JUNE 1917


David Childs

On 7 June, in a week-long battle, the allies succeeded in driving the Germans off the Messines Ridge from where they had threatened the Ypres Salient. The battle began with the exploding of nineteen great mines the noise of which was heard as far away as London. Ludendorff said the attack had cost the Germans dear and drained their reserves. They suffered around 25,000 casualties but the allied losses were not far different and included, probably, Lance Corporal Hibberd (see below). Sadly, the allies failed to follow up immediately their advantage, even creating a re-enactment to show off to the king! By the time they were ready, the August deluge made a muddy hell of 3rd Ypres or Passchendaele.

Two other potential positives were delivered in June: the Admiralty approved the introduction of convoys and the first American troops arrived in Europe.

We will remember them

On 7 June, the day the Battle of Messines Ridge began, Lance Corporal Wilfred Hibberd, aged twenty, serving in the London Regiment, died in Belgium. He is commemorated at the Menin Gate. He was the second of three, presumably related, Hibberd's to die. Wilfred's parents were Arthur and Lydia who lived at 'The Villa', High Street, Tisbury.


On a hill above Sutton Mandeville men from the 3/7th City of London Battalion, part of the Regiment in which Corporal Hibberd was serving, cut a large copy of their regimental badge into the chalk, copying an earlier one cut at Fovant by their sister regiment the 3/6th. Although the Fovant badges have been restored the two at Sutton Mandeville are awaiting reclamation. This is being carried out by volunteers from that village. The battalion was known as the 'Shiny' Seventh because spit and polish was evidently very important to those in command. And, this was a marching song of the 'Shiny' Seventh sung to the tune of 'Sweet and Low':

The Psalm of the 'Shiny' Seventh

Spit and shine, spit and shine, early every morning
Shine, shine, spit and shine, e'er we have finished yawning.
See how our buttons gleam in the sun,
That's the way the war will be won,
What does the Brigadier say?
Spit and shine, my lads, spit and shine, my lads, shine,
Spit and shine, spit and shine, just as the day is breaking,
Shine, shine, spit and shine, what though our bones are aching.
Tommy needs bathing but once in six weeks,
His neck may be dirty, his clothes full of leaks,
But the orders are every day:

©  Tisbury History Society
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