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5th FEB. 1915: LITTLE WALDEN ATTACK: TOFFEE & TUG ‘O WAR.

Decorative Heading for a Letter

1/5th Bn. SOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY*

4th  FEB.   Inspection by G.O.C.  N.M. Division to attack Little Walden 10.30 am (in conjunction with 1/6th Staffs Regt).

5th  FEB.  One Coy Bridging, one Coy Outpost, 2 Coys Fire Direction & Control at Audley End Park.

 Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

29 Gold Street, Saffron Walden

Feb 5 / 15.  Pay Night  8 pm

My Dear Mother,

I can taste the butter, & I do believe you’ve gone & put some eggs in it too, such a lovely flavour there is in the toffee – most delicious.  I offered Vernon some just before going on Parade on Thursday. He forgot his share & left it on the table.  I thought it was his but did not want to force it on to him.  He was quite put out that he had forgotten the toffee for he, two others and myself, as well as Corporal Sanger * in command, formed the advance guard in the attack (1) & the day  was lovely and bright and Vernon could just do with some toffee in his mouth.  He did enjoy the toffee when he got it and didn’t refuse some more when I offered him a second doseSyd also enjoyed it.

These two sheets have stuck. I thought it was all one. Are the socks for Syd or for me?  (Just finished my lump – I say its a long time since I started it!).

Leuy Cozens 1914
Lieutenant Tim Cozens.

I ‘tumbled’ across Lieut. Tim Cozens* (2) – no not tumbled, for I tried to give him a good salute & he simply beamed all over with smiles – didn’t say anything of course, but just raised his hand in reply.  He was carrying an ‘oddity of white’ on his shoulder (3) – something like a dirty clothes bag, Ha! Ha!  What eh! ‘naughty boy don’t let me hear you say that again!

You ought to have seen the orcifers (sic) playing at children this morning.  Well, Capt. Lister’s Company and Captain Moore’s Company(4) were out on their own while the Battalion went out on a Route March.  We went Bridge Building again.  The Colonel*(5) turned up to see us (must have come away from the March).  After Bridge Building the best runners out of each platoon had a Steeple Chase round the field – then we watched the officers trying to beat each other at Longest Jump.

Then how we roared with laughter when the two companies’ officers had a Tug of War.  ‘A’ Coy  won, down they all fell in the mud.  ‘A’ Coy. again, Hurrah!  ‘A’ Coy  won in the Steeple Chase too.  You should see our lanky Parr* leap and jump and oh when he plays at Tug of War! He got his coat off and hat too and set to work.  He showed off his ‘ganzy’ or cardigan, he has got a swanky one like the Colonel has got swanky pattees.   And oh! you really cannot imagine what our Lieut. Parr is like skipping, his long legs flying about.  Beg pardon, but he is a fine officer to be under & he supervised all the business of engineering in the way of bridge building this morning.

I say!  try and cash that PO. I heard the shops have stopped taking POs.  The Post Office will take ’em I believe.  Well try and see.  I am sending a 1915 half crown & a bran new 1915 sixpence for Basil.  Good of  you to suggest the idea of giving him the 6d before going in for the exam (6). To prevent breaking the good luck of that lucky 6d you can send 6d back if you wish.  I thought he would like a 1915 6d.  I too was rather surprised to see such new coin so early in the year.

I have been tempted to buy a lot of lovely postcards, some specially for your collection & I daresay you will like one or two for your bedroom mantlepiece.  I’m glad Okoo (7) shows you his PCs.  I cannot very well send you all the comic cards.  I find it a hard job which to send you.

Yes! Syd and I are feeling in the trim.  I am in high spirits (not wine) myself, but Syd has been either ill or in the dumps this last night or so.  He has just gone to get it cured at the ‘pictures’ tonight with Vernon & Eddie Hateley*.

