Tag Archives: Shell Shock.

5th JUNE 1915: ‘SOMEHOW I DON’T FEEL QUITE HAPPY’.

 South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE. 

5 th June, Sat. In Hutments, Bulford Camp. Proceeded to Trenches in relief 6th Souths.

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

IDA HIBBETT VAD Nurse.
IDA HIBBETT VAD Nurse. 27yrs.

Saturday May June 5th / 15.

My Dear Sister Ida,

I have addressed this to you for a reason, I should not like Mother to know, but I know you will take it in a stronger light.

Somehow I don’t feel quite happy; what causes it puzzles me.  Whether it was the bananas that spoiled all the lovely contents of the parcel; whether it was because I’ve had to borrow got no paper of my own to acknowledge the topping comforts & had to borrow this from Vernon who is lying with me on the grass listening to the army band playing waltzes – whether it’s because the latter is somewhat sentimental music or what. Could it be homesickness?

How its come about I don’t know, but there it is.  Perhaps it is very likely with regard to acknowledging this ripping parcel with topping comforts.  So I will set my pencil to work – not my pencil there it goes again, its a borrowed pencil –  Ah perhaps its because I keep writing to you to send so many articles.  Syd(ney), I at any rate, was looking forward to this parcel & was anxious about its coming when we shall be in the trenches.

Good – how delighted I felt when I saw Dad’s writing on the familiar & usual shape of the hamper.  So we shall be able to enjoy the pineapple apricots and cream in the Listeners’ Lounge. Not just because the things are good in themselves, but they will remind us & fill our thoughts of home as well as fill our tummies.

Now in my last letter to Mum on King George’s Day I said when I would write the next & would enclose it in green envelope, so no references to the army.

Mrs Evans, as Vernon has told me, in every letter she writes to him,  wishes to be remembered to Sydney & me.  Vernon said he got quite tired of repeating her wishes,in fact he admitted he had missed more than once to convey them to us.  What had we both better do, putting it frankly and squarely?  I was in puddle (sic) & made myself foolish, I could not find words in response to Mrs Evans kind wishes.  The question arises – shall we write?  Sydney, I guess you trust, has acknowledged her fine box of King Edward Chocolates.

Tea now.  We must arise & then I will put to you another puzzling personal what do you call it.  See how adjusted I am, I can’t write properly today.  There’s another ten minutes yet so I can go on for that length of time.

The Curate* I told you sent me a very nice letter.  Where the puzzle comes in is that he mentioned about his son and described an instance very nicely.  Now its about his having a son that I’m puzzled about, or rather more strictly how it concerns me.  Shall I write & congratulate him, express my pleasure of hearing of the birth or shall I let it slip by?

It’s tea time for sure now, so I’m off. 

Just finished tea. The next puzzle is a practical one.  How shall I cram all the rest I want to tell you on this page? 

I must tell you how I enjoyed the cherry wood pipe with the Lobby’s bacca (?) while with Vernon listening to the band this afternoon.  The weather has been hot again & being evening now it is the best part of the day, excepting the time before breakfast.

You’ll be amused, like Vernon was, when I now say that I struck more than half a dozen matches to keep the old chimney,  no – the new chimney going.  Everyone looked at me and made some ‘rude’ remark jokingly.  Surely its jolly good of you to send a parcel to VernonAlas he’ll have to wait till we come back from the trenches.  Harold sent another good box yesterday & you needn’t send a cigarette holder, but I should have liked a white one.  Yet the yellow and gold of Harold’s looks ‘pretty’ when the smoke curls in front of my face.  

We read the letters generally first, before looking into the parcels, because it is the spirit in which they are sent which primarly ? (sic) matters.  So it goes without saying I could write twice the length of this letter – to thank Mother & Ida for their lovely homely epistles.

Best  love Bertie  (note the ‘ie’  – see PS)

PS  Another reason why I was not up to the mark today is perhaps I was sorry on hearing about the ‘Syd’ & ‘Bert’.  Forgive me but I’m a maddun on cutting words short – ‘he’ll’ in fact means ‘he will’.  I will emphasise the ‘ie’ and ‘ney’.  I do so hope you will fathom out my writing & forgive my bad expressions.  

