Tag Archives: Vimy Ridge 1916.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5TH SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.


15th Apr. Sat:  Relieved by 11.15pm

16th Apr. Sun:  NEUVILLE ST VAAST.  In Brigade Reserve.  Enemy artillery active at 7.15pm.

Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT on Guard Duty, Mont St Eloi Neuville St Vaast.

A Little Book of Words & Doings’April‘At Mont S Eloi.  ‘Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani’ (1).


en-wiki towers of Mt St Eloi 350px-Steloi1
Towers of Mont St Eloi, Neuville St Vaast, over-looking Vimy Ridge. < http://www.en-wiki.com&gt;

LETTER  to MARIE NEAL HIBBETT and BASIL HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.  Censor H. Chorlant.   

 Palm Sunday (2). April 16/ 16

Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Pietro Lorenzetti. 1280-1348.
Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Italian. Pietro Lorenzetti. 1280-1348.

‘Ride on Ride on in Majesty – With palms and scattered garments strowed‘. (3)

‘A little lifting of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship, though upon a march, and sword in hand, are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless acceptable to God.  Brother Lawrence. (4)

‘Look one step onwards and secure that step’.  Wayside Ministries (5)

My Very Dear Mother,

I wrote you last Sunday & Friday. Thursday was Harold’s Birthday & I trust he had a happy one & that the next 13th April we shall spend the day together in peace.  Being Thursday I wonder if he spent sometime with you?  Although I have worried several people to do with the Post I have not yet received a letter or anything. I heard this morning that we are on this duty until Thursday 20th. 

* * * * * * * * * * * ← You know what these things are eh!  Well it means that a sudden round about turn has to be made. I began this my usual ‘Sunday Letter’ before dinner & on finishing mydish’  – beef steak of my own cooking – the rations came in & they brought a shoal, a neat little pile of letters for me.  So that is the cause of me round about turning.

Just read Dodger’s most delightfully homely & brotherly Epistle after reading those from Vernon*, Harold, Miss Foster*, Mrs Hurst* and a Sunday School Scholar respectively.  I thought I would read Dodger’s last in more comfort & also it would help me to make my letter fullerI gave dear old Sydney your letter, Basil, as I met him going to the trenches last Sunday night; most likely he has written to you since.

The photograph of the Raid (6) which I think was genuine, interested me & it was your idea of sending it I thank you for.  How queer! –  only the other day I was sketching to illustrate the incident Miss Kathy Brookes* (7) put in her letter to me of the lady who wrote to her officer ‘bhoy’ saying how dreadfully the ruins of the Raid looked –  ‘you can’t imagine it!’ & the officer was doing all he could to shelter himself from the shells amid fragments of stones!

Dodger! Dodger! Dodger! –  so have I!  an all conquering desire (my word what a swanky phrase) to be on the write – to you all at Home & the question is, now I have had the fruits of my worrying the Transport Orderlies about The Post, I wonder if you will get my letters I have written to you since I was on this quiet Post Duty. 

Ha! ha! ha! Poor jolly old Basil wants to be in touch with us every day.  I love you for such a thought, but do please think more than twice over your joining, – to serve can’t you go out to a Munition Factory?  Most probably you would never see us if you came out; you know that Vernon & Sydney said they did not like their associates in the 3/ 5th S Staffs (8); & then look at your education –  all in vain practically eh?  You needn’t think that I shall be happy for you to come out, I shall be inclined to poke my head a bit too high above the parapet!

Yes! Sydney showed me the F.P.C. (Field Post Card) he sent to Mum, saying –  ‘I have not received a letter from you latelyfor a long time’.  I said to Sydney, in surprise, –  ‘are you going to send that!  – – –  I have never missed (crossing out) those two lines have I Basil?  I don’t care about informing you at Home that I have not heard from you for so long.  I think those two lines are slightly inclined to give an indignant impression, let alone make one sadas you were naturally when Sydney sent it.  Of course he knew the circumstances, he had been moving about from place to place since he arrived.

