My dear Family,
Another Sabbath & still where we were. A beautiful day & I am writing in the orchard behind our headquarters. There are not many apples left & I presume that others have been here before me. We had a very gruelling day yesterday. We got our orders at 10 p.m. on Friday to leave at 2 a.m. & to march 8 miles to a concentration & then do an attack. This meant my getting up at 1:30 & we got to the place all night at about 5:30 & then I think the Staff found out they had made a mistake & the attack was supposed to begin at dawn & in fact it had been light for a long time. There was a thick sea mist all the early morning, but that cleared off & we had breakfasts & strolled rather aimlessly across country for 3 hours & then another 8 miles home. It was then very hot & the men felt it very much as they had had little or no sleep & only 1 meal in the 12 hours. We got in about 2 & so to bed.
We had no mail yesterday & it is not come in yet to-day 2.15, so have no letters to acknowledge except fathers & Olives on Thursday & Friday.
Frossard the padre came over to take service to-day. He now lives over at Headquarters with the General. He has no information to give us except that he had gleaned from his brother, who is in the French Army that things were going very well & that there are horrid things in store for the Bosches, but the time when I suppose I should not say. The French are much less keen on Censorship as we are & take as many photos as they like. I don’t think it matters much whether there is a Censorship or not as for instance. Henriques our machine gun officer has just come back from 24 hours in the trenches & has a story that 2 days before he was there the Canadians where he was with had brought down an aeroplane & had found in it maps of all their trenches with the dug outs marked & a black ring put round the COs dug out. Incidentally that dug-out had been heavily shelled & destroyed just before & they were then building a new one. So if they knew such details as that there can’t be much they don’t know.
I wonder if Olive ever got my letter containing a cheque to be spent for Gs birthday. If not I wonder if someone would mind spending £1 for her & I will send another cheque.
A Coy have rather an amusing mess here as they are in a farm & very comfortable, but their room has no door except into the family bed-room in which the two daughters of the house sleep. So if they return late, they have to stroll through the damsels room, while they are in bed or get in through the window.
Now that Jerry has cut his hand in falling in through the window, I suppose that method of ingress is closed, so they will have to put a bold face on it & invade the damsel’s room. Luckily the damsels mind it far less than Jerry & Peter.
With regard to sending things out I am very much obliged for the suggestion, but I am supplied regularly with Tobacco & Cigarettes & we have ordered a box of things to be sent regularly by Fortnum and Mason to supplement the ration. However a small unexpected delicacy is always welcome, but nothing very large in quantity as we are limited to the amount we can take about with us & until we are fixed up for a definite period I think it will be better not to have too much. We are only supposed to take 35 lbs of personal things with us & I have got about 70 lbs now tho of course I’ve got a horse to carry the extra amount & the amt. carried in the baggage train does not exceed the 35 lbs.
The Censoring of letters here is a most unholy job. I think all our men in their spare time must be authors or at any rate newspaper men. They write reams daily which all has to be censored by the Coy officers before it goes off. We encourage football & such to keep them from writing but it appears to have no affect. I am not directly concerned for as I have said before I have nothing on my hands at all, but it makes the Coy officers blaspheme as it is all done by candle light. I was doing some the other day & I came across one young devil who wrote 2 love letters by the same post to 2 different young ladies, one in Worthing & the other in Brighton so he had not been wasting his time.
The post has just arrived & I see I have 3 letters. Fathers on 16th & a parcel of quails, mothers of 16th & Cecilys of the 12th. The quails might be v. useful but they are rather heavy & the question of weights arises again.
The way to address me is as you like except that “8th Queens B.E.F.” is all you should give in the way of direction. They hold them up for a day or two at the Post Office if you add the Division & Brigade & they send them on with a printed slip pasted on the back to say that the Division & Brigade are not to be mentioned though none of mine have been hung up yet.
I am writing to C & G by this post a similar letter so you neednt worry to send this on, tho Olive might like it.
Censorship. The word, with its modern connotations of an anti-democratic bogeyman, fails to encapsulate the simple fact that censoring letters was a military necessity. Peirs wasn’t too keen on censorship, though he understood its role. For Peirs and his officers, it was a lot of tedious work. His exasperation is very real:
I think all our men in their spare time must be authors or at any rate newspaper men. They write reams daily which all has to be censored by the Coy officers before it goes off. We encourage football & such to keep them from writing but it appears to have no affect.
Peirs, of course, wrote quite a lot of letters himself, but he found the task of reading the letters of his men very dull work. Occasionally, officer got a good laugh out of it. It makes you wonder whether the “one young devil who wrote 2 love letters by the same post to 2 different young ladies” ever thought about his officers reading both, let alone, sharing the details home to their families as a colorful anecdote from the front.
It is characteristic of Peirs that he was so easily able to transition heavy talk of a terrible night to a casual anecdote about A Company’s billet trouble. His greater concerns, were of course, of battle looming distant. Yet at the present, he continues to to discuss the ‘locals’, training, and the creature comforts that he cherished (including hampers from Fortnum and Mason). Still, as the letter indicates, there were “horrid things” in store, not only for the enemy, but also for his own men.