*******************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Somehow I don’t feel quite happy’ –  Bertie Hibbett is not being ironic.  He is genuinely puzzled about his feelings and writes for advice to his Sister, rather than to his Mother.  The Letter is written on scruffy paper and his writing is rushed, with lots of crossings out and additions. Postscripts are tucked in at top & bottom of pages and up the sides. In short the letter’s appearance, as well as its content, reflects Bertie’s low spirits.

Dictionary of Etiquette.
Dictionary of Etiquette.

In his copy of A Dictionary of Etiquette by Marjory Luxmore (Cassell’s Pocket Reference Library 1914) Bertie has written the following maxims on the fly cover:Manners maketh MAN’; ‘Follow the example of General Gordon, Earl Roberts, Wellington & Nelson’ and most revealing of all  ‘None so great as a Gentleman Soldier‘.

[General Charles George Gordon, 1833 -1835. Gordon of Khartoum;  Earl Roberts, 1832 -1914. Frederick Sleigh Roberts of Kandahar, Afghanistan ; Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wesley cum Wellesley, 1769 -1852. Anglo-Irish General, defeated Napoleon at Battle of Waterloo, June 1815;  Admiral Horatio. Lord Nelson, 1758 -1805. (6th son of a clergyman). Killed at Battle of Trafalgar, 21 Oct. 1805. Famous signal to his fleet: ‘England expects everyman to do his duty‘]

One hundred years on we can see Pte Bertie Hibbett is trying to do the impossible under horrendous conditions. He is trying to be a dutiful son. a soldier and a gentleman  but he is exhausted in mind and body.  In this Letter I see signs of the Shell Shock he suffered from for the rest of his life.

NEXT LETTER:  10th JUNE 1915. Dreams of Enemy Advance.

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17TH MAY 1915: COMING OF AGE IN THE TRENCHES.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE   Bulford Camp. 

17th May, Mon: ‘C’Coy remained behind in support of 6th South.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: ‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’.  Bulford Camp.  Parcels from May Overend*, York & Mrs Machin*. Cakes handed round, toffee & smokes. Sang ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’.  I smoked Syd’s health, lying down beside him, went out to speak to Jones’ brother, felt giddy & had to walk round rock!  Dick Houghton –  a jolly humorous chap.’  

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MOTHER & FATHER.  (13 pages). Message on outsideOpen with care  – pressed flowers‘. (NB Flowers cut out by his Mother 1915, ‘replaced’ by EFW 2015).17th May 1915 Forget me not.

May 17th/ 15.  Mafeking Relieved. (1)

My Dear Mother & Father,

Sydney’s Coming of age – to think of it –  there seems to be a beautiful atmospheric effect.  Although far apart Mother & Son are joined heart to heart.

Mercy and Truth are met together,  Righteousness & Peace have kissed each other, Truth shall flourish in all the earth. (2)

I pictured you all singing that on SundayI read the Psalms, both for Matins & Evensong (3). Sunday seemed more like Syd’s birthday, for we received your extremely welcome parcels – guess what time? -why after ‘Stand Toabout 4. in the morning – when Mother and all of you are fast asleep.

The day too turned out lovely, bright & sunny.  My generous brother shared his birthday parcel at tea-time & the Listening Party had a most enjoyable tea in the evening sunSydney, the very name of strength, courage & gentlemanliness. 

Mother dear, you will be all the more delighted to know that Syd is favoured by the Listeners above any other NCO for duty with the party.  Norman Cope* was quite anxious to know if Syd was the NCO to take us out one night.  The Lance Corporals take it in turn to go with the ListenersSyd came with us twice.  How unique it would have been if Syd had been with us on Listening post & seen the dawn of his 21st birthday, but such was not to be.  Syd was never taken to drama & sentiment of that kind; an ordinary ‘common or garden day’ is his choice.    

I sometimes have the idea that Syd was made for a soldier – tall & broad of stature. 

