Wilfred Holland-Hibbert's War Diary, part 4

Wilfred Holland-Hibbert

I went on leave to Alexandria and Port Said, having a grand time bathing in the sea.  Reggie Abel Smith and his lovely and charming wife Myrtle, came too and Rusty Eastwood was staying in the Hotel.  I got fever at Port Said and took to my bed, thus getting an extension of leave, but I must have been worse than I thought as soon after getting back to Abbassia in July I fainted one day at stables.  Had a Medical Board and was passed unfit for active service.  The regiment were about to go to Gallipoli so I suppose that was the reason for my being sent home.  If they had been staying in Cairo I daresay I should have stayed in Egypt.

I went home on a P. and O. with Viola2 who had been out in Egypt for some months.  It was awful seeing Thurstan3 standing near the Lesseps statue as we stemmed away leaving him behind.  We went over from Marseilles after an uneventful but comfortable journey.

I enjoyed my time in Egypt and it was much better being there then in England.  There can have been no regiment in the army with nicer Officers and we were a happy party and got on well together.

The unmarried Officers of course had a better time than those who were married as the latter were longing to be with their wives.  Those who had their wives out with them in Egypt, including Thurstan, were a great nuisance as they were continually asking the unmarried Officers to take their duties for them.

It would of course be ridiculous to say that I am sorry that I missed going to Gallipoli with the regiment as no one could truthfully say that they were sorry to miss such a dreadful time, but I certainly felt awful when I was at home again and when I heard that the regiment had gone there.  I hated the thought of all my troop whom I had trained being there without me and felt that my place at that time was with the Herts. Yeomanry without being involved in the heroics.

Wilfred Holland-Hibbert at the head of his troop

Letter from Wilfred’s Troop

My troop after I left Egypt sent me the following letter.

“Herts. Yeomanry No. 1 Troop, A Squadron.

13th July, 1915.

Lieut. W. Holland-Hibbert.

Sir,

The N.C.O.’s and men of No. 1 Troop wish to thank you most respectfully for the good wishes conveyed in your note and desire to express their heartfelt sympathy with you in your present illness and whilst regretting the necessity for your departure for home on account of ill health sincerely trust that the voyage and change of climate will restore you to permanent health and strength once more and that we shall have the pleasure of your leadership on the expiration of your leave.  Your genial personality and supervision will be deeply missed and you may rest assured that every man will do his utmost to uphold the reputation of the Troop and that in the event of your being unable to return to take command of the Troop we shall always look upon you as being one of the best Officers we ever wish to serve under.  Again expressing our sympathy and deep regret  in losing you as our Officer and hoping for your safe return, we remain,

Yours most obediently,

The N.C.O.’s. and Men of No. 1 Troop

A. Squadron, Herts Yeomanry.”

Colchester

After a spell of sick leave on arrival home and attending several Medical Boards, none of whom ever seemed to know anything about me, I was posted to the Herts. Yeomanry Depot. at Hertford where a 3rd Regiment was being formed under Major Upton4 and Major Barré Goldie5.  There was quite a lot to do as Upton had a bad heart and was seldom there, Barré Goldie was the only officer who knew anything about administration so was busy with that side of the job, leaving the training in my hands  !  I used to take the men to Balls Park near Hertford, Faudel Philips place, where I tried to teach them to ride and elementary drill.  During this time I lived in lodgings in Hertford, going home for week-ends on my motor bicycle which I hated riding.  I belonged to a Country Club6 at Hertford – a grim dark place – until it was destroyed by a Zeppelin bombing raid, luckily in my absence.  30 bombs were dropped on the town.  I went on leave to Glenshee to stay with Violet Henderson and saw quite a lot of Audrey when she could get away from nursing at Abbotswood, and a great deal of Violet when at Munden.  Later on I was transferred to Colchester where a contingent of about 300 men waited to go abroad were attached for training to the 20th Hussars.  I was in command of this contingent which was quite a big job as I only had one Officer under me, called Francis at first.  We had a worrying time as the men kept on getting spotted fever from the bad living conditions in damp huts.

We messed in the 20th Hussars mess, but during part of the period I lived and shared a house Frank Gilliat.  I had a wonderful soldier servant called Titch.  A tiny little ex-whipper in the Hertfordshire Hounds.  Fuel for the ghastly smoking stoves in our cold huts was very short, so he used to hide behind a hut when the coal cart came round and pull a bag off the cart, then disappeared again until it was safe to remove it off the road.

Drafts always seemed to have to go off in the middle of the night, it being my job to detail and see them off.  There was always a panic at the last moment that we were short of men as it was impossible not to let them fall out to say goodbye to their girls and relations.  Colchester was, I thought, a cold unpleasant place but the job was interesting and I felt at that time quite important and worth doing well.

We started by being at Reid Hall Camp but were subsequently moved down to Barracks.  At the end of the time my command consisted of 13 Officers and 323 other ranks, so I was kept pretty busy.

Thurstan3 and Rob both came home invalided from Gallipoli, so when we went out hunting the officious Hibberts were as usual much to the fore.

One of the Zeppelins came over Munden one night and was shot down in flames at Potters Bar.

Father at this time was County Commandant of all the Red Cross hospitals in Hertfordshire which gave him a tremendous lot to do.  He used to motor off nearly every morning to inspect a hospital, driving an old American car and I used to of the go with him when I was at home and try to help with the office work.

At the end of the war he was offered a Knighthood for his work which he refused as he said that he did not consider that anyone was eligible for a Knighthood.

Notes:

  1. Reginald Henry Macaulay Abel Smith (28th April 1890 – 12th March 1964.) Served 1st/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry August 1914 – December 1915 (B Squadron – Egypt, Dardanelles);and August 1917 – March 1919 (commanding A Squadron – Egypt, Palastine M.C.); 2nd/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry January – July 1917 (Adjutant 31st January – 11th July 1917); and 3rd/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry January – December 1916.
  2. Viola was Wilfred’s sister-in-law, Thurstan’s wife
  3. Thurstan Holland Hibbert was Wilfred’s older brother.
  4. Edward james Upton (28th December 1868 – 3rd February 1942). Served Sussex Imperial Yeomanry 1902 – 1905 (2nd Lieutenant 12th March 1902; resigned 3rd June 1905); and Eastern Mouted Brigade Transport and Supply Column, Army Service Corps 1908 -1914 (Catain 22nd June 1908). Transferred 21st October 1914 to Captain, Hertfordshire Yeomanry; major 19th November 1914; Served Hertfordshire Yeomanry Depot and 3rd/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry October 1914 – November 1915. Relinquished commission on grounds of ill health, retaining rank 16th November 1915.
  5. Barré Algernone Highmore Goldie (9th May 1870 – 2nd December 1949) Temporary Captain in Yeomanry. Served 2nd/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry September 1914 – June 1915 (Temorary Captain 1st December 1914); 3rd/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry June 1915 – February 1917 (Temporary Major whilst commanding regiment 28th January 1916 – 23rd February 1917)
  6. Presumably Wilfred is referring to The Hertford Club outside which three men among nine males killed on the night of 13th October 1915 during an airship raid.

 

This page was added on 25/10/2018.

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