B. E. F.
27. 4. 1916.
My dear Father,
Many thanks for your letter yesterday, also for Mother’s enclosing Cecily’s & Odds. I am v. glad you are getting on all right & can tap the Blick without undue difficulty. I also hope you are enjoying the weather, which has been simply perfect the last 2 days. We are in the trenches again having come in last night, & I am back in the same red Cabaret, which is inclined to be rather stuffy, as we have to keep the shutters closed all night, so that no lights are visible which to my mind is an unnecessary precaution as we stroll about outside all day & the Hun can’t see us, so I don’t see how he could at night. We had an eventful night, as 2 prisoners had come over & frightened the authorities as to possible strafes & as the wind as easterly we were on the look out for gas all night. We did get our warning, which eventually proved to be false. Apparently, it was the Hun who started warning his own men a long way down the line. His alarm was overheard by a patrol of ours who was lying under his wire & so it passed up at once for miles. It was very instructive as it showed how good our arrangements of warnings are – though it kept me standing about all night which I didn’t appreciate so I am going to bed shortly. Just as it was getting dawn I saw a very fine aeroplane fight. We just heard & saw a Hun plane going away back over our lines when it was still half dark, & shortly after he had gone a fast one of ours turned up & chased him. They both reappeared shortly afterwards coming back with ours just behind the Hun & firing when he got the chance. It was very like the pictures one sees in the illustrated papers, as ours was not more than 50 yards behind the Bosch & one could see the spurts of flame from his machine gun.
We all thought he was bound to get the Hun, when for some unexplained reason our man turned round & went home – probably because his machine gun jammed & so he was helpless –
still it was very exhilarating while it lasted. There was quite a good account in the Times a few days ago of this part of the line written by the official Correspondent at G. H. Q. Evidently he was looking over it from a very commanding hill just behind our lines from which you can see most of the Salient & the bit of the line we are in. Things are pretty active up in the Salient, I gather, but I haven’t heard that anyone expects a big attack up here, as the Bosch can hardly run 2 big shows at once.
I fancy the green
[illegible] tabs the Gunner wears mean some office job & both green tabs & the blue tabs with red stripes which one sees in London, all mean non combatant jobs of sorts though I don’t know their exact meanings. Very many thanks for the promise of the regimental badges when they are obtainable.
Love to all
Peirs and his men went up the line at 10 PM on the 26th, the night before this letter was written. The battalion had been consistently in and out of the line for months, rotating back and forth between training exercises and trench duty.
Peirs’s letter is consistent with what was recorded in the battalion war diary for the 27th, which amounts to quite a bit of concern over a possible German attack in Belgium. The winds had shifted and intelligence from captured German soldiers seemed to indicate that something was brewing in the enemy trenches opposite. There were numerous false gas alarms keeping the men of the battalion on their toes and causing Peirs some annoyance.
Perhaps most striking in this letter is his detailed description of a dogfight between British and German planes. Peirs and his men were watching their actions above as entertainment, action that it was similar to what he had read in illustrated magazines, an allusion to give his family some frame of reference for what aerial warfare actually looked like. The planes were close enough that they could see flames from their machine guns, a remarkable description, and he is clearly still, even as he writes, excited from watching it.