Centre: Sgt S. HIBBETT when training as a Sergeant.
Sgt S. HIBBETT 1916.

I shall not forget the day he went Home for 24 hour leave. That day we were on guard at the Post Office in Saffron Walden – the time came when it was my turn to take my beat in front of the Post Office during the day when there were many people, both civilians and soldiers passingThe Sergeant of the Guard (a very kind & genuine man, who had the faith & pluck to say prayers in the hearing of 2 or 3 Companies of the Battalion billeted for the night) – the Sergeant requested that, for the improvement of the reputation of the Battalion Syd should take my place

Although it had snowed the night before, Syd’s bayonet was as bright as ever, his pack was as neat as neat could be & in fact his general appearance was smartAway he went & began his beat. My tall & broadly built brother, pacing up & down, was an honour to the Guard.  

I have an idea that the next morning, at rifle inspection, our Platoon Commander lifted Syd’s bayonet on high & showed it to the Platoon as an example.  I may add that Vernon at tea  on Sunday showed me his bayonet & said his effort at keeping it clean was through Sydney’s example.  Vernon was not a Listener.  Sid had a little tea with the Listeners, then we invited Vernon to Sid’s hut & had a quiet & enjoyable tea togetherVernon brought some whipped cream & we had it with the apricotsHe did enjoy the whole of the tea, especially the lemon curdSyd cut a slice of cake for him & he relished the whole lot & he could not resist one of Ida’s chocolate biscuits, which Sid & I think are lovely.  All the Listeners who ‘partook’ of dear Mother’s homemade lemon curd absolutely relished it.  We fortunately had a ration of butter & Norman Cope had a lovely loaf sent him. 

As for the tea, or rather drinkables, Sid & I enjoyed a mess tin full of tea made with the tea you sent.  Arthur Brown* or Brewin as we call him (who is also very generous) made coffee & cocoa.  Vernon jokingly suggested that I ought to smoke Syd’s health & he offered me a cigarette

Oh Mother, I have tried hard to tell you in the best & most fluent way I can, but I conclude it is a failure We spent a really happy Sunday – till up to night time when Norman & one or two Listeners expressed their disappointment at Syd not coming out with us on Listening Post.  

 – – Just got a parcel (the postmark looks like Redditch & the writing like one of the Overends*). Syd got Auntie’s parcel containing two pocket handkerchiefs & a couple of bananas in a card board box Marvellous – absolute marvel! – the cake was not all brokenGenerally all that’s left of a cake sent in a cardboard box is a bag of crumbs, squashed completely.  We shall enjoy Auntie’s cake for they are always nice & fruity. We have not yet finished the birthday gifts from home.  There are the Pineapple chunks which we shall share with Vernon & his cream.

Here goes Sydney tall & broad of stature, Of NCOs a favoured watcher. Sydney too is good at sniping. Pops off Huns just like he’s typing.‘    

–  – Another parcel & a letter for me & a parcel for Syd.  So that makes 3 parcels & a letter come since I started this letter – coming like the – no I won’t say – those horrible things that never stop coming – only the opposite kind. 

Let me finish my blank verse Syd, I conclude could not have had a happier time than spending  his 21st  serving his King & Country & helping to do his little bit to guard his dear home to which he said sincerely he would like to be there now. 

NB  I have just read the letter from you, dated May 15th.  Now I am certain I wrote to you acknowledging the ripping parcel of fruit, chocolate, Velma coffee au lait & Ida’s tea cakes were lovely.  I wrote to Harold & Fred York I cannot very well repeat the letter but it was one I especially wanted you to keep for it was written when the trench was being shelledI did not say anything closely referring to the incident. 

Is that the 1st letter you have missed receiving?  I have often thought of telling you to state the date my letters were sent to you & just refer to something I said so that I can tell what & everything about the letter sent.  Yes I’m certain I wrote & am awfully sorry dear, dear Mother, but you mustn’t expect that everything runs smoothly always. 

