B. E. F.
Xmas day 1915.
My dear Mother,
Very many thanks to you and Father for the ring which arrived to-day & which I like very much indeed. It fits quite A-1. We have not had a riotous Xmas, but we got one old & one new post in & there are still several more days posts to come in. I had a present of Ian Hay’s book the 1st 100,000 without any sign as to whom it came from but I suspect Father, so please thank him. It is very good reading & not a bit exaggerated. The part of the Loos show they were in was a bit to the North of Hulluch & they went in on the Saturday morning whereas we didn’t arrive till later on. We had rather a shock to-day as they threatened to move our transport to-day instead of to-morrow so there were very hurried packings but they changed their minds & it is all to go to-morrow & we the day after. We had a Battalion concert last night which was quite a good show & there was much more talent than I expected. One of the old performers turned up quite unexpectedly, as he had only rejoined with the last draft after the Loos business & no one realised that he had come back. We go into billets to start with next week & take our turn later in the line. the town’s name begins with P. so you must guess the rest. They have just chucked an intricate case at my head for a Court Martial to-morrow, so I must get it up as there is lots of evidence very badly written. Rather serious too as it is a charge of stealing £30.
We have got our Xmas dinner at Hqrs. on to-night Roast goose & other luxuries also some shortbread which Odd has sent. Apparently she has been dining & playing absurd games with Jellicoe himself, so far as I can gather from the mysterious allusions in her letter.
I hear you are having an aerodrome at Wallington. I hope the homeless soldiers dinner party has gone off all right to-day. I had Fathers letter about the [illegible] to-day & am returning the receipt to him.
Yours & love to all
Christmas week saw Peirs performing many small duties as his men continued their training. The battalion officers were briefed by the staff on the new trenches they would be going to after the holidays. Peirs seems to be in good spirits about moving back to the front. In the past three months, the battalion had seen significant trench duty, fought in one major battle, and had been reformed with new drafts of men. When this letter was written, the men had been training for three weeks far away from the front lines. They had been engaged in physical training to get their bodies in shape for the hardships ahead, but also technical training, mostly in gas warfare and tactics.
While his men were training, Peirs had been called away to serve on numerous courts martial. His legal experience in civilian life was now applied to his new role as a regimental officer and he was involved in several cases that he indicates as being serious enough to warrant convictions for hard labor.
In this letter, Peirs acknowledges gifts from his family: a new ring and a copy of Ian Hay’s The First Hundred Thousand. Peirs indicates that he thinks the book is an good depiction of his battalion’s experiences. Hay was a patriotic writer who retained his belief in the heroism of the men in which he served even after the war, when the war’s memory became a bit murkier in Britain. The fact that Peirs felt that the book was an accurate depiction of his experiences says something about the way that the war has been remembered. The book was a best-seller during the war and was repeatedly reprinted afterwards. Its popularity has waned, perhaps because Hay’s plucky humor book does not conform to the ‘mud and blood’ image of the First World War that readers now expect of war literature. Still, if you can find a copy, it is well worth the read.