Monthly Archives: October 2015

30 October 1915

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8th Queens
B. E. F.
3.0. 10. 1915.

My dear Mother,

Another letter & very little news. The  rain has been our trouble lately & the trenches have been tumbling to bits everywhere.

The men have had to work like niggers to keep them in repair & as to-day has been fine, we have been able to get over most of the trouble.

We found to-day that there is a spring under one of the parapets so there is no wonder that it won’t keep up. However I have got the sappers on to it to-night & they may be able to drain the thing somehow.

The weather is fairly mild & the rain has stopped so things are more comfortable but the mud in places is fairly bad especially in the part leading to the trenches before the trench actually begins. Here there is 600 yards of mud never less than 6 inches & in many places 2 feet deep & it takes a long time to pick one’s way through. However no one minds mud here & my boots keep me quite dry, though I pity the ration parties etc. who have to go up & down through it.

I hear that the Huns opposite us are Marines & considered very harmless. At present they are as quiet as mice & barring a little strafing by their guns from time to time there is nothing doing. I fancy neither side is very keen on leaving its line, where there are dug-outs for the doubtful advantage of a little advance & no cover.

I hear our new C. O. is appointed Twigham by name & a D. S. O. He was Adj. of the 3rd Batln. just after I left. I have met him once & believe he is a very good chap. I don’t know when he is going to join.

We are going back to-morrow night & shall then have to carry on with our huts, which I hope our relieving battalion have been getting on with during the past week.

The trouble has been to get the tools to build the things with, but these should be forthcoming by now & we may be able to do something. Then with a little rubble from Ypres (where we have to send for it though it is miles off) to make the roads & a better loot from somewhere else, if any is forthcoming we may get fairly comfortable. We have managed to get hold of a hand cart to-day & are hugely pleased & I am having our name put on in large letters lest the real owners turn up & claim it. A hand cart is a tremendous blessing to cart rations & odds & ends on & I hope we shall manage to retrieve some more before long. Of course the govmt. don’t supply them as they are unauthorised transport, but the ordinary rules go by the board out here. I should like to get one of the small local carts but I haven’t found an ownerless one anywhere. Of course this country has been fairly scoured by now, & there is precious little left which is of any use.

They have served us out with goatskin coats to wear in the trenches, but I have not had them issued, as it is not cold enough. I believe they smell something horrid & are only for wear out of doors. In a dug-out they are too overpowering.

Love to all

from Jack.


Peirs continues his service in the trenches in this letter. Here he is fretting about their construction and the many little details that were important to keep his men comfortable. As anyone who has read about the First World War knows, trenches were susceptible to flooding, and as Peirs indicates, they needed continual work to keep intact. His men would do most of this work at night and were susceptible not only to the wet conditions, but also to German mortar rounds.

You will note that Peirs occasionally uses pejoratives or offensive language to describe the Germans, or as in this letter, to describe the work his men were doing. Here it is pretty jarring.

The men have had to work like niggers to keep them in repair & as to-day has been fine, we have been able to get over most of the trouble.

Such usage was common in the early twentieth century in both Britain and America in day-to-day conversations, letters, and in literature. Peirs was a white middle class officer from an affluent background who grew up with all of the advantages of the British Empire. His casual usage of the term reflects that position of privilege within the imperial racial hierarchy and says quite a bit about the assumptions of class and race at the time.