Tag Archives: Wayside Memories.

23RD APRIL 1916: EASTER FINDS ME ‘UNABLE TO KEEP THE FEAST’.

Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT, No 3 FIELD AMBULANCE, NORTH MIDLAND DIVISION B.E.F. (1): LETTER to ALL at 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

Easter Sunday. Ap 23rd 1916

‘Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the  Feast’. (2)

‘Now the Queen of Seasons bright With the Day of Splendour, With the Royal Feast of Feasts Comes the Joy to render’. (3)

My Very Dear People,

Bright, sunny weather greeted us all as we got up this Easter morning.  I do so hope you too are having the same. But, queer enough, between the two great days it has rained somewhat heavily.

What a capital, ideal Easter parcel you sent dears – Mum, Dad & all.  I went down to Sydney & we opened it, with another parcel from Miss Foster* to us both in front of us .  How striking the beautiful Easter picture looked, the first thing that proclaimed itself as we took off the lid.  The parcels came just in time for Easter & before I left the Coy. for this place, No 3 Field Ambulance, North Midland Division, B.E.F.

This Easter morning, the parcels arriving yesterday, Saturday, I took them down myself to Sydney.  What a delightful brotherly feeling pervaded the air while I was with him, but now it has come my turn once again to leave him, for how long I can’t say. My case is not bad, it is prevalent among the majority of the men, my usual skin disease (4).

So eventually Easter Sunday finds me here, unable to ‘keep the Feast’ (2) as I should have liked, attending Parade Service, & Holy Communion which generally follows But I have reaped a little consolation from Miss Foster’s little book ‘Wayside Memories’ (5 which I will send as soon as I get a green envelope. There is a quotation which says: ‘a little lifting of the Heart suffices –  – – one act of inward worship, though upon a march & sword in hand, are nevertheless acceptable to God.’ (6).

Easter Dawn. Postcard sent to soldiers from St peter's Church Paddington. 'At our Easter Communion we are Praying for You.
Easter Dawn. ‘Lo I am with you alway’. 

I was so sorry on reading that you thought of not going to St Paul’s today, if I was not with you. But, dear Mum, what does the title for the Easter picture for the soldiers say; ‘Lo, I am with you alway’ (7). Does Ida remember the Happy Easter morning when we all went to Communion (Choral) & sang ‘Jesus Christ is risen today, Allelluia’ (8) and does dear Mum remember scooting off to Sunday School on the cycle?

Many thanks for the Hot Cross buns, cake, cigarettes & the Easter Egg.  I left the sardines for Sydney, also the cocoa, milk & sugar.  I have enjoyed a lovely day & ate the chocolate egg when Basil & his two brothers used to eat them –  ie after Easter dinnerI enjoyed a ‘nice’ tea with the cake today & pictured you all with Harold &  Miss Bore at tea.

I let Sydney have the pencil as it is of more use to him, being one who has to make notes etc.  After reading & digesting in little time to enjoy it as well, the Q.M.S. Magazine, those articles that Dodger earmarked, I left the magazine for Sydney while I brought the Parish (Church) Mag. with me.  While squatting by his side I heard him give acclamations of sad surprise on seeing the photos of the OTC casualties, but the smiling face of Sergeant Fenton* reminds me of Sydney’s quick answer to Mother’s question which was his favourite hymnRejoice again I say Rejoice’ (9) – ‘being sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’ (10). I shall put in for sick leave when possible, so be not anxious dearies.

I see that you are having the Hallelujah Chorus tonight, which I loved Dad to play.  I hope Dad will have a good rest this holiday & Mum will get well soon.  Perhaps you will think this letter not such a nice one as my usual, but I have such a great thoughts of you I can’t express or know what – or how much to say.

Silk Cigarette Cards: belgium & Serbia.
Silk Cigarette Cards: Belgium & Serbia.

I enclose some more silk cards (11), tell me if you get them, which I send for you Mum  – & Ida if she would like one, & Basil, with my heart’s love to you all.  I am writing to Harold, Ida & Basil soon. 

With our combined love & wishes from

Your loving Bertie.

PS Am sending little book later – tell me if you get it, it will be in a Stationary Envelope (6).

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertie Hibbett may have felt that he could not ‘keep the Feast’ in the traditional sense of attending Church services and family gatherings but to me these Letters Home show how deeply my father understood the true meaning of Good Friday & Easter. Like Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, he practised the Presence of God in the midst of suffering & sacrifice,   ‘As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’.  

The Hibbett family sent a picture in their Easter Parcel with the message ‘Lo, I am with you alway’.  The sight of it gave great comfort and strength to him & his brother, and I am almost certain it was the same picture sent to Bandsman Thomas William Stubley, Killed in Action, 16th May 1916 – see Derby Church House website <http://www.derby.anglican.org&gt;Grateful thanks to Wendy Pockson & Dave Feltham.

(1) Field Ambulance: a Mobile Front Line Medical Unit (not to be mistaken for a vehicle), organised by the RAMC. Each Infantry Division had 3 F.As, each divided into 3 sections, each with 10 officers, a stretcher bearer & tented subsections. See The Long Long Trail <http://www.1914-1918.net/fieldambulances> 

John of Damascus.
John of Damascus.

(2) ‘Christ our Passover . . .’: 2 Corinthians 5.7. St Paul Approx AD 57. cf Exodus 12/ Angel of Death passes over the houses marked with the Blood of the Lamb. (3) ‘Now the Queen of Seasons bright. . .’ verse in Easter Hymn: ‘Come ye faithful raise the strain of triumphant gladness ‘John of Damascus c 675 -749. Syrian Monk & Christian Priest/lived in Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery. English Transl. 1853. John Mason Neale 1818- 1866. Anglican Priest & hymn writer/ Oxford Movement.

(4) ‘Skin Disease’: blood disorder/ boils that put Pte Bertie in Hospital, Aug -Oct 1915 & Dec. 1915-Jan 1916. cf Hibbett Letter 2nd Nov. 1915. (5) Godmother’s Little Book Wayside Memories/ which Bertie sent on to his Mother in a green envelope.

(6) ‘A little lifting of the heart: Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. Practised the Presence of God’ cf Hibbett Letter 16th April 1916.

(7)  ‘Lo I am with you alway even to the end of the world’: Matt. 28 20. c AD 85. (8) ‘Jesus Christ is risen today’: 14th Cent Latin Hymn ‘Surrexit Christus hodie’/ author unknown. English Transl. John Baptist Walsh. Charles Wesley added a 4th verse. Music: ‘Easter Hymn'(Lyra Davidica).

9) ‘Rejoice I say . . ‘:  Philippians 4.14. St Paul approx. AD 49 -51.(10)  ‘Sorrowful yet alway rejoicing’. 2 Corinthians 6.10. KJV. St Paul AD 57 approx. 

(11) Silk Cigarette Cards: See Hibbett Letters 14th April 1916; 18th June 1915.

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NEXT POST: 25th April 1916.  (Letter, posted in Derby not received by Bertie Hibbett until April 1918). 

26TH MAR. 1916: 1/5TH S. STAFFORDS HOLD THE ‘LABYRINTH’, NEUVILLE ST VAAST.

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

NEUVILLE ST VAAST & THE LABYRINTH (1).

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.

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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.

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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.

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ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

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.