In 1918-19, the BEF celebrated Christmas and New Year on the western front. For the first time in four years, it was peaceful. Jack Peirs helped coordinate and attended several holiday celebrations. There was the 8th Battalion Sargent’s Dinner on 27 December, the 17th Infantry Brigade Dinner on 30 December, and finally the 8th Battalion, The Queen’s Officer’s New Year’s Dinner on 1 January 1919. He kept menus from these events, signed by the men who celebrated with him. These plucky artifacts show humor and artistry. They involve inside jokes, aspirational menus, and concert programs. They proudly list the locations of major battles or weave them into the lists of menu items. Who were Jack’s fellow diners? It is challenging to find out. On the two signed programs, the signatures are in pen or pencil and some have faded over the course of the century. Sometimes names seem perfectly legible, but cannot be traced in military records. Other names are simply too common to be sure who they belong to without extensive research.
The program from the 17th Infantry Brigade (above) is formally printed and embossed on heavy cardstock; it includes 12 signatures (including Jack’s), although many are illegible or at least have too many possibilities to be definitive. Several are legible and are identified below. From this small set, it looks like Jack was in good company.
Captain W.W. Chard of the 1st Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London), mentioned in dispatches in 1917.
Lieutenant Carlton d’Artois, an American citizen fighting with the Royal Engineers. D’Artois moved to England from Los Angeles after being orphaned. He was enrolled in a mining school when he enlisted in 1914. He survived the war and moved back to Los Angeles, but suffered from Mustard gas-related lung injuries until his death in 1930.
Captain Edward A. Fellowes transferred to The Queen’s in May 1917. After the war, Fellowes had a distinguished, 42-year career as the Clerk of the House of Commons in the 1960s and lived until 1970.
Brigade Major Ronald M. Scobe, of the Royal Engineers who went on to have a long military career, eventually commanding the III Corps in Greece and retiring as a Lieutenant General in 1947.
The Queen’s Officer’s New Year’s Dinner held in Baisieux, 1 January 1919, did not get a mention in a letter home, but it left a record of over 40 signatures on the program which was printed in color with customized artwork and a somewhat tongue in cheek menu (below). During the New Year’s Dinner, Jack dined among his battalion peers. Interestingly, for those who we can trace, many were new to The Queen’s in some cases joining the Battalion as late as November 1918. Only two of the 26 men identified below had served with the 8th Battalion for more than a year. This menu is yet another piece of evidence showing Jack’s longevity and survival.
George D. Honey
Reginald Herbert Rowland
W. H. Williams