Tag Archives: Saffron Walden

28th FEB.1915: 1/5th S. STAFFORDS: ‘OFF AT LAST’.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY


26th Feb.  Inspection by G.O.C 1/5th Staffs Infantry Brigade at Audley End Park.  

27th & 28th Feb. Packing up & Handing over of 2/5 Bn.   S. Staffs Rgt. (1)  Signed: R.R. Raymer, Major Comdg 1/5 South Staffs Rgt.

Bertie in Uniform

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT Postcard to Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

Feb. 28th 1915.

Victtory to our Arms.

Well dear Mother, we are off at last so we all believe  – & expect to go at 1.40 tonight. (2)

What with taking in blankets & attending lectures & rifle inspection I have found time to go to Church up to sermon time.

We left at the last verse of ‘Eternal Father hymn for those at sea‘ (3).  Chaplain* in khaki. Brownlow*(4) read lesson.

Best Love,      Your affect. Son,      Bert.


SYDNEY HIBBETT 20 in 1914.
20 in 1915.

Signaller SYDNEY HIBBETT: Postcard to Mr & Mrs Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

Sunday 8 pm.

Audley End.
Audley End House, Saffron Walden.

Dear People,

We move off at 1.00 am tonight & we shall be probably in France by Tuesday D.V.

We had a very good sermon from the Chaplain this morning.  No towns mentioned from now on.  Feeling very fit. Kaiser has had a bad night thinking of the Staffords coming.

Hold on to my pants & I must be sending a few more things home.

Love,  Syd.



(12/5th Bn  South Staffs Rgt.  i.e. ‘Reserves’: a new Territorial Battalion/ not going abroad. (2) i.e. 1st March 1915. (3) W. Whiting, 1860. (Tune: Revd.J.B.Dykes). (4) Brownlow: info pending.

NB To suit the occasion Bertie sends a picture of Brittania & his best writing in ink.

Bertie's best writing.

NEXT 2  POSTS: 1st March 1915. Southampton Quay.



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

 21st Feb 1915Photograph of  St Mary’s Church from Windmill Hill, Saffron WaldenWe 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.   

29 Gold Street,  Saffron Walden.  S.Y. (1) Feb 21 / 15

My Dear Mother,

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 pm  I 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. 1915I 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,

Marie Neal Hibbett 53 in 1915
Marie Neal Hibbett 53 in 1915

I remain Bert.

NB  You 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. (3Family Doctor  & Friend, whose Church Warden duties kept him in Walsall on Sundays.

(4) Hymns Ancient & Modern. 1915 version. First a line from the HymnO 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.




3rd FEB.1915: DUNSTABLE FIELD FIRING: S.Staffs War Diary.

Decorative Heading for a Letter
South Staffords Rgt. Badge. AHH. Feb. 1915.


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).


SYDNEY HIBBETT 20 in 1914.
20 in 1915

SIG. SYDNEY HIBBETT: POSTCARD to Mr. & Mrs HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall, Staffordshire.

Tuesday. 3rd Feb.1915.

Dear People,

Here we are in Dunstable.

We marched here from Luton at 10.am – here by 11.30 – carrying full pack and blankets. Billets not ready for usso we marched through to see the N. Staffs finishing their advance. 

Dunstable PC Feb. 1915

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 2 miles and lor!! The muck and chalk!!lying down in it and plastered all over.  We were just practicing for tomorrow (2)

Shall return to Saffron Walden either 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.

27th Dec. 1914: Saffron Walden: An Army Christmas.

Bertie in Uniform
Bertie Hibbett. 19 in 1914.

Pte BERTIE  HIBBETT ‘A’Coy :  Christmas Letter to Mrs Marie Neal Hibbett, 95 Foden Rd, Walsall.    

53 in 1914.

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 even one Christmas 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.

ST MARY the VIRGIN, Saffron Walden, Essex. 1914

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 festivalYes – 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 Cookhouse to peel the potatoes for the dinnerAll 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 nutsThe 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 Colonel came in to give us his good wishes & the Major hoped that we should all spend next Christmas at homeWe 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 patientWe 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-time I 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 ChocolateRowntrees, 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 Ida last 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 acrossEddy 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 Christmas and made it a very special time for us all at Home and at Church (St Vedast, Tathwell, Louth in Lincolnshire 1936 – 1954).

St Vedast Church, Tathwell, Louth, Lincolnshire
St Vedast Church, Tathwell, Louth, Lincolnshire.

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 (?).(3A characteristic little turn of phrase,  which brings my Dad so clearly to mind.

NEXT POSTS: 28th Dec. 1914. Letter to Ida on her Birthday.