I do not feel like writing many letters, but I trust that if Harold does not hear from me you will say that I wrote & will write him as soon as possible.  I’m sorry Syd did not write.  Didn’t you even get a field PC?  The letter might have got buried like the Malted Milk tablets.Malted Milk Tablets.

I say just carefully read through all my letters written after May 6th  –  the day we had the excitement.  I have had an idea there has been one or two or more letters you have not received – do write a PC straight away.  I also wrote, by the by, a letter to Mrs Jones* the same day.

Twilight in the hut.  Vernon especially told me to mention in this letter how very much he enjoyed the things we gave him for tea todaySyd cut into May Overend’s handmade cake & handed a piece all round the hut.  Vernon had a slice of Auntie’s cake & some pears from Mrs Machin*.  He also told me to be sure to thank you for the box of Rowntrees chocolate.

This letter is getting long for the censor but I must tell of THE thing for Syd’s 21st.  I smoked his health.  I want Dad to know of the ceremony. You remember me mentioning in a past letter that Brewin had a spare army issue pipe, he had smoked it a little so he gave it to me.  I have had it in my haversack for quite a long time & brought it out this evening.  Well – Vernon supplied the bacca, a good bacca – Boardman’s – & filled it for me. Then Syd lit the pipe for me while I drew; after some awkwardness I managed to smoke it fluently.  There I lay stretched out in the hut by Syd & wished him Many Happy Returns & Good Luck.

Everyone was humorously surprised.  Some suggested that I should have had a cig to start with, but I thought Dad would rather have me smoke a pipe to begin with – Dad having not smoked a cig in his life.

Hurrah! I got through it & smoked it all!   Vernon, Syd and I, henceforth called the Trio, spent Sunday & today together as happy as can be – with one or two exceptions.(4)

I will now close, but I must say that generally we have Church Parade on Monday & it would have been still happier if Syd & I could have attended Holy Communion.  I have just read a verse out of Psalm 89 for the 17th evening, verse 25:- My truth also and my mercy shall be with him, And in my name shall he be exalted.   May Syd spend his next birthday in England & be there before his 22nd year is out!

For King & Country.

Six Parcels for Syd;  2 from Home; I from Harold, (which he was anxious about Syd getting on the 17th & Syd did – a lovely cig. case);  I from Overlands, absolutely ripping;   2 tins of coffee au lait;  I packet Russian cigs;  I tin of sardines;  2 packets of BlackCat ? with Dict –(unreadable);  2 tablets of soap;  2 packets of Peters Choc.;  1 packet of Bournville choc. ;  2 pencils, one in case;  A large slab of May’s homemade caramel toffee;  I large handmade cake;  I parcel from Mrs Machin* containing tin of pears I tin of toffee. I tin of Gold Flake;  4 apples etc. ; 2 boxes of State Express from Miss Bore*.  letter from Miss Foster* & Parcel following.

See Over . . .  anything else to say? – the censor is my dread.

Again IT IS WORTH REPEATING the lemon curd is lovely & Syd is enjoying it, send some more Choc biscuits next time Ida. & Dad I should like your opinion on my smoking.

What a ripping lot of letters. Vernon did enjoy the tea in the dugout this afternoon.  Plenty of little  souvenirs for you, make fine brooches.  I could have captured a man one night.

Now to SydFor he’s a Jolly Good Fellow.  God save the King.

Brother clasps the hand of brother, marching fearless through the night. (5)

*************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Typically, Bertie’s thoughts are all of his Mother & of Sydney, as he tries to reassure his parents that Sydney’s 21st Birthday was a happy one, and their food  parcels and gifts were a resounding success.  His proud description of his brother tells a great deal about the difference in their character & physique.  Apart from the smoking ‘ceremony’ Bertie says hardly a word about himself except cryptically – out of the blue – ‘I could have captured a man one night‘.

As a child, I once asked my father how many people he had killed in the War and he answered, surprisingly to me & with a strange look on his face, that he might have killed one man. However the shell-shock, that must have begun during this 2nd Battle for Ypres, lasted all his life.

