Tag Archives: Pickwick Club.

13th SEPT. 1915: ‘ITS ONLY THE TIE OF FAMILY LOVE I WANT REALLY’.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT ROUEN: LETTER continued to Mother, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall

6.30 am about.

Another Sunday Monday letter. 

I am indeed making the most of my time in HospitalI have written no less than eight letters, including Ida, & Harold & there’s Sydney’s too, besides Miss Molly Evans, Mrs Hurst* & Her Ladyship Mrs Jones* & to make the list complete I must write to Mum, that’s one reason why I wrote last Friday.

Whatever the others say  Mum, I say it is a Rest to write to Mummy and I think Mum will sympathise with me & be happy at the thought of her very affectionate son,    Bertie.

PS  Of course I must have a Post Script else the letter ain’t complete. 

Now I don’t expect a long letter from Mum, although I have had comparatively long epistles which have surprised me as well as pleased me .  So I enclose the size of the letter you need to send me next if you wish. It is from the Writing Pad in the Lucky Bag I chose from the bundle sent from Ireland (1).

I enclose too some cuttings from John Bull, my word ain’t it tolerantIt does use strong views.  But I quite see in the article about ‘Blood will out’I remember Capt Tim Cozens*, so popular with the Tommies getting quite a crowd around him & he said he loved a charge.  It was when he told us about the knut leading the charge dressed practically in mufti (2).  The article also puts me in mind of the Lancashire lads you know Mum (3). Ta ta.

PS  Sorry I am not in a hurry about a letter –  its only the tie of family love I want really.  So (if) you are busy, forgive me for insinuating.  I expect I shall get your long letter tomorrow, but I will send this off tonight at any rate. 

Kind regards to Woody – safe journey back to Hospital I hope (4).

NB  Pickwick Club (5) reminds meSnodgrass (6) had a letter from May (7).  I hope Capt Flo* is a good help to Sydney getting a Commission.

 Something for you to fathom about in your spare time –  I like letters which last a long time for  you to read.  Isn’t Mrs. Hurst jolly good, I enclose her letter.  Thank you Mother for the magazine. It goes without saying that I enjoyed the perusal so to speak eh what!  Sorry Mrs Hurst’s letter must be in the incinerator with Sydney’s letter I told you about (8).

Bertie.

PS  NB 13/ 9/ 15  

Oh! I shall fall through the earth next. I have just received Basil’s long epistle  – & nearly banged my head through the back of the deck chair when I unrolled Champion’s mile long letter of such black writing but so neat.  I had another letter too, it was from Cousin Muriel*.

Have I to write in turn to such a windfall, such a gasping slap.  I think you will think I am taking things to extreme but I shall have to write a letter to you all soon & will let it be just plain & serious, so you will forgive me for this my long letter.

Oh! Basil dear Dodger. Oh! Mummy (Hush I saw your writing in Ida’s & read yours before her’s, – don’t tell her though) & Oh! Ida’s was a record for a Champion.  Yes I will tell her of a Jock we call the ‘Scotch’32 beds in my Ward.  Did you get my letter to you & Father in a green envelope dated Sunday 6th?  

Now you won’t lose any of the sheets as this last letter marked PS NB is important. 

Bertie. 

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

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

This Letter clearly shows how important writing & receiving letters was to Pte Bertie Hibbett.  In his heightened emotional state, in an agony not to break this ‘tie with Home‘, he adds Postcript after Postscript.   

 (1) The Hospital Bag Fund (one of WW1’s many ‘morale boosting & practical schemes for soldiers’) was set up by Lady Smith-Dorrien 1881-1951 for the benefit of the sick and wounded in Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations. In <http://easttextile.co.uk/onewebmedia> Janette Bright 2015 writes that Volunteers produced an estimated 5,000,000 ‘Treasure Bags‘ to provide a store for a soldier’s personal treasures: papers, pay-sheets, photos & letters.  Around 12″ x 14″ in size, made of strong material (flowered cretonne preferred) each had a drawstring and could be hung where a patient could easily reach it.  Volunteers often added little gifts such as sachets of lavender and lucky charms.  In Pte Bertie Hibbett’s case his ‘Lucky Bag‘ arrived with a little writing pad & envelopes and amongst his treasures would have been his Prayer Book – & the Bible given to each soldier by the Army. Sadly it did not prevent some of his letters being lost in the Steamer De-louser when, for a day or two, he was put back into khaki.  

General Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien.
General Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien.

NB Lady Smith-Dorrien was the wife of General Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien who was relieved of command of 2nd Army in 1915 ‘by Lord French for requesting permission to retreat from the Ypres Salient to a more defensible position‘. Wikipedia.