Eddie Hateley was invited by Vernon that when he went to Walsall on Home Leave he was to go to Dundrennon House & have tea.  Well it turned out he went twice & sent Vernon some mince pies from them.  Oh! he’s had a really good time of it,  but it just shows, don’t it Mother –  Fancy going twiceBut Eddy is one of the best in the Company & I am so sorry he has to leave us, for he has been told off for ‘D’ Coy.  He is a Signaller like Syd, but more experienced & so it’s a good job Syd isn’t so experienced for I should also lose him.

You like the note & Ida likes the beau –  oh no I mean the bow (8) – that’s good, now I’m satisfied.  And you all enjoyed a Happy Sunday, that’s another good thing.  Yes Sid is coming home soon, so we are expecting & I shouldn’t be surprised if it’s free & on Saturday Feb 6th or next week but I don’t want to disappoint you or cause anxiety.  I just say what I’ve heard to fulfil the expressed desire you seem to put in your letters to us.

By the by I got the letter from Mother after I got the parcel. The letter posted on the 27th of Jan.  So funny, it seemed & the two letters – the one in the box & the one sent alone were as different in character as chalk & cheese.

What can I say next. Well all along I have tried to keep my letters short & far between, but alas!  I hope you look forward to them – that’s THE thing for I was disappointed when you expressed the lack of freshness & loss of being able to look forward to my letter, beg pardon.  I remember now – you Mother were the only exception. At any rate I hope I succeed in keeping you, as well as myself, in the pink of good spirits (not Hall’s wine this time) (9).

Now I have done it now – I shall have to try to fill this sheet or there will be a calamity (10) .

Ida you are catching me up, how dare you try to write such long and chatty letters like MINE, I don’t think.  And my word Mother, you have done more than your fair share of handwriting.  Alas! for human nature, it cannot keep to scheduled rules and ‘lipped’ promises even between the affections of members of the famillee (sic) what oh!

We,  Mother & I,  said we should both write once a fortnight. I daresay you guessed I was straining myself the week after I left home, my word what a long time it seemed before I could write to you.

Now I hope I have not missed anything out.  Keep well.  I dreamed a vivid dream about Dad one night – awful it was, dear, dear!

I remain your affec.    Bert.                 

PS  I never thought I could write such a lorng letter.  Never mind, as long as you can read it all’s well.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB 2009
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

* S. Staffords War Diary. Regimental Museum, Whittington Barracks, Lichfield. (1) Attack on Little Walden. (2) Lieut Tim Cozens, (former Sunday School Teacher at St Matthews, Walsall. (3) Lieutenant’s stripes. (4) ‘A’ & ‘C’ Coy respectively. (5) Colonel Crawley* (6Basil’s Junior Oxford Exam. (7) Basil’s nickname (& Dodger). (8) Staffs Brooch. (9Hall’s Wine: a tonic wine –  its ‘rich, revitalising power is evident to doctor and patient alike’. Find My Past website. (10) Started page 16. (On page 6 is written ‘5 has flown away’).

NEXT POST: 8th FEB. 1915:Night Trench Digging & Porridge on Foot.

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31st JAN. 1915: LUTON: TA Reading Room & ‘A’ Coy Firing Scores.

Bertie in Uniform
BERTIE HIBBETT 19 yrs.

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: First of Two LETTERS to Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall.

44 Cromwell Road, Luton. (1)

Sunday afternoon.  Jan 31/ 14 (sic).

My Dear Mother,

I just feel like writing to someone and now I come to think of it I have a great many letters to write to a great many people, but I prefer to write to you first.

Ha hem!  Tar Shar eh! (2) Well at any rate he’s top of all those in ‘A’ Coy. who joined since mobilisation.  An’ I shouldn’t be surprised if he don’ come out on the very top of all.

I will just put it in more schedule form of course.  The firing was a Regular Course and taken from Table ‘B’ Classification i.e. a Test to see what degree of efficiency each soldier attains.

First comes the Marksman who gains 130 or over, next comes the 1st  Class Shot who gets below 130 and above 105, then there is the 2nd Class down to 70.  Less than 70 comes the 3rd Class Shot.