(1) Seige & Relief of Mafeking, South Africa. Boer War.  Lord Baden Powell with 1,100 troops & Cadet Force of Boys,(12-15 yrs old) defended Mafeking for 217 days, Oct.1899 – May 1900.  Baden-Powell became the nation’s hero & my father helped the Boy’s Scouts when a curate at Alford, Lincolnshire. (2) Psalm 85.10. (3)  Psalms 78-85 Book of Common Prayer.1662. (4) ref. no doubt to the constant noise of shelling & the death of Lt H. Parr. (5) Hymn: Through the night of doubt & sorrow’. Bernhardt, 1826. (trans.from Danish by S. Baring Gould).

NEXT POST:  21st May 1915: All About Smoking.

11TH MAY 1915. NEUVE EGLISE: TO SHAVE OR NOT TO SHAVE – TO SMOKE OR NOT TO SMOKE?

Bertie in Uniform1/ 5TH SOUTH STAFFORDS – In Hutments ‘BULFORD CAMP’

 NEUVE EGLISE  

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT:  LETTER to his sister IDA, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

IDA HIBBETT VAD Nurse.
IDA HIBBETT VAD Nurse.

Tuesday May – Now Was It? – Is It?   11th / 15 (1)

My Dear Sister,

I must really try & send you a ‘boomerang’ if I can put it like that.  I mean your last letter was extremely homely & interesting & not only so, but long.  Of course I re-read it again, then handed it to Sid & he has read it.  Sid is writing to Harold.

The evening today is glorious again, same as yesterday when we attended Church Parade in the field, within sound of guns & nature going on as usual.   After the service our Colonel spoke of the Allies’ advance (2).  The sugarsweets & pastels are lovely.  I thought they would last a long time, perhaps until we go into the trenches again, but they are so ‘nice’ they are going pretty quickly.  You needn’t give up sending a little chocolate though Ha! ha!

I had a little chat with Ford E, (Mother mentioned in her letter) – he himself is all right.  I think it takes some pluck to be what he is (3). Don’t you think we have got a lot of patience?  No self assertions, but we could tell you ‘lots’ if the censor would allowbut you see we can’t.  Both sides must wait patiently until peace reigns once more.

Does Harold still take in Punch? – because there was a chap (in the Company commanded by the Captain Mother has mentioned more than once in her letters (4) – this chap has contributed a humorous story, his initials being G. Wiley of 5th South. (5)

I guess Harold* is in lovely Yorkshire by now.  Last night I made my 2nd attempt to shave.  I mean a real attempt.  I have lathered myself & just touched the razor before, many times, but on Sunday I started to shave.  I persevered under the irritable persuasion & criticism of Syd & amid the friendly laughter of the OTC poking themselves round the hut

Well last night something told me not to shave yet a while, but rather answer your letter, but as things turned out I thought best to shave 1st & favour the Army.  I was going on beautifully, lathered all my face & was about to make a stroke with my razor whenthe alarm went.  Syd will tell you that in his letter – (something like the fire alarm in schools).  Well I left all my shaving tackle & fled – with the unfortunate result that I had to parade for kit inspection at  6 o’clock this morning. 

All of us out here know of the loss of the Lusitania (6).

Lusitania.
Lusitania. Sunk 7th May 1915.

We wear respirators to prevent the effects of gasses. We have not yet come into contact with these asphyxiating gasses (7)

By the by, talking about shaving, could you & Harold subscribe & send me a safety razor sometime?   We can get spare time; very funny – we have more spare time in the trenches than in Camp, so if you send a Times now & again in your parcels it will not only serve as packing, but we shall be pleased to read the articles.

I shall have to start a fresh page now!  

I have not smoked a cig. since I joined, but a stretcher bearer told me once that now the heat of summer is coming there are many different smells arising, as well as the gnatsI made a resolution not to smoke until I came back to Walsall at the end of the war.

R.A.M.C Autogrphed Cigarette Papers. Red Cross Hospital. 1916.
R.A.M.C Autographed Player’s Cigarette Papers. J. Whyte & Ernest C. Kirk.   A.H. Hibbett’s Autograph Album.  Red Cross Hospital. 1916.

