Tag Archives: Mrs Penning Saffron Walden.


Pte Bertie Hibbett  21. 

BERTIE HIBBETT, Student Rooms, Theological College, Lichfield, Staffordshire (1): LETTER to ARTHUR & MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Road, Walsall.

Monday. Nov.11 /1918.

A Thanksgiving Day.

MY HEART IS FIXED, O GOD, I will sing & give praise unto thee, O Lord, among the people & I will sing unto thee among the nations (2)

Lichfield Theological College, Cathedral Close.

My Very Dear People,

How I wish you could have been to the huge gathering at the Thanksgiving Service at the Cathedral this afternoon at 3.00 pm. Indeed everyone is in such ecstasy that our hearts are indeed fixed.

Lichfield Cathedral with Minster Pool. A. H. Hibbett. Pen & Ink Sketch. c. 1918-1920.

Keep cool & I will tell you how I first heard the news.

With breathless excitement I woke this morning thinking & wondering if we shall hear the bells ring.  I went to visit Mr. Howard* (3), a very kind clergyman who was Chaplain just before the Charge of the Staffs. He was over the S. Staffs. He  was very pleased to see me & showed me photographs of Fonquevillers (4).

Gommecourt Wood from Fonquevillers. Photo: Basil Hibbett c.1919 when searching for his brother Sydney’s grave.

When we came out the Headmaster of his Church Schools brought us news of the Armistice, & in marvellously quick time, flags were flourishing from every window in the city & it was not long before the Cathedral bells began (they are ringing now as I write this) (5).

Flag USA. Stars & Stripes added to indicate growth of the nation.1912.

The Principal (6) had just come home from a weekend away & he got us some flags. I had one stars & stripes flying from my window. (7).

If you had been in the Close this afternoon you would have seen all the soldiers go in to the Cathedral & us students in our cassocks & surplices. The Cathedral was full to packing                                                      point.

We started with the Te Deum (8) sung by everyone with a beautiful simple rendering. Then a few versicles of praise. Then the old 100th (9). Then the Dean (10) read a service of  Thanksgiving, people responding ‘We thank thee O God’. Then hymn O God our help in ages past (11). The organ music filled the Church.

SERJEANT SYDNEY HIBBETT  22. Killed in Action, 1st July 1916.

Then the service for those who have fallen., which impressed me greatly. I thought of our dear Sydney. He will be rejoicing too for did he not say ‘Rejoice, again I say Rejoice’ (12). Also I remembered Alfred* (13) & Mrs Penning’s son* (14).

HAROLD HIBBETT. 34 in 1918. Chemist.

Then we had the hymn for the sailors, Eternal Father,(15) & to protect those coming Home at the cessation of hostilities. (Harold & Basil).

The students sat in the North Transept & I was greatly impressed by the unique coincidence when I saw the soldiers who were sitting in the front seat of the Nave. What an historical event, just at the start of my life in training. Everyone has the smile of Victory. I hear B’ham people are going mad.

At one time I wished I was with you at Home, but I would rather have you over here. Won’t the Vicar (Mr Hey*)(16) be glad. Of course we know that everything is not yet settled.

How strange too, to have had an interview with my late Chaplain (3). I thought I recognised his face when I went to Church last night.  I asked one of the students who he was & I was delighted to hear he was at one time the S. Staffs Chaplain.  I had not seen him since those Gommecourt days.

Chief Education Officer, Walsall. c 1903 -1926. 60 yrs in 1918.

I rang up Dad this am & was going to shout Hurrah down the phone. Wish I had wired for you to come over.

That Dream I had a long time ago has come true. I dreamt that I was among a great company of soldiers which had formed up for a Thanksgiving Service of Victory. Ida will remember me telling her. But I was not in uniform & I felt quite out of it.  But today I did not. I was so thankful that I was among the largest congregation of people to give thanks to God for the good news.


There is going to be a big bonfire in the city tonight & we are having a Concert. What  does Dodger think of it?  I specially thought of him today. I feel the happiest man alive today. But we shall have to be careful & always bear in mind that all this is through God’s mercy & it is he that has  given us the victory.


I noticed how appropriate the Psalms are for today (2).  I should think you are all overjoyed & Ida is skipping with joy in spite of her wound (17).

Do come over (if you wish). I mean to say you will be extremely welcome if you can.

God bless you all.

Your affec. Bertie  xxxx


The Revd A. H. Hibbett. Sponsored walk  to  Skegness. 1967.  72yrs.

My Memories of the First World War.  The Revd A. H. Hibbett. Essay Competition. Lindsey Association for the Elderly. 1967

The Armistice.