Course of firing by untrained men of ‘A’ Coy: Marksman – 130 (nobody);  Sig. S. Hibbett  –  112, 1st Class; Corporal Page* – 1061st Class; Lance Corporal Bendall – 103 /4?2nd Class; Pte A.H.Hibbett  – 902nd Class.

Sid started with a full group (3) & you know I told you that Colonel Crawley* commended him. Sid would not tell me what he said.

Next day was fine but very cold, especially having to wait our turns.  Some played at ‘tick’, back to school days again.  Some had that most thrilling game of pick-a- back that Sid has told you of.  Most of us put on our great coats & sleeping helmets & mits.

Sid –  well I nivver – inspite of him firing with sleeping helmet on & oh! Miss Foster’s mitshe got 5 BULLS  – at the silhouette targets too – the most difficult test of all.  I shall have to tell Miss Foster that her mits are lucky, for the silhouettes are cut out like the shape of a man’s head & shoulders & painted a drab colour & stuck on a pole which is held up for, I think, not more than 5 secs & down it goes.  A hit counts a bull – the alternative is a miss.

I watched Sid with great excitement firstwhich is the most anxious shotHe got a bull, then another bull would come, until the 4th was a bull again.  At the 5th shot I got equally anxious as the first for I wanted him to get 5 & so he did.  Hurrah! 

Poor Sid  then had to undergo another ordeal – this time our Capt. Lister* had a word with him.  When I got back to my billet everyone was talking of Sid.  “There’s a stripe for him” one said.  (I was only just thinking – coming “home” from Church  – Sid comes of age this year).

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well so much for shootingI hope you have all spent a quiet & happy Sunday.  I was just thinking  of Rev. Darling*.  I did not send him a Christmas Greeting.  Never mind, now you’ve got a servant you can, if you like, have him to tea sometime.

I am spending a very quiet Sunday afternoon in writing you this letter in Sid’s billets. Vernon & he are nestled down asleep on the floor.

I went to the Parish Church at the 11 service, being no parade, & the sunlight did make the Church Choir look grand – white lilies & red flowers adorned the altar, which has not got a cross but a beautiful painting of the Last Supper.

After the service, in which we had Hymns No:- 351,565, 546, 525 (in Church Hymnal (4) so Dad can play them) I went to have a look round in the Someries Chapel, just been restored.  There, there is a most beautiful Communion altar with Reredos & silver Cross. 

Wenlock Luton 1915
Stained Glass window of Sir John Wenlock, Parish Church of St Mary, Luton.

Tell Ida.  I was shown the tomb of the Archbishop of York’s Mother in the reign of Edward IV & that of Lord Wenlock, a Yorkshire squire (5).          

The Widow of Sir Julius Wernher* has a beautiful name:- Dame Alice (Wernher) and she has given a Bible & fitted the Chapel with every accommodationThe Archbishop of York in Edward IV reign had residence near Luton (6).

On Sat. night I went to see what this Territorial Reading Room, in the New Bedford Road, is like.  It was there when I left Luton at first.  I had not been in before.

I say  wouldn’t it be simply “Topping” if we had a large enough house, that we could afford to make a library or back room into a room where the soldiers can enjoy recreation & reading.  Well that is what a generous private person has done with one of his rooms.  I walked up the steep winding gravel path until I came to the French window & on looking in I saw no one.  I entered & tapped a door to enquire if the use of the room was free.  Yes, was the answer the housemaid gave, so I sat down and read about Kitchener & looked at the pictures on the wall.

WW1 Kitchener
Field Marshall Herbert Kitchener. 1850 -1916.
John Jellico Admiral of the Fleet.
John Jellico Admiral of the Fleet.

Ida, it was just like our ‘Top Attic Study’ but most beautifully coloured portraits of Kitchener & Jellicoe (6) & the other generals & flags 9th Nov 1914 smallover the fireplace & along the walls.  Games of draughts etc, writing material & magazines of all kinds.  All of the above were neatly laid in piles on the forms and tables.

Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke. 1848-1916.
WW1 Kluck
Alexander von Kluck. 1846-1934.

