Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 9 GENERAL HOSPITAL ROUEN : LETTER to Mr & Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.
In Red White & Blue Thursday Aug 26/15
‘MY OLD PATE’.
My Very dear Mother & Father,
I’m in ecstasy over having such a shoal of letters & parcels. Had quite a dearth & even it did not last long only about a week & a half, I got to long for something from the post as days came by.
Now before I say anything further, let me say how very sorry I put Mother into such anxiety over ‘my poor head’. I’m practically better now, & I hope to be out of hospital soon. Very likely the idea of me being in HOSPITAL & the silly idea of bandaging me up like I was, has made you so anxious. Apparently then you did not enquire of Harold, I told him what was wrong with me, & to him it has been an old complaint, & Harold, I presume, has not yet told you.
No doubt, dear Mummy, you understand my idea of letting you know such things ‘second hand’. When the doctor’s assistant bandaged me up I said anyone would think I was a ‘make believe’ of being wounded; to which he said: ‘My boy they are worse than a wound’.
Another thing, I was so very sorry indeed to hear, was that you had such unsettled weather, but I was glad to hear that the Sunday you went to Ruswarp (1) was fine & that the last days of the holidays the weather had ‘picked up somewhat’
Mummy you have been busy writing. How very good of you to spend so much time of your holidays by so doing & such long ones too, & I got quite a lot all together. When I received your letter of the 23rd, or rather the two letters in one posted on the 23rd, I could not wait any longer to answer in detail the parcel & letters of yesterday too, as long as opportunity was open to me to write.
So I am seated in a lovely canvas chair outside in the shade. The weather has been sunny & bright ever since I have been in hospital. I have enjoyed a lump or two of your (Whitby) rock & am struggling to keep my writing up to the mark. Poor artful Dodger, ‘swishing about on the pier like an old tar’ – how could he find a corner of his seabeaten heart to pine about his two bruvvers at the front. Indeed I am more anxious about my younger brother getting a good result of his exam than I am of anything to do with me sen, except of course my career equally as much as his.
Did you, dear Mum, read the story in the ‘London Magazine’ (2), which was included in the bundle you sent me (& Sydney) the story entitled ‘Missing’? It put me in mind of two things – (first) of Jack Wade*. An officer wearing a square white badge with a red cross on it, comes occasionally into the wards & enquires of each patient whether the patient has heard anything about so & so – missing since such & such a time. He opens quite a volume full of nothing but lists of missing (3).
The second thought comes to me of the many mothers & relatives who are anxious about their sons missing & then of course above all, and really which hits me more than any, is the case of Lieut. Jack Wade*.
The story in the Magazine is very interesting isn’t it?, but I was disappointed on reading the 1st letter from the soldier to his mother – the nature of it. But did you notice ‘Mummy’ in the second letter of his. You know he got wounded in the head & lost consciousness, but when he got better he remembered his Mother’s face & said ‘good old Mum’ in the front of it & ‘Cheero Mummy’. Yes ’twas a nice tale but the affair about the girls I did not care much for. Yet they reminded me of Harold & Miss Bore sh! sh! (4).
I have heard such a lot from you all in a heap that I shall have to re-read & re-read again & write again in a day or so to make all things plain. Am looking forward to the apples and socks. Auntie wrote to me saying she had sent us both a parcel but I guess Sydney carried out what I told him & ate all & demolished the contents himself. So sorry he will have to wait for the papers to read. Yes I got three letters, a PC & two parcels besides the letters inside the parcels. In fact I almost cleared all the post for No 6. Ward.
A letter from Ida – tell her I got her letter posted 9th Aug. too. A letter from Auntie, a PC from Miss Foster*; by what she said on it I conclude you have not told her where I am & what is up with me eh? Also a letter from Miss Winifred Evans* from Thlandidno (5) which I acknowledged by a F.P.C – same with t’others.
You told me to buy something good with your generous little ‘bit’ again so I bought a few biscuits for my supper & you say they are a good thing to eat early in a morning. We do not get any ‘bits’ in hospital (6). I suppose I shall go into a Convalescent Camp after coming out of Hospital, as is the general case. A patient went to England (what is that place?) with having boils on his legs. Mine arn’t half or a quarter as bad, in fact they are better now.
I had a good smell at your little bit of seaweed in each letter you sent me & the heather off the moors. Yes, I have often thought of the heather & Goathland.
