Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, 1/5TH SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT:‘A Little Book of Words & Doings‘.
After the Battle of Loos Hohenzollern Redoubt Oct 13th -15th. 1915.
15th October 1915.
On my return from Rouen (1) to Bethune heard of the Charge of Oct 13th on arrival at Station.Heard of the critical condition of Capt. Cozens* (2).
Anxious about Sydney & Vernon* (3).
Draft met Batt. coming from Vermelles Trenches, war worn, lost hats, muddy tired look. Finest March Past I have ever seen. Strained my neck to catch Sydney. Saw him march by with a smile at me & losthat (4). Saw Vernon – he just caught sight of me, after much exertion on my part. Saw Cyril Hind* & Norman Cope* march past.
Met Sydney in attic of barn at Bethune; brother clasps the hand of brother & kissed each other (5). Opened my parcel which Mum sent me at Rouen; brought it with me with some choc. for Sydney & De Ruskes(6) for Vernon. Potted meat etc from home.
(1) Pte Bertie Hibbetthad been in Hospital at the B.E.F. Base in Rouen,since 10th August. (2) Captain L. (Tim) Cozens, family friend, member of St Paul’s Church, Walsall, Sunday School Teacher. QMS. Killed in Action 13th Oct. 1915. (Unable to find details on Commonwealth War Graves website.
cf ‘Little Book of Words & Doings’ 10th Aug. 1915: Last conversation with Capt. Cozens (Tim) on leaving Railway Dugouts. Not been five minutes with him before a whole crowd was round him. Talked of a Charge in which Earl Cardigon, dressed in civvies with frock coat, funny socks, swaggle cane & cigar astonished the enemy. Offered Tim a State Express cig. Harper and Serg Major Gee whom I saw also. All three killed while I was at Rouen Aug -Oct.
(3) Vernon Evans. Bertie’s best pal, kept in touch with each other all their lives.
(5)Hymn: ‘Through the Night of Doubt & Sorrow’.‘Brother clasps the hand of brother stepping fearless through the night’.Words: Bernhardt S. Ingerman. 1826. Danish translated by Sabine Baring Gould, The People’s Hymnal. 1867. Music ‘Beecher’: John Zundall. 1870.
NB ‘Brother clasped hands & kissed each other’:Eastern custom. cf Genesis story of Jacob & Esau.
(6) De Reszke cigarettes cf Hibbett Letter:13th June 1915.
1/ 5TH SOUTH STAFFORDS – In Hutments ‘BULFORD CAMP’
Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to his sister IDA, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.
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 ChurchParade in the field, within sound of guns & nature going on as usual. After the service our Colonel spoke of the Allies’ advance (2). The sugar– sweets & 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 chocolatethough 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 allow, but 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 SundayI 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 when – the 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).
We wear respirators to prevent the effects of gasses. We have not yetcome 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 parcelsit 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 smellsarising, as well as the gnats. I made a resolution not to smoke until I came back to Walsall at the end of the war.
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 eitherhave a good cig. with holder, orsmoke a pipe. Now Arthur Brown* gave me a pipe.
I should be less anxious if Dad would tell me his advice on the matter. Shall 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 uniform? Good 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 NormanCope* was upset somewhat with the excitingtime 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 forget. If 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.
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 CigaretteFunds were set up.
(1) Post stamp ed 15th Mayie 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/
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). (9) Guy Butter QMS Old Boy? (info pending). (10) BCS: Blue Coat School, Walsall. QM: Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall. (11) Shell Shock from 8 hours shelling. WelcomePage for May 1915.
BERTIE HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall to his Parents, Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, still on Holiday in Abergele, N. Wales.
Wednesday Aug 26 / 14
My Dear Father & Mother,
Things are getting a bit serious here. Sid went down to the Grammar School last Wednesday & Marshall (1) told him to “bring Arthur with you next week”. Well I thought (of) waiting till Mr. Nightingale *(2) said something, but news getting rather serious, and nothing definite from Mr N. I decided to go down to the Grammar &, should I be called upon definitely to join, I would tell Mr N. & see what he sais.
