Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mrs. A. HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.
Photograph of St Mary’s Church from Windmill Hill, SaffronWalden. We have often been up and down this road & went up trench digging that night when you went home. I thought of a lot of things I should like to have told you and shown you.
I trust you had a safe journey, all dark I guess, but what a lot in a carriage compartment& I hope the early hour of arrival at home was not uncomfortable (2).
Has Harold been home for the weekend ? The weather has been simply glorious, bright blue sky all day. If it wasn’t for Sunday how happy it would have been if Dr Utting* (3) could have motored down to take you back.
We, Sid and I went to Holy Communion this morning, so pleasant & sunny. The Church was almost full of soldiers and our Chaplain had to say the Prayer of Consecration a good many times.
Mrs Evans* invited us to dinner, but could not get tables, we walked from place to place. So Sid & I had dinner at No 29 – very good too & had the sweets Mrs Penning had got ready for fear Mrs Evans would dine at her house. They all went into the country, – I think to Bishop’s Stortford for their dinner.
Well, I won’t rob Sid of the chance of writing to you, but will close now. But not without thanking Ida again for her very, very ‘nice’ letter. I think she tried her best, as I did, to make the farewell letters real good ’uns.
Sydney had a flint lighter for cigarettes & I had a handsome little wooden mirror from Mrs Evans. I think I will leave the rest for after evening service tonight.
8.30 pmI went to hear our Chaplain tonight at the Parish Church. I saw our Major Raimes* on coming out. He was about to put his hat on while in 3 or 4 yards of the Church door & suddenly bethought himself.
I took Nell, the dog, a walk this lovely afternoon & on coming back through the churchyard I met Mr & Mrs & Mr. Machin*.
I should have liked Sid to have gone tonight, but he was talking with the Evans in the front room. Vernon’s people go back Monday morning I did not go right through to the front door, but just appeared at the kitchen door & went out at the back.
As I was going down the street I suddenly remembered my Prayer Book was in the front room, but I would not turn in & so for some long time I have missed my fond prayer book. I took it to Holy Communion this morning & saw your writing on the front page:– “Be thou faithful unto death & I will give you a crown of life”. I noticed ‘Feb. 1911’ particularly in the bottom left hand corner and now it is Feb. 1915. I used it at Confirmation Classes, so the book has made a little history of its own.
Hymns: ‘O Jesus I hear thee speaking in accents clear and still‘. Eternal Father & 277 A & M. (4). I will wait for Sid to write a line.
God bless you Mother,
I remain Bert.
NBYou see I have tried hard to keep this letter short – alas! alack! alack!
PS Hoping Basil poor chap is better.
(1) S(unda)Y. (2) Bertie’s parents had come down by train for the day only.Vernon Evans’ parents stayed until Mon 22nd Feb. Alan Machin‘s parents, and no doubt a good many others from Walsall, also came to say goodbye to their sons. (3) Family Doctor & Friend, whose Church Warden duties kept him in Walsall on Sundays.
(4) Hymns Ancient & Modern. 1915 version. First a line from the Hymn ‘O Jesus I have promised’. J.E.Bode. 1816-1874; then ‘Eternal Father strong to save‘. W. Whiting. 1860; and 277 ‘Nearer my God to thee’. Sarah Flower Adams. 1841.
NAMES * Info. pending on Major A.L. Raimes.
NEXT POST: 21ST FEB.1915. FAREWELL POSTCARDS to Ida & Basil Hibbett.
1st FEB.Audley End Park, bayonet fighting, J.D. (1) night entrenching abandoned at 3.0 am, rain. Musketry Party at Luton, Kit Inspection & Interior Economy . 1 officer & 29 casuals (sick men) returned from Luton.
2nd FEB. Musketry Party marched from Luton to Dunstable: preliminary instructions overground in Field Firing, men billeted.
3rd FEB. Field Firing at Dunstable. 14 officers & 518 men returned to Saffron Walden.
4th FEB. Inspection by G.O.C. N.M.Division to attack Little Walden 10.30 am (in conjunction with 1/6th N. Staffs Rgt).
SIG. SYDNEY HIBBETT: POSTCARD to Mr. & Mrs HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall, Staffordshire.
Tuesday. 3rd Feb.1915.
Here we are in Dunstable.
We marched here from Luton at 10.am – here by 11.30 – carrying full pack and blankets. Billetsnot ready for us – so we marched through to see the N. Staffs finishing their advance.
Men were posted on all the roads to stop people whilst the bullets hailed over the countryside. Could see the thin khaki line advance drop down & a rapid fire open.
We then advanced over their ground about 2milesand lor!! The muck and chalk!! – lying down in it and plastered all over. We were just practicing for tomorrow (2).
Shall return to Saffron Waldeneither Wednesday or Thursday night.If raining hard tomorrow no firing.
Been very wet today & a strong gale. Hope to be home for next weekend.
Love from Sydney.
From February 1915 onwards, Pte Bertie’s Letters Home will be set against the activities recorded in South Stafford’s Regimental War Diary. (See Welcome Page). (1)J.D.- Joint Division. (2) Attack on Little Walden.
NEXT POST:5th FEB. 1915: Training Audley End, Saffron Walden.
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT ‘A’Coy : Christmas Letter to Mrs Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd, Walsall.
