B. E. F.
5. Oct. 1915
rec’d 7 Oct
My dear Father,
We are just moving out to go towards the trenches & I expect we shall be in them permanently within a few days. At first they will put us in a few at a time to learn the ins & outs of the business.
I wonder if you would mind choosing for me & sending me out some kind of a waterproof. I don’t think Burberry’s or Zambrene are the thing, but it should be a waterproof & if possible with a fleece lining (detachable) I have seen the sort of thing I want out here, but cd. not find out its name. Curdings could probably tell you what is best & faute de mieux one of their oil-skin coats at about 27/6 would do me all right.
I also want a pair of trench boots & shall be very much obliged if you will have them sent out at the same time. My usual size is 9 ½. The trench boots are waterproof & some are made of green canvas with a leather sole & others of various kinds of waterproof. I think the green canvas ones are the best. I will send you a cheque for the whole thing when I hear what it is.
With regard to the coat, I see I said that it should be a waterproof. I do not mean the shift rubber sort, but the one I have seen was slightly ribbed & evidently had a canvas or cloth foundation with a rubber solution worked in, & was quite pliable.
I am sorry to worry you about this but it will be a great blessing if I get them as I have lost my Burberry.
Yesterday On Sunday we had a Brigade service & a very kind message was read out from the Brigadier who is away ill. I am trying to get a copy & will send it you when I can. Yesterday we were inspected by a new G. O. C. who has taken over the division.
Gear, gear, gear. As Peirs adapted to life in the line, he began to realize that he needed certain things to stay comfortable in the trenches. This is not uncommon: many go to war with a kit that they assume will be sufficient only to modify their gear as they go along. This is similar to the way that inexperienced long-distance hikers adapt to the challenges of living in less than ideal conditions. For Peirs, this meant procuring items that were warm and waterproof, the latter essential as autumn rains made communication and line trenches soupy. Trench boots (waders) and a Burberry were huge items to keeping comfortable in an uncomfortable setting, where wetness and dirt became trying psychological burdens for men to bear as they settled into their lives as soldiers.
It should be added that Peirs had the means to purchase A1 items. A Burberry waterproof was like having a the best modern rain suit possible, especially one with fleece lining for added warmth. Also, Peirs hints that he was observing what other officers were wearing, ones likely with more trench experience than himself. Noticing their gear and its function, he then wrote home for similar items. We can all identify with this feeling – need to have the right stuff for the right conditions.
At the end of the letter, Peirs writes that they were praised by their Brigadier. The letter is quoted in the regimental history at length.
I should like all of you who know the relatives of those who are not with us to make known to them how gallantly they fought and how nobly they served their country in whose service they fell and what prestige they brought to the names of the regiments to which they belonged.
The Brigade was then inspected by their new divisional commander, Major-General John Capper, whose brother Major-General Thompson Capper had died just days before at the Battle of Loos. When Capper told them ‘not to be disheartened at their recent losses, but rather to be urged to greater fury against the enemy who had caused them’ (239), he was a man who, like his new division, was in mourning. In the next week, the 8th Queen’s would be receiving a large draft of men to replace their heavy losses, and would move back up the line.