B. E. F.
27. 7. 1916.
My dear Mother,
Thanks for letters from you, Cecily & Odd – also for various papers. I have been pretty busy lately with Peter Bye’s work, so have had no time to write, but he should be back to-night. We are still out of the line & getting a little chance to train the men, which is all to the good, as up to now whenever they were supposed to be resting they usually had to go out on working parties for one reason or another.
We are basking in most glorious weather which looks likely to continue. Everyone seems very satisfied with the way the Somme battle is going & they seem prepared to go on with it as long as the Bosch likes. I don’t know that I have any news & one cant talk-shop or I shall be putting my foot in it with the Censorship Regulations. I have just had to do some billeting & had rather a difficult job as the villagers are not in the best of tempers, having I fancy been badly treated of previous occupiers. However there was one empty home I wanted which the owner, a lady with a red & watery eye, wouldn’t give up under any circs. though I attempted every blandishment. However by dint of seeing the Maire’s secretary (who is the local schoolmaster) in his school & with several interviews with the lady & the garde champ etre who is an agile old thing, about 94 years old, & after being nearly deafened by a conversation between the landlady & himself in which all parties lost their wool in the first half minute & failed to find it till discussion ceased ¾ hour later – chiefly from want of breath – I got the landlady’s daughter out with the Key & of course once in the house we didn’t leave it & are there still. The landlady’s daughter wept bitterly & it was a harrowing scene altogether – I daren’t go near the landlady’s house or I shall meet with the same treatment as the garde champetre.
I hope you are getting plenty of juice for the pram, though I fear from what I see in the papers that you won’t get much. I don’t see much leave going, just now with this Somme business on. I am sorry C. cannot get to Havre, still Invergordon ought to be a good substitute. Still I should have thought they might have done something for her in town with the Certificate to wave in their faces. I am glad to hear G. & W. liked the gramophone. W. wrote & said he has found a new sort which was particularly good, when it was really the kind I mentioned about 3 months ago.
I can find nothing more to say
Love to all
On 25 July 1916 the 8th Queen’s traveled to the Somme. The arrived at Fourdrinoy, 11 miles to the east of Amiens. They spent the next week – this very week 100 year ago – training for an attack at the Somme. Their training consisted of bayonet drill, entrenching, and more specialist training in using their Lewis Guns. Peirs and his men were well aware that the battalion was going to the front.
What he actually knew of the Somme battle is unknown to us. In previous letters, he indicated that he heard the battle to be going well, that British forces were succeeded in meeting their objectives and giving the enemy a hard time. This seems to be the limit of his specific knowledge, or at least of what he is willing to convey home. In this letter he indicates that he knows more, but can’t communicate it due to the censor. He does, however, reassure his family that the battle seems to be going well. For a man approaching that battle, this could be reassurance for his loved ones that he will be okay. It could also be a legitimate belief. We simply don’t know.
Of course, he isn’t near the battle, yet, but we can assume that he has had some form of training or briefing on what has been going on at the front. It would be interesting to know what that training specifically consisted of for officers in his position – an avenue for future research.
Much of this letter is spent discussing his difficulties with a jaded landlady who doesn’t seem to be that fond of British soldiers. He is also worried that his family might not have enough juice (petrol) for the pram, due to shortages in Britain. Typical Peirs.
In the next few weeks, things will begin to pick up for the men of 8th Queen’s as they move towards the front.