My dear Odd,
Very many thanks for your & Cecily’s letters received to-day.
I am very busy just now as Peter Bye is at home & I am doing his job, which in addition to my own (small though it is) has not left me much time to myself. All Tuesday I was on a Court Martial condemning the unfortunates to death by slow torture in batches. It was a long process & took all day much to the annoyance of our billet-holders, who couldn’t put the cart away as we were sitting in their coach house – and the cart was outside getting soaking wet. Yesterday I went on a tour round the army district & saw various places like supply railheads, ammunition railheads, engineering stores & such like. Quite interesting but rather hurried
They gave us a very good lunch at Army Hqrs. & afterwards we were shown the working of the whole thing. The intelligence branch was the most interesting, & they showed us a map which had evidently been blown out of
the a Bosch aeroplane, & which told us a lot.
I noticed that they
only had our trenches, where we were, only fairly accurately marked & they map explained why they were continually shelling certain places, which did us no conceivable sort of harm & only wasted their ammunition, these points being shown as important on the map.
I don’t know why they took us round except to show that they do some work & don’t spend all their time playing bridge, & they all seemed to wish to impress us with the amount they have to do – quite unnecessarily I thought, as I know that they are very busy.
We went in motor charabancs & spent about 5 or 6 hours in them on the way, so I had quite enough of them at the end as they are not too comfortable.
In the evening I went with the C. O to dine with the General, who gave us a very good dinner.
We have started a concert hall here & there was a concert on last night but the talent is not very great, except the Methodist parson, who sings well.
Rain & wet to-day & I have been in, but chiefly not because of the wet but on account of work.
I hear now that when we go up next time we shall be on the North side of the salient instead of the South, but it may not be correct. If we are I think we shall be on the canal somewhere near where we join the French.
I expect the carburettor needle stuck, when Cecily got held up on the pram. Do you know how to tickle it properly – if not Wardill will show you.
I had a little from Mrs. Cressy yesterday – she is down at Bexhill.
Love to all
For most of December 1915, the 8th Queen’s was out of the line and according to the regimental war diary, the men were retraining in various capacities as grenadiers, machine gunner, signallers, etc. While the men were refitting and training, Peirs was called up for court martial duty, which given his legal background is not surprising. Courts martial were (are) used to enforce military discipline and try soldiers for infractions ranging from drunkenness and petty theft to desertion, murder, and cowardice. Records of UK courts martial are held at at the National Archives.
Peirs was very chatty in this letter home about his day and the information he gathered on a tour of the Army HQ. In particular, he discussed details of a captured German map and his battalion’s likely next position for deployment on the north side of the Ypres salient. Of staff officers he wrote:
I don’t know why they took us round except to show that they do some work & don’t spend all their time playing bridge, & they all seemed to wish to impress us with the amount they have to do
One gets the impression that the staff were conscious of the fact that combat officers might not respect their job(s) and were quite desperate to show off that they were doing something useful.
One other thing to note is how busy Peirs seems in this letter now that he is out of the line, with lots of clerical work to be done, travel, and touring. His social schedule seems particularly active. Only weeks before, when he was in the trenches, he wrote home about how idle and bored he felt in his duties. Now that he was away from the trenches, he had more than enough work to occupy his time.