Tag Archives: William Whiting.


Bertie HibbettPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mother, Marie Neal HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

4th Sunday in Advent. The Coming of Our Lord.  Dec 19/ 15

Be careful for nothing. Rejoice in the Lord alway; The Lord is at hand.’ (1)


My Very Dear Mother,

I received your very welcome letters dated Dec 11th & 12th (Sat & Sun) on Dec 14th & 15th (Tue & Wed) respectively & indeed did receive them with respect.  But on Thursday night your two Christmas parcels had not yet come & on Friday morning I was sent to the Field Ambulance with ‘Pyoremia’ (sic) (2) – don’t be frightened at that word ’tis not half as bad as ‘catarrhal j———-  oh! I don’t like to write it even. Tis only sore feet and a few other breakings out.

And so this Sunday finds me at the Casualty Clearing Station, a kind of Hospital (3).  Do not be sorry for me, I am sorry for you, but then again the contents of your ripping parcels will be highly appreciated among my chums & especially the other chaps in my section who have rarely had such luxuries as figs, dates & a rich plum cake.  I have told the Corporal* (4) over the section to divide the parcels among them; no parcel s have been forwarded to me.

We moved to this C.C.S. this morning.  I advise you not to trouble writing to me until I get back to the Battalion again.  The doctor said I should take more than a week to get better, but then my address is not certain.  I cannot tell you anything more definite.

Pathephone Record Player.1916.
Pathephone Record Player.1916. cf Letter 20th August 1915.

I am very comfy here, there is a gramophone on and we have just had Eternal father strong to save’ (5 ).  That reminds me,  I wonder how Sydney is now.  I pray that he is having a quiet & happy Sunday, & you too, with Harold at Home, as he was last Sunday.

Your letter of last Sunday was a nice one & I knew as much that you & I  would be thinking of Sydney & one another.  By the time you get this, & the other of my Christmas letters to you all, it will be very much nearer the season.

From Left Motyer, bertie with hoop, Basil Ida & Sydney who did not like his photo taken.
Hibbett Family Photo  c.1906.  In Khaki Case. From Left : Mother, Bertie with hoop, Basil, Ida & Sydney ‘who did not like his photo taken’.

I have just had a look at you Mum & all of you in my  little Khaki CaseI am sorry I cannot send you a smile like I did last Christmas at Saffron Walden & a Card, so I send you Auntie’s (6) & it will partly be mine to you won’t it?  now I have parted with it. 

And, as Dodger said he would like to see me I have cut myself out & sent you a smile

What do you think of my ghost story in his letter?

As luck would have it Vernon, Sydney and I look far from spending Christmas together & the Trio is away from the Batt. too & we are all in Hospitalhow funny.  Vernon went to the Field Ambulance a week last Sat & left the morning I arrived, only a few hours before, so that I could not wish him the best of luck and a Merry Xmas.  I do hope dear Sydney will enjoy some Christmas fareHave you sent him a parcel? I do hope he gets his, but he will sure to of course.

You had better write to Miss Foster*as well as I don’t want another muddle in correspondence.  A. O. Jones* will very likely acknowledge my parcels.   He has got a stripe to enable him to get a CommissionEvery applicant must have had two months as an N.C.O. to get a Com I put the matter to my platoon Commander the other day before I left the Batt.  but did not see him again to hear his answer.

Yes, as you say, it will be Christ’s Birthday on the 25th & everyone can rejoice in the right way.  See Thessalonians 4th Chapt. from verse 13 to end Wherefore comfort ye one another with these words.

I am writing to Mrs Penning* (7) for Christmas.  God bless you dear Mother & He will let you see me in His good time.  I do like your conclusions to your letters, but don’t trouble staying up late to write.  I pray that you may have happy goodnight sleeps. 

May you have a Happy Home all together this Xmas.

Your very affec. son,  Bertie.