(2) Lord Cardigan. Letter 10th Aug. 1915. (3) Marie Neal Hibbett’s relatives/ close friends in Ashton?

(4) Leicester Hospital.(5)  Childhood Pickwick Club. Letter 23rd April & 7th Sept. 1915.(6) Sydney’s Club nickname. (7Mary Overend.

(8) Steam Disinfectant De-louser. Letter 7th Sept 1915. (9) Dickebusch: in parish of Ypres (Ieper). Divisional Rest Camp; notorious history of soldiers ‘Shot at Dawn’.

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

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

CANADA  HUTS  NR DICKEBUSCH (9). 

13th Sept Mon:   In Divisional Reserve

 NEXT POST: 14th Sept. 1915.

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7TH SEPT 1915: IN RED WHITE & BLUE AGAIN WITH BOILS ‘LIKE TOOTHACHE IN THE NECK’.

BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
BERTIE HIBBETT:

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, ROUEN: No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL. No 12 Ward. LETTER to IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

NB  –> In Red White & Blue. Tuesday Sep 7 / 15   

PS The lavender was given me while in 5 Ward. Take care of the Twiddly bits in this letter (1).

IDA HIBBETT. 27 in 1914.
IDA HIBBETT.

My Very Dear Sister,

Now I ain’t made no mistake loike (2) as one does at th’ beginnin of year & puts nineteen 14 ’stead of 15 and begins with D instead of J eh! 

This bit of touchy ‘chirpy’ (as you calls it) nonsense, is the effect of hearing a comic song at a concert – well I will tell you that later).  I have soon been sent back to Hospital again & am now in No 12 Ward at the same local Hospital  – ie No 9 General Hospital.  There is such a ‘nicenurse’ here, her hair reminds me of yours & making me wish I had you & Woody (3) to look after me. 

I hope Mummy & Daddy will take to Woody.  I fancy she is somewhat tall & dark – is that so?  Tell me about the time you are spending with her.  I discovered after all that the little scentiment of scent sent to me in the parcel was sent from you.  I mean the lovely Whitby Heather scent.  Do you remember Sydney sending you a bottle while you were in the Royal Infirmary? (4).

I have just had one of those round biscuits, Crawford’s Kings, they are a delicious assortment.

Crawfords City Assorted packaging: used when paper was scarce.
.BISCUIT WRAPPING PAPER, Request for eggs & biscuits – ‘send just as you please, you know. Forgive me,  Bertie.1915.. (For full transcript see Page: ‘PARCELS’).

Idait is simply  a glorious, lovely, bright afternoon -that sunny effect at teatimeI’ve just had teaEverything seems sunny & the spick an’ span cleanliness of the Ward makes a great effect of brightness doesn’t it?  You know, for I’m sure The Leicester Hospital was something like this, sunny & bright.

I am scribbling this seated in a comfy easy chair facing down the Ward.  I close my eyes & fancy you strutting along the centre between the neat cots; you are dressed in spotless white apron & the uniform of the Hospital.   

 * * * ‘Does Dodger depend  —‘  Oh! Jocks just been in  – with  the Chaplain of the Hospital;  Jock was the comedian who made us all roar with larfter at the entertainment this arfternoon.  ‘Does dear Dodger depend drastically— * * *

I came into the Ward this morning in time to go to this concert party of Miss Ashwells* held in the Dining Hall at 3.   Beautiful songsters, but I felt queersomelike when a man sang a patriotic song with appealing wordssort of practice what you preach sort of effect.  But I suppose he wanted to show his fine voice for the benefit of entertaining the sodjers eh! what? 

Jock could imitate a larf an’ no mistake, a fat little chap he was & he screwed up his nose & opened his mouth & wrinkles all over his fizog, but the effort did make him sweat.  I saw him mopping his brow with his handkerchief afterwards.—

* * * ‘Does dear Dodger drastically depend on his – –  (I can’t make a sentence of dees) pocket money – his weekly allowance –  for his contribution in parcels to his two bruvvers at the front eh! what!?

I enjoyed the chocolate while a listnin’ to the singin’.  There was a violinist, I mean the one who played a large violin – forgotten the name of it –  but although she was elderly she reminded me of  your picture ‘The Violin Player (5)you. 

Thye Violinist: mary neal Richardson (American) 1859 -1937.
THE VIOLINIST: Mary Neal Richardson (1859 -1937..

Have you, by the by, got a good collection of your favourite pictures – & framed?  

Tell Mummy I quite enjoyed the eggs & ate two this morning, without salt, with a few biscuits & they tasted so creamy like, beautiful –  and I’m sure they will do me good. 

