2 October 1915



8th Queens

My dear Family,

We have again been moved, this time northwards, and though I cannot name the place I may say that we are still in France, but the people carry on as though they were in Belgium, and in fact we had to cross into Belgium and out again to get here.

We left our last billets early this morning and came some of the way by train and the past 9 miles by roads which are the beastliest I have ever been on. Where they are not inches deep in mud they are rough pave however they are all right again here. We are in a little market village, but there are one or two shops to get things and I have not had a chance to get into a shop practically since I left. The inhabitants are look and speak Flemish and are rather boorish compared with the others we have met. I have got quite a good room in the main street with a window on the roof about 4 inches by 3 but to make up for it the landlady informs one that the bed is very good.

One thing is that it is a land of good drink as the white wine is A1 and the beer very pleasant and we only have to go 2 miles to buy cigars without paying duty i.e. into Belgium.

We had no end of a time getting off this morning as one party had to leave at 3 and the rest at 5:30 and it was very cold with a white frost.

I lost my Burbury on Sunday last but have gained a great coat instead so I am all right.

If the P.O. will take it would you mind sending me my British Warm coat and a pair of khaki wollen mittens and my khaki scarf.

If the P.O. will not take the coat I think it would be better not to send it and I will get another cheap one here.

The Brigadier has billeted himself just opposite so I shall expect a warm time when he is his own bright little self again. At present he is seedy and is not here, so I am respited.



P.S. I am v. glad to hear father is learning in the pram and hope it is running all night and that he had fathomed its intricacies. I think the reason for the shift steering is that the tyres on the front wheels are slightly different sizes.




Five days after losing so many men in action, Jack Peirs wrote this letter home to his family. It reads very similar to letters that he composed before he went into battle at Loos on the 26th. He is complaining about the roads, giving hints as to his location, and discussing creature comforts. Good food, good drink, and duty-free cigars are the order of the day.

One thing is that it is a land of good drink as the white wine is A1 and the beer very pleasant and we only have to go 2 miles to buy cigars without paying duty i.e. into Belgium.

For those who enjoy modern fashion, note that Peirs lost his raincoat, one that he names by brand. Burberry was one of many clothing manufacturers who made coats during the First World War specifically designed for hard-living. Their ‘waterproof’ gaberdine was just the things for trench service. Often referred to by brand name, the Burberry trench coat became a iconic cultural symbol as a result of the company’s mobilization for war and adaptability of their product for military service.

Other than its sartorial emphasis, this letter demonstrates a level of emotional restoration, or resilience, especially after what Peirs and his men had just been through only five days before. The emphasis on creature comforts, complaining about tough roads, the postscript about his father’s driving, etc., these are ways in which Peirs not only communicated his experiences to loved ones, but looked after his own emotional well-being through writing to them. In order to be an effective officer – now an effective commander of his battalion – he had to demonstrate certain qualities to his men. Alexander Watson writes, ‘Steadfastness, skill and reasoned bravery were all officer qualities respected by other ranks because they reduced the subjective impact of danger and uncontrollability’ (114).  Peirs was learning these traits on the job as he began recovering from battle earlier in the week. For more reading on soldier morale, coping mechanisms, and endurance, see Alexander Watson’s Enduring the Great War.

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