B. E. F.
21. 10. 1915.
My dear Family,
Many thanks for letters from you all (including two from G.) received yesterday.
I have been informed to-day that our Divisional G. O. C. has applied for a Regular C. O. for this Battalion. This is very sad as the Brigadier told me 3 weeks ago that I should have it & he repeated it again to-day & said he was quite satisfied with me or he would not have applied, but apparently he can do nothing. I also saw the Divisional bloke & asked why I was to be superseded & he said that it was necessary to have someone who had been out in the trenches for some time & that otherwise he would have been quite satisfied to let me have it. They are all very nice about it, but that doesn’t help things However he may not be able to get anyone, so I have not given up hope yet.
We have been in the trenches and are now out again and I fancy will be behind the lines for a bit yet. We didn’t have a very good bit of the trenches to hold as we were both sides of a canal and one side was continually being strafed by the Huns both by shells & mines. I have never seen such a place, full of holes & craters & the top of a small hill simply pounded to bits. They didn’t put up any mines while we were there, though they put up an enormous one the morning we got in & we were busy putting in mines to stir them up. I believe, when we go in next, we shall be going to a slightly different part of the line & a little further to the South where things are more straitforward. While behind the lines our chief job will be to put up huts & to make ourselves as comfortable as possible for the winter, as we shall use this camp when we come out. We are drawing lots of wood & stuff & I suppose I have got to superintend the job. Luckily, I have discovered an architects’ clerk in the Battalion & Barry is an architect so we ought to get along all right. Our latest new draft have had to be isolated as they came within range of a cerebro case somewhere on the way & you know how fussy these medicos are. So there are now 200 miserable youths in a corner of the camp languishing with a guard over them & all sorts of penalties hanging over them if they break loose & they’ve got to stay there for 10 days.
Many thanks for going to see
Stacey & Lofting
Peirs is upset that he is not to be promoted to permanently command his battalion. He has been in temporary command for three weeks since Lt. Col. Fairtlough was killed at Loos on September 26, 1915. As his previous letters indicate, Peirs had grown into command, and had adjusted to his duties both in the line and in reserve. He is clearly disappointed at being past over but the decision was made at Division to have a more experienced officer command the 8th Queens, so he’ll just have to live with it.
One gets the impression that they hold a miserable section of line – landscape broken – and strafing by the Germans contributing to the heightened anxieties of the men. The colder temperatures, no doubt, also contributed to their discomfort, as the nights would have been wet, and though above freezing, still cold for men exposed to the elements.
He also mentions sickness. Though healthier than in other wars, soldiers in the British Army were subject to any manner of diseases associated with poor diet, exposure, and in general, rough living. The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), like their comrades in combat roles, adjusted during the war to the new threats to the health of the men under their care. Peirs mentions a cerebro scare – or meningitis – which led to the quarantining of a draft of men (replacements) who had been exposed to the disease. He believes this to be a heavy handed response by the ‘medicos’ who can be, as he writes, ‘fussy’.