Tag Archives: Sniping.

1st MAY 1915: Friendly Fire & Forget-me-nots.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

WULVERGHEM TRENCHES

26th April, Mon: Two working parties of 200 men each on G.H.Q. lines.  Bn paraded for Trenches at 8.50 pm & relieved 1/6th S Staffs Regt.   27th April, Tue: Wulverghem Trenches.  Heavy artillery fire all day, mainly on our right. Aeroplane duel about 6.0 pm over Wulverghem. Casualties: 085 Sgt W. Stevens, 9491 Pte J. Parkes both of ‘A’ Coy, wounded by rifle fire.  Gap between 10a & 10b completely closed.

28th April, Wed :  10a support trench shelled. Sniping from Messines. Casualties: Wounded:4468 Sgt W.J. Yardley, ‘A’ Coy 9012 Pte G. Wyley, ‘D’ Coy wounded. 29th April, Thur:  Shell from supporting battery struck 10b Trench seriously wounding Capt. Mc Craith, (North Midland R.E.)  Killing Pte W. Martin, (M.G. section). Other Casualtieswounding 8436 Dr. H. Mills ‘A’ Coy., 8526 Pte J. Lewis. ‘A’ Coy.

30th April, Fri:  Quiet day. Six shells fell in Wulverghem village about 4.0pm.  Casualties – Wounded:9332 Pte N.C. Hilton, M.G. section wounded.  1/6 S Staffs Rgt. relieved us 11.45 pm Bn to Bulford Camp. Casualties: L.Cpl. H. Meyrick, ‘B’ Coy & 8908 Pte V.C. Hough ‘C’ Coy wounded during relief.

CASUALTIES during month : KILLED: 7 OtherRanks  (includes 8990 Sgt J. Sanders (attd R.W.) killed at Dickebusch, 27.4.15);  DIED OF WOUNDS: 2  O. R. ; DIED IN HOSPITAL: 1 O.R. ; WOUNDED: 2 Officers, 25 Other Ranks.   

Signed Raymer Lt Col Comdg. 1/5 S. Staff Regt. 

1st May 1915: NEUVE EGLISE, BULFORD CAMP HUTMENTS.

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Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to MOTHER, Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall. (Pages 5 – 8 only)                                                                                                         May Ist/ 15  (Basil’s Birthday)

Page 5 . . . . . .  Our little place under the ground (1) was nice & cool while Sid and I broke into a parcel from Mrs Jones*How generous of her to have sent again & she must have kind thoughts of us to pop a long letter in each time and to say “There is something very pleasant in sending comforts to our ‘dear lads at the front.

Two tins of Embassy cigs for Syd and some Nestles ChocNow this war is on I do not think Nestles Milk choc is such good quality, but I enjoyed it very much because it was from a friend of Mother’s.  She told us you had gone to tea that Monday afternoon.

I am proud of Sydney & admire him for his modesty (2).  He has done some sniping & I shouldn’t be surprised if the result was – well I’ve suddenly taken a serious turn – rather sad to say.

Ask Ida what afiller-inis. I managed to get hold of a Daily Mail.  One of the days I read a jolly article, yet a pretty one, entitled Poor Georgia – she was a ‘filler-inall through life & it ends up something like this  ‘And heaven was full but there happened to be just a little spot that no one would take & so Georgia ‘filled it in’!

Wouldn’t you all like Sid & me to come on Home Leave now?  I have had a new tunic and puttees & bootsYou would admire the little bit of scarlet at the back of our hat badges (red & khaki go well together) and Sid with his a new tunic and stripe

In camp I frequently come across our friend Ball* with his rosy cheeks & kindly smile.  Last time I saw him at the washing place in the field.  He said he had got another boil; the one on his neck has quite gone.  I remembered Mrs Jones* to Cyril Hind* & he went on to say that Miss K. Brookes* had read part of my letter, and his, to her Class. (3)

I’m glad Dodger had a good time at Easter, he will miss the rides with Mr Cox (4) as well now Mr Cox is going to Devonshire.  I received a very interesting letter from Miss Foster* telling of her time in Scotland.  She says she is also anxious about us both.  I got her letter with Basil’s mile long one today.

