My dear Cecily,
The last two days have been quite interesting. Yesterday I went up with the C. O. to look over the positions we have to take up if an attack is made (as you know we are at present in local reserve). This meant a stroll round Wipers, which I had not seen so close before. It must have been a lovely old place before the arrival of the Bosch. It has a sheer wall on its Eastern & S. sides with other ramparts in front & though the walls have been badly straffed they look as good as ever. I’ve never seen such a place for shell holes & craters. All the houses seem to be knocked about, tho many are standing on the outskirts. I believe the centre of the town is all in ruins. but I shall see that another day. The whole country here is full of batteries of various sorts & sizes. You see a looking bush & out of the other side a gun nozzle w spout is to be observed. Similarly out of old houses & even out of the ground & the beastly things loose off just as you are going in front.
We found our positions all right tho they appear to be more or less under water, but I hope we shan’t have to occupy them. To-day we went further up to the Battn. Hqrs. whose trenches we are taking over. quite a pleasant walk on a very jolly day. One blessing is that you can hardly get up to our front line trenches in the day time so I shall probably only do one journey p.d instead of two. Everything is done on a grand scale. If they catch sight of you, they snipe you with Whizz bangs instead of a mere bullet & you are quite indignant if they shell your dug outs with anything less than a 9 inch crump.
I was very amused when the adjt. retur (of the other battn) arrived back breathless having been chased back along his trench with whizz bangs. It was the idiot’s own fault as he had a shiny black Mackintosh on which shone in the sun like a greenhouse & of course the Hun was tempted. On the way back we watched them put 100- odd shells into Wipers. One of the big ones got the top of one of the remaining churches & fairly did for it. One thing about these trenches is that neither side fires much with their rifles. I suppose such things are too small for them & when in the trenches they are fairly all right except for the mud. In our other places it has been all rifle fire & only moderate shelling.
The men have great difficulty in cooking up there, so I am off to Poperinghe to-morrow to see if I can get any oil stoves, as they seem to solve the problem. Cooking with coal or wood means smoke & that means a shell at once. We are well in the aeroplane area of both sides so we get all the bits of the shells exploded near them dropping back on us.
I am thinking of adopting an umbrella.
I have just had letters from two most unexpected people. Alice Orton & Ina Cave.
Love to all
P. S. I’ve paid the license for the pram. so you can ease your mind about driving
Peirs was mum this week because the battalion traveled up to Ypres on the 5th and he, no doubt, was extremely busy with their travel and settling into their new positions. As the letter indicates, they were in reserve, but if an attack was to commence, the battalion would have moved into what seems like very wet trenches to their front.
This is an exceptionally rich letter for its details of Ypres, trenches, sniping (with artillery), and Peirs’s first impressions of the landscape around the ruined Belgian town. What is your initial reaction to this letter? What about Peirs’s sense of humor?