In 1918, I entered Lichfield Theological College to train for the Sacred Ministry and I was there when news came of the Armistice, signed at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month. I shall never forget the excitement on the streets of LichfieldFlags appeared at every window. I made a flag of St George to hang out of my bed-study. (6).

We went into the Cathedral and sang the Psalms of the Day. I remember that one was Ps. 57, ‘My heart is fixed. O God, My heart is fixed. I will  sing and give praise.’

Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall.
Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Lichfield St. Walsall.

Later I was to visit my old school, Queen Mary’s Walsall, to see my brother’s name on the School Memorial:


These in the glorious morning of their days for England’s sake lost  all but England’s praise’.



Time Past, Present & Future.

One hundred years on this Armistice Sunday, at the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month, I hope to be amongst the good people of Walsall around their War Memorial. I shall be remembering my Uncle Sydney, killed Battle of Somme 1st July 1916, his brothers, Harold & Basil, his sister Ida and of course                                    my Dad Bertie, all wounded in the Great War. 

Like my father, I too will be caught up in the deepest longings of the human spirit for Peace, singing words which bring the long distant past into the present, to strengthen & comfort suffering humanity, to fulfill dreams & inspire a joyful hope for the future. 

(1) Lichfield Theological College, 1872-1970s: acquired John Mott’s house (1833) in Cathedral Close in1872 & added a library & student rooms. Chapel built 1885 (now called the Refectory, a community centre). Grateful thanks to Patrick Comerford for detailed Blogs & photographs: Walking Tours of Lichfield Cathedral Close. 2012 -2014.  https://www.patrickcomerford.com 

Lichfield Theological College Chapel, now St John’s Hospital Almshouse & Refectory. Photo: Patrick Comerford.

(2) My Heart is fixed: Psalm 57. 7-9. Book of Common Prayer (BCP) Psalm for 11th morning of month. 



      R. A. ChD Badge

(3The Revd Howard FC (Forces Chaplain) to S. Staffords during Battle of Somme. One of 4,400 chaplains in WW1, known as ‘padres’. 179 killed. An all Officer Corps – no arms. Badge inscription ‘In this Sign Conquer’ (in hoc signo vinces) ref. to cross of light seen in sky by Emperor Constantine before conversion to Christian Faith. AD 312. (Eusebius historian). Website: Royal Army Chaplains Depart. 

(4) Fonquevillers: where S. Staffords faced German Front Line at Gommecourt. Battle of Somme,1st July 1916. 

(5) Cathedral Bells: for the most part Church bells had remained silent for the duration of the War.

(6) Principal, Lichfield Theological College in 1918. Name not found.

(7) Flags: Stars & Stripes (USA entered War 1917) – also flag of St George my father made himself.

(8) Te Deum Laudamus: Latin.‘Thee, O God we praise’: Early Christian Hymn of Praise, used by all Christian denominations today. Anglican BCP Morning Prayer. Origin: St Ambrose & St Augustine for baptism of latter. AD 387. Follows outline of Apostle’s Creed, which follows credal statements of St Peter, Acts of Apostles AD 90-100. Set to Music by many composers. Text ends O Lord, in  thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded. 

Bourgeois’ metrical paraphrase of Psalm 100. 1560.

(9) ‘Old 100th’: ‘All people that on earth do dwell, sing to the Lord with cheerful voice’. Because the Lord our God is good – his truth at all times firmly stood and shall from age to age endure.’   Protestant Reformation Hymn by John Calvin,1509-1564, to encourage singing in the vernacular. A metrical paraphrase of Psalm 100, ‘a Psalm of Thanksgiving’. Translated by William Kethe (Scottish reformer). Tune: in long metre, Genevan Psalter 1551, attributed to Louis Bourgeois (1510-1560).

(10) Dean of Lichfield: The Revd Henry Irwin Savage,1909 -1939Library named after him,1924.

(11) ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from  the stormy blast and our eternal home. A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone, short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun. Hymn: Isaac Watts, 1674 -1748. Based on Hebrew Psalm 90, in language of New Testament. Tune: William Croft ‘St Anne’, 1708. (Used in works by many composers e.g. J. S. Bach, Handel, Buxtehude & Vaughan Williams).

(12) ‘Rejoice again, I say Rejoice’: Philippians 4.4. KJV. St Paul AD 62. Letter praising persecuted Christians in Philippi for their generous response to Jerusalem Christians in need. 

(13) Alfred: Possibly Alfred Yoxall, Cousin from Ashton i.e. Marie Neal Hibbett’s nephew. Killed in Action.

(14) Arthur Penning*: son of  Mrs Penning, Landlady, 29 Gold St. Saffron Walden. (Army digs for Walsall pals: Bertie Hibbett, Vernon Evans, Norman Cope. 1914-1915). Hibbett Letters: Oct. 1914 – Feb. 1915.