Vernon wrote & said he was sorry he did not visit you when he had his 48 hrs Leave (9) I suppose you will have been introduced to Leenah*Basil, by now? as this is, I guess, the Sunday they were to come.

The Hibbett Family at Tea: Mother, Bertie, Sydney and Ida.
The Hibbett Family at Tea: Mother, Bertie, Sydney and Ida. 1914.

The weather is lovely out here, sunny and bright, it is getting on for four o’clock & I shall be picturing you all at tea.

Oh! that reminds me –  I was doubly glad on reading Harold’s letter.  He said he & Hilda were going Home on Thursday (13th) so I hope they had a good time with you.  That half answers my wish in my letter on Friday & 1st part of this.

Queen mary's Sch
Queen Mary’s School Magazine.

Yes it is rotten to have the Houses changed (10).  I should second the resolution that not only should School House retain its old name but Thomas’s and Davies’ & all those whose Bosses have joined to serve their King & Country. Just  put that in the Mag for one from the Front who has not lost interest in the QMS

I think those lilies, Dodger, have been growing the other way & have come out up here in the guise of daisies. I will send you them back.  Spring has come out here, the grass is fresh green, the lark sings its glorious song, in spite of the sound of guns & the hawk is as keen as ever to get her prey; the buds on the trees are quickly turning into fresh leaves.

Well I never! Do you know I was only the other day thinking of sending you some cash to buy some seeds & you could set them for me as a sort of curio.  I was regretful that I had no money in pocket, but, as a sort of unique idea, could you get some seeds of a nice flower or plant & I will send you a franc or so when I get it.  I wish I could have got some seeds from last year’s flowers but I was not in the vicinity at the time. It would be nice for you to have some French flowers growing.

Tommy's Cooker.
Tommy’s Cooker and Mess Tin.

Yes I do know what Dad is like, but I do not in the slightest mean any hurtful thought.

My order for pipes is one just like those two you sent Sydney and me at first – my word and that is nearly a year ago since I started to smoke.  A cherry wood I believe you sent. Also I have a new mess tin & the need of some Monkey Brand is my next request.

Miss Foster* is ( I don’t know if she is strictly serious) almost hurt that I do not ask her for anything in my letters of late  (don’t say anything to her).

I believe I told you in my last letter that Leave  has been suspended again for an indefinite period, but we are going for a Rest in Reserve soonI do not at all like telling you for Mum’s sake & Dad’s, but I eventually thought it best to tell you everything that comes to hand as Mum told me to.

I will close this my ‘long’ Active Service Epistle. I hope it gets through to you, let me know if so.

With my heart’s love to you all.

Your ever affec.  Bertie.

April 1916.
‘My Dearest ArchinaldYou ought to see the ruins caused by the Zeppelin RaidYou can’t imagine the awful state!  Yours affec.  Margerine’.    ‘My Dearest Margerine,  Really! Great Scott, the ruins you speak of must be simply awful! I can hardly realise the sight of the remains of this village.  Yours affec.  Archinald.’    Original sketch by Arthur H.Hibbett.  NB ruined church through ruined doorway of house.



To be standing guard on a green Mont St Eloi during Holy Week & Easter is highly significant to Pte Bertie Hibbett, reminding him as it did of the Passion of Christ and the Words from the Cross. His cartoon indicates how difficult it was for families at home to imagine what their sons were being asked to endure.

(1) ‘Eloi Eloi…’ Mark 15.34. Christ’s words from the Cross. ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me? King James Version retains the Aramaic/Jesus’ native language. cf Psalm 22.

www.timeanddate.comPalm Sunday search(2) Palm Sunday: Sunday before Easter/beginning of Holy Week/ commemorates Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem/waving of palms (symbol of victory). Mark 11. 1-11. (My father used willow branches in Palm Sunday processions).