29, Gold Street, Saffron Walden. Sunday Night/ 14
My Dear Mother,
I can very well guess that you would so much like to know how we spent Christmas. Well I could write a still longer letter but – – –
To begin with Sydney, the 4th(1) and myself went to Holy Communion at 7. am on Christmas Day.The Service was not Choral and we did not have evenoneChristmas Hymn. I always like to start Christmas Day with a Carol – but at any rate the Church was decorated most beautifully, red, green and white flowers & leaves, large white chrysanths.
When we returned we were too late for Parade & we wanted our breakfast, but we were told beforehand that we should be excused Parade.
I should think few of ‘A’ Coy. went on Parade for they were nearly all at Communion.
Nearly all of the communicants were soldiers too, and the sight of all the khaki going out of the Church really seemed peculiar after such a festival. Yes – Christmas Eucharist – Wartime – Soldiers – I can only explain it like the above – the thoughts that passed through my mind just at the time.
The Colour Sergeant wanted helpers at the Cookhouseto peel the potatoes for the dinner. All four of us in No 29 went down and set to work and so we missed the ordinary civilian’s service we, at least I, had intended to go to.
The authorities did their little best to make the Christmas Dinner as jolly & as pleasant as possible. The soldiers decorated the room & I saw the paper decorations I had made while ‘on sick’ as a fatigue duty.
The tables were set beautifully with plenty of plates piled with fruit and nuts. The courses were turkey, goose, beef and plum pudding & crackers; mineral waters, ale, stout & wine were laid on the tables.
A short sing-song was given after dinner. I must not forget to say that the Colonelcame in to give us his good wishes & the Majorhoped that we should all spend next Christmas at home. We all bawled out for the Colonel ‘And he’s a jolly good fellow’. The Captain waited upon us & his wife was present too.
A supper was given at 8 o’clock but we Four didn’t go. I should have gone to hear Carols at the Parish Church if I could have made certain there were any.
I must not by any means miss telling you about the Hamper, although I have mentioned it once before in Ida’s letter. Sydney wanted to open it before the Day but managed to keep patient. We were both eager to open it & did so just after breakfast (the box arrived on Thursday).
Well, poor Ida, – we’ve robbed her of her favourite nuts and raisins& we’ve given you, dear Mother a lot of trouble I am certain in making that pork pie. We broke into it on Boxing Day for dinner – very good, really it was, & will be for we have not eaten it all yet. We poked into the dates, the figs and cracked the nuts and cried Yule!
Oh! THE JELLY! I thought it was a pot of jam, what a joke.Boxing Day tea-timeI turned the pot upside down & emptied the flobly-flobly on to a plate. I offered some to Vernon and in so doing the jelly – what did it do? but rolled the length of the table! I managed to place it onto the plate once more.
The lemon jelly was very lovely.Then the mince pies – well – they too were and are & will be very tasty, either hot or cold & I am like you mother, I like them hot.
And what next was it that Basil couldn’t count and tell me what was coming? I don’t believe he could have done so even if he were allowed to break the secret, but I must thank you for everyone (thing) and name them as I go along — next comes the Chocolate – Rowntrees, that’s good – poor Ida again – we’ve nearly eaten them all now – shall I send just one back home?
– that reminds me of the little slice of turkey that you are going to send. How laughable. Shall we see it walking in to No 29? I remember well the samples you sent to Idalast Christmas (2).
One thing we have not yet touched & that we mean to break into on Ida’s Birthday & to remember her while eating it – ‘remember our sister who was born on Holy Innocents Day’ – I remember you saying something like that last Christmas. It has really grieved me that I feared the letter I wrote on Boxing Day night will perhaps be too late to let Ida get my wishes.
I wish you Mother to understand that sometimes when writing my letters there is a musical instrument pegging away & sometimes a vocalist accompanying it&so please excuse any funny sentences you may come across. Eddy Hateley, the one who makes up the Four,obtains (?) that article of charming musical talent.
We have tried to make the billet as much like home as possible; all the cards adorn the mantelpiece. The landlady has had a fire in the front room for three days now.
Sydney and I have been to the Parish Church tonight. We had the same Carols as the Parade had this morning, excepting one – ‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night’. The Service started with a Processional, ‘Hark the Herald Angels ‘; the other two were ‘Once in Royal’ and ‘Nowell’, my favourite. These three we had this morning with ‘As with gladness men of old’. So I have heard some Carols after all.I thought I should spend Christmas without hearing a Carol (sung well).
I am afraid this letter is getting as long as some before. I will, if you don’t mind, finish this to Ida.
I will just thank you, for it is worth doing so again, for the cards from both you and Father – very nice and appropriate words indeed.
Oh, by the by, that reminds me (3)– I forgot whether I wrote on the cards I sent you, in the fat letter with the parcel, who each of them was for. The Christmas Snow view was for you Mother & the one with the Ship for Basil.
Best love, Bertie.
My father loved Christmasand made it a very special time for us all at Home and at Church (St Vedast, Tathwell, Louth in Lincolnshire 1936 – 1954).
Many of his favourite things are described in these Christmas Letters of 1914: the way he wanted to celebrate Christmas; the Carols he liked best; the decorations and the Christmas food he most enjoyed.
1) Eddie Hateley was one of the Four at 29, Gold Street. Saffron Walden. (2) Christmas 1913: Ida was away training at Leicester Royal Infirmary (?).(3) A characteristic little turn of phrase, which brings my Dad so clearly to mind.
NEXT POSTS: 28th Dec. 1914. Letter to Ida on her Birthday.
A SPECIAL POST: 28th Dec. 1914: CHRISTMAS TRUCE 1915.
The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.