20218 PTE. W. HIBBERT. L.N.LAN.R.
William Hibbert was born William Campbell in Southport in 1897. His father was Thomas Campbell, b. 1869, a railway engine stoker originally from Ormskirk; his mother was Mary Thomason, b. 1873 in Southport. They had three sons, Thomas b. 1896, William and Albert Edward (b. 1901, who died before he was 1). Thomas (Snr) died in 1902 and the following year Mary re-married. Her new husband was Levi Arbott Hibbert, b. 1868 in Winchester, though the Hibbert family moved to Bamber Bridge in the 1870s and then to Lostock Hall. Levi was a cotton weaver. He married Elizabeth Ann Simpson in 1889 and they had eight children before Elizabeth died in 1902. Levi and Mary married in 1903 and then had three children together, so in 1911 the extended family was living at 9 Garfield Terrace, Lostock Hall: Levi and Mary, 7 of ‘his’ children, 2 of ‘her’ children and 3 of ‘their’ children; 14 people in all in a house with a total of 7 rooms. In the 1911 Census, Thomas and William are still shown using their birth surname (Campbell), but it seems that when he enlisted William used his step-father’s surname.
William (aged only 17) joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment at the same time as fellow villagers, Tom Hilton and William Parr. 6th (Service) Battalion L.N.LAN.R. was part of Kitchener’s New Army and was created on 8 August 1914. The three men almost certainly enlisted together in February 1915, and they arrived with other reinforcements from England at Suvla Bay on 14 November 1915, 6Bn having first arrived in Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. By the time the new draft arrived in November, the decision had been taken to abandon the campaign and evacuate the Gallipoli Peninsula, but it would be an enormous and dangerous task to evacuate 80,000 men, with all their equipment and stores, from open beaches, under attack from an active and enterprising enemy. However, the Battalion did manage to withdraw and in mid-December sailed for Moudros on the Greek island of Lemnos. Around this time, British forces near Baghdad, in Mesopotamia, had come under severe attack and it had been decided that reinforcements, including 6Bn, would need to be sent. A month later they transferred to Egypt where they were re-equipped for their new theatre of war. They left Port Said on 14 February, arriving at Basra on 5 March, where they transferred to river boats and proceeded up the River Tigris to Sheikh Saad where by 1 April they formed part of a British Army of 30,000 men and 127 guns whose objective was to relieve the British and Indian troops besieged by the Turks in the city of Kut-al-Amara. The British had some initial success in an attack from 6-9 April, during which William Parr and Tom Hilton were both missing presumed killed.
During this action, 6Bn had 7 men killed, 6 officers and 79 other ranks wounded, and 4 officers and 165 other ranks missing. Ultimately, however, the attempt to relieve Kut was a failure; the city surrendered on 28 April, after 24,000 men had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner in trying to bring it aid. The loss of Kut has been described as "the most abject capitulation in Britain’s military history." The army commanders were replaced, the army reorganised and re-trained and a new campaign was launched, eventually leading to the capture of Baghdad on 11 March 1917.
William Hibbert survived the failed attempt to relieve Kut, but he would not survive the appalling conditions in the late Spring in Mesopotamia. From the regimental history:
From April to September there was much sickness in the Tigris Corps, causing extraordinarily heavy casualties; as early as 28 April General Maude records in his diary that in his division there were 20-30 cases of cholera daily, and 5-8 deaths. In fact, there were 800 cases of cholera in Tigris Corps in April and May.
William died from cholera on 2 May 1916 (the newspaper report that he was ‘killed in action’ is incorrect). He was barely 19 years old.
Service No: 20218
Date of Death: 02/05/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 6th Bn.
Grave Reference: XX. E. 1.
Memorial: AMARA WAR CEMETERY