(15) ‘Eternal Father, strong to save’. Hymn. William Whiting. 1860. Based on Psalm 107. Inspired by personal experience of storm at sea, Genesis 1.2. & Mark 4.35: Most Holy Spirit, who didst brood upon the chaos dark & rude and bid their angry tumult cease and give, for wild confusion, peace, O hear us as we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea’. Tune ‘Melita’ (Malta) St Paul ship-wrecked there (Acts 15) arguably the most detailed description of a storm at sea in classic literature. Adopted by Royal Navy late 19th Cent. 

(16) The Revd Hey, Vicar of Walsall. (Details pending).

(17Psalms for 11th Day of Month. Anglican Book of Common Prayer. (BCP). Morning Prayer: Psalms 56-58 . Evening Prayer: Psalms 59-61. Cranmer. Origin Hebrew Bible, Book of Psalms (tehillim) praises/ Greek (psalmoi) instrumental songs of praise for God’s Creation & Acts of Deliverance. Long oral transmission, associated with Temple worship; written down from 1000 BC – 400 BC. 

(18) Ida Hibbett died from cancer of the womb in 1921, (attributed to working in a Bomb Factory, with exposure to phosphorous & other chemicals). Her ‘wound‘ – ref. to an operation to remove it?. 


EFW: This weekend I hope to visit my father’s old haunts in Walsall, St Paul’s Church and the Arboretum & walk up Foden Road to No 95, the old Family Home, where his Mother waited so patiently for his Letters. I hope to visit Ida’s grave in St Michael’s Rushall which is also a War Memorial to Sydney. I fear I shall find it in sad need of repair. 

NEXT POST: 11th Nov. 1918: Letter from Ida ‘This is a Day of All Days & No Mistake – the WAR is over‘.

NB After this there will be one more 1918 Letter & then it will be back to posting those of 1917.


South Staffordshire BadgeeTHE  HISTORY of  SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT 1914 -1918 (1).

General Plumer.
General Herbert Plumer.

June 1915: South Staffs moved further north to Ypres Salient as 46th N. Midland Division now joined the 2nd Army under General Plumer (2).


27th 28th 29th June:  In Hutments near OUDERDOMCASUALTY: No 9713  Pte J.Monk, ‘D’ Coy, wounded while on working party.  30th June, Wed:  In Hutments near OUDERDOM. CASUALTY: No 9006 Pte. B. Hopley, ‘D’ Coy wounded while on working party.


Signed:  R. RICHMOND RAYMER Lt. Col. 1/5th S.Staffs Regt.   4.7.15.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to brother, BASIL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall. ( With newspaper cutting contrasting Lord Kitchener favourably  with Lord Fisher, First Sea Lord) (3 &4).

Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.
Basil Hibbett 1916. Age 17. 1915.

Woden’s Day me Lord. June 30th / 15

My Dear Dodger,

I’ve just finished tea so if there’s any sticky marmalade besmeared somewhat on the pages of this letter today I will hereafter be right sorry somewhat.

It’s a lovely hot day again, but oh dear we’ve started having six-hour drills per day in full pack (5).

Before I go any farther I must thank Mother for her very nice letter written on Sunday.   I will answer it  tomorrow for sure an’ I will.

You would like to have a fortnight –  say out here as an holiday.  On Sunday & Monday evenings I visited the I(ndianCamp (6).  They were dressed in khaki, just like us, only with khaki turbans on with red tassels. Tell Mother (I know she admires themthey are really splendid & marvellous & so sociable I am ‘struck’ by them everyday I see them, but they have left us now.  I had some of their oatmeal cakes called chipatte & they gave me some corn that they eat.  You would be amused at their sergeant beckoning –  & when they fall in they cease whatever they are doing & fall in straight away, some of their braces dangling behind, some in shirts sleeves, some with blankets around them & anyhow.

Vernon. Sydney & I had a letter sent to each of us from dear Mrs Penning*.  I will refer to them in Mother’s letter.   One night this week as I slept under this canvas tent, (by the by Sydney & Vernon are with me), I was awakened by the sound of bagpipes, such a lovely sound & the music came familiar to me.  Then early this morning, about 3.30, I heard a most glorious brass band, big drums & hornets, trumpets, clarinets, euphoniums, trombones of all keys, bass, soprano.  What a fine marching air & then I heard the sound of men singing & when the band ceased they cheered like billy ho.  We made out that it was the L & L coming out of the trenches (7).

We go on a route march often while in Camp & once I saw the men in kilts & glengarry & the men practicing the pipes. How we cheered when the Reserves came in to us the other evening with our band escorting them.

