Tag Archives: Writing Letters

24th JUNE 1915: STAFFORDS ‘A MODEL TO THE BRITISH ARMY’

South Staffordshire BadgeeSOUTH  STAFFORDS  WAR  DIARY

NEUVE EGLISE

In Hutments, BULFORD CAMP

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to IDA, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

Mid-Summer Day. June 24/ 15 (1)

My Very Dear Sister,  

IDA HIBBETT. 27 in 1914.
IDA HIBBETT.
28 in 1915.

Have just read your usual three paged letter & its bucked me up further.  We have been inspected by the Army Corps General (2) you’ll know his name later; I guess it will be published.  He gave us a very encouraging address.  The Division is to be ‘lent’ to another part of the line for about three or four weeks.

Our trenches have been highly commended.  In fact our Colonel (3) said  in his personal address afterwards, that we have been praised by several other officers & our trenches were a ‘model’ to the British Army.  But we must not go with swelled heads, but in quiet determination to keep up & improve the high standard we have gained since the weeks after we started going into the trenches.  The General gave a very well spoken address, fluent and natural.

I’m comforted to read at the end of the PS, on the slip of paper, that you were not ‘put out’, or disagreed with my green envelope (4). Sydney did disagree and I was half sorry I wrote, but the lesson I can screw out of it now is what it showed we are all of us quite human, and are not always in the mood to write letters.  I think what put me down were two feelings within me, fighting one another.  One said ‘don’t fag about writing’ – another said, ‘think of Mother & acknowledge their kind thoughts & continued remembrance – & the Parcel’.   And dear Ida I hope you do, and all the others at home, appreciate the effort it takes at times to write, when one does not feel like writing sometimes.

Generally, I am very grateful to say, I love writing & think it is the best way of spending my spare timeThat is why I think I am so disgusted with myself when I feel I ought to write yet can’t collect my thoughts together.  You said it seemed a small thing to worry about, but dear Ida, small things can upset one enough to make men incompetent for THE work i.e. fighting the enemy.  

I was looking forward to a letter from home & my anxiety was completely dispersed & I was delighted when Sydney (who went for the parcels & letters for the Platoon) handed me your letter.

Best love to Mother, Father and all of you.    Bertie.

 PS  My greatest wish is that I live through the whole of the campaign & take part in it till peace is declared.  If I had Home Sickness ever so much I still don’t think I should care to be at home –  of course I could not be at home even if I wanted.

***************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

Pte Bertrie Hibbett belonged to the 137th Brigade, relieved by the 149th Brigade on 22nd June 1915).

‘Lent to other divisions fatigues’. CHAIN OF COMMAND numbers approx: CORP: 2 or more Divisions, 50,000 – 100,000 soldiers.  DIVISION: 18,000 (full strength) with 3 – 4 Brigades. Infantry BRIGADE: 1,500 – 4,000 in 3 – 4 Battalions. BATTALION: 1000 (full strength) 3 – 4 CompaniesCOMPANY: 500 – 800 in 3 – 6 Platoons.  PLATOON: 15 – 30 soldiers.

The Staffords, many familiar with mining and explosives, had impressed the Army with their efficiency & digging speed at Wulverghem and were now needed near Ypres (Ieper), approx. 11 miles north.

Rough Map of Wulverghem & Neuve Eglise 1915, with modern roads deleted.
Rough Map  showing Wulverghem; Neuve Eglise ; Messines (Mesen); Ypres, Ouderdom & Zillebeke. with modern roads deleted.  Adapted from Michelin Map.  EFW. 2015.

(1) The Summer Solstice/ Mid-Summer Day (when sun appears highest in the sky usually 21st -22nd June) was 24th June in 1915. (2) VI Army  Corps: formed in France 1st June, 1915, under Lt. Gen. Sir John Lindsey Keir, took over the British Lines at Ypres and first engaged at Battle of Loos, October, 1915.

(3) Lt. Colonel R. R.  Raymer, Cmdg. 1/5th S. Staffs.  (4) Green Envelopefor personal information only/ ref: Letter to Ida, 5th June 1915) .

NEXT POST: 30th JUNE, 1915.  Bagpipes & Indians.

 

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2nd Jan. 1915: New Year & Question of Home Leave.

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: LETTER to Mrs Marie Neal Hibbett, 95, Foden Rd. Walsall.

29 Gold Street, Saffron Walden. Jan 2 / 14 (sic). 

My Dear Mother,

New Year’s Day I finished off the last of the mince pies and nuts.  I did not go to the  Watch Night service, but I thought  I would have liked to have gone when I was getting into bed – it being a rather unique Watch Night service in time of War.

Epiphany today (1). The Colonel of the 6th South Staffs read the Gospel as the lesson.  Hymns were again lovely and the chaps round me sang very well. I tried and I must say something like a mellow fog horn proceeded from the lower regions of my throat.

Our Chaplain gave us another good sermon telling us to keep a good resolution, following from the text from the Creed – ‘The resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting’.  Soldiers, some of them, think that there is only one life – the earthly one  – & they make the best of it by selfish pleasure etc & think that death will end it all & all will be just the same as ever.  He mentioned about self-sacrifice & V.Cs etc to explain that there are worse things than death.