Sid, I think, would like for his 21st birthday a few crumbs of comfort – cigs, some chocolate 3d and 6d Cadbury’s Mexican & a cigarette case You can pop a few cakes in & perhaps a tin of Nestle’s Milk to make tea taste nice.  A tin of pineapple chunks would not be amiss for we crave sometimes for something cool to eat or drink.

If Miss Bore* wants to send us anything tell her to send some acid drops & bulls eyes again, for its time for those now.  Well I’ll finish up my May Day letter referring to the Boy of the Day (5).  How goes he on the piano now?  I should think he ought to give you real pleasure with some nice tunes.

Vernon’s older brother* has his birthday today the first of May too.  I hope sincerely that Basil will get through & not be excited about the exam after all the long time of preparation.

Remember us both to Tom Ser* [& Bes] (6) – if they are ‘nice’ yet- ha!  ha!

Dear Mother I hope this letter will give you some comfort.  I have tried & I hope my little effort will have good effectalso the lovely little forget-you-nots;  but the pressing has taken the pretty light blue out of them.

They remind me of Rudyard Kipling’s hymn:–  Lord God of Hosts be with us yet, Lest we forget – lest we forget! Lord bless my Home – guide there my affections-  my thoughts – my pen. Tho’ sundered far – by faith we meet   Around one common mercy seat. (7)

Fondest love from your affect. son,   Bertie.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) Listening Post ‘like a Walsall pit’. (2Sydney Hibbett had just been promoted to Lance Corporal. (3) Sunday School Class at St Paul’s, Walsall. (4)  Mr Cox, probably the farmer Basil Hibbett (future agriculturalist) helped out during school holidays. (5May Day 1915 was Basil’s 17th Birthday. His exam was probably Junior Oxford. (6)Tom Ser & wife Bess ( Uffington friends? information pending).

(7) Rudyard Kipling: b. Bombay, India.1865 -1936. The People’s Laureate’. Short story writer, poet & novelist/ children’s classics. Won Nobel Prize for Literature. Lost son at Battle of Loos, Oct 1915. Critical of British Army. Involved in Imperial War Graves Commission.

Poem: ‘Recessional’ (composed for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897) repeats the refrain ‘Lest we forget‘ (i.e. the sacrifice of Christ/ representative of all Humanity). Adapted by the Anglican Church as a hymn/ used especially at Armistice Day/ Remembrance Services. Frequently found on War Memorials.

NEXT POST: 3rd May 1915.

 

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23rd APRIL 1915. WULVERGHEM: ‘EXCITING TIME’ RATION FATIGUE & GAS ALERT!

GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT Dec.1915.
A CHRISTMAS GHOST:  GAS MASK DRAWING: Pte BERTIE HIBBETT. Dec.1915.  ‘They rose suddenly from the earth,wearing  smoke helmets over their faces, and looking not like soldiers but like devils.’

SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE.  April 18th. Sun Practice in crossing barbed wire entanglements. Bn paraded for Trenches 7.20 pm. Casualties. Wounded: 8948 Pte C. Weaver, ‘C’ Coy wounded during relief.  83 02 Pte L. Benton ‘B’ Coy wounded while carrying rations. Now possible to visit all Trenches by daylight.

April 19th Mon.  WULVERGHEM Trenches.  Fired on German working party opposite 10b trench. Outburst of rapid fire from German trenches about 3.30 a.m. Two H.E. followed by two shrapnel fired at S.P.4 at 6.0 am. No damage. Casualty: 9468 Pte J.T. Stanley ‘C’ Coy wounded.
April 20th Tue.  Six rounds shrapnel fired by German artillery at 120a left. No casualties. Trenches  8 (Bertie’s) & 9 troubled by German sniping from MESSINES..
April 21st Wed.  Further sniping along 8 & 9 trenches. Casualties: 9199 Pte A. Walker; 8817 Pte R.W. Hempshall, both ‘A’ Coy, wounded. Two HE shells & two shrapnel  burst near & over SOUVENIR FARM about 1 pm. Casualty: Major J. Lees wounded.  6 H.E. shells fell in Wulverghem about 1.30 pm. 16  H.E. shells burst in & near Trench 9, doing much damage to parapet of 9b.  Working parties brought in & fire 10 rounds) opened on German Trenches at 10.30 pm.  Casualty: Pte Hounslow  ‘D’ Coy wounded (died later).
April 22nd Thur. Lt Cozens* & Pte Thorne exploded grenade in German Listening Post at 2.am and returned safely. Relieved by 1/6th South Staffs.  Marched to BULFORD CAMP. Fumes of asphyxiating gas caused smarting of eyes. Received warning to be prepared to embus at short notice. (1)
April 23rd Fri.  NEUVE EGLISE.  Bath & cleaning up. Working party of 200 men on G.H.Q. line. 8 – 12 midnight.
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Bertie in UniformPTE BERTIE HIBBETT LETTER to sister IDA HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.                                                                                                            Friday April 23/ 15 (White envelope, Post Date 27th).