Of course the sisters came to see the fun & oh! I saw the ‘ode sisters’ of No 6 Ward & guessed they’d be somewhat disgusted, if not surprised, on seeing me again.   I did make a mistake arter all aboot the ’eddin.  The trio [Red White & Blue] was not complete  – it is now for I have just had a clean red tie given me. 

When I was discharged from Hospital on Saturday I had to get all my togging on the Sunday kit & pack & ammunition & rifle etc.  All of it had to be handed in again this morning & my khaki clothing disinfected againSo particular they be here, although I had only been in Camp 2 days

Sergeant Wilkes (a teacher) (6) really thought I had gone to Blighty when I made my appearance in his tent on Saturday I will not buoy your hopes up falsely.  He said if I had stayed in Hospital & lingered over 4 weeks  I should have gone to Blighty automatically  – & a chap with the same sores on his legs (only) went to Blighty while I was in 6 WardI saw him go.  

Hush! Ida! scribble this out with the blackest dye of ink when you’ve read it:- I have endured toothache in the necknow don’t larf that is the best description of the pain of this boil on the back of me neck. For 4 nights running I have not had a whole night’s sleepJust like toothache & as bad too, for toothache does go away sometimes during the day, but this pain lasts all day & night as well. 

Dear Ida, I do believe in some sort of transformation (sic) of the minds of people, more especially of relatives (7). You understand my meanin’?  I mean that I have no doubt that you overlook my touch of chirpiness & can see in the depths of it all that my complaint is not all bluff .  

Vernon thought boils didn’t hurt, but I know now.  And there are so many cases among the men that one doesn’t get so much sympathyAnd dear Ida that is why I do not think for a moment now that I shall come Home through boils.   I hope to get up the line with Sydney & then there might be a chance of coming Home on Leave see, more than there is in here.  

Now methinks this letter is getting long for the  censor. It looks as if I shall have to enclose it in a green

Foden de-lousing 464Foden_WD_disinsector_3About my khaki suit being disinfected (8)  It is put in a steam chamber with some chemicals in the steam to kill the — never mind! 

Well I left a letter to Sydney in one of the pockets.  It was in answer to his I sent  you & in it was Mother’s lovely letter and yours.  I did want him to read them.  I did like to send you his to see how brother writes to brother.  It was indeed unique to get a letter sent to me with the triangular Field Postage stamp.  I knew t’was from Sydney when I saw it.  

Just another thing I should like to tell you & that is you would remember the good old days of the Pickwick Club (9) (when you read Miss Edith Evans’  letter I enclosed in Mother’s letter about the childrens’ party in the Cycle Shed, an annual affair? ) I mentioned the fact to Vernon about Sydney nicknamed Snodgrass

When you were in York did you see Mr Walker*?  By the by that reminds me, did you send him those Bible markers after all?  That is the question you will answer me in your long letter.  Oh!  but I suppose it is already on the journey now from the Little Grey Home in the West, from that little white table in the little white room of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (10).

Ta Ta.   I remain, dear Pickwick, your affectionate brother at the front.   

Winkle’.  (11)

PSS  Have you managed to get through this puzzle of a letter?  I have had several goes at smothering my nose in the delicate khaki fabric saturated with Whitby Heather Scent. 

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

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1)’Twiddly bits: Many additional comments tucked in margins/ as well a lots of underlining. (2) ‘Chirpy bits’: mixture of Black Country dialect & childhood language with lots of rhyming words, deliberate misspelling & alliteration:- e.g. scentiment (sentiment) of scent sent;  loike-like; th’ beginnin – the beginning; nicenurse-nice nurse; spick ‘n span – tidy/clean/in order/as new; sodjers – soldiers; larf/larfter – laugh/laughter;  arfternoon– afternoon; fizog – face; bruvvers – brothers; listnin‘/ singin/ meanin‘- listening/singing/meaning; ode – old; ‘eddin-heading; togging– uniform & kit ; unique – unusual; Ta ta – Goodbye.

(3) Woody: Ida’s nursing friend. (4Leicester Royal Infirmary, Infirmary Square, where Ida appears to have done basic training, 1914-1915.

(5) The Violin Player: Ida’s copy could be one by Joseph de Camp 1858 -1923 – or The Violinist. 1912Mary Neal Richardson (American) 1859 -1937. Both paintings would match Ida’s white bedroom.

220px-Edwin_Foden_1841-1911
EDWIN FODEN. 1841 -1911.

