Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL ROUEN: LETTER to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.
Pages 1-4 missing. Sunday 12 Sept. / 15
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I have eaten the last of your Lady chum’s chocolates, Nestles as usual, but I love them. Isn’t she (Mrs Jones*) a brick eh! – to send us both something again, but Hoo Hic! if only her Ladyship knew what I’m calling her. She, by the by, calls Mr Jones ‘His Lordship’. And ain’t she a rattler to enclose a letter every time. She’s a genuine old sport because you see it is not only the gift but the thoughts behind the gift & so she tries to express hers by sending a short letter with it & a little news in with it as well.
Yes this War is rotten for hampering careers. Now Mummy is it that Dodger passed in 3 subjects or that he passed all subjects but 3 eh? (1). I conclude, after thinking, that it is as you say, but I am disappointed. Poor Basil – after all his sweated labour, after all his confinement in the study, alone, to swat with his head in his hands as Harold did – and he will have to go through it all again, but I hope he will pass this next time. But of course there’s this in it, it will come to him easier with regard to the 3 subjects he passed, what were they? – anything to do with the Doctor’s profession? To be a Doctor he will have some stiff exams, as hard, in fact harder than Harold had to pass (2). He isn’t going in for agriculture following George’s* work is he! (3)
If I had have known I was going to stay such a long time in Hospital I would have sent for some Greek & Latin. I was almost going to write to Mr Darling* on Saturday, but I had an idea I shall be soon out again for good. I should like a line from Dad about my career (4).
Today’s Gospel tells us not to be over anxious, but as it says in the Parish Magazine, for which I thank you, it says we must be prudent & take prudent provision for the future. Doesn’t it seem that I was destined to live through the Campaign after all? Well its only right & very much so that we should HOPE. ‘Hope still & thou shall see, he is all & all in thee’ (5).
I went to the YMCA Popular Evening Service while I was at the Base last Sunday & the hut was full of soldiers & my word didn’t I sing ‘Fight the Good fight’ – just tried like I did when I had my voice in childhood & sang with you in Church. Do you remember?
Do I want any shirts? – no not yet Mum. I have two, one is new. When I go back into khaki I shall be all in khaki ’cause of your socks. No Mum I won’t touch tinned stuff, like crab. I put it (6) down to the tinned meat & vegetables called Marconochies (sic). I ate one in the train but not all the meat. I left a great deal of that & ate more of the vegetable. They are part of the Rations & of course I could not go all day on the journey without something to eat.
I expect I shall hear from Ida tomorrow. I am so pleased Woodie* came after all, they would indeed enjoy themselves in the ride to Lichfield Cathedral. I hope to get a pass into Rouen to see the famous cathedral there.
I will conclude after I have come from Kirk.
There are a great many Jocks at this Base & some do afford amusement in the Ward, one especially was taken to by one of the Irish Sisters.
I will just refer to Sydney’s would-be Commission before putting my boots on to go to the Dining Hall for tea.
Bedtime — instead of coming to finish this letter after tea it is after supper now.
I had to go to sweep the floor & go for my medicine, my horrid medicine – no wonder when it has such a dreadful jaw-breaking name as Mist: Ferri Perclilor, and you can tell Mrs Jones that her chocs came in pretty handy to take away the nasty taste (7).
We had a nice little service this evening, but it was held in the Soldier’s Institute Tent, electric light installment (8). There was nothing but patients there & most of them from my Ward I was grateful to see – all but the organist, I mean the pianist. On the way back the Chaplain told me there were 40 men from the Base to be confirmed tonight at another tent, just after the service. I did not go, but we had a prayer for them. I thought of my confirmation & Basil’s & you being with us. I was confirmed too on the 12th day: ‘Blessed is the man whom thou choosest’ was the Bishop’s text (9).
I was interested in the 1st article in the Parish Magazine about Life wasted. Did you read it Mum? I guess you read it all through & the thrilling story of the nurse who rode on horseback to deliver an urgent message. Chiefly I was interested in the Vicar’s letter about Mr Henning* (J.P. is he now?)
I wondered whether I shall see anything about Dad being promoted. Charlie Harrison’s* opinion is that Dad ought to take Dr Sauler’s position & have a combined Head. By the by Charlie must have been sent to Blighty, I have not seen him here.