My Dear Sister,  

A simple address  –  I won’t say dearest or dear dear or very dear and couldn’t say darling!  Yet I guess that Sid and I love our only sister with infinite love & I find it difficult sometimes to keep it from sentiment, for we seem to love one another more when we are apart than when we are together at home, what say you? yet again I guess you often wish us to be at home again.

The censor is growing stricter.  I am afraid of letting you know in detail the exciting time we have had this week. 

We have not spent our time in the trenches but have been on fatigue carrying rations & other things to the trenches, making about 3 journeys each night.  Pretty exciting. (2)   Well I must keep this letter quite free from officialism.

The more you say or think your letters not good enough the more we like them.  Your last letters we received today are simply ripping and so homely and above all the letter from E. Overend* brings back old 106 New Rowley Rd Days (3).

The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905.
The PICKWICK CLUB of 1905: scribbled note amongst Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Letters.

Has the 13 years gone yet?  Where are the members of the Pickwick Club? (4)

October 1905. The Pickwick Magazine.  Editor: Sam Weller M.P.C. (M. Overend)

Motto: NIL  DESPERANDO (sic) (5)

Sam Pickwick PresidentI. Hibbett. Augs. Snodgrass MemberS. Hibbett. (8 yrs).  Sam Weller MemberM. Overend*. Tracy Tupman  Member – Bertie Hibbett (7 yrs). Sam Wardle Member I. Cozens(?). Nath Winkle MemberD. Cozens(?).

Has Dodger come back from his holidays yet? –  if not he is thoroughly enjoying himself?   Did all your ears burn ?  I mean those of Mother, Dad’s as well as yours, on Monday teatime? – because you can picture us in a ruined farmyard eating with enjoyment the sardines, butter & finishing off Mother’s currant bread.  Tell Mother the bread kept lovely & light, not dry in the least.  We get tins of butter now & again, but we preferred the butter from home with the currant loaf.

Don’t forget to try & send us one or two different photos of the family, especially a good one of MotherI have not one of Mother close to.  I hope Harold will get settled well at Bedale (6) rather a long way from Mother.  He will make a third one away won’t he?

Miss Foster would be greatly interested in what and where we are, so could you send her a Walsall paper now and again giving her a description of our experiences?  as I dare not say much in these letters.  You can tell the Overends* we QMS (7) boys manage to keep together most times.  Lucky isn’t it? 

I will finish this in the candle light.   Sid and I received a parcel of chocolates and parkin from Auntie* (8), so have you written to York then?

I could do with another towel.   Best love, Bertie.

PS I should like to say a lot  – what the censor will not allow but you will be patient won’t you & wait till we get home –  it is with regard to an officer I like very much indeed.  You will hear of him in the Walsall papers I dare say. (9)

Sid will tell you of the queer coincidences with regard to a parcel from good Mrs Penning*.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) ‘Fumes of asphyxiating gas’: April 22nd 1915 marked the first use of POISON GAS by the Germans on unprotected French troops at Ypres. Until I read Simon Jones‘ article in the Guardian (for 22nd April) that the smell of chlorine gas spread for ‘miles around’, I thought this 1/5th S. Staffs War Diary reference was to the fumes caused by exploding  Lyddite shells (see Sydney Hibbett’s letter to his sister, 24th April 1915).  Wulverghem is less than 8 miles from Ypres and the order to be ready to ’embus’ at short notice could well indicate poison gas alert.

