Tag Archives: Souvenir Farm.

18th JUNE 1915: PTE BERTIE GETS LEFT BEHIND & ANKLES GIVE WAY.

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

18th June, Fri:  In Hutments Bulford Camp

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Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: A Little Book of Words & Doings. 18th June. ‘Battle of Waterloo (1)In Camp. Got some souvenir cards for Rev. E.  M. Darling’s son*, of ‘The  King of Belgians‘  – & ‘Entente Cordiale‘ for Mother100 years ago French were against us, now French are allies  – & Germans opponents’.

WW1 Postcard: Entente Cordial
WW1 Postcard: Entente Cordiale
WW1 Postcard: King of the Belgians. Sold in aid of WW1 Charities.
WW1 Postcard: King of the Belgians.

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LETTER to Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

18th JUNE, 1915.

I guess Ida & Dodger can picture the neighbouring country our allied enemies 100 years agojust such another fine sunny afternoon.  re  Colonel Wade (3) Great Men all remind us They can make our love sublime And departing leave behind them Footprints in the sands of time. (4)

Centenary of Battle of Waterloo. 1815.  ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation’. Friday June 18th 1915.

My Very Dear Mother,

Another sunny dayThe Battalion went its usual route march before breakfast this morning. Certainly the march gives one an appetite for the fa’ bacon, but I think there’s no exercise in marching in full pack.

Well I must get on & answer all your past letters & I am very sorry Mother that I have not addressed enough letters to you, but I guess you will have seen that you are remembered & mentioned in the letters addressed to Basil & Ida etc.  Sydney received quite half a dozen letters Wednesday, including the ripping long one from Dodger;  the others were from Miss Foster*.  She sent her usual page letter, always the same note & a box of Egyptian cigs.  I don’t think she must be so well off,  for she took the cigs out of the tin box to save postage; at any rate it was very good of her to remember us so. 

Sydney gave me his letters (home) to read yesterday & I popped in a line to say  I was writing today.  Isn’t Sydney a knut eh! see where I underlined his comic phrase. We both thoroughly enjoyed the currant bread at tea-time outside the hut in the sunshine together –  & Vernon handed us a slice of currant cake which made a pleasant appetising tea.  Many thanks for the useful sugar & we shall treasure the tea from home.

You do surprise – 2 parcels coming on top of one another almost.   I forgot to put the photo of Colonel Wade in the letter I wrote at Souvenir (5).  I must congratulate you on the improvement of 11/- extra in the collections for the HospitalI guess there are a few wounded there & the beds are full up.  Sorry the service on the Sunday School Festival ‘Flower Sunday’ was not so happy as it might have been owing to the inappropriate hymns & I myself agree that on such an occasion the Curate or Vicar should preach (6).

I did not want you to read my letter to Ida for your own good, but as Miss Kathie Brookes* said once in Bible Class (I shall never forget it) – that we must let Mother know all our secrets.  I am in very good health & condition now, excepting feet – owing to the fatigue ration party at Souvenir.

We had two exciting & arduous journeys up to the trenches the night we were relieved (7). I had to carry ammunition & after, within half an hour of being relieved by our ‘sister’ battalion, I chased after the rest of the party with a mile length of foot board for laying along the trenchsupposed to be carried one between two men. 

Trench 8. Pte bertie Hibbett's Wulverghem Trench showing foot boards.
Trench 8. Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Wulverghem Trench showing foot boards. Grateful thanks to Andrew Thornton.

Well ‘they’ set the machine gun on us along the road & I nearly ran with the foot board.  Tell Ida if she remembers the day in Abergele when she sprained her ankle, well my ankles gave way suddenly, but I didn’t want to be left behind, you know why I guess, but bear in mind it was not my fault I was left behind.

Well I must not rest too much on what we’ve been doing for it will take all my time & paper to answer your requests.  I am indeed very sorry Basil has had to go under the dentist’s hands & I guess you will understand that I quite sympathise with him;  when I remember the time I went I shudder, but there is also another reason & I sympathise with  you in the latter respect which you will know without me saying so (8).

We heard on Paradehere I am again saying what we’ve done & heard – but I think you will be interested to know that the Notts & Derby  Sherwood Foresters have done some hand to hand fighting & it was read out to us this morning on Parade.  They are on the same line of trench as us.