Well I went down tonight and when Marshall had called out the list, he wanted the names of all the new chaps present. When he caught sight of me he grinned all over his face as though as to say “his brother has brought him & I’m glad he’s come!” He then commented upon the voluntary patriotism of his old boys not waiting to be forced to join. . . (The rest of the letter is missing)
NB * (1) QMS Headmaster. (2) Mr. Nightingale, Mining Engineering Works, Lichfield Sreet; Bertie ‘s boss as a Mining Surveyor Apprentice.
MY MEMORIES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR: The Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett. 1967 .
‘My elder brother, Sydney, and I decided to enlist with the Territorials, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, rather than wait to be conscripted into Kitchener’s Army . My eldest brother, Harold, had not been schooled at Queen Mary’s; he was to join the band later, but in the Inns of Court Company, so also my youngest brother, Basil, who joined the Manchester Regiment (after leaving QMS). My fair-haired sister, Ida, was among many who, by doing her War Service at home, making hand grenades and later becoming a Red Cross Nurse and V.A.D., influenced Parliament to give women the franchise. She died not long after the war at the age of 32, from cancer contracted through exposure to phosphorous lead in the making of bombs.’ Extract AHH.
WHILST THESE FATEFUL DECISIONS WERE BEING MADE BERTIE designed a Prayer Card ‘Watch and Pray‘ for the Sunday Church School at St Paul’s, Darwall Street. He had passed his Teachers’ Examination with Merit, in April that year.
ST PAUL’S CHURCH, WALSALL is now called THE CROSSING AT ST PAUL’S. My father would have appreciated the symbolic depth of this new name . The thought of St Paul’s and the support of its people was a daily comfort at this fateful crossroad in his life.
THE CHURCH was built in 1893 on the site of the Chapel to Queen Mary’s Grammar School; to meet the needs of the growing industrial population of Walsall. ‘By the mid-1960s it was clear that the original reason for the building had gone and either it must re-invent itself or close’.With courage and imagination St Paul’s has certainly re-invented itself. In 1995 it became a Christian Social Enterprise and Place of Worship.
The Hibbett Family of 1914 would not recognise their Church as it is now, for this ’19th Century Gothic’ building has undergone a remarkable reconstruction to make it fit for the Church’s purpose within the wider Community today. ‘The integrity of the listed building has been maintained with an amazing feeling of grace and style.‘
Out of its lofty height three floors have been created. The ground floor is a Mal with small shops and a cafe, opening on to the street through the old West door. The Mezzanine floor has a restaurant & a variety of rooms for offices and art exhibitions.
The crowning glory is the top floor, an architectural triumph in its inspiring use of space and light, of old and new. Here the Church has its Upper Room for Sunday Worship. A Glass Lantern in the roof allows sunlight to illuminate the building . Hanging the full height of the Light Well and linking all three floors, is a great green-glass Cross. It is a magnificent work of art, symbolic of the Church’s whole message and enterprise.
In his Letters from the Trenches my father often imagined his family at worship in St Paul’s, with the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows. With them he could follow the Psalms & Bible Readings for the Day in the Christian Calendar and sing the familiar Hymns. If he could visit today he would be as astonished as I was, but I am sure he would be delighted with it all – especially as the outside of the Church remains largely as he knew it and the old Lady Chapel is unchanged and still in use for daily prayer. Above all, he would have loved walking right up close to the beautiful stained glass windows of the East End and being beside the tops of the pillars and arches, once so high above the Hibbett Family singing way down below.
This Church is worth a virtual visit, but better still an actual visit on foot. Here is a Church Company with ‘a social conscience … an ethical trading policy … committed to Fairtrade and Make Poverty History movements …actively involved in the regeneration of our town.’
THE HIBBETT FAMILY also attended Walsall Parish Church of ST MATTHEW high on the hill overlooking the Market.
St Matthew’s Parish Church on the hill and Market, High Street, Walsall.
NEXT POST: 4th Sept, 1914. QMS OLD BOYS MARCH OFF for Training in Luton.
The WW1 Letters and Drawings of Private Bertie Hibbett, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, to his family in Walsall, will be posted again, one hundred years on, from August 1914 to November 1918, by his daughter Elizabeth Hibbett Webb. The first posting will be the Recruitment Postcard sent by Queen Mary's Grammar School Headmaster to the Hibbett family on holiday in Abergele, Wales.