Monthly Archives: November 2015

November 25–December 5 1915

Why is Peirs not writing?

Peirs did not write home from November 24 until December 6, 1915, because he was granted leave to visit his family. Why write when you can chat in person? Let us recap what has happened to him and his battalion in the last four months.

In September the 8th Queen’s arrived in France and immediately began training for battle. The men had been previously trained in England, but their new training was from veterans in the British Army, who had combat experience and instructed them in tactics as well as new technologies. Billeted comfortably in an orchard, Peirs endeavored to get to know his men better, as well as negotiate the levels of command. In the past year, he had been promoted from Second Lieutenant to Major, a huge bump in responsibilities. As he figured out his new role, Peirs very much kept his old sense of humor, often reflecting to his parents and siblings about the strangeness of Army ways.

After weeks of training, the 8th Queen’s moved to the front at the end of September. They went into action at the Battle of Loos. On the second day of that bloody engagement they attacked at Hulloch on the 26th. In that attack, half their officers were killed or wounded, including the colonel of the battalion, leaving Peirs in command. His letters home to his family conveyed his sense of shock as well as his emotional resilience in the face of what had to have been a terrible experience.

The attack at Loos led to a reorganization of the battalion. Over the next month, the 8th Queen’s was reconstituted with drafts of new volunteers that had to be trained and incorporated into the battalion. Peirs supervised this as well as the movements of the battalion as they rotated in and out of the trenches. By November, the battalion had adjusted to life both in the line at Ypres as well as in rest behind the lines, so much that Peirs began referred to the trenches with a degree of dullness in his letters. Attrition had more than arrived on the Western Front and Peirs’s battalion was one of many holding the line against the Germans in Belgium.

So you can see that in autumn of 1915, Peirs’s life was irrevocably changed. He had gone from being a civilian temporarily commissioned into the British Army, to being in command of a battle-scarred battalion of fellow veterans. He had known both the dull routines of life behind (and in!) the lines as well as the terror of battle and bombardment. Leave for him was, no doubt, overdue by December.