You will I trust let me know if you get this letter, for I am dubious about the badge being on the paper (5) but I sent it because of the red letter day.  I suppose there will be great doings in the great centres of patriotic societies ahem!  

Oh Mother – the gum has mended my prayer book capitally & I hope it will last me the duration of the war.  To be handy on the march & elsewhere I should like a small khaki tobacco pouch.  I told Sydney to let you know what I wanted because I am always sending  ‘begging letters’ . A bottle of barley sugar would be welcome if  you cannot make some butter scotch; the latter I prefer, but it doesn’t matter much which you sendSend a small pot of lemon curd for we both relish that above all.  As for the butter, I think we shall manage, though I prefer butter from home & it won’t go bad at all if put in a little pot like you did last time but one.

Sorry I am scribbling.  The time we went on ration party those days have upset the routine, but you were right in saying we went to the trenches on Saturday 12th.  So Basil will be sitting (exams) very likely during the week of my birthday.  How capital of you to have saved the lucky 6d.  I too hope it will bring him success.

Sydney has received a letter & paper (9) from Harold this  morning, but has not opened it yet.  I am going to try to get a pass to buy you a lovely souvenir card worked in silk for this occasion.  I have marked all the special days off in my diary (10).

Oh thank you for the mirror, it will come in useful.  I was needing one & I hope my old 1914 diary is safe.  That reminds me – did you get the Staffordshire Swanking Song – do you like the music?  (11)

I like the Bournville Choc do you? – have you tried any?  Generous Mrs Jones sent her monthly parcel, – the same welcome contents as usual.  This time I had a tin of Embassy & one of the box of Nestles.

Sorry Tim Machin* is ill.  Have you had the letter from Allen* I wish I could write better, but to write such long letters in decent hand is arduous.  I re-read your past letters & make drafts for my next letters, but I cannot help but miss things out.  Now is there anything else?  I guess Sydney has helped me out a bit in his long letter.

Oh with regard to my 20th don’t let it be mentioned beyond the family circle.  I have warned Sid not to say a word to Vernon & we shall both spend the 12th day of next month quietly I remember you saying that yours and my Birthday are one & we have tea together on the lawn Mother like little children.

You will laugh at Sydney’s letter, where he mentions the ‘little scamp smoking’.  We have seen on the march a little chap, not above 3ft tall in height dressed in khaki wearing his 3 stripes.  He saluted and kept at the salute as we all passed.  English good. Lallerman no good (11).

I will close now, thank you again for the long letter.  I will write & finish ‘my say’ later.

Your affec.   Bertie.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

(1)  Centenary of Battle of Waterloo: British defeat of the French under Napoleon. 1815. Another example of the importance to my father of events in British history. (2) Proverbs 14.34.  (3) Wade: info pending. (4) A Psalm of Life.1838.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poet 1807-1882 (published in his first collection: Voices in the Night).

(5Souvenir  Farm/ Ration Farm. Strange to find a military name in Pte Bertie’s letters (especially as he’s worried if the censor will accept the Staffords Knot letter-heading).

(6) Whilst the father I knew was enthusiastic about  post 2nd WW new Bible translations and took most of the liturgical changes of the 1960s in his stride, he always  wanted everything to be done reverently – ‘decently and in order‘ (St Paul: 1 Cor. 14.34) – i.e. suitable to the occasion  – and this he seems to have learnt from his Mother at an early age.

(7)15th June night fatigue. Until communication trenches were completed at Wulverghem, soldiers had to approach the Front Line, 600 yards from 57th Brigades HQ at North Midland Farm,  across open  & higher ground and were exposed to danger from snipers, shells & machine guns. (8)’Newspaper‘ is meant here, as distinct from ‘note‘ for writing paper which he also refers to as ‘paper’.

(9) Mother’s Birthday:13th July; Bertie’s Birthday 12th July.  (9Basil’s dental appointment was in preparation for joining the Army I presume. (10) ‘Lallerman’: a child’s pronunciation of ‘Allemagne’, French  word for ‘Germany‘.

(11) Staffords Swanking Song. I think I have seen this written somewhere; does anyone know of it?

NEXT POST: 20th JUNE 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.