Tag Archives: No Mans Land.

19th July 1916: ‘YOUR BROTHER: I FEAR THE WORST HAS HAPPENED’. ‘ONE SHALL BE TAKEN THE OTHER LEFT’.

South Staffordshire BadgeeH.E. BIRD, C. QMS 1/5th South Staffords Bn Head Quarters, Berles au Bois (1): LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Cheshire.

                                                         19/ 7/ 16

Dear Bert,

I was pleased to hear you have got to Blighty and hope your wound will soon be healed (2). 

SYDNEY HIBBETT 20 in 1914.
SYDNEY HIBBETT
20 in 1914.

With regard to your brother Sid, I am extremely sorry to say I fear the worst has happened.  The last thing I can get to know of him was that he was severely wounded, lying in No Man’s Land.   He was unable to speak but wrote on a piece of paper that he required a drink of water, which one of our chaps gave him, but could not stay with him. That is the last we have heard of him.

I hope we may hear of him again, for he was a brave man and one who did his duty without fear or favour.  If, as I fear, the worst has happened, I hope you will try and soften the blow to your parents as much as possible. 

All papers, letters etc I found in a pack belonging to you or your brother I have handed over to L.Cpl. Jones A.O*, as Sid told him if anything happened he was to forward them.

Venables
Arthur Venables. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Visit 2006.

Your chum Venables* is also missing, we can get no news of him at all (3).

Kind regards,  Yours sincerely,

H.E.Bird  C. Q.M.S.  Censor J. N. Wilkinson.

*********************

Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett 1965‘MY MEMORIES of the FIRST WORLD WAR’. 

It took us one and a half days to reach Le Treport where I was put on a bed in a tentThe next morning I awoke to see, in my bed, a basin of blood from my wounded wrist.  I was transferred from the tent to a Hotel-turned-Hospital on the cliffs of Le Treport.

lE tREPORT.
Treport-Coteaux et Trianon-Hotel, aux Terrasses. A nurse has written Pte Bertie’s address ‘Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton’ twice on the front. Posted 7.7.1916.

I was in the bed next to another wounded soldier being treated by a doctor; he was trying to get a bullet out of his patient with forceps, but the forceps kept slipping.  The sound of it got on my nerves.  I went out of the room, but it was likegoing from frying pan into the fire’, for on the landing four orderlies were trying to keep a  soldier down on his bed; he was raving with pain (4). I was glad to get back into my room again.

It was not long before I was labelled ‘Serious’, for I was wounded not only in my right wrist but had an extra ‘Blighty’: wounds to my neck and my left wrist as well.  The wound in my neck came when I was running out of the trench at Foncquevillers.  I was ordered home.

The voyage across the Channel was memorable indeed for, while I was eating a late dinner on board, I heard that my brother, Sydney, had been seen dead in No Man’s Land.  On his breast there had been a small piece of paper on which he had written,Pour a drop of water between my lips, thank you.  Now every Good Friday I am reminded of how the dying do thirst, when we sing His are the thousand sparkling rills … and yet he saith ‘ I thirst’ (5).

On hearing the news of my brother I could eat no more, but went straight to my cabin bunk. Two shall be in the field of Battle, one shall be taken and the other left’ (6).

***************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

The details of my uncle’s death, given by Chaplain H.E Bird’s in his Letter of 19th July, 1916, tie up closely with my father’s ‘Memories’ 1967. These in turn no doubt rely on a note in my father’s 21st Birthday Album, 12th July, 1916, but probably added some years later which reads: ‘Soldier Jones gave a piece of paper to my Mother on which was written by my brother Sydney, as he lay dying on the battlefield: Pour a drop of water between my lips. Thank you’. 

 (1) The Revd H.E. BIRD C QMS: Chaplain to the Forces, serving with the 1/5th Staffordshire Regt. (As Chaplain to Queen Mary’s School, Walsall, he probably went straight to the Front without any specific training). 1/5th S Staffords were now at Berles au Bois, a commune, 5 miles (8Km) approx. from Foncquevillers. His letter is presumably in answer to one from Pte Bertie Hibbett enquiring about his brother. 

(2) A ‘Blighty’: a serious wound that sent a soldier back Home. My father’s Blighty was a gun-shot wound to his right wrist & a wound to his neck (both of which we were aware of as children); he also had a minor wound to his left wrist. The German heavy 77mm guns had fired from 3 miles away behind Essarts. [See 1st July Operations. Appendix 1.]

(3) Arthur Venables* dressed Pte Bertie’s wound on the battlefield. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. His family lived near 95, Foden Rd. See previous Hibbett Posts.