We get some cheap cigs often with the rations – ‘Roll Call’, (8) ‘Kitcheners’ etc, but if I start I will either have a good cig.  with holder, or smoke a pipe.  Now Arthur Brown* gave me a pipe.

I should be less anxious if Dad would tell me his advice on the  matterShall I start smoking or not?  I come to the conclusion that I am not far off being the only chap in the Battalion, if not in the Division, who does not smoke.  Arthur Penning* was a non-smoker until he came out to the front.

I am looking forward to Dad’s photo as well as Mum’s & did Harold get his uniformGood luck to Dodger.  Do you remember Guy Butter (9) whom Mr E. N. Marshall* said he ‘admired his generosity’? –  well it was his coming of age, last week.

I guess you have seen more than one photo of some of our casualties in the Observer.  Vernon & several men get the paper & I felt flattered to see my name in the Roll of BCS Old Boys let alone that of QM (10).  Our friend Norman Cope* was upset somewhat with the exciting time we had last time in the trenches (11). 

Do you know that Mum wrote on Wednesday & Dad wrote on Friday.  We got Mother’s first  & then Dad’s. Lastly we got yours on the day between, the very day we shall never forgetIf you come across anything in my letters to you or Basil that will cause Mother anxiety then read the letter out & miss those parts

Syd is getting favoured among the men, but he has to take his turn in doling out the meals, which is pretty rotten, you’ll understand. I will stop now.

Best love,  Bertram.

***********************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

To Smoke or not to Smoke. The habit of cigarette smoking took off in the 1914 -1918 War (despite warnings about the dangers of smoking) no doubt mainly because of the appalling stench of the Trenches. My father thought he must be the only one in the whole Division (18,000 soldiers) who didn’t smoke – but ‘under age’ he felt it his duty to ask his father’s advice.  It took him 40 years to give it up.  Under the title Comforts for Tommies many Cigarette Funds were set up.

(1) Post stamp ed 15th May ie  when 1/5th back in the trenches.  Censor W.E. Wright had to check carefully no one mentioned casualties & serious damage to Trench 8 on 6th May.

(2) Allies Advance: Allies launched a joint offensive on Western Front on 9th May 1915  and the 2nd Battle of Ypres ended on 24th May 1915. (See  Battle of the Western Front. The Great War 1914-1918 website). (3) cf. Post 9th May.  (4) Captain Lister or Captain Wistance. (5) G. Wiley. Punch Archives.

(6) R.M.S. Lusitania. British Ocean Liner (reclassified ‘Armed Merchant Cruiser’, 1914 )-  torpedoed by German U-Boat, 7th May 1915 off Irish coast. Loss of life: 1198. [Built & launched Clydebank, 7th June 1906, John Brown & Co. Designed Leonard Peskett for N.Atlantic Trade. Blue Riband Holder]. See Article: Philip Oltermann Guardian 7th May 2015. And http/www.prisonersofeternity.co.uk/lusitania-murder-on-the-high-seas/

Chief Engineer F.A Goodison & daughter Madge Goodison. Grimsby 1930.
Chief Engineer F.A Goodison & daughter Madge Goodison. Grimsby 1930.

NB  Bertie Hibbett’s future father-in-law (my maternal Grandfather) Chief Engineer, Mercantile Marine, Frank  Arnold Goodison, saw Lusitania go down; narrowly missed death himself from torpedo attack – received recognition for his actions. 

(7) cf South Staffords War Diary for 22nd April, Post 3rd May.

(8) Cigarettes: ‘Roll Call‘/ ‘Kitchener’s‘.  See The London Gazette Card Co. Ltd (Lord Kitchener’s woven silk issue, 1915). (9Guy Butter QMS Old Boy? (info pending). (10BCS: Blue Coat School, Walsall. QM: Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall. (11) Shell Shock from 8 hours shelling. Welcome Page for May 1915.

NEXT POST: 14th MAY 1915The Listener’s Lounge.