PSS on sides of pages:  Tell me when you can if you plucked the Turkey.  I think I shall be able to attend a nice service at Xmas as I shall be in Hospital a week, according to what I heard.  Have only been able to attend one service since I came from the Base. (8)



Pte Bertie Hibbett’s movements are clarified here. On 17th Dec, he was due to march from Rue des Vaches to Isqberque but because of the state of his feet he was sent instead to the Field Ambulance Advanced Dressing Station ADS (where he just missed his pal Vernon who had gone on to Hospital in Bologne with a similar complaint).  By 19th Dec. Bertie was at Merville Casualty Clearing Station (the next stage of the Divisional Casualty Evacuation Chain, organised by the RAMC. This Letter is typical of those he sent his Mother, a determined attempt to alley her anxiety for him with comforting words of the Christian Faith & the true meaning of Christmas.

(1)Philippians 4. 4-8. (2) Pyaemia: Blood poisoning (septicaemia) characterised by pus-forming micro organisms (usually Staphylococcus) in the blood /leading to widespread abscesses/ boils (fr Latin puon -pus /haima-blood.  A very serious condition in the absence of antibiotics. 

(3) Merville C.C.S. Casualty Clearing Station (approx 8 miles West of Estaires.  (4) A.O.Jones* recently made Corporal in preparation for Commission? (5Eternal Father Strong to Save. The Seafarer’s Hymn. William Whiting. 1860.

(6) Auntie Pattie* of York’s Xmas Card.  (7) Mrs Alice Penning*: Bertie’s billet Landlady, Gold Street, Saffron Walden, 1914. Lost her son, Arthur Penning, K. in A. August 1915. (6) Base: the Brigades’ ADS Advanced Dressing Station. cf Letter: 14th Dec. 1915.

NEXT POST: 19th Dec. 1915. No 4. Letter to Father. ‘Taking Things as a Matter of Course as You Advised.’



BERTIE HIBBETT: 19 in 1914.
19 in 1914.

Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: No 6  GENERAL BASE CONVALESCENT CAMP ROUEN:  LETTER to Marie Neal Hibbett & Ida Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd Walsall.

Saturday Oct 2/ 15

My  Very Dear Mother and Sister Ida,

It is getting dark.  I am squatting in the tent_________  I feel I ought to write at once to you___________  I was going to  dinner when a chap out of my tent told me to turn back, there was an urgent letter waiting for me in a pile of rifles in the tent.  When I saw it I suddenly thought of dear Sydney.  I thought the letter was to say he had either been k_____d  or wounded I had heard that our Batt. must have been in the General Advance & I thought he had been in the Charge (1).

But I have been praying for him, remembering him in my prayers &  have also thought more often of him likely being on the journey Home to see Mummy & Dad & all of you.  I prayed that he may have a Happy & Safe Journey.

Do you know Mummy here’s another queer coincidence, I’m sorry I left it out in my last letter.  When I went to Church in the S.C.A. Hut (2) in the Con. Camp we sang ‘Eternal Father strong to save’ (3) & my didn’t I let my voice go thinking of Sydney, & in mind of him going across the Channel, either that night or someday in the coming week & ain’t it funny, it was so (4).

I did laugh, I couldn’t help myself laughing after I read Ida’s lovely letter –  especially as I read of Sydney & pictured him sitting with Mummy by the cheery fireside, in the sound of the guns no, no, but in the sound of Sister’s lovely touch on the pianoforte.  Ha Ha!  I am as blythe & gay as can be & only hope that Sydney, deary me, is making the best of his Leave.  And too I am sorry for him for it will be another wrench for him to leave Home.

So you got those lovely apples from Gaunt’s Farm (5) & the eggs were so creamy and nice again.

Oh Ida you did hurt my feelings – I mean to say I am really ashamed of the complaints in my past letters which put you all so anxious, why I was even bemoaning myself on coming away on the march from the drilling field this morning.  All the T.B. men (6) went to a large field for training & as we came back we passed No 9  General Hospital where I had been for such a long time.  I saw the men in blue & thought of the long letters I wrote home from there & those horrible complaints which made you so upset.  Yes there’s no denying I have grumbled, but dearest Mummy, it will teach & has taught me a lesson.  I shall be able to bear greater pain should it come in the future.

