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South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


21st -31st May:  Battalion Training. In Rest Billets.


 Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MARIE & ARTHUR HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall. 

‘Home Sweet Home’ (1)

Woden’s Day. May 24/ 16.

My Dear Mother & Father,

General Sir Douglas Haig.
General Sir Douglas Haig.

Mum’s long letter of last Sunday 21st was beautiful & interesting.  I received it this evening after a good day’s work.  We have been inspected by the Gen. of the BEF (2).

Lady Postman.
Lady Postman. WW1.

So very, very  glad to hear you had a sunny Sunday and a ‘happy’ day on the 17th. 

I liked the account of how you got my letter from the lady postman (3). How delightful to have had Sydney’s favourite hymn (4) on the Sunday following.

Your letter had the opposite effect to the one previous & seemed to have had that ‘forgiveness’ I told you of in my last letter which has turned the story beautiful again, & how queer that I should have written about it last Sunday too.

Yes, I guess you would miss Ida, & do you know I had an idea she had kept her intention from you for she never mentioned you in her letter as reference Well I do praise her up to a certain extent & if she were a boy she would undoubtedly win a medal on Active Service. 

Sorry you have been ill, but I love you for the way you took it so lightly by your writing.  Bravo Dr. Utting*! (5)

Yes, Ball* was always decent to me, he is only a Private like I am, but one of the decent chaps among the ranks.  He is dark haired & has a rosy  fresh complexion, hasn’t he?  Yes, I will do as you said & he will deserve all I give him poor chap.  Yes, he is quiet & that’s the best of him, all the others are rowdy.  As for the Hinds I think Cyril* is the better.

Home Sweet Home.
Home Sweet Home. http://www.en-wiki.com>

Ah! your description of Basil cutting the grass & of your sitting in the garden gave me much pleasure.

I am looking forward to the lilies. This is the Land of the Lily (6), but I have not seen any yet this year.  I think the lily (the symbol of this country) is theArum’ – that which you  decorate the altar with. 

Wild Arum or 'Cuckoo Pint).
Wild Arum or ‘Cuckoo Pint). <http://www.beforeitsnews.com&gt;

Mrs Hurst* told me it would soon be the Sunday School Festival & Mr Key* loves white flowers.

Am pleased you like Mrs Hurst, she is very much like Mrs Jones in her manner of writing.

Fleur de Lys.

ThursdayYou told me in one of your past letters that I could have one of the washing squares as you had sent Sydney some. The one I have is simply a ‘tres bon’ ideaI found, when I had a bath last night, that it is much easier to get a lather with it than without, & also there is no waste soap as I put my soap inside the ‘bag’ & that which gets smeared on the square is used next time.

I told you in my last letter but one that Lieut Sanger* wished to be kindly remembered to you, at any rate I will give him theBoomerang’ (wish).  It was sometime after that I saw Allen Machin* I think S(ydney) is the best of the lot & Allen looks fine.

We have been out of the trenches since Saturday night & have done a route march each night for 3 nights.  It is cooler to march at night.  I guess you have wondered whether we march at night or not & you would think all sorts of things, not missing out that we are cheerful.  And we are not always singing ‘Tipperary’ (7). There are always some of us who find out something fresh & they are not always songs.

One night a few of us imitated the rocket we saw at the Arboretum Flower Show (8). I think someone behind us must have seen an artillery rocket, at any rate it was not long before nearly all of us picked up the jokeA long whistle for the rocket &, as we imagined the illumination to burst & show all its different colours gracefully fall to earth we should utter that expression of those who saw fireworks –  ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw  – & then the excited quick Hurrah! at the end.


Monkey Soap.
Monkey Soap.






At another time I fancied I could smell the old ‘bread & milk’ I loved when a little school boy. I could indeed smell a kind of burnt bread & burnt milk.  Sorry I lost the choc and Terry’s sweets with the parcel, but I am hoping they will turn up after me writing.  And I suppose you sent some Monkey Brand for my mess tin (8). I need also some Emery Cloth (9).

Captain Bruce Bairnsfather. Warwickshire Regt.
Captain Bruce Bairnsfather. 
Title Page Sniper Atkins
Sniper Atkins. AHH. May 1916.







I have at last managed to sketch something original but of course I could not better Bairnsfather’s features in his sketches.  Have drawn two, one you could send to Miss Foster*, if you think she would like it, & the other for yourself Choose which you like the better, the one with ‘Yours faithfully’ in front has the more original sketches in & I have substituted a verse for a better one about the Kaiser(10).

