Peter Pierce was born in Dyserth in 1895. His mother was Mary Lewis – sister of Henry (Harry) Lewis who also died in the Great War. Henry’s name is also on the Dyserth War Memorial and his story can be read elsewhere on this site.
Mary married David Pierce who was born in the Newmarket / Cwm area and they had 7 children of whom Peter was the eldest. It looks as though Mary may have had a child before Peter as a girl named Catherine Anne, who was born in 1881, was included in the family. Peter was followed by Charles (1897), Thomas (1899), Mary (1901), David (1905), Sarah (1907) and Gwendoline (1912).
In 1901 the family was living in Tan y Foel next door to Mary’s family home, Hand Cottage. David Pierce – then 35 – was working as a carter on a farm. By 1905 they had moved to Bryniau, Cwm. The 1911 census shows that David was still a farm worker. Peter was probably in this line of work too as he stated his occupation on enlistment as ‘farmer’. The family was Welsh speaking and in 1911 three of the children, Thomas, Mary and David, were pupils in school.
Peter enlisted with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on the 26th of June 1915 in Cwm. Fortunately many of his army papers have survived and can be accessed via the web. We know that he served with the 2nd/5th Battalion, later the 1st/5th Battalion. He was 20 years old when he joined up, 5ft 5 and a half inches tall and weighed 128lbs. (Another army medical report around the same time gives his height as 5ft 4iinches!) He gave his religion as Church of England.
The first twelve months in the Army were spent in the UK. There is nothing of note in his records for this period except that on 15th of October 1915 he “was deprived one day’s pay by the C O for being late on parade”.
His regiment was part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. On the 20th of June 1916 he was posted and the following day set sail from Devonport on the Megantic arriving in Alexandria nine days later. He joined his Battalion on the 4th of July in Ismailia – an Egyptian city on the west bank of the Suez Canal.
It seems that his active service was dogged by illness. On the 26th of March 1917 he was wounded in action in Gaza and treated in the field for a gun shot wound to the left shoulder. On the 4th of April he was admitted to a hospital in Alexandria because of this same wound. He rejoined his battalion in the field on the 18th of May. A week later he was again admitted to a field hospital – this time with impetigo – and by the 4th of July he was back in hospital in Alexandria with yet another complaint. On the 13th of September he rejoined his battalion only to be admitted to a field hospital two days later with tonsillitis. After a week he was back once again on duty in the field.
His casualty form states he was a sniper scout. The following excerpt from: Sniping in France by H Hesketh-Pritchard gives some idea of the duties involved.
“A question that arose as the war went on was the definition of the duties of a sniper and a scout. It was held in some quarters that a sniper and a scout were two quite different men, who had in view two entirely different objects. The sniper, those who held this view said, was a man whose first duty was offensive action against the enemy, whereas a scout’s duty was not to fight, but to obtain information. We at the school could never see it in this light, for there must be occasions when a scout must fight to get his information back, or indeed, to obtain it, and it seemed futile that in the morning a man should ask himself, “Am I to-day a sniper or a scout? “
A modern scout must know a great many things— so many that it is almost impossible to detail them all, and for this reason a scout’s work changes with the conditions under which he is working.
A scout may, in a single two hours of his life, be a sniper, an observer, and the old-fashioned scout who has to go out to find out things at close range. He has to be essentially an individualist capable of seeing and seizing his opportunity. He must be a man of instant decision, who understands the value of cover and background, who possesses that quality which is very often born in men, a sense of direction.
His training was exceedingly difficult, and unless he had a natural aptitude, no amount of teaching was of any real practical value. Think what a difference it makes to a Commanding Officer to have in his battalion a certain number of men, however few, whom he can send out to obtain information, and who are so accurate and so dependable that he can always act upon their reports.
And yet there should be no difficulty in training a number of scouts in every battalion, but the ideal scout, or rather the ideal scout section, in a regiment, should be looked up to. Their immense value should be realized, and due credit and honour given to them for their skill. The scouts of a battalion should be the pick of that battalion, and the fact that a man has attained the rank of scout should be signalized by his receiving extra pay and extra consideration.
As long as war lasts it will be necessary to find out what is in the enemy’s mind, and this is so important, that those who prove themselves capable of discovering and of giving warning of what is about to occur, should be objects of admiration and respect to all their comrades.”
Peter Pierce was killed in action on the 7th of November 1917 having served in the army for 2 years, 135 days.
It is possible he was killed during The Third Battle of Gaza (27 October -7 November) which included the Capture of Beersheba (31 October) and the Capture of Tell Khuweilfe (3-7 November). He is interred in the Beersheba War Cemetery.
Peter Pierce is also named on the Cwm Memorial