H. H. Milman.

(3) ‘Ride on Ride on.. ‘. Hymn: Henry Hart Milman. 1827. Mark 11.1-11 (AD 64) has Jesus riding on a ‘young donkey‘.  NB Pietro Lorenzetti’s painting above follows the text of Matthew (AD 85) which emphasises the fulfillment of prophecy by interpreting the poetic lines of Zechariah 9.9 literally, as if there were two animals i.e. a mother ass/donkey and her foal/colt (terms interchangeable).

(4) Brother Lawrence (born Nicolas Herman, Lorraine), 1614-1691. French lay-brother, Carmelite Monastery, Paris. Given name ‘Lawrence of the Resurrection’. Known for ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’.

(5) Wayside Ministries. Pamphlet with words of wisdom & comfort sent by Pte Bertie’s Godmother, Mary Foster/ frequently quoted in his notebook ‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’ (the first being ‘Pray to God in a storm but keep on rowing’).

(6) Zeppelin Raid on Walsall. 31st Jan -1st Feb. 1916. Observer photo? (7) Kathy Brookes: superintendent St Paul’s Sunday School/ family friend. (83/5th S. Staffords: Territorial Battalion/ served in UK.

(9) Vernon Evans had returned to the UK on sick leave and (along with other sick/ returned 1/5th S Stafford soldiers) was attached to 3/5th S. Staffords, Territorial Battalion. 

(10QMS Houses: School House; Dellow’s House; Powis’ House; Frith’s House, (the last three named after their House Master).  From a letter asking for a Magazine subscription, signed S Powis /dated July 24th 1917, I assume my father was in Powis’ House & the move to alter House names failed. NB Was there a Davies’ House & a Thomas’s House at QMS?

NEXT POST:  21st APRIL 1916. Good Friday.




Staffordshire Regt. Brooch.‘A SHORT HISTORY OF THE STAFFORDSHIRE  REGIMENT’.  Regimental War Museum, Whittington, Lichfield.


MARCH 1916: ‘The South Staffs then went into the trenches at Neuville St Vaast – holding the line which was known as the Labyrinth.. . .’

The shocking condition of the trenches at Neuville St Vaast was caused by the severity of the weather and owing especially of the enemy. The 6th South Staffs  underwent some of their worst experience.  The snow storms of the period and the hardship was keenly felt.  Bosche’s activity underground added to the strain.  Mines are the most unpleasant form of trench warfare.  South Staffs were blown up no fewer than 9 times.’

Rene Bramond. www.lascerqueux.com
FRENCH MAP of NEUVILLE ST VAAST, the Labyrinth, La Targette & Crete de Vimy with dotted Front Line.  Website: Rene Bramond:  Killed in Action here. 1917.


South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY.

19th Mar. Sun.  Proceeded to the Trenches EAST of NEUVILLE ST VAAST in the relief of 6th South Staffordshire Regiment.

20th Mar MonNEUVILLE . Enemy bombed Y Listening Post, damaging the barriers of N. 5. Trench. Enemy snipers active, our snipers shot a German opposite B.4.

21st Mar. Tue:  ST VAAST. TRENCHES No. 4.5.6.  Enemy heavily shelled with H.E. No 4. Fire, support and communication trenches from 11.0 am to 12 noon. Our artillery support very bad, 3 of 5 shells burst inside our own lines.  At 3.45 pm No. 5 and 6 Trenches cleared to enable our 9.2’s  to burst Crater B.6.  One 9.2 shell burst behind No. 6. Fire Trench, no damage.  CASUALTIES: No 54 Pte J. Brettle killed; No 161 Pte M McNally wounded.

22nd Mar. Wed: Very quiet day.  23rd Mar. Thur.  About 12.15 pm our artillery sent over 5 whiz bangs. Enemy retaliated with 4. H.E. which (landed) in rear of No. 4. Support. Otherwise very quiet day.

