3rd March. Reached HAVRE 1.0 a.m. disembarked 7.30 a.m. Marched 4 miles to Rest Camp. Under Canvas. Transport not arrived being on a different ship. Drew a few Camp Kettles, 50 for whole Batt. all new blankets 2 pr man.
Fur coats & warm clothing issued, almost all articles of store not drawn at home were issued. Interpreter joined. Not having Transport with Battalion caused considerable inconvenience. If possible it would seem better to keep Unit complete for transportation.
YMCA (2) Address Reply to Pte A.H.Hibbett No 8832, 7 Section A Company 1/5th Battalion South Staff.Regt. THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE c/o General Post Office London. Havre Rest Camp
My Dear Mother & Father,
Bon Apres-midi! I said ‘Bonjour!’ to a little French chap when we were on our way to the Rest Camp. The French boy courteously bowed & touched his hat and said, ‘Bonjour monsieur’.
We are in France at last – to think of it – arrived here about 1.0 after a delightful passage. I thought of you all as we cheered to those we left at Southampton – leaving dear old England & making for the Channel. A water plane (3) flew over the ship before we departed. I told Sid that Basil will be pining to be with us on board.
What a delightful sensation – & the many flashlights which swept the water gave us a still more warlike sensation. Now and again the Empress Queen would come under the rays of the search light. Many of the soldiers slept in the saloon on the lower deck, but I preferred to pace up and down the higher decks & look out to sea.
When the boat was half way across, I could see no sign of land, but just the white track of foam the ship left behind. The sea was comparatively calm & the moon shone bright at times. The boat did not rock enough to make me seasick, but when it first began to roll the sensation when walking on board was so queer that I soon made for the side and sat down. I soon got used to the rocking & after a time paced up and down like an old Jack Tar.
We were escorted across the Channel by a Destroyer. I was interested in the Marconi wireless which we had on board. (4)
The last time I woke from sleep we were steaming into the harbour. What a magnificent view I saw in the darkness, the high cliffs of Havre & a revolving search light would flash its rays across the gloomy harbour. Then the ship went between the two stone piers. One lighthouse had a red light & the other like that at Whitby. (5)
The jolliest part of the day was when we saw the first boat with Terriers on board. How we cheered! There were many large Red Cross vessels in the harbour & we cheered as we passed them. One vessel we passed signalled with a light -‘Good Night and Good Luck!’
We have by the grace of God had extremely good luck. The day has been fine and the journey delightful, but what disgraceful sanitary conditions in the streets of this French town.
Ida, I saw the bobbies with their swords & the queer French uniform of the soldier – light blue and red stripe. Well I could go on writing & writing. I guess Sid is scribbling away there in his tent. Vernon and I are scribbling away in this tent.(6)
We have had a chat with a Hindu of an Indian Regiment. He has conversed with us in English. We have been doled out with sheepskins and oh I should like to have sent you a photo of us! Well I shan’t have another chance of writing long letters.
Best love & good wishes. God bless you all.
Your affect. Bert.
(1) SS Empress Queen: chartered by Admiralty from Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Feb. 6th 1915. Regarded as largest, fastest paddle steamer ever built: 1,994 passengers and crew of 95. Fairfield & Co., Govan. 1897. (Wrecked off Ring Rocks, Isle of Wight, 1st Feb.1916, carrying troops home, all rescued ).
(2) YMCA ‘Young Men’s Christian Association‘. Founded by George Williams, draper, London, 1844 ‘to provide safe accomodation for young people drawn to city by industrialisation’. Christian principles re- ‘Body, Mind & Spirit‘ symbolised by red sides of logo triangle.
(3) Sea-plane of type used to raid Ostend. (4 Guglielmo Marconi, radio pioneer,1874-1937. SS Empress Queen first steamship to install wireless telegraphy. (5) Whitby & Abergele alternated for Hibbett annual holidays. (6) Bell Tents.
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