(6Serjeant Wilkes: the kind Serjeant referred to in Letter: 5th Sept. 1915. (7) Foden Compound Steam Engine/ Lorry adapted for De-lousing  & Disinfecting in WW1.  Edwin Foden, Sons & Coy Ltd :  British Truck & Bus manufacturer, based Sandbach, Cheshire. 1856.  [No connection with Foden Road, named after E.A. Foden, Lord Hatherton’s land agent, responsible for creating Walsall Arboretum 1871]. <http://www.steamscenes.org.uk&gt; Wikipedia. <http://www.1914-1918.invision.com&gt; Great War Forum Old Sweats description.

8)’Transference’ is the word Bertie means (probably not in the full 19th cent theory sense of ‘transference of thought from one person to another without the sensory / physical channels’) but his belief that Ida would understand his ‘chirpiness’ masked a real pain & his bitter disappointment at not getting a Blighty.

(9) Hibbett Pickwick Club (childhood club based on Charles Dickens‘ Pickwick Papers): begun at 106, Rowley St. in 1903 (before moving opposite to 95, Foden Rd). Aim: to collect interesting observations and report adventures.

*****  Sam Pickwick President: – Ida Hibbett.  EditorSam Weller – May Overend*. MEMBERSAugustus Snodgrass – Sydney Hibbett (8 yrs);  Tracy Tupman – Bertie Hibbett (7 yrs);  Sam Wardle  I. Cozens* (?); Nath Winkle – D. Cozens* (?) *****

10) Ida’s bedroom at 95, Foden Rd. (11) Winkle: Bertie has changed his Pickwick Club membership name.

(12) Crumps: German 5.9 inch shell or loud thudding sound as it burst. ‘the last crump’ meant the end of the War.

South Staffordshire BadgeeLANCE CORP SYDNEY HIBBETT & 1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

S.W. SLOPE OF HILL 60

7th Sept. Tue:  Enemy repairing parapets damaged by rainstorm, fired on at intervals during the night.  Between 11 am and 12 noon enemy fired six crumps (11) behind 35 and 36 supports and at 2.30 pm shelled West end of wood.  CASULATY: WOUNDED: 9784 Pte D. Hunt.

NEXT POSTS: 10th SEPT. 1915. 

23rd APRIL 1915. WULVERGHEM: ‘EXCITING TIME’ RATION FATIGUE & GAS ALERT!

GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT Dec.1915.
A CHRISTMAS GHOST:  GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT. Dec.1915.  ‘They rose suddenly from the earth,wearing  smoke helmets over their faces, and looking not like soldiers but like devils.’

SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE.  April 18th. Sun Practice in crossing barbed wire entanglements. Bn paraded for Trenches 7.20 pm. Casualties. Wounded: 8948 Pte C. Weaver, ‘C’ Coy wounded during relief.  83 02 Pte L. Benton ‘B’ Coy wounded while carrying rations. Now possible to visit all Trenches by daylight.

April 19th Mon.  WULVERGHEM Trenches.  Fired on German working party opposite 10b trench. Outburst of rapid fire from German trenches about 3.30 a.m. Two H.E. followed by two shrapnel fired at S.P.4 at 6.0 am. No damage. Casualty: 9468 Pte J.T. Stanley ‘C’ Coy wounded.
April 20th Tue.  Six rounds shrapnel fired by German artillery at 120a left. No casualties. Trenches  8 (Bertie’s) & 9 troubled by German sniping from MESSINES..
April 21st Wed.  Further sniping along 8 & 9 trenches. Casualties: 9199 Pte A. Walker; 8817 Pte R.W. Hempshall, both ‘A’ Coy, wounded. Two HE shells & two shrapnel  burst near & over SOUVENIR FARM about 1 pm. Casualty: Major J. Lees wounded.  6 H.E. shells fell in Wulverghem about 1.30 pm. 16  H.E. shells burst in & near Trench 9, doing much damage to parapet of 9b.  Working parties brought in & fire 10 rounds) opened on German Trenches at 10.30 pm.  Casualty: Pte Hounslow  ‘D’ Coy wounded (died later).
April 22nd Thur. Lt Cozens* & Pte Thorne exploded grenade in German Listening Post at 2.am and returned safely. Relieved by 1/6th South Staffs.  Marched to BULFORD CAMP. Fumes of asphyxiating gas caused smarting of eyes. Received warning to be prepared to embus at short notice. (1)
April 23rd Fri.  NEUVE EGLISE.  Bath & cleaning up. Working party of 200 men on G.H.Q. line. 8 – 12 midnight.
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Bertie in UniformPTE BERTIE HIBBETT LETTER to sister IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.                                                                                                            Friday April 23/ 15 (White envelope, Post Date 27th).