What can I say to fill the page Mum? I am too late to wish Allen many Happy Returns of his birthday at Home. I remember Dad’s wit in his letter to me on mine. Let’s see tis 3 months today – Hoo hak, my word the time does fly, Tempus Fugit it does – and the 13th, well let us hope it doesn’t bring ill luck but Yah! I dunno believe in superstition a lot. It seems instead ’tis bringing good luck, so there.
The 12th, yes I took my prayer book, mended with the gum you sent me. ‘Be thou faithful unto death & I will give you a crown of life’ (10) & the Bishop of Stafford’s address ‘Blessed is the man whom thou choosest & receivest unto thee’ & the Collect ‘because the frailty of man cannot but fall — lead us to all things profitable for our salvation. Look up & trust that we shall never fall (11). Queer ain’t it Mum?
Now you’ll press the matter in & push it along if Sydney wants a Com(mission). But it was nasty of Capt. Flo* to talk about carelessness. Should anything happen to Sydney or me you would perhaps think we were careless dear Mum. He was naughty, to say that, of course you know he ain’t been in the trenches. The Life of the Tommy there is different. Tommy gets careful there – even if he is apt to be careless in Camp where discipline is.
Lights out – 8. o’clock in Wards. Finish Tomorrow.
(1) Oxford School Matriculation needed passes in at least 6 subjects in one go. (2) Harold’s Chemist/Pharmacy exams. (3) George Lallerman, Ida’s friend.
(4) Pte Bertie’s father would have paid for his Mining Surveyor apprenticeship. His training as a Priest in the Church of England would also need parental support – as well as support from Mr. Darling, Vicar of Walsall.
(5) Hymn: Fight the Good Fight. Last verse: Only believe and thou shalt see, that Christ is all in all to thee. Words (based on 1 Tim. 6.12) John S.B. Monsell. 1863. Music: ‘Pentecost’, William Boyd 1864. (6) Illness blamed on Maconochies stew on train journey from the Front to Rouen B.E.F. Base. 10th Aug.1915.
(7) Mist Ferri. Perclilor: ‘perhaps the best & most used preparation of iron‘ <https://archive.org/stream>. (8) Church of England’s Soldiers & Sailors Institute. (9) Ps. 64. 4. (10) Revelation 2.10 :
(11)15th Sunday after Trinity: Gospel: Matthew 6.24. Collect: Book of Common Prayer. Thomas Cranmer 1662. (12) Dr Sauler*. Education Committee, Walsall Borough Council?
(13) Hollebeke Chateau/possibly one of two: Hollebeke Schloss, 200 metres east of Ypres Canal & Railroad or White Chateau (Bayern Schloss) 1.5 km west of Ypres Canal. cf Great War Forum Old Sweats.
More Hibbett Jargon/ Slang: ‘rattler’– good energetic person; a ‘good sport‘- decent/ nice person; a ‘brick’– reliable person; I dunno – I do not; Yah – yes; Hoo Hak/ Hoo Hic: (I never heard my Dad use these sounds): schoolboy nonsense sounds: goodness!/ gracious me!/ my word!’ Queer – strange coincidence.
Lance Corp. SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th STAFFORDS WAR DIARY
SW SLOPE OF HILL 60.
11th Sept. Sat: Rifle and machine gun fire directed on enemy’s *new work opposite 36. About 6.45 am enemy aeroplane driven off over our lines by our aeroplane. 2nd Derby Howitzer made direct hit on enemy embrasure. Enemy retaliated with 4.1 Howitzers damaging 36 parapet in four places. CASUALTIES WOUNDED: 9318 Pte J. Bladon. 75 Pte J. Waterfield (slightly wounded remain at duty).
SW SLOPE OF HILL 60, Trenches 33, 34, 35, 36.
12th Sept. Sun: Machine gun and artillery fire opened on enemy transport using roads near Hollebeke Chateau (12). Patrol reported water from mine coming from enemy front lines N. of Ravine. Mining timber and metal pipes being carried to trench opposite 34. Relieved by 6th North Staffs about 10. 15 pm. CASUALTIES WOUNDED: 9671 Pte G. Forest. 8472 Pte J. Kenyon (slightly wounded remained at duty).
NEXT POST: 13th Sept. 1915 – continuation of Letter 12th Sept.1915.