Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: Ward 6. No 9. General Hospital: LETTER to MOTHER, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall, forwarded on by Ida to 7, Victoria Square, Whitby. (1). In Red White & Blue. Sunday Aug 22/15
My Very Dear Mother,
Today is Sunday & I have just come back from a beautiful little service inside a tent. Neat little chairs, & neat little forms, scrubbed white, a beautiful little altar covered with a nice plain green cloth. On the altar was laid a beautiful brass cross, & vases in which were some lovely white flowers.
A soldier in khaki rang ‘The Bell’, which was in the form of a bar of iron & to make it ring the soldier smote it with a wooden hammer – quite a good imitation. Then in came some patients in Royal Blue suit, white shirts & wearing scarlet ties, just like me. Yes, in Red, White & Blue, the Hospital Dress. Then soon after, a few nurses (Sisters we call ’em) came & sat down in the chairs, they looked so ‘spick an’ span’ in their caps & aprons so perfectly white. Then in came the organist or rather a nurse who sat down to a fine piano. Then the clergyman, a very gentlemanly M.A., no bombast at all about him. He walked up the aisle to his little stained wooden desk & prepared the service.
Then a whole party of R.A.M.C. Soldiers in khaki came in & we had a good few, ‘a handsome little muster of souls’ altogether. A nice motley of colour – to see the scarlet copes of the Sisters, the hood of the priest, the green & white of the altar, the blue of the patients’ uniform & the khaki of the R.A.M.C.
The service started with that glorious old Hymnal March ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ (2). I think of Sydney when I think of this hymn now, praying that he may go ‘Onward’, while he is the indirect cause of me resting here.
The sermon was good & just right for the congregation, about prayer, why some are not answered. Then the climax of the service came, after the sermon we had that hymn reminding me so much of your dear daughter & my affectionate sister.
The Sister at the piano played exquisitely & we all joined in the anthem tune of ‘As pants the hart for cooling streams’ (3) & a sweet voice from one of the Sisters sent me back to the memories of Ida as a nurse.
I spoke of resting here. Well as a matter of fact we have work to do. Just a bit of light duty in the way of house wifery. I was orderly one day, but owing to vaccination & the irritation of sores round the ankle Sister put me on ‘The Bright Things’, as she calls the dinner tins & trays & milk cans.
Well isn’t it funny Mummy, you said I was fond of brightening, when I mentioned Sydney’s bayonet. Well I of my own accord cleaned a dozen or more rusty knives (included in the bright things) which looked as if they had never been cleaned for half a century. Yes Mummy your painstaking & care will – & always will leave a trace in the family.
I was told to pick up all the rockeries around the front of the hut & put them beautifully straight again. Well here again, you can tell the reflection of your nature upon mine – I scrubbed all the stones, they looked so dirty & the result gained great commendation from the Senior Sister.
I will close now. Hoping again that you are enjoying a sunny Sunday like it is here, all together & another nice evening’s walk. I can picture the calm sea & sunset of a Sunday’s evening.
Mum, you know I like bread butter pudding, well I had a second serving for Sunday’s dinner & it was so nice, with currants & large sultanas in & custard on TOP, poor Sydney. I hope to rejoin him soon & be proud to live the campaign through, yet above all how nice it would be if Home Leave would buck up in coming eh Mum.
Best love, Bertie.
PS It takes a week for a letter to come from England. So if you wrote last Sunday afternoon I should not get the letter till tomorrow Monday. I went to the 6.30 Holy Communion this morning too in the tent. You can let Ida read this letter if you like. I addressed this Home, as I guess you will be home in a week’s time, the length of time this letter will take. (1)
(1) This Letter only took 3 days instead of Bertie’s expected week so Ida forwarded it on to Whitby.
(2) 19th Cent. Hymn: Onward Christian Soldiers. Sabine Baring Gould. 1865. Music: Arthur Sullivan. 1871.
(3) Anthem: As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams. George Frederick Handel (5 versions 1713 -1738, for use in Chapel Royal). Words (based on Psalm 42) attributed to John Arbuthnot, 1667 -1735. Scottish physician, mathematician and political satirist, (John Bull series).
SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY shows Lance Corporal Sydney Hibbett still in Reserve Camp.
20th – 22nd Ouderdom ‘F’ Hutments, Divisional Reserve.
NEXT POSTS: Apologies for late posting of Letters dated 22nd, 25th, 26th, 29th & 30th AUGUST 1915. (I needed a walking break in the Lake District and will be back to original post dates by end of August).