My father’s drawing ‘A Christmas Ghost’ is included in his Christmas Letters of December 1915 – as if he had only just been issued with a ‘smoke helmet‘.

2Ration fatigues had to be made at night because of the danger from snipers.  Ration Farm,  (La Plus Douve) half a mile east of Wulverghem, south of road to Messines (Mesen) was most probably where Bertie met up with his brother after his absence in March.

(3) 106 New Rowley Rd, Walsall; where Hibbett family first lived in Walsall, before moving opposite to 95, Foden Rd. (4) The Pickwick Club seems to have been formed by Ida & Mollie or May Overend  for adventures and to share observations  – vis a vis Dickens’ novel Pickwick Papers. (More to come in 1916 Letters Home).

(5)Nil Desperandum – Never despair!  (6) Bedale, Yorkshire; Harold’s new post as Shop Manager, retail Chemist (cf.1911 Census)(7) QMS i.e. Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall. (8) Auntie Pattie (Pat) Yoxall/Neal? unable to trace on family tree/ possibly lived in north Manchester.

(8) Lieut Tim Cozens* see S. Staffs War Diary above 22nd April 1915. Also Walsall Observer for April 1915. 

NEXT POST: 24th April, 1915. Wulverghem Village: bombs, bullets & biscuits.

5TH APRIL 1915: NIGHT RATION PARTY, WULVERGHEM TRENCHES

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

WULVERGHEM TRENCHES

April 5th Mon:  Sniping frequent all night. Searchlights used on both flanks & our working parties much hampered (1). Damage to breastwork by shell fire made good. 10a trench again shelled in afternoon, also Wulverghem village. Casualties: 2nd Lieut F. Eglington & 9531 Pte W. Horton ‘B’ Coy wounded by shells. Heavy rain, much water in trenches.

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

Easter Monday. April 5th / 15

My Dear Mother,

Just a few lines to say I met Sydney on the night of Easter SundayThe meeting came quite as a surprise, little did I know I should see him in such a place.  I was one of the ration party making its way late at night over the country (1) ; we halted at some part of the line of trenches for rations & I came suddenly upon Sid.  We laughed  We shared the remains of the parcel I kept in my valeise (sic) this morning.  Sid looks very well.  

It is raining this afternoon & I am writing this in the dugout.  Well I have written to Mr Darling* & acknowledged Mr Hurst’s* parcel in the way of a letter.  This is some of the note he sent me.

For the first time since confirmation I have missed Easter Communion dear Mother, yet circumstances could not be helped.  I read the Collect & Epistle etc for Easter & part of the Communion service in this dugout.(2)

I remember your very kind letter last. Yes the soap was lovely.  We have not yet finished the 1st parcel.  Sid has some cigs left & there is some cocoa & oxo left. I did not come across the emery paper until later on for it was at the bottom of the box.  Many, many thanks for it –  greatly indebted to you for it will come in handy now the rain has rusted the bayonet Hard up for a wash in these trenches.  As for a change did you get my letter saying we could do with one change of shirt and pants& if you like an under-vest.

I guess Basil is looking  very much forward to his holiday in Manchester, what oh!  Tell him to remember us to relatives there and hope he will return home the better for his stay there.

I saw a photo of a Captain Sidebottom of the Lancashire regiment reported killed or wounded.  A.D. Jones* has promised it me. I hope to send it you later.  Perhaps you knew him, I have heard you talk about those people at home.

Well I’ll close now.  V. Evans* has come back too with Sid. 

Best love to all.  God be with you.   Bertie.

PS  Tell Ida we have been to the 2nd place she mentioned in her letter.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1) Pte Bertie (night ration party) in danger of snipers. (2) Easter Day CollectBook of Common Prayer. Thomas Cranmer, AD 1662: Almighty God, who through thine only begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life . . .

Epistle. Colossians 3.1. St Paul, AD 40:  If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set you affection on  things above, not on things on earth. For you are dead. and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Gospel. St John 20.1: The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre and seett the stone taken away . . . (AD 90 -100).

NEXT POST: 8th April, 1915.