I am expecting Sydney soon, as his course should not last more than a month.

Best love to all,    Bertie.

PS  Did you get the ‘green’ to Ida dated about 14th? [Ed: if so then it hasn’t survived].



The inspection by Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig was a clear sign that the Battle of the Somme was imminent. Pte Bertie Hibbett has to send Home for more emery cloth & cleaning powder to spruce up his uniform & equipment.

Fascine <http://www.epth-bresle.com

1/5th South Staffords, at Lucheux (on top of the usual bombing, sniping & bayonet practice) were kept fit by night marches, whilst during the day they cut wood for hurdles & fascines; these were used to strengthen the long communication trenches over the dangerously exposed ridge from Souastre to the Front at Fonquevillers. 

My father was happy in his peace-making efforts at Home. He took comfort from signs of Spring & thoughts of Home Sweet Home which in the song gave him ‘the peace of mind dearer than all‘  – but in his letters from now on there seems to be a growing acceptance that he would not see his Home again until after the coming Battle.

John Howard Payne 1791 -1852. American dramatist,poet & actor,
John Howard Payne 1791 -1852..

(1) Home Sweet Home:1823. Lyrics: John Howard Payne, 1791-1852. American dramatist, poet & actor. Music: Sir Henry Rowley Bishop 1786 -1855.  

(2) Field Marshall Sir Douglas Earl Haig Commander B.E.F. replaced the First Commander, Field Marshall Sir John French after the Battle of Loos, Oct. 1915.

 (3) ‘Lady Postman’: 35000 women were drafted in during 1914-1916The Post Office was ‘the largest single employer of labour in the world‘. Dealt with 5.9 billion items of post, responsible for nation’s telegraph/ telephone system/ savings bank & 1000 branch post offices.  By 1917 19,000 mailbags crossed the Channel everyday. See websites: <http://www.postalheritage.org.uk <http://www.worldwar1postcards.com/soldiers-mail.php >

Charles Wesley.1707-1788.
Charles Wesley. 1707-1788.

(4) Sydney’s favourite Hymn: Rejoice, the Lord is King’. 1744.  Chorus: ‘Lift up your heart lift up your voice. Rejoice again I say rejoice!Words: Charles Wesley. 1707 -1788. Based on Philippians 4. 4. See Hibbett Letter: 23rd April 1916. 

(5) Dr Utting: Hibbett family doctor/ later tended Ida in her last illness. Utting & Hibbett family grave/memorial, Church of St Michael the Archangel, Rushall, Walsall. 

(6) Land of the Lily: Fleur de Lys/ Iris or Arum Lily/ symbol of France. See Hibbett Letter: 14th April 1916. 

Jack Judge.
Statue Jack Judge.
Bronze Statue Jack Judge. Stalybridge, Tameside, Greater Manchester.

(7) ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’. Music Hall Song: Jack Judge, in collaboration with Henry James Williams. 1912. 

Monkey Brand Black Tooth Powder.
Black Tooth Powder.

(8) ‘Monkey’:at least 3 different items with this brand name. Rather than tobacco, the context implies ‘Monkey Soap’, a scouring soap (produced in 1899 by Sydney & Henry Gross, Philadelphia, USA/later called Port Sunlight Soap) – or even black tooth powder for cleaning a mess tin. See Hibbett Letter: 21st Oct 1915.

Corundite (emery rock).
Corundite (emery rock)..

(9) Emery: ‘dark granular rock‘ used to make abrasive powder (corundum/ aluminium oxide). Rock mined over 2000 years in Turkey & Greece (Island of Naxos), world’s main supply. Used in Asia for grinding rice. Emery Cloth: coated abrasive, bonded to cloth, for hand use. 

NEXT POST: 28th May 1916.



South Staffordshire Badgee1/5TH SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


15th Apr. Sat:  Relieved by 11.15pm

16th Apr. Sun:  NEUVILLE ST VAAST.  In Brigade Reserve.  Enemy artillery active at 7.15pm.

Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT on Guard Duty, Mont St Eloi Neuville St Vaast.

A Little Book of Words & Doings’April‘At Mont S Eloi.  ‘Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani’ (1).


en-wiki towers of Mt St Eloi 350px-Steloi1
Towers of Mont St Eloi, Neuville St Vaast, over-looking Vimy Ridge. < http://www.en-wiki.com&gt;

LETTER  to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT and BASIL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.  Censor H. Chorlant.   