(4) Anaesthetic in WW1: chloroform, ether, ethyl chloride and nitrous oxide (oxygen mixture).  The RAMC had pitifully few resources to cope with the grossly under-estimated number of casualties for the first day of the Somme. Pte Bertie’s fellow patients at Le Treport either did not have any anaesthetic or were re-acting badly to it’s effects. See <https://www.asaabstracts.com&gt;: no development in anaesthesia since mid-19th Cent. /no new anaesthetics until 1940, but experience of WW1 put Britain at forefront of 20th Cent. development in anaesthetics. It is amost  unfortunate irony how modern medicine owes some of its existence to the existence of war‘. Anthony L. Kovac MD. University Kansas. 2006.

(5Hymn based on Christ’s words from the Cross, ‘I thirst’, John 19.29. Mrs Cecil Alexander, 1875. (6One shall be taken the other left’Matthew 24. 40-44. Apocalyptic/ poetic language to describe the Last Days, a future End Time (Eschaton). 

NEXT POST: 20th July 1916: ‘Back in the Homeland bearing the Marks of Unthinkable Experiences’.

5TH DEC. 1915: SERJEANT SYDNEY ‘NOT AT BASE – TRY LINE’. PTE BERTIE ON THE MOVE.

South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DAIRY

NEUVE CHAPELLE TRENCHES       

1st Dec. Wed:  In Brigade Reserve.  Relieved 1/5th North Staffordshire Regt in Trenches at 6.3 pm.

2nd Dec. Thur: NEUVE CHAPELLE.  Quiet.  Midday enemy crumped (1) rear of our right – no damage.

3.0 pm 20 British aeroplanes flew over, returning  3.15 pm.  Rain all night.Brit planesimgres

3rd Dec. Fri:  Very quiet.  At Stand To tested enemy with 5 rounds rapid.  Very little reply. CASUALTY: KILLED: 9465 Pte J. Hodson.

4th Dec. Sat: Battalion was Relieved in Trenches.

5th Dec. Sun: LORETTO ROAD.  In Brigade Reserve.  Marched to Billets at RUE DES VACHES (2).

Rue des Vaches from Loretto Rd
Route March from Loretto Road Billets to Rue des Vaches Billets. (6 miles approx.) Red Line (right) marks approx Front Line.  Dec. 1915.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings. Nov 11th-Dec 4th. Our old Colonel Crawley* (3) came  & shook hands all round at Lastrem nr Neuve Chapelle. He was then on Staff over Base. ‘How awfully unfortunate’, he said to Vernon, in Neuve Chapelle trenchesVernon had old   complaint of losing his voice & had a trench foot. 

LETTER to Arthur & Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

                        2nd Sunday in Advent. Dec 5/ 15.

My Dear Mother & Father,

We have been marching from 10 this morning till 4 this afternoonCame out of the trenches yesterday, Saturday, slept a rough night. Was paid & issued with deficiencies last night also.

Very pleased to get Dad’s long letter on Friday night, the length of it surprised me as he generally sends short epistlesI read the letter in a ‘rat-hole’ of a dugout, taking some of my hour’s rest as I was on sentry duty all night – 2 (hours) on, 1 off.

‘For rough work only and no marks given for work done on this page’ (4) quite amused meI think Dad’s letter deserves full marks.  Am looking forward to the promised parcel.

I heard from Sydney the same day, but in the morning, correspondence with him seems to be very queer, the Con. Camp which he is in cannot be at the Base. I sent him a Field PC on Nov 23rd  – & in his letter of 29th he said he received a FPC of mine on 28th (most likely the one I sent on the 23rd).  Well I got the FPC back on the night I got Dad’s letter &  I (had) addressed it to Z Coy. Conval: Camp – marked on it was ‘Line’.  I should like to write to him & send him some of his letters from friends, but cannot rely onConvalescent Camp Rouenwhich he has written at the top of his letter.

I was very interested to hear about some of the Walsall people.  Bates* (5) was probably on Home Leave; he joined the Inns of Court OTC & was at Berkhampstead last time I heard from him (at Hospital).

K Own R Reg Mus. Ouderdomko0860-026
Kings Own Regiment at Ouderdom, Ypres. 1915. Courtesy Regt. Museum Collection.

I think Ida is keeping a pace (6) parallel to the strain of the men at the frontcongratulationsNow I must draw my tea rather late to day, because of the march. I then shall look out for the post as the rations & blankets will have to be drawn at the same time. We have had sheepskin coats (7) given us again, but have given them in again now, owing to our moving.

I think I will leave off now & let this be another Sunday, Monday letter.  I wonder if you got my letters from Stir Up Sunday & the one I wrote on Dad’s Birthday enclosed in a green?

