Hugh Vaughan Peirs (1855-1931)
Jack’s father, Hugh Vaughan Pears, was born in 1855 in Repton, Derbyshire. He was descended from the Chevalliers of Aspall Hall, a well-known family involved in the production of cyder since 1728. It was through his father’s family connections that Jack claimed relation to the first Earl Kitchener, an important military figure in the first years of the war. Following his parents’ deaths, Hugh Vaughan legally changed the spelling of the family name from “Pears” to “Peirs” through a deed poll. He likely did so in order to distance himself and his immediate relatives from an industrialist branch of the family which was involved in the production of soap, as business pursuits were considered déclassé.
As a young man, Hugh Vaughan moved to Rutland, England, where he worked as a schoolmaster before his marriage to Charlotte Sophia Paull in 1882. The couple lived in Chiselhurst, Kent for nearly ten years, welcoming their first three children there before relocating to Carshalton, Surrey in 1891. By 1901, Hugh Vaughan was working as a solicitor, the same profession his son would later pursue. He died in 1931 at the age of 76.
Charlotte Sophia Paull Peirs (1860-1936)
Jack’s mother, Charlotte Sophia Paull, was one of five children born to John Richards Paull, a lawyer, and his wife Amelia. She was born in Kenwyn, Cornwall, England in 1860, and lived there until her marriage at age 21 to Hugh Vaughan Peirs. The couple had four children. Following a move from Kent in 1891, Charlotte lived in Carshalton, Surrey, until her death at age 76 in 1936.
Helen Charlotte Cecilia “Cecily” Peirs Asher (1884- 1970)
Jack’s older sister, known as Cecily, was the first of the Peirs children, born on 18 May 1884 in Chiselhurst, Kent, England. She was an accomplished student of music and received a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, a professional diploma, in 1916. She performed as a singer during the First World War, working and traveling with the YMCA. She evidently enjoyed her work, writing to her father on 9 June 1917, “I have been singing every night this week, and am going at it hard all next week.” In 1918, Cecily married Guy Baynton Asher, an Australian engineer ten years her junior. She outlived her husband, who died in 1930 at the age of just 36, her parents, and two of her younger siblings. She died in September 1970, in the same month as her younger sister Odile.
Hugh John “Jack” Chevallier Peirs (1886-1943)
Hugh John Chevallier Peirs, known to his family as Jack, was born in 1886 in England to Hugh Vaughan Peirs and Charlotte Sophia Peirs. As a boy he attended Charterhouse School and went up to New College, Oxford where he was a keen football player. He became a solicitor, practicing in his father’s firm, before the First World War. In 1914, Peirs was commissioned an officer in the 8th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) and arrived in France in September 1915. He served for three years on the western front rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in command of his battalion. He earned the Distinguished Service Order (with two bars) and was wounded twice. Peirs died in 1943, his funeral attended by hundreds, including many men with whom he had served in the First World War.
Gladys Catherine Constance Peirs Russell (1888-1950)
Gladys, born in 1888, was the last of the Peirs siblings to be born at the family’s home in Chiselhurst, Kent. By the time she was four years old, the family had relocated to Carshalton, Surrey, likely due to Hugh Vaughan’s work as a solicitor. The 1911 England Census lists her occupation as an art student. Gladys was the only one of her siblings to be married at the outset of the First World War. In 1914 she married William John Russell. The couple had three children together. Gladys passed away on 7 April 1950, in Cornwall, England.
Olive “Odile” Dorothy Temple Peirs McLeay (1892-1970)
The youngest of the Peirs siblings, Odile was born on 21 June 1892 in Carshalton, Surrey. Like many members of her family, she did not use her given name but instead went by nicknames. In Jack’s letters, she is typically referred to as “Odile” or, more humorously, “Odd.” Census records list her occupation as a civil service student at the age of 18 in 1911, and from 1912 until 1913, she studied violin performance at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In June of 1917, she married Charles William McLeay, a doctor 17 years her senior. They had one daughter, and in 1936 visited Canada and the United States. Odile died at the age of 78 in September 1970, the same month as her older sister, Cecily.