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Peter Haycraft Dibdin
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Letter from Peter's Uncle Joe in America to his own brother Rex
This letter, found with Joan’s letters, received in sympathy over
Tony’s death, was written by one of her uncles Joe Dibdin from New
Orleans, but who normally lived at Farm
in Forest Hill, Louisiana, to
Rex Dibdin, who was living in Forest Hill, London.
Both had been in World War 1. Rex was invalided out, injured and later
very depressed, and Joe who survived, reaching the rank of Major in the
Artillery as a machine gunner. Awarded for bravery.
Joseph Dibdin also known as Joe or Fritz emigrated to America soon after
World War 1 and worked in Engineering in the New Orleans area partly on
the drainage for the Town. He married Garnett and had a daughter Marion.
Joe was the bouncy member of the family with a fun sense of humour and
judging from acecdotes it is surprising that he survived the war. He like
others in the family will have grieved the many deaths but from a
distance. When writing this letter he was unaware of the irony that Peter
had died in an accident, nor probably, that Joan was married and had a
reader will note the usual strong Dibdin clannishness in his writing.
and Garnett did visit England sometime before 1933 and Joan remembered him
so there is a good chance that he and Peter met.
Dibdin 1888-1956 so about 56
years old when this letter was written.
exploits in WW1 can be seen at:
Letter from Joe to Rex regarding Peter’s death
Mail to Forest Hill Lane.
have just received from Garnett your letter telling of Peter’s death. I
am very thankful that you wrote at once as we have been thinking very
often about him and wondering in what part of the fight he was, how he was
getting along and the many possibilities.
say that we knew he was in it is superfluous, we know the breed too well.
That he fought gallantly goes without saying, we over here know that
nothing else was possible to him. But will you tell Joan for me just this.
When Lionel and Cecily were lost, I wrote to Peter something of how I
felt. In that letter I tried to show him something of the intense pride I
felt in having had for a brother such a very gallant gentleman. I wish her
to know that I have the same pride in Peter. I know, nobody better, what
is the full meaning of “serving the guns” It is something I can never
forget and there is no greater test that a man can be put to. So again and
so many times gone by I have to count off one more on the score started in
1914, this time the hardest, the last of the direct male line.
chap after going through so many risks myself, I wonder “why”. But
it’s a terribly heavy score.
there’s just that much more effort to be put into work. We fought last
time to give the kids a fair chance to live in decency. Today we survivors
owe it to them to make it worth their while, as our old folk made it worth
expect you see more of American troops and can evaluate them better than I
can. But as far as I can gauge the American Civilians, there has been
developed in this country an intense and deep-rooted admiration and
respect for British courage and effort. For many years after 1918 the
feeling in USA was of antipathy and a certain sense of caution towards the
old country. This has now disappeared and is replaced by a desire to
emulate and characteristically American to excel Britain in every way.
Maybe some of our missionary work over here has taken effect.
1939 I have been continuously at work on construction of training camps,
as Sanitary Engineer, first with Geo.P.Rice a local firm and then with the
US Engineers. We built seven cantonments or training grounds housing about
a quarter of a million men so you know we were busy. Now I am working on
industrial housing projects for war workers.
am ambitious enough to be looking forward to be tackling some of the
European reconstruction problems, if I can get the chance. That would be
right up my alley. SO as the old Dad would say – I try to do my little
bit as big as I can, then somebody will say “well the old horse pulled
his best anyway”.
to pass from sublimity to absurdity, let me try to give you a portrait of
my two “emcumbrances”. Garnett, of course hasn’t changed at all –
just the same except for a vast improvement in health with a consequent
increase in ambition. She and Marion are living out at Fowler’s farm or
rather what farm is left – while I get business straightened out here.
both go to the same school at Forest Hill (strange coincidence of names)
– Garnett teaching and Marion learning – I hope. They really are more
like two sisters than mother and daughter, though Garnett can exercise the
jolly old parental authority when necessary – far better than I can !
– Marion now 13 years of youth – 5’3” – 117 pounds and a
superabundance of the Dibdin sense of independence is really doing
excellently and will be ready for a college course in 2 ½ years.
have just received a letter from her- She says algebra is easy but she
does not do so well at sewing but is almost crazy about cooking. I often
wonder what our Fiton would have thought of her. Biology fascinates her.
She tells me they have got some goldfish and says “they are very pretty.
I hope the spawn in the jar so we can see them and the baby fish. Biology
is very interesting and and we are studying vertivrates now.”
can see where the microscope is going to be useful ( By the way it has
been extremely useful in camp sanitations, as you can imagine in spite of
my feeble knowledge of microscopy ). Amongst other things Marion has a
marked musical Ability – she plays Bach, Medelssohn, Gulman – and for
the school recital selected the old Polish National Dance by I forget whom
– and rocked the auditorium.
let me warn you – if ever she gets to England and get over her shyness
– she’ll treat you like a dog – pull your ears, rumple your hair and
tease you to death. Now you can imagine how I get treated. But it’s ok
am very glad to hear from you old dear. I would have written to you but we
lost a whole lot of addresses in our many moves round – yours included
so couldn’t get a line to you. We often talk about you and the times we
had together. I found a photo of the picnic at Portheand – you with your
trousers up to the knees and a fire going on the wehs. Remember! Give my
love to Lettie and Marian and all the youngerfolk especially Joan. Of
course Garnett sends hers too though she asks me to write for bothof us. I
know that you are all more than busy – and we have been a bit anxious
about your welfare during raids, wishing we could do something more than
just sitting here – work like hell and wait for news.
drop us a line at times when you feel like breaking loose and busting
something – we’ll understand.
your loving brother- sister and niece
Garnett and Marion.