 Palm Sunday (2). April 16/ 16

Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Pietro Lorenzetti. 1280-1348.
Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Italian. Pietro Lorenzetti. 1280-1348.

‘Ride on Ride on in Majesty – With palms and scattered garments strowed‘. (3)

‘A little lifting of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship, though upon a march, and sword in hand, are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless acceptable to God.  Brother Lawrence. (4)

‘Look one step onwards and secure that step’.  Wayside Ministries (5)

My Very Dear Mother,

I wrote you last Sunday & Friday. Thursday was Harold’s Birthday & I trust he had a happy one & that the next 13th April we shall spend the day together in peace.  Being Thursday I wonder if he spent sometime with you?  Although I have worried several people to do with the Post I have not yet received a letter or anything. I heard this morning that we are on this duty until Thursday 20th. 

* * * * * * * * * * * ← You know what these things are eh!  Well it means that a sudden round about turn has to be made. I began this my usual ‘Sunday Letter’ before dinner & on finishing mydish’  – beef steak of my own cooking – the rations came in & they brought a shoal, a neat little pile of letters for me.  So that is the cause of me round about turning.

Just read Dodger’s most delightfully homely & brotherly Epistle after reading those from Vernon*, Harold, Miss Foster*, Mrs Hurst* and a Sunday School Scholar respectively.  I thought I would read Dodger’s last in more comfort & also it would help me to make my letter fullerI gave dear old Sydney your letter, Basil, as I met him going to the trenches last Sunday night; most likely he has written to you since.

The photograph of the Raid (6) which I think was genuine, interested me & it was your idea of sending it I thank you for.  How queer! –  only the other day I was sketching to illustrate the incident Miss Kathy Brookes* (7) put in her letter to me of the lady who wrote to her officer ‘bhoy’ saying how dreadfully the ruins of the Raid looked –  ‘you can’t imagine it!’ & the officer was doing all he could to shelter himself from the shells amid fragments of stones!

Dodger! Dodger! Dodger! –  so have I!  an all conquering desire (my word what a swanky phrase) to be on the write – to you all at Home & the question is, now I have had the fruits of my worrying the Transport Orderlies about The Post, I wonder if you will get my letters I have written to you since I was on this quiet Post Duty. 

Ha! ha! ha! Poor jolly old Basil wants to be in touch with us every day.  I love you for such a thought, but do please think more than twice over your joining, – to serve can’t you go out to a Munition Factory?  Most probably you would never see us if you came out; you know that Vernon & Sydney said they did not like their associates in the 3/ 5th S Staffs (8); & then look at your education –  all in vain practically eh?  You needn’t think that I shall be happy for you to come out, I shall be inclined to poke my head a bit too high above the parapet!

Yes! Sydney showed me the F.P.C. (Field Post Card) he sent to Mum, saying –  ‘I have not received a letter from you latelyfor a long time’.  I said to Sydney, in surprise, –  ‘are you going to send that!  – – –  I have never missed (crossing out) those two lines have I Basil?  I don’t care about informing you at Home that I have not heard from you for so long.  I think those two lines are slightly inclined to give an indignant impression, let alone make one sadas you were naturally when Sydney sent it.  Of course he knew the circumstances, he had been moving about from place to place since he arrived.

Vernon wrote & said he was sorry he did not visit you when he had his 48 hrs Leave (9) I suppose you will have been introduced to Leenah*Basil, by now? as this is, I guess, the Sunday they were to come.

The Hibbett Family at Tea: Mother, Bertie, Sydney and Ida.
The Hibbett Family at Tea: Mother, Bertie, Sydney and Ida. 1914.

The weather is lovely out here, sunny and bright, it is getting on for four o’clock & I shall be picturing you all at tea.

Oh! that reminds me –  I was doubly glad on reading Harold’s letter.  He said he & Hilda were going Home on Thursday (13th) so I hope they had a good time with you.  That half answers my wish in my letter on Friday & 1st part of this.

Queen mary's Sch
Queen Mary’s School Magazine.

Yes it is rotten to have the Houses changed (10).  I should second the resolution that not only should School House retain its old name but Thomas’s and Davies’ & all those whose Bosses have joined to serve their King & Country. Just  put that in the Mag for one from the Front who has not lost interest in the QMS

I think those lilies, Dodger, have been growing the other way & have come out up here in the guise of daisies. I will send you them back.  Spring has come out here, the grass is fresh green, the lark sings its glorious song, in spite of the sound of guns & the hawk is as keen as ever to get her prey; the buds on the trees are quickly turning into fresh leaves.