I had a look at the Times’ ‘History of the War’ and noticed – (well I had never noticed before) how vulgar are the countenances of the German orcifers (sic) Von Moltke (7), Von __, Von __,  Von Kluck (8) – all have got double chins, ugly flat noses, horrible dishevelled hair, broad hard faces. So different from the other nations (9).

Marshall Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre
Marshall Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre. 1852-1931.
Sir John French
Field Marshall, 1st Earl of Ypres.

 

 

 

 

I read your last letter, with deep interest, on the Range last Wed or Thursday, between the turns.  But I cannot but admit that when I got to know what a fuss the P. C. caused I felt very M____ble (10).

Dear Mother, I could give you all I get excepting just say 1/- for fear of a question from the Captain.  I noticed your paper was getting short when I was on Home LeaveI know you like some good note to write on.  Well here’s some for your very self.  You will not very well be able to rip the sheets in two, as you generally do with the ordinary leaf note.

I thought of your advice to save my money.  Well I went and got a 2/- P.O. intending to send it home, but I had to break into it at the end.  Never mind I will send some home next week. If anything happens to me then it will be a “little” help to you.

I admired Ida’s dress when I was at home & ‘eyed’ the dainty ‘blouse’ with its pretty red, white & blue ‘border,’ so I could not resist going & buying what I thought a pretty knot to match the blouse.  Staffordshire Regt. Brooch. Should Ida not like it, then I think Miss Mary Overend* should have it,  for she has been very good to us in sending chocs etc.

What does Basil do on Saturday & Sunday afternoons now?  Bless him.  I do hope he will manage to get through (exam) without injuring his health. Does Harold often come & see you at weekends?  When I send him a P.C. I often wonder whether to send it to home or his Wol’ton place (11).  Does he show you the P.Cs I send him?

Have I told you that we have had good meals here, no two dinners alike – change every dayMilk pudding to-day, being Sunday.  Am having a glass of hot milk for my supper.

If you would like a tie like the one I sent for Miss Foster* (I sent it to you to have a look at it, for it was your idea & I hope you mentioned it to Miss Foster. I shall in my next letter).  I say if you want another tie (I can’t get one like yours) just write by return & I will get one before we leave Luton on Tuesday Feb. 2/ 15.

Is there anything else?  Not as I know of yet.  Got some P.Cs in store for future use & your collection. Field firing begins next week at Dunstable, when we shall take billets.

Yours affec.        Bertie

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB 2009
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB.

(1Sydney’s Billet next door. New Year  date wrong again. (2)’Ta Sha’ (Staff’s dialect –  meaning ?) (3) ‘Group’: See 26th Jan. (4) Must mean English Hymnal, 1906. (19th Cent. research – Medieval plainsong & celebration of Saints). See Robert Alwell Article.  http://www.englishhymnal.co.uk and http://www.stmary’sprimrosehill.com. 

(5) Hibbett interest in Yorkshire history (grandparents’ home). i) Edward IVth 1461-1470 & 1471-1483. 1st Yorkist King (eldest son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York) granted Luton estates to ii) Archbishop  of York, Thomas Rotherham (formerly Bishop of Lincoln – brother iii) John Rotherham became Lord of Manor of Luton  Hoo, 1476).  ivLord William Wenlock d.1471 (fought for both Yorkists & Lancastrians in Wars of Roses; Knight of Bedfordshire; Speaker 1455 Parliament). Wenlock Chapel, St Mary’s Parish Church, Luton).

(6) Earl John Jellicoe, Admiral of the Fleet 1914 -1916. Governor of New Zealand, 1920-1924. (7) Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke, Chief of German General Staff, 1906 – 1914(8) Alexander von Kluck, German General.. (9) iMarshall (Papa)Joffre 1852-1931. French General; iiSir John French. Anglo-Irish Officer, British Army(10PC re Monday’s ‘bad scoring’? (11) Woverhampton abbrev.

NEXT POST: 31ST JAN. 1915: 2nd Letter with a FOR LUCK Note.