20th June, Sun. Hostile aeroplane over trenches about 5.30 am. Quiet day. Demonstration at 11.30 to ascertain enemy’s strength. Artillery fired 2 salvos, 2 burst of rapid fire opened with interval of ten minutes. Impression that enemy’s trenches more weakly held than usual. CASUALTY: Pte. B. Lakin wounded.
PTE BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall
3rd Sunday after Trinity June 20 / 15
My Very Dear Mother,
‘O anxious one! Sit still at Jesus’ feet, In quiet there thou hearest words so sweet.’ Very beautiful, comforting & soothing are those verses by Bessie Porter (1). Yes they are all full of Mother, as I said in my letter after Mothering Sunday. They also apply to me. I have thought of a quaint coincidence. I must ‘stand still’ on Sentry & you must ‘sit still’ at Home. I have just read them over again they are so fine.
You got the pamphlet from the case of Bibles. You were so generous as to call it mine. I am half sorry that you sent it, but really such a poem helps wonderfully in my life away from home. Yes we must ‘sit still’ – not so literally speaking though. I shall guess rightly if I say that your letter on the 16th Wednesday afternoon (when you said Ida was cutting the grass & it is nearly teatime) was sent posthaste to the General (PO), for I noticed the post mark – 5.15 pm 16.
So naughty Sidney, besides disappointing you with saying we shall move to ‘hotter quarters’, will tend to make you more anxious, but ‘Be not impatient, but in stillness stand’ & again ‘leave it in His wise hands’. (2). He can work the impossible. Yes none of us on earth can actually tell when this War will be over. Peace can come any time, sooner or later. Let us pray that Peace will come soon.
Now I must say how sorry I was for not addressing my letters to you more often, but you know dear Mother, who said in her short address that Sunday afternoon (sunny as this is) to the girls in the Sunday school, ‘Let our minds be as broad as the skies’ (3) & you will have noticed that I mention you in most of them. I must apologise too for not letting you know that I have got your two pencils now, the one made in Manchester, called the ‘Popular copying’ and the yellow B pencil. I am writing with the ‘Popular’ one now.
We had our rest this morning after doing Listening Post in the new place last night. So I spent some of the time in reading the Psalms & I again pictured you in St Paul’s. I can remember some of the chants now (4).
Now I will have my say with regard to Home leave. We heard that Capt L. (5) & the Adjutant* had gone yesterday, Sat. so your words came true. Our Platoon Commander seems to have an idea the privates will not get Home Leave for some considerable time, but it is not improbable that the NCOs will have Home leave after the officers & then there will be four men out of each Company go each day.
Oh rumours have been quite at large lately, but we, (Sydney & I) have thought it wisest not to alarm you & get you disappointed for fear we do not go home (6). Brewin* also had a curious letter saying they expected him coming home with Capt. L. & W. (7).
Well I will close now, hoping you are spending a very Happy Sunday together.
I can picture you all at tea. Sydney & I are going to have some of that nice tea from Home today.
Best love from Bertie.
PS On Saturday morning we had a celebration of Holy Communion out in the open field. The Chaplain wore his surplice & purple stole & the altar was a lovely little one with cross & cloth complete. What interested me were three little children, as quiet as mice, playing together without the circle of men in khaki (8). After the Eucharist we had an ordinary service when the Chaplain gave a very useful address upon the Gospel for the 2nd Sunday in Trinity about the feast (9).
I am finishing this letter about 6.o’clock. I have been digging a communication trench all afternoon & thought of you about 4.30 at tea. We are waiting to be relieved by the next (digging) party so that we can go & have our teas & I can enjoy some tea from home. We were paid last Thursday so I got a tin of milk from a stall outside camp. Shall you go to Rushall (10) this lovely evening? I read that Mrs Jones* went to St Paul’s one Sunday.
PS I shall have quite a number of headings to letters this week. Tues. ‘Summer Commences’. Wed. is ‘Prince of Wales Coming of Age’.
Censor WE Wright.
(1) Bessie Porter: Elizabeth Ann Porter Head. 1850 -1936. b. Belfast. Evangelical Hymn writer/ secretary to YWCA. Refs on the web to ‘O anxious one…’ state origin unknown, so thanks Dad. (2) ‘Be not impatient’: my father implies this is also by Bessie Porter.
(3) Mrs Kathleen Brookes. Walsall Sunday School superintendent. (4) Anglican Chant grew from Medieval Plainsong tradition during Reformation. Devised to provide musical settings to English language version of Psalter in Book of Common Prayer. 1662. ‘Matches natural speech-rhythms to notes in a simple harmonious melody‘ (Wikipedia). Earliest known are by Thomas Tallis 16th Century. Used by Christian denominations world-wide. Under the influence of his father, Arthur Hibbett, organist & music teacher, my father loved both Plainsong and Anglican chant.
(5) Captain Lister*. (6) Home Leave: in the event, NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) Sydney Hibbett did not get Home Leave until hospitalised with jaundice in Autumn 1915. Private Bertie Hibbett never had Home Leave the whole of his Active Service (i.e. 17 months) and probably not until hospital discharge in Spring of 1917.
(7) W: W.E. Wright: adjutant? /censor of most of the 1/5th Staffords Letters. (8) Bulford Camp, Neuve Eglise attracted local people (& their children) eager to sell wares to soldiers. (9) St Luke 14.16. (10) Rushall Church, an evenings walk from 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
NEXT POST: 23rd JUNE 1915.