I don’t suppose Mummy missed my coming into the apartments with sketchboard under one arm & her shopping bag filled with paints & brushes & painting material in the other, arriving late as per usual for tea & boastfully exhibiting a hideous half-finished daub on the mantlepiece. No I think the nuisance was a good riddance what oh! – you don’t mind me saying so eh! what.
And, dear Mummy, I kept a bit of the heather & you don’t mind me having given the sister the rest to put in her room. I said it was from England, the Yorkshire Moors, & asked her if she knew the novel Between the Heather & the Northern Shore (7) & she remembers the York Pageant (8). We have some heather besides some other flowers in the Ward, but she was especially thankful & blissful over the little bunch of English heather.
I had to open the parcel of eatables in her room & show the other sister what I had: result was nothing in it to do me any harm & so I had the ginger cake & apricots to enjoy at tea. How very good of you to be so eager to send me the things I put in my letter; if I had known such nice things were forthcoming when I wrote that letter I should have felt ashamed to ask ‘for more’ as Oliver Twist did & I feel such a glutton now. Yet I’d love an egg. Patients in the Ward have an egg every tea time, but they have marked on their head boards for eggs, each board having on the diet for each patient. I am on ordinary diet with medicine – Salts (9) on waking in the morning at 6.00 & iron after each meal. Don’t you think Parish’s Food (10) would do me good for its all to do with the blood being out-of-order.
When I was opening your letter today I was expecting to see some photos in side by the feeling of the stiff paper. You won’t forget to persuade Harold to do some for Sydney & me if he has taken any. You will forgive me opening the letter to Sydney which came with the Magazines. I sent it off to him in a green envelope with Basil’s long letter.
I don’t think Mrs Hardcastle* will have to re-post any letters from me. I sent you a letter last Friday & another on Sunday, the latter I believe I addressed to Home. Let’s pray that we shall see each other before Winter comes along, but Cheero Mummy we are happiest as we are now, if we trust & believe that it is God’s Will & in His mercy hope for the best,
Your very affec. son Bertie.
(1) Ruswarp & Goathland: N. York Moor villages near Whitby. (2) The London Magazine estab.1903 (previously Harmsworth Magazine 1898) encouraged new writers. July 1915 copy included stories by a Corporal F. Ward. (WW1 Price: a shilling).
(3) The Red Cross was the only organisation permitted by the War Office to make enquiries for the missing. Regular searches were made in Base Hospitals & Army Rest Camps abroad as well as in Hospitals in UK. A monthly Enquiry List was circulated. (4) Harold & Hilda Bore were recently engaged. (5) Llandidno, Wales. (6) ‘Bits‘/ ‘A little bit of cash‘, i.e. no pay in hospital.
(7) ‘Between the Heather & the Northern Shore‘. 1884. A second novel by Mary Linskell b. 1840, Blackburn Yard, Whitby; one of many 19th Cent. writers associated with the town.
(8) York Pageant: Medieval Mystery/ Passion Plays (from Creation to Last Judgement; performed on Feast of Corpus Christi (23rd May – 24th June.) MS dated 1463-1477, British Library. Performed in York 1569. NB Research suggests they were originally Lincoln Mystery Plays.
(9) Liver Salts: a tonic. (10) Parrish’s Food: compound syrup of iron phosphate (Syr Ferri Phos Co) first appears in Martingale’s Extra pharmacopoeia of Unofficial Drugs & Chemicals. . . 1883 (invented by Prof. Edward Parrish pharmacist, Philadelphia) cf National Library of Medicine.
11) Verbranden Molen an old mill 300 yrds behind the Front Line, Hill 60 area.
26th Aug. Thur: Enemy dropped two shells in ravine between 33 and 34 trench and one in front of 34 trench at 11. am; 4th Belgian Battery replied on enemy trenches. Enemy aeroplane driven off by our aeroplane about 11.15 am otherwise all quiet during the day until 7. pm when the enemy shelled Verbranden Molen (11) with about 20 shrapnel and 12 H.E. shells. CASUALTIES: KILLED 6515 Coy S Major H.Gee*. WOUNDED: 7800 L /Sgt S. Moore; 8783 Pte R. E. Ellens.
NEXT POSTS: 29th AUGUST 1915 will be published 31st August 2015. Apologies for delay.