.8. 

(9) Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen: American homeopath murdered his wife/ first criminal to be caught by wireless telegraph. Executed Pentonville Prison, 1910. Family nickname for Dad (Arthur Hibbett) when strict. (10) ‘The Lord is the same. . .’ Hebrews 13.8

(11) ‘England expects that everyman will do his duty. . .’ Signal sent by Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson from flagship H.M.S. Victory 21st Oct 1805, Battle of Trafalgar. Napoleonic Wars.

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South Staffordshire BadgeeLance Corp. SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

CANADA HUTS NR DICKEBUSCH.

Rough Map of Staffords Route to the Front. 5th July 1915.
Rough Map of Staffords’ Route to the Front. 5th July 1915, showing Dickebusch & Hill 60.

18th Sept Sat: Divisional Reserve. Relieved the 6th North Staff in the trenches.

19th Sept. Sun: S.W. SLOPE HILL 60.  Very quiet day. Aeroplanes active on both sides, our machines appeared to have the upper hand.

NEXT POST:  24th SEPT. 1915.