Front Line at Neuville St Vaast & Labyrinth, north of Arras.
GERMAN MAP showing WW1 Front Lines at NEUVILLE ST VAAST & Labyrinth, north of Arras.  Jack Sheldon. Old Sweats. Great War Forum. The Long Long Trail.  
German War Graves Neuville St Vaast.
GERMAN War Graves at Neuville St Vaast.  Courtesy: http://www.alamy.com

25th Mar. Fri.  About 7.10 am enemy opened brisk grenade attack.  Our grenadiers replied vigorously. Artillery support goodOur guns bombarded the Crater B.6 at 3.0 pm and 9.2’s firing 15 shells, 4 of which were blind and 3 falling short, the ninth shell burst short, striking the parapet to the right of the dugout of Officer Commanding 064 Trench, burying Lieuts F. Wilkinson and A. L. Dawson, Forward Observing Officer 2nd Lincoln Battery, a piece of the same shell wounding 6954 Pte S. H. Simpson.  The Forward Observing Officer had previously phoned that shells were dropping short, but was unable to speak direct to the Battery.

Battalion relieved in the trenches by 6th South Staffordshire Regiment at 11.20 pm and went into Brigade Reserve.   Battalion in billets at 1.0 am, 26-3-16.  CASUALTIES: Lieut. F. Wilkinson and 6954 Pte S.H. Simpson wounded, also Artillery Officer Lieut. A.L. Dawson wounded.


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT’S WAR DIARY: ‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’.

March 19th 1916:  Sunday evening.  Went into trenches at Neuville St Vaast. On Sat received parcel from Mrs Jones*Neuville St Vaast all in ruins to the  ground. Bertie on Listening Post.

vlecalvez.free.fr.neuville st vaast. images
Postcard: La Grande Guerre. 1914-1915. Dans les ruines de Neuville St Vaast.

Treasured Sayings in Letters from Home:

Mother re  Bomb Accident (2).  Life is very sad now, but as Sydney said, he loves the  Psalms & I said which is your favourite hymn Sydney? & he said, at once. “ Rejoice, again I say, Rejoice” so I say. “Rejoice again I say Rejoice” (3) “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing” (4).’  Mother.

LETTER TO MARIE NEAL HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd Walsall.  Censor  Arthur J. Rowley.

In the Trenches. 3rd Sunday in Lent.  Mar 26/ 16 

Faith looking upward saith,‘Good is everything, Let it come, God ordereth the days’ Wayside Memories.

My Dear People,

I wonder if you ever think that it happens, some Sundays, circumstances make it very difficult to get a letter written to you. I am determined to write to you to day.  I received Dad’s letter last Tuesday His report is ‘untrue’.

oldshopstuff.comYoumi cig.imgresOn Friday I had a very nice surprise of another parcel from Miss Foster*, with a tin of Youmi Turkish cigs for SydneyMiss Foster thinks he is with me now I got  a F.P.C. (5) from Sydney this morning saying he was at the Base.  I noticed he crossed out ‘Received letters, parcels, telegram’  although I wrote to him about Mar 5th to Derby.

How is Harold getting on?just remember me kindly to him. Although I rarely mention him in my letters I am generally thinking of him & always mention him in my prayers.  It does puzzle me about his promised parcel & I am beginning to think he cannot have had my letter of Mar 5th.

Trusting you are having a pleasant Sunday.  I enclose the form for Com(mission).

Yours affec.  Bertie.



The 1/5th South Staffords took over the trenches of Neuville St Vaast at the same time that the Canadians took over Vimy Ridge. ‘Circumstances’ (i.e. crater warfareheavy bombardment, shelling, grenade attacks and casualties when 1/5th Staffords Artillery shells fell short) made it difficult for Pte Bertie Hibbett to write Home. 

NB The name  ST VAAST was to resonate with my father twenty years later when, in 1936, he became Vicar of St Vedast’s Church Tathwell, near Louth, Lincolnshire.

ST VAAST (Flemish, Norman, Picard)(English Vedast, Foster) AD 453 -540, was responsible for the conversion to the Christian Faith of the Frankish King Clovis. (St Remigius, Bishop of Rheims, appointed him 1st Bishop of dioceses of Arras & Cambrai). Many churches in Northern France, including the Cathedral at Arras, are dedicated to him, whereas he is Patron Saint to only two churches in the UK: St Vedast Foster Lane, London and St Vedast, Tathwell, where I was born on his Day, 6th Feb.