I have had some pay today & there are several Canteens here.  I hope to be able to take something for Sydney when I go up the line again for I am sure he will feel the reaction greatly & will want something in the way of luxuries to help to graduate the sudden fall from Home comforts.  I’m glad Mum will find a spare minute to scratch a line to Miss Foster*; it will help to make things clearer as I don’t care much to explain things myself.

It is too dark to write now & besides the post goes soon & I want to get this off.  Perhaps it is likely that this letter will be in time to wish dear Sydney the Best of Luck & a Hearty Send Off, hoping he will cross in safety Mother dear

Ought not we to be indeed grateful & thankful to those Higher Hands I’m sure you are & do not worry an iota about me coming Home.  I am grateful to say I am taking things as Dad wished me to take them – ‘as a matter of course’.  ‘I will sing of the Lord because he has dealt so lovingly with meapplies to both, eh Mum. (Psalm for this evening 2/10/15 (7).

Best love to all,               Bertie Arfer.



(1) Major Offensive: 25th Sept. 1915.  (2)  Soldiers’ Christian Association Hut.

William Whiting.
The Revd William Whiting.

(3) Hymn: ‘Eternal Father‘. Words: William Whiting. 1825-1878 (Anglican, Head of Winchester College Choristers’ School).

John Bacchus Dykes.
The Revd John Bacchus Dykes.

The Navy Hymn/ Seafarer’s Hymn: 1st edition Hymn Ancient & Modern. 1861. Based on Ps 107 the hymn expresses a three-fold experience of  the divine as Father, Son & Holy Spirit.  References to Genesis 1.2: The Spirit of God (Hebrew: Rûach רוּחַ Elohim אֱלֹהִים/ wind/breath/spirit (feminine/ plural) hovered/ brooded over the waters of chaos like a Mother bird;   Mark 4.35f:  Christ Stilling the Storm & Walking on Water; also Acts 27-28: Luke’s eyewitness account of Paul’s shipwreck off the island of Malta. Tune: Melita (Malta). John Bacchus Dykes, 1823-1876. Precentor Durham Cathedral 1849-1862.

(4) WW1 Home Leave varied in length (travel time included).  Corp. Sydney Hibbett is logged as ‘Rtd(Returned) on 5th Oct., so a ‘10 Day’s Leave’ (if Bertie is correct & his brother sailed Home on Sun. 26th Sept.)

(5) Gaunt’s Farm. Sutton? (connection John O’ Gaunt,1340-1399 1st Duke of Lancaster?).

6) T.B.  TuberculosisPte Bertie includes himself here. The family did not know of this until 1960s when my father went into Boston Hospital for operations on his war-worn feet and was found to have T.B. scars on  his lungs.  His brother Harold was invalided out of the Army and died of T.B. in 1940.

(7) Psalm 13.6. (8) Ouderdom 5 mile march. (9) Abeele, Poperingue, West Flanders: (Site of WW1 Military Airfield).

(10Fouquereuil, village one mile SW of Bethune, Nord Pas de Calais40 mile train journey. (11) L’Ecleme near Lillers, 15 miles SW of Bethune.  (12) Brigade Operation Orders (Staffordshire Regiment Museum, Whittington Barracks, Lichfield).


South Staffordshire Badgee



1st Oct. Fri:  In Brigade Reserve.  Brigade relieved by 17th Division. The Battalion vacated the dug-outs about 8.30 pm and bivouaced at Transport Lines near OUDERDOM (8).


Abele Poperingue.
Abele Poperingue.

2nd Oct. Sat: At about 11 am Battalion paraded and marched to ABEELE (9).  

Entrained for FOUQUEREUIL (10) 4.30 pm arrived 6.15 pm.  Marched to billets at L’CLEME near LILLERS (11) arrived at 12.30 am 3rd inst. Ouderdom(See B.O.O’s  d/1.10.15 attached) (12)

NEXT POST: 3rd OCT. 1915.