I believe it was on New Year’s Day that I turned back to days gone by I mean that  I re-read all the old familiar letters from home, for I have saved some just the same as you have, & even carried them from place to place on removing.

How very pleasant it seemed reading Mother’s writing about Oct & Nov. especially one telling me what each of you were doing one Sunday evening –  Ida at the piano, Basil writing to us,and Dad reading the news of that old & famous soldier. I like to keep & read letters for another reason.  I often find something in that needed answering & I neglected the answer.

Yes, I rummaged amongst the little pileI could tell quite easily each of your hand writing, Mother’s large hand appearing through the thin paper,  Ida’sswanky” thick hand, &  what appeared to be just a plain sheet of paper for Basil’s,  because he writes generally in pencil & I can tell Harold’s small & sprawly yet neat hand.

Basil’s letter, by the by, still retains the smell of the handkerchief which was wrapped up in it. No, not one of your letters ever grow stale, all of them can stand reading again.

Now aint the arrrmy funny! I can hardly believe it that Leave IS FREE for 5 daysMondays or Thursdays (2). We cannot tell you anything for certain.  I am sure you can trust us to get every information about the matter as we possibly can.  Yes, we’ve worried  ‘Colours’ till he’s blue (3).  I think the married and trained men are having the first chance.  We might come home any day now  –  but you will receive a wire from us when we are about to leave.

At any rate I am of the opinion we ought to be doing something of a more advanced nature i.e.  –   at the front or where the fighting is going on.  I shall take things now as a matter of course &  – as Dad said  – ‘Leave it all to the authorities’.

ON THE MATTER OF WRITING LETTERS  – Am I downheartedNO!  We have received a ‘lot’ of presents & just when we think it’s all over first one and then another comes.  Fancy Fred York sending us a patent lunch tin of chocolate , and some toffee  – scrumptious  & the very idea of  Miss Bore (4) making a Cake & even putting our initials on top of it, & Mrs Bore enclosing HUMBUGS & acid drops, a great demand amongst the soldiers  (not Territorials now (5).

We are just going to make a side advance & attack on the Cake with just a knife as bayonet and attempt to ate him for to-day’s (Sunday’s) tea (all these (gifts) will, have been, are, require a letter in exchange).

Some magazines, readdressed I guess by Dad, came just in time for a little quiet Sunday’s reading.

Goodbye for the present.  I will leave the rest for when I see you face to face on Home Leave.  But just before I say I am etc etc I thank Ida for the letter, but (I) expected she was getting up a record one to beat mine, the days I have not heard from Sister.

Going back to the old letters once more, I came across a few lines of poetry which I thought Ida had composed herself –  all about you.  I began exactly at the beginning & read until I came to the end – then I was disappointed to see it was from PunchYes, after all the socks & things you have knitted for us, a piece of poetry is worthy to be dedicated to you dear Mother.  We got such an interesting letter which flabbergasted me when I knew who it was from – Ernest Lagden.  I expect he is in the Navy now.

Your ever affec. 

 Bertie Hubert           See over for latest news

P.S. STOP PRESS : I  guess you got a letter somewhat like a business one with a firm’s name on the flap?  It was from “Boss” (6) saying how mean he was not remembering me at Christmas, the typist has been a month in hospital & 3 months away  & so he has to do what he calls a double shift & if anything is not put into its proper place he sais he get’s huffy.  After relating adventures down the pit & promising Vernon E(vans) to take him down Walsall Wood (7),  – isn’t it queer that that very night Evans read about the death of Lord Bradford, the very owner of the Pit.  I suppose the village will not fear of having workers “out of work” now.

PS  I have just been shown the latest (way of) addressing letters – the one enclosing my letter is an example. This will be the last letter of mine written in ink.  I mean to write all my letters in pencil during 1915 and the War.

Bert.

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB 2009

(1)Date confusion: Bertie talks of ‘today’s tea (Sunday’s)’ i.e. 3rd Jan 1915, (not 2nd Jan. 1914!). He also calls ‘today’ ‘Epiphany‘ because Saffron Walden Church was anticipating the Feast of the Epiphany  or the ‘Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles’ 6th Jan. The Gospel read by the Colonel would have been the Visit of the Three Wisemen  Mtt. 2.1. (2) Home Leave (before embarcation to France) was for 5 days / to begin  on either a Monday or Thursday. (3Colour Sergeant; non-commissioned officer, rank above Sergeant & below Warrant Officer, carried the Regiments’ colours.(4) Harold’s fiancee.

(5)Territorial soldiers did not serve abroad. Bertie now counts himself ‘trained’ and ready for the Front. (6)Bertie’sBoss‘ : Mr Nightingale, Mining Engineer, Walsall. (7) Walsall Wood Colliery and Lime Pits in region of Lichfield road. (Literally the ‘Wood of Walsall’, in 1200, AD, once part of Cannock Chase).

NEXT POST: 12th Jan. 1914.