(1) The Labyrinth, Neuville St Vaast, on the slopes of Vimy Ridge, north-east of Arras:-  a grim underground fortress of caves, tunnels and entrenchments cut into the chalk in ‘a lunar landscape of water filled shell-holes & destroyed trenches’ – compounded by ‘stench of rotting bodies’. A place of ‘horrific fighting’ and crater warfare, with 1/5th Staffords blown up 9 times.  Pte Bertie Hibbett’s Listening Post would have been deep underground.

Vimy Ridge is a 9 mile/15 km long hump-backed barrier, rising from the valley of River Scarpe to a peak of 145 metres to drop abruptly into the valley of River Souchez.  An area fought over since Roman times, it commanded the Douai Plain and protected Lille and the coalfields of Lens. cf <http://www.battlefields.com/the-battle-of-Vimy-ridge&gt;

(2) Bomb Accident: Hibbett Letters: 28th Feb. 1916.

(3) ‘Rejoice, I say again’. St Paul, Philippians 4.4. (4) ‘As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’ St Paul. 2. Cor. 6.10. King James Bible.(5Field Post Card.

NEXT POST: 27th Mar. 1916.



South Staffordshire Badgee1/5th SOUTH STAFFORDS WAR DIARY

OCCOCHES. 6th Mar. Mon. Battalion marched to new Billets at WAMIN (1).

7th Mar. Tue. Battalion Training. 8th Mar. Wed. Battalion marched to new Billets at MAGNICOURT (2). 9th Mar. Thur. – 10th Mar. Fri. In Billets. Battalion Training.

11th Mar. Sat. Battalion marched to new Billets at AUBIGNY (3). 12th – 13th Mar. In Billets. Battalion Training. Battalion marched to new Billets at ECOIVRES (4).

1/5th South Staffords march to the Front Mar.1916.
1/5th South Staffords’ March to the Front from Occoches (off map bottom left). Mar. 1916. 


Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT:  

‘A Little Book of Words & Doings’.

March 10th 1916.Mum got a letter from me, rare occasion. Sydney left Derby after being in England on sick leave.’ 

Treasured Sayings in Letters from Home: ‘My head seems so full of things I hardly know what to say. Mother.’

LETTER TO BASIL HIBBETT, 95  Foden Rd.  Walsall.

In the Field.  Monday Mar 13/ 16

‘Next to the Sunlight of Heaven is the cheerful face’.  Wayside Ministries (5).

Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.
Basil Hibbett aged 18. 1916.

My Dearest brother Basil,

Three puffs of an Embassy and I will start ‘mon ecrire encore’. 

Half-a-Mo-Kaiser! Copy of Bairnsfather's cartoon by A.H. Hibbett. 1916.
‘alf-a-Mo-Kaiser! Copy of Bairnsfather’s cartoon by A.H. Hibbett. 1916.

You will think I have caught Writing Fever no doubt, but I have just inwardly digested the QMS Mag you kindly enclosed in Mum’s parcel and consequently I feel magnetised to the ‘Wire of Correspondence’ fixed between ‘Home Sweet Home’ and Warworn France.

Queen mary's Sch
Queen Mary’s School Magazine. Dec. 1914.

What do you think of the articles in the Mag this time?  Do you remember how the ‘Knowalls’ once called it a bore to read them & the Editors had no ‘savvy’ whatever as to ‘Editorial’?

After reading Lieut Thomas’ & Lawley’s account of their experiences (7) & then commencing to read the School Notes, the effect wasvice versa’ as to the time I was at QMS.  Do you compris my meaning?  You, for instance, are sometimes naturally bored a little at reading Editorial letters about School, but the letters from the Front to the QMS Editor are to you ‘tres bien interestant’.  But the vice versa effect was not to the extreme, in fact I was deeply interested in Lawley’s vivid account of the Charge last Sept. (8).

