My dear Mother,
Many thanks for yours to-day. I return the list of rings & should like No 53, large size very much. I wonder if someone would send me out from time to time a novel or two. Not fat or expensive ones, as I cannot take them about with me but an occasional 7d or 1/- one by decent authors would be very welcome.
We went out to be gassed to-day, but of course the staff failed to get him there, so we live another day. They are going to try again to-morrow & with luck they may bring it off. Otherwise the day has passed without event. I go to dine with B Company to-night who have killed the fatted calf in honour of Barry, who goes home to be married to-morrow, so we shall do our best to send him off with a good head-ache. The Doctor is going off, I am glad to say, to Rouen to-morrow & I shall take the mess out of his hands. I think the C. O has wanted him to go ever since he came & has now managed to bring it off. He is so excessively slack that we can’t do worse with our new one whoever he may be. Meanwhile we shall have a temporary one from the Brigade Field Ambulance.
I had a letter from G. to-day. I expect she will be pretty glad to get home, as the perpetual presence of Bill is getting to much for her I fancy.
So you have avoided the presence of the new C. O. I thought they would be unlikely to turn out the two you had got used to, to put him in. You will feel quite lost without a Box or Cox about the place especially that Odds gone as well.
Peter Bye has returned not unaccompanied by a fat Turkey, which has developed a most curious shape, as he came in a square box. Anyhow we shall be all right for Xmas, if the cook can manage him.
The companies have now got small Canteens running for the men. They buy things from the Field Force Canteen at St. Omer, & sell them at cost price to the men. They are much appreciated by the men, as practically nothing they want can be bought here.
The old ladies of the place are very anxious to know if we are comfortable & when we are going but of course we mayn’t tell them. One of the ladies produced a photo. of a pretty gallant young Officer of the Charlie Dingwall type, who is supposed to resemble me & I fear I didn’t take it so enthusiastically as I ought. The poor fellow looked as if he would burst. You will be interested to hear that the handmaiden has now dug up the whole of the front garden & is now sowing Tulips at the back She had some trouble with the pony this morning while working on him with the currycomb & the chickens are getting obstreperous & break out of the paddock on to the tulip seeds. Otherwise her life is normal.
My servant has unfortunately gone sick, so I have no one to wash & mend me at the moment, but I get my hot brick in bed by some mysterious agency, the handmaiden I expect.
Love from Jack.
Alas, Peirs avoided gas training, which he was hardly looking forward to in his last letter. The men prepared for it, got into their trenches, and then waited for the gas officer to arrive. Hurry up and wait, WWI style. With little else to report in this letter, Peirs fixates on creature comforts. Cheap novels to pass the time, a party for a fellow officer who is off to be married, a turkey for Christmas – yet another letter in which Peirs reminds his family that he is able to live relatively comfortably at the front, with some support from them, and that he is maintaining certain standards of existence despite the difficulties of campaign life.
So far, we have seen a bit of Peirs’s mild (or not so mild) contempt for certain figures of authority and for the army way of doing things. He has little faith in staff officers, padres, or medicos. He often finds their efforts to be, if not sub-standard, then completely annoying. Of course, First World War armies could not function without talented staff officers, but his letters repeatedly indicate that there was a perception of incompetence at the staff level, whether justified or not. His criticism is often for those whom he believes are not doing their jobs well, such as in this letter where he is glad to see the regimental medical officer leave because of his slackness in his duties. Peirs has developed high standards – or perhaps adapted his high standards from civilian life – in his relatively short time at the front.