Category Archives: Letters

Le V

Letter from the mayor of Le Verguier to the commander of the 8th Queens written 18 September 1919


Le Verguier, district of Vermand, Aisne
18 September 1919
Written in Paris Charles Severin, assistant director of the Reconstitution of the Aisne, 1 Boulevard des Italiens, Paris

To the commander of the 8th Battalion,

‘The Queen’s,’ 17 Albemarle,

London,          Great Britain

I was pleased to receive your letter of August 8 and if I did not reply earlier, it’s because I wanted to take the photographs that you requested of me and look into whether or not some of your soldiers’ graves exist in the territory of the municipality.

Included you will find a small map of the annex and two photographs that I hope will provide what you need. If there is anything else please do not hesitate to let me know.

I thank you for your excellent defense of our village and if you find a committee that would be interested in the rebuilding of the country, I would be very appreciative.
Please accept, colonel, my most distinguished sentiments,
C. Severin
Mayor of Le Verguier



This evening’s letter was written post war, to Peirs rather than by him.  On September 18, 1919, Charles Séverin addressed a letter in French to Peirs’ London address.  Séverin was the mayor of Le Verguier, France, the town that Peirs and the men of the 8th Battalion had struggled to defend a year and a half prior. Based on photocopies of letters that #TeamPeirs received from Charles Séverin’s grandson and great-grandson in the spring of 2018, we know that the correspondence between these two men eventually led to the reconstruction of Le Verguier’s church steeple and the dedication of a monument to the 24th Division.

photographs of ruined sites in a small town in France

Photographs and captions written by Mayor Charles Severin and sent to Jack Peirs, September 1919.

Missing from the collection is a letter sent from Mayor Séverin that eventually reached Peirs on August 6 or 7, 1919.  That letter and several photographs from Mayor Séverin went through at least three other officers before reaching Peirs.[1]  Peirs responded and asked for photographs of specific locations throughout the village – these photos and a hand-drawn map were included with the September 18th letter.  Peirs was trying to gain clarity about the defense of Le Verguier during the 1918 German Spring Offensive.  The action that took place in a heavy fog and left the 8th Battalion reeling and scattered, but also proved their resilience.  The photographs sent by Séverin show the town still in ruins.  Séverin wrote from Paris where he was serving as “assistant director of the Reconstruction of the Aisne,” with great respect and a bit of flattery to Peirs in the hopes that he could organize a committee to help “rebuild” the town.[2]

In a surviving letter that accompanied Mayor Séverin’s earlier, missing letter Lieutenant-Colonel L.M. Crofts noted that “the local committee” referred to by Séverin “is you.”[3]  There is no other correspondence regarding rebuilding Le Verguier in the Peirs papers, but there was a committee that built on monuments to the 24th Division – one in London and one in Le Verguier – and Peirs must have been involved, we know because the committee sometimes met in his office.[4]

Interestingly, the task of bringing together representatives of different battalions, raising money, and finding a location for a memorial fell to Captain P.T. Chevallier, a third cousin (once removed) of H.J.C. Peirs.  Under Chevallier’s direction, a representative of the division, Brigadier General P.V. Stone, who had both “knowledge of the French language and tact” was sent to Le Verguier to meet with Séverin and discuss possible locations for a memorial to the 24th Division.[5]  With only tepid acknowledgement from the Battle Exploits Memorials Committee and the Imperial War Graves Commission,[6] and an appeal for a monument in London that would be more easily accessible to grieving family members and veterans, the 24th Division War Memorial Committee rejected the site offered by Le Verguier in 1919.[7]  It was not until 1924 that the idea was rejuvenated by a pledge of £250 towards the project by Major General Sir John Capper, who asked all officers to contribute the same.[8]

Two British military officers from WWI placing a wreath on a war memorial in the French village of Le Verguier.

“Sir John Capper and Colonel Dugger placing a wreath on the French memorial.” – Jack Peirs on verso

black and white photograph of a group of men, some in military dress, several holding flowers.

Mayor Charles Severin (center, with sash) at the dedication of the Le Verguier monument, 3 October 1926.

On October 3, 1926, Le Verguier finally unveiled both a living and practical memorial to the men of the 24th Division in the form of a church steeple with new bells to ring out the hour, and a more traditional sculpted monument bearing the names of local men who died in the war as well as a tribute to those who died from the 24th Division while defending the town. Photographs of the dedication of the monument were bound into an album for Mayor, who spoke at the event; his ancestors shared them with #TeamPeirs in 2018.[9]  Although we do not know if Peirs attended the event, we know that it was important to him.  Copies of photographs in Séverin’s album were given to Peirs, although he does not appear in any of them.

Front cover of a black leather photograph album with "Le Verguier, Oct. 3, 1926" stamped in gold.

Photo album from the Severin family collection, photographed by #TeamPeirs, March 2018.

[1] Letter to Major General A.C. Daly, C.B., 17 July 1919, and L.M. Crofts to Peirs, 6 August 1919, Séverin family collection.
[2] Translation by Jenna Fleming and Meghan O’Donnell, July 2019.
[3] Crofts to Peirs.
[4] Letter from P.T. Chevallier to P.V. Stone, 22 November 1921, Séverin family collection.
[5] Letter from P.T. Chevallier to P.V. Stone, 25 December 1919, Séverin family collection.
[6] Letter from P.T. Chevallier to P.V. Stone, 10 December 1921, Séverin family collection.
[7] Letter from P.T. Chevallier to Charles Séverin, 22 May 1922, Séverin family collection.
[8] Form letter from P.T. Chevallier to officers of the 24th Division, 7 November 1924, Séverin family collection.
[9] “La Fête du Souvenir, au Verguier” Le Guetteur de l’Aisne, 6 October 1926, p. 1.