My dear Mother,
Another letter to let you know that we have moved, as I mentioned in my last letter. We are now in billets in a village about 4 miles from the trenches & have quite a substantial roof over our heads though the house lacks furniture. For some reason best known to himself the Hun has not demolished the place, though many of the houses in the main street have ceased to exist. The only thing which has really suffered is the church, chiefly because of its tower I suppose.
Anyhow the tower has gone & the church is closed. We have had another perfectly filthy day with lots of rain, though the wind was S. W. and therefore warm. They say that they have not had such weather for a long time & the roads in places are awful. The motor lorries are not allowed to leave the pavé, as the moment they do they go in above their axles in mud, so we all have to leave the centre of the road to them. I saw one to-day which had got off the pave & it looked as if nothing on earth would get it out.
I invested in a Primus stove yesterday to warm the tent & nearly blew the thing to bits, but when I got it working, it did very well & we went to bed in a tropical heat. It will be very useful in a dug-out later on provided that I can get the oil for it, but there are means of getting that from time to time, so I hope to be able to keep it going. My only fear is that all this rain will undermine our dug-outs & it will be very interesting to know whether we shall have a roof over our heads or not when we go up.
The caught a Bosch deserter up our way the other day, who says that that in places in their trenches they are up to their shoulders in water so they are as badly off as we in that respect anyhow.
P. S. In sending me parcels, I believe that if you put “On Active Service” on them they come cheaper.
Since they came out of the trenches on the November 8, the battalion’s been training. As this letter indicates, they were marched to the south east of their previous position, back to Dickebusch, which is outside of Ypres. Peirs appears to be billeted comfortably in a house with no furniture. One thing of note, is the fact that most of the village was destroyed by the German Army as they passed, indicative of the destruction to civilian property that signifies both the advance and retreat of mass armies on the western front.
In a broader scope, the 8th Queen’s were now one of the many battalions defending the Ypres salient, a complex web of British trench lines formed to the east of Ypres, with corresponding German trenches to their front. The salient was roughly twenty-four square miles of defensive positions. Each man in the trenches required food, water, ammunition, to be brought up nightly, a substantial effort just to hold the line. As Peirs indicates in his letters, the trenches and dug-outs required nearly constant maintenance due to rain and the high water-table.
Peirs seems happy to have gotten a Primus stove, which he evidently almost blew up, and he is using it to heat his tent before bed. Primus stoves were reasonably popular for outdoor enthusiasts and accompanied many famous explorers and expeditions in this period. No doubt, this was a worthwhile investment in his comfort.