My Dear Sister,  

A simple address  –  I won’t say dearest or dear dear or very dear and couldn’t say darling!  Yet I guess that Sid and I love our only sister with infinite love & I find it difficult sometimes to keep it from sentiment, for we seem to love one another more when we are apart than when we are together at home, what say you? yet again I guess you often wish us to be at home again.

The censor is growing stricter.  I am afraid of letting you know in detail the exciting time we have had this week. 

We have not spent our time in the trenches but have been on fatigue carrying rations & other things to the trenches, making about 3 journeys each night.  Pretty exciting. (2)   Well I must keep this letter quite free from officialism.

The more you say or think your letters not good enough the more we like them.  Your last letters we received today are simply ripping and so homely and above all the letter from E. Overend* brings back old 106 New Rowley Rd Days (3).

The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905.
The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905: scribbled note amongst Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Letters.

Has the 13 years gone yet?  Where are the members of the Pickwick Club? (4)

October 1905. The Pickwick Magazine.  Editor: Sam Weller M.P.C. (M. Overend)

Motto: NIL  DESPERANDO (sic) (5)

Sam Pickwick PresidentI. Hibbett. Augs. Snodgrass MemberS. Hibbett. (8 yrs).  Sam Weller MemberM. Overend*. Tracy Tupman  Member – Bertie Hibbett (7 yrs). Sam Wardle Member I. Cozens(?). Nath Winkle MemberD. Cozens(?).

Has Dodger come back from his holidays yet? –  if not he is thoroughly enjoying himself?   Did all your ears burn ?  I mean those of Mother, Dad’s as well as yours, on Monday teatime? – because you can picture us in a ruined farmyard eating with enjoyment the sardines, butter & finishing off Mother’s currant bread.  Tell Mother the bread kept lovely & light, not dry in the least.  We get tins of butter now & again, but we preferred the butter from home with the currant loaf.

Don’t forget to try & send us one or two different photos of the family, especially a good one of MotherI have not one of Mother close to.  I hope Harold will get settled well at Bedale (6) rather a long way from Mother.  He will make a third one away won’t he?

Miss Foster would be greatly interested in what and where we are, so could you send her a Walsall paper now and again giving her a description of our experiences?  as I dare not say much in these letters.  You can tell the Overends* we QMS (7) boys manage to keep together most times.  Lucky isn’t it? 

I will finish this in the candle light.   Sid and I received a parcel of chocolates and parkin from Auntie* (8), so have you written to York then?

I could do with another towel.   Best love, Bertie.

PS I should like to say a lot  – what the censor will not allow but you will be patient won’t you & wait till we get home –  it is with regard to an officer I like very much indeed.  You will hear of him in the Walsall papers I dare say. (9)

Sid will tell you of the queer coincidences with regard to a parcel from good Mrs Penning*.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) ‘Fumes of asphyxiating gas’: April 22nd 1915 marked the first use of POISON GAS by the Germans on unprotected French troops at Ypres. Until I read Simon Jones‘ article in the Guardian (for 22nd April) that the smell of chlorine gas spread for ‘miles around’, I thought this 1/5th S. Staffs War Diary reference was to the fumes caused by exploding  Lyddite shells (see Sydney Hibbett’s letter to his sister, 24th April 1915).  Wulverghem is less than 8 miles from Ypres and the order to be ready to ’embus’ at short notice could well indicate poison gas alert.

My father’s drawing ‘A Christmas Ghost’ is included in his Christmas Letters of December 1915 – as if he had only just been issued with a ‘smoke helmet‘.

2Ration fatigues had to be made at night because of the danger from snipers.  Ration Farm,  (La Plus Douve) half a mile east of Wulverghem, south of road to Messines (Mesen) was most probably where Bertie met up with his brother after his absence in March.

(3) 106 New Rowley Rd, Walsall; where Hibbett family first lived in Walsall, before moving opposite to 95, Foden Rd. (4) The Pickwick Club seems to have been formed by Ida & Mollie or May Overend  for adventures and to share observations  – vis a vis Dickens’ novel Pickwick Papers. (More to come in 1916 Letters Home).

(5)Nil Desperandum – Never despair!  (6) Bedale, Yorkshire; Harold’s new post as Shop Manager, retail Chemist (cf.1911 Census)(7) QMS i.e. Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall. (8) Auntie Pattie (Pat) Yoxall/Neal? unable to trace on family tree/ possibly lived in north Manchester.

(8) Lieut Tim Cozens* see S. Staffs War Diary above 22nd April 1915. Also Walsall Observer for April 1915. 

NEXT POST: 24th April, 1915. Wulverghem Village: bombs, bullets & biscuits.