Well I never! Do you know I was only the other day thinking of sending you some cash to buy some seeds & you could set them for me as a sort of curio.  I was regretful that I had no money in pocket, but, as a sort of unique idea, could you get some seeds of a nice flower or plant & I will send you a franc or so when I get it.  I wish I could have got some seeds from last year’s flowers but I was not in the vicinity at the time. It would be nice for you to have some French flowers growing.

Tommy's Cooker.
Tommy’s Cooker and Mess Tin.

Yes I do know what Dad is like, but I do not in the slightest mean any hurtful thought.

My order for pipes is one just like those two you sent Sydney and me at first – my word and that is nearly a year ago since I started to smoke.  A cherry wood I believe you sent. Also I have a new mess tin & the need of some Monkey Brand is my next request.

Miss Foster* is ( I don’t know if she is strictly serious) almost hurt that I do not ask her for anything in my letters of late  (don’t say anything to her).

I believe I told you in my last letter that Leave  has been suspended again for an indefinite period, but we are going for a Rest in Reserve soonI do not at all like telling you for Mum’s sake & Dad’s, but I eventually thought it best to tell you everything that comes to hand as Mum told me to.

I will close this my ‘long’ Active Service Epistle. I hope it gets through to you, let me know if so.

With my heart’s love to you all.

Your ever affec.  Bertie.

April 1916.
‘My Dearest ArchinaldYou ought to see the ruins caused by the Zeppelin RaidYou can’t imagine the awful state!  Yours affec.  Margerine’.    ‘My Dearest Margerine,  Really! Great Scott, the ruins you speak of must be simply awful! I can hardly realise the sight of the remains of this village.  Yours affec.  Archinald.’    Original sketch by Arthur H.Hibbett.  NB ruined church through ruined doorway of house.



To be standing guard on a green Mont St Eloi during Holy Week & Easter is highly significant to Pte Bertie Hibbett, reminding him as it did of the Passion of Christ and the Words from the Cross. His cartoon indicates how difficult it was for families at home to imagine what their sons were being asked to endure.

(1) ‘Eloi Eloi…’ Mark 15.34. Christ’s words from the Cross. ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me? King James Version retains the Aramaic/Jesus’ native language. cf Psalm 22.

www.timeanddate.comPalm Sunday search(2) Palm Sunday: Sunday before Easter/beginning of Holy Week/ commemorates Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem/waving of palms (symbol of victory). Mark 11. 1-11. (My father used willow branches in Palm Sunday processions).

H. H. Milman.

(3) ‘Ride on Ride on.. ‘. Hymn: Henry Hart Milman. 1827. Mark 11.1-11 (AD 64) has Jesus riding on a ‘young donkey‘.  NB Pietro Lorenzetti’s painting above follows the text of Matthew (AD 85) which emphasises the fulfillment of prophecy by interpreting the poetic lines of Zechariah 9.9 literally, as if there were two animals i.e. a mother ass/donkey and her foal/colt (terms interchangeable).

(4) Brother Lawrence (born Nicolas Herman, Lorraine), 1614-1691. French lay-brother, Carmelite Monastery, Paris. Given name ‘Lawrence of the Resurrection’. Known for ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’.

(5) Wayside Ministries. Pamphlet with words of wisdom & comfort sent by Pte Bertie’s Godmother, Mary Foster/ frequently quoted in his notebook ‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’ (the first being ‘Pray to God in a storm but keep on rowing’).

(6) Zeppelin Raid on Walsall. 31st Jan -1st Feb. 1916. Observer photo? (7) Kathy Brookes: superintendent St Paul’s Sunday School/ family friend. (83/5th S. Staffords: Territorial Battalion/ served in UK.

(9) Vernon Evans had returned to the UK on sick leave and (along with other sick/ returned 1/5th S Stafford soldiers) was attached to 3/5th S. Staffords, Territorial Battalion. 

(10QMS Houses: School House; Dellow’s House; Powis’ House; Frith’s House, (the last three named after their House Master).  From a letter asking for a Magazine subscription, signed S Powis /dated July 24th 1917, I assume my father was in Powis’ House & the move to alter House names failed. NB Was there a Davies’ House & a Thomas’s House at QMS?

NEXT POST:  21st APRIL 1916. Good Friday.