I thought of you all in Church on the march.  Basil’s chatty lettersI treasure his description of the commotion in Church caused by a cat (was it?)did amuse I.  I have not yet had Miss Foster’s scarf. She would be indeed a lightening knitter if she had knitted the scarf by now, very good of her isn’t it?

Yes, Coms: are rather com: everyone seems to be going in for one out here (8).  You did surprise I, when I saw Basil’s writing on the outside of the envelope.  I thought you were going to leave it until I came on Home Leave, & then again I have not said I particularly wanted one. 

I shall have to be concluding now, poor Mum, I thought, writing at such a late hour.

Train 1914-1918.c6e0ac50fdb9f3812d94052949b9c4be
WW1 Open TruckTransport. & standing, 1916. NB helmets instead of hats.

Well we are now in barns & move again tomorrow, very likely entrain (9)

I am sleeping in the loft & the orficers sleep, dine & enjoy ’emselves in rooms set apart in the farm house.

I hope you have not been anxious not hearing from me & answering Dad’s letter, I have not had an opportunity of writing. 

Many thanks for the pencil & paper.  I shall be able to send greetings now to all friends at Christmas, but I have an idea I shall be at Home to see them then.

Best love,  Bertie.

**************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Serjeant Sydney Hibbett’s exact whereabout begin to raise anxious thoughts in Pte Bertie when his Field Postcard is returned from Rouen Base and he is on the move from Neuve Chapelle. He needed to consult his brother about applying for a Commission as his parents wished him to do (probably in the mistaken belief that he would have a more comfortable time as an orficer (sic)).

WW1 battlefield N Chapelle.nc_crossNeuve Chapelle’s shattered Crucifix would be a lasting influence on my father and his Good Friday Posters: Is it nothing to you all ye that pass by?’ (Hebrew Bible Lamentations 1.12.  Date trad. after Fall of Jerusalem 586 B.C.).  

Cross Neuve Chap. lead_largeSee The Cross at Neuve Chapelle, the story of how the Germans used the Cross as a marker for shelling & how the British dealt with the problem <https://www.the atlantic.com>

(1) Crump: Soldier’s Slang for German 5.9″ shell (or sound of it bursting/onomatopoeic). http://www.wakefieldfhs.org.uk/warslang.

(2) Rue de La Planches des Vaches: ‘Cattle Drove‘, broad country road, 6 miles north of Bethune, off D945 to Estaires. This route ‘march’ from Loretto Road (8 miles approx.) took 1/5th Staffs 6 hours, a trial indeed for Pte Bertie & his ‘awfully unfortunate’ pal Vernon Evans, with fever & trench foot. Compare Welsh soldier’s description of march to trenches ‘impossible without going through 4-5 feet of water‘. No Man’s Land littered with’bloated bodies’. Carmarthan Pals <https://www.books.google&gt; Steven John. page 44: 19th Dec. 1915.

(3) Colonel Archer Parry Crawley*: came out of retirement at 60 to command South Staffords Territorial training in Bedfordshire & Essex,1914. In Feb 1915, became Officer Commanding No 2 Base Depot at Rouen; also temporary Brigadier General for 1-5 Entrenchment Battalions. Wore ‘swanky pattees’, Letter 5th Feb. 1915.

(4) Heading for Examination paper: cf Sydney Hibbett’s first Letter Home, asking permission to join up. 19th August 1914.

(5Bates* (Alan?). Family lived at Aldridge, nr Walsall. Father grew roses.(6) Ida’s Voluntary War Service filled all her time; included Borough Council Office/admin. Derby Scheme Recruitment; VAD Red Cross Nursing; Bomb-making  – as well as teaching Church Sunday School. 

(7) Sheepskin/ Goatskin Coats: evidence of extreme cold of a Flanders’ winter 1915. cf Letter from Havre 3rd March.1915.

(8) Kitchener’s New Army (as distinct from 1st Army of 400,000 soldiers which serviced the British Empire i.e Old Contemptibles) was led by temporary officers, recruited from public schools/ often university graduates with some military training in the O.T.C.  A portion of officers were from the ranks (‘temporary gentlemen’).  Royal Sandhurst gave just one month’s intensive training, so desperate was the need to replace horrendous losses of 1914-1915. 

WW1 Life expectancy of Front Line Junior Officer: 6 weeks. Source: Dr Anthony Morton, Curator Sandhurst Regimental Museum. <http://army.mod.uk/documents >

(9) Entrain:  possibly in uncovered wagons as illustrated or in cattle trucks.

NEXT POST:  7th Dec. 1915.