The Debating Society’s Summary  was also jolly to read & I was so struck by it that I wished I could, at the very moment, send something in the way of a contribution, & then I decided to wait until I have Home Leave, at which time I will see if I can give them an Autograph Album after the example of the Spencer Club (9) – for the purpose of the members writing their names in after each Debate, & an illumination on each page.

The Poets in Queen Mary’s School seem to keep up the fine record of blossoming original verse (10).  I should like to send a contribution to the Editor’s Letter Box but I count myself as no great writer & also come to the conclusion my sending a letter to appear in the ‘swanky’ pages of the Mag would have an embarrassing effect.  I noticed your noble name in the list of new scholars under the noble title of School House; which House should be the prouder after the reception of your noble self, what what!

You have some ‘knutty’ ideas & phrases in your letters to me of latethey are worthy of being mentioned in the Magazine.

I will close now.  Although I have written this today I doubt if I shall send it along to you for a time, because I have two letters to send Home.  One to Dad, in reply to his ‘elongated’ envelope & one to Mum, in answer to the parcel of Mar 5, which, as I say again, was an ideal pancake (11).

Ah! dear Dodger, I trust you will use your gifted energy at comforting Mummy & use your tact if you are called up on you coming of 18 years of age.  My best wishes for your success in the exams at School for your sake & Mum’s & Dad’s. (12).

Tell Ida she must send me a written formal apology for saying I am a WEE bit SAD. But of course you quite know it is all a mere joke on my part. Ha Ha!

        Ta ra.  Bertie.

PS  This evening I received a sweet little letter from Molly (13) with her usual beaucoup kisses. She followed my idea of sticking a stamp on the back of the envelope – one of a pussy cat.  I think I have been the cause of renewing that craze, what think you?

TUES. “STOP PRESS”  Got Mum’s letter of Friday about Sydney coming.  Hope he will have a safe journey.



Pte Bertie Hibbett is now within 25 miles of the Western Front and the trenches of Neuville St Vaast and Vimy Ridge.  

(1) Estree-Wamin: farming village/commune in Pas de Calais (Roman site – ‘estree’ is from ‘strata/street’). 10 miles north from Occoches. (2) Magnicourt-en-Comte: commune in Pas de Calais13.05 miles north from EstreeWamin. (3) Aubigny: commune in centre of Mont St Eloi area. 11 miles south-east from Magnicourt. (4) Ecoivres: hamlet in commune of Mont Saint Eloi. 6 miles east from Aubigny. Total March of 40 miles approx.

(5) Wayside Ministries. Called Wilkinson’s in Letter 17th 1916. Christian Mission literature/under influence of 18th Cent. American Jemima Wilkinson? Quoted in Walsall Church Mag.? (6Lieut ( W.G.?)Thomson & (H.H.?) Lawley. QMS scholars /Info. pending.

(7) Battle of Loos-Hohenzollern Redoubt, 13th Oct. 1915. (8) The Spencer Club. QMS Club?  Bertie Hibbett was fond of creating ‘illuminations’ and after the War he kept an Autogaph Album of drawings, contributions and signatures of friends, some collected during the War.

(9) QMS Magazine December 1914.  SONNET

             Oh hear the wailing cry of agony Which swells above the cannon’s                    sullen roar, Above the piercing sounds of bloody war, And fills the                      hearts with deepest melancholy; Which drowns our feeble cries of                      victory, Whereby, poor thoughtless fools we set such store, Yea,                        opens to our eyes Death’s gaping door, Dark with the growing clouds              of misery.

              It is the sorrowing people’s pained cry, Who mourn the loss of all their               bravest youth, Snatched by untimely death that knows no ruth, E’en               while they fought for Home & Liberty. But better far they should thus               honoured fall Than deaf remain to their dear country’s call. Anon.

(10) ‘an ideal pancake’: ref. to his Mother’s parcel of good things for Shrove Tuesday ‘Pancake Day’. 4th Mar.1916. (11) Senior Oxford Examination Matriculation. (12) Molly Evans. Bertie’s pal Vernon Evans‘ little sister.

NEXT POST: 17th Mar. 1916.