Tell Dad  Charlie H.* (8) is with us nowPoor chap, –  you know he had the bridge of his foot brokenI admire the General of the Division every time I see him. He does remind me of Mush* (?).  Why, by the by, isn’t Mush in khaki like the others?   Vernon gave me a most humorous letter from his sister Molly to Sydney & myself.  He showed me some funny photos of Norman & Molly playing at soldiers. I wonder if Mrs Evans showed Ida the one of Molly as a soldier.

Tell Ida  I didn’t  ‘Stand it’. Perhaps she’ll think I’m a bit of a tomnoddy slacker (9), jokingly putting it, but you see I lay down.  ‘Underconstubble un’stand’ – as a sergeant sais when drilling us.  She said she felt jolly tired & wondered how I stood it in the shell hole.

I will close now wishing you the best of luck in the exam. ‘Keep ya pecker up‘ as Okoo* sais.


PS  The last pot of cream was richer than those before – we like it thick.  Could Mother put some water cress in the next parcel as we get little or no green vegetables.

  PPS  To let you know we got everything & enjoyed everything I say I relished the plum cake with its nuts. The bit of cash will come in handy.  I hear the place where we can get something in the way of luxuries has been shelled The sugar will be sure to come in useful.  As a matter of fact the whole jolly parcel was spiffing.  The tomatoes arrived quite whole in a splendid condition.

Bertie.       Censor: WE Wright



NB: Pte Bertie Hibbett was in a canvas tent / bivouac, not a wooden hut at Ouderdom; a very large Camp accommodating  several Regiments ‘lent’ to the Division  after the bitter fighting of the 2nd Battle of Ypres in May – & all with their morale-boosting Bands. My father knew his musical instruments & knows his brother will be interested.

(1) The History of the South Staffordshire Regiment is kept at the Regimental Museum, Whittington Barracks, Lichfield. (2) Field Marshall Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, Commander V Corps 2nd Battle of Ypres April 1915, took command of 2nd Army May 1915; June 1917 won Battle of Messines.  

(3Admiral of the Fleet, John Arbuthnot ‘Jacky’ Fisher 1841-1920; ‘argumentative, energetic, reform mindedconsidered to be second only in importance to Lord Nelson in history of the Navy.  See wikipedia.

Admiral of the Fleet John Arbuthnot Fisher. 1841-1920.
Admiral of the Fleet John Arbuthnot Fisher. 1841-1920.

(4) Newspaper Cutting (Times? no date, marked in pencil):  ‘A CONTRAST. Compare this action with the dignified and patriotic attitude of Lord Kitchener – that silent sentinel of our Empire.  No attack, no personal consideration of any kind, perturbs him. He is the Soldier of his Job; and from early morning till late night, and frequently through the night, there he is at his post –  creating a British Army three millions strong, and all the while keeping his hand on the pulse of the colossal fighting bodies of all our forces in the field.  Try to realise the immensity of the task – and then you will get some idea of the greatness of the man. And why shouldn’t Lord Fisher be equally great?  Perhaps the comparative inactivity of the Navy may have dulled his imagination; but who shall say how soon our great sea leviathans may be spawning out the fumes of hell which the Germans have flamed into fury?  Then indeed will the First Sea Lord be a mighty factor in our Empire’s life.  And Britons would sleep more peacefully in their beds if they knew the “Kitchener of the Navy” was sharing with the Kitchener of the Army the supreme responsibility for the conduct of the war.‘                                      

On the back of this cutting is an article about the American people ‘who cannot remain unmoved by the war that was to shake the world.  Eighty million people, bound to Europe by ties of blood, tied by sacred traditions which cannot be wiped out in a generation, allied to all the great commercial and manufacturing centres’

(5) Full Pack weight: 1914: 50 -58 Ibs. By 1916 ‘with addition of steel helmets, box respirators, wire cutters, bulldog shovels, grenades and ‘extra’ ammunition 70 – 90 Ibs. <www.Tommy1418.com>

Memorial to Indian Forces 1914-1918.
Memorial to Indian Forces 1914-1918.

(6) Indian Camp Ouderdom9,000 Indian soldiers died on the Western Front, through severe winter conditions as well as action of the enemy.  A monument dedicated to 130,000 Indian forces that served in WW1 is to south of Ypres Menin Gate, Memorial to the Missing

(7) L & L: either 4th & 5th Leicesters or Lancashires & Leicesters. (8) Charlie Harrison*. (9) ‘tomnoddy’ ‘: etymology possibly from ‘dodman’ the snail hence ‘slow‘ and therefore ‘foolish‘, ‘stupid‘ person.

NEXT POST: 1st JULY 1915.  Bully Beef Bungalow.