B. E. F.
My dear Father,
Many thanks for your letter received to-day & for the copy of Glad’s, also for Mother’s & two parcels of socks & mittens & a further parcel of eatables from yourself.
I ought at this moment to be in the trenches as the Battalion we relieve was to stay in longer, but owing to the filthy weather & the rotten state of the trenches they came out early & we relieved them yesterday. I stayed behind as I am at the moment on a special job which is really policeman’s work, being in charge of a number of posts on the local roads to hold up everyone & examine their passes & send in anyone who cannot account for himself satisfactorily for further examination.
Of course one can’t take orders too literally or half the army would now be languishing in gaol as none of them worry about passes, but we have got a civilian or two & may have more before the evening is out. It started at 9 last night & we chuck it at 9 to-night & I am going up to the trenches to-morrow
I had a Divisional car to go about in & it was just as well as it took me over 5 hours last night to get round my section even in that, & a little less this morning. The roads in places are awful & it is amazing how the cars stand it, & of course some of the posts were placed, so that we could only get to them by wading through thick mud, so I had a cheery time slushing about last night. Some of the post commanders were rather too zealous & were quite prepared to arrest the G. O. C. if he appeared. One of them did arrest a Gunner brigade major & send him back for identification to Hqrs & I met him afterwards & he didn’t like it a bit.
However he will take a pass with him in future. As the regiment we relieve has come back into our camp, I was rather at a loss where to go when not on my rounds, but I have attached myself to our quartermaster (Who stays back here & sends up the rations from here) & am consequently very comfortable.
Owing to Court Martials & arrange-ments for to-day’s show I have hardly seen anything of the regiment or our new C. O. since he joined. He is a very strict disciplinarian & I am afraid will be rather too much so, as the old sort of discipline is to my mind not required by the new army, or any how not by our men. They have got enough to put up with without bothering them with small details. However we shall see how he goes on. Certainly the drafts that have come to us from the 3rd Battln. which were trained when he was adjutant are jolly good & he will wake us all up.
Love to all
Peirs finds himself out of the trenches in this letter. The rest of his battalion went up the line to relieve the East Surreys, their position approximately 3/4 of a mile west of Dickebusch, Belgium. For the next four days the 8th Queens would be in the line and then rotated out.
For the moment, and in this letter, Peirs is doing a type of provost duty behind the lines managing checkpoints, a task which he accepts as necessary, but does not like at all.
When we last heard about Peirs’s new commanding officer, Lt. Col. A.M. Tringham, he was pleased with his selection. In four days, though, his mind had changed slightly as he found him to be a bit of a martinet. In this letter he makes a distinction between the old army and the new army that is somewhat revealing writing of his C.O.:
He is a very strict disciplinarian & I am afraid will be rather too much so, as the old sort of discipline is to my mind not required by the new army, or any how not by our men. They have got enough to put up with without bothering them with small details.
The men of his battalion were volunteer civilians mostly who were not of, what he calls, the ‘old sort’ of British soldier, who put up with rigid discipline as part of their profession. Peirs had a more pragmatic approach to military leadership understanding and accepting the value of some military discipline, but also understanding that rigidity bred resentment in his men. In this letter, he is clearly worried that his new C.O.’s leadership style was rubbing the men the wrong way.