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Mela at Bournbrook, Birmingham

Mela Brown Constable began work at Bournbrook, the 1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham, in June 1915, and had studio portraits taken of herself in uniform.  As she explained to her fiancée, Cyril Sladden, in a letter of 4th June 1915, “We always have to wear outdoor uniform here, unless we get special permission to wear mufti on our days off ….. I find my outdoor uniform very hot and heavy in this weather.  When my ship comes home I must try and get a cloak made of lighter material.”

Before she started at Bournbrook, Mela modelled the outfit for the folks in Badsey, as she wrote in a letter of 24th May 1915:  I gave them all a shock this morning by coming down in uniform.  Mrs Ashwin wants to see me in my bonnet and cloak, that is why I put it on, because I am going over to see her this morning.  Your Father thinks it is a good thing you are not here as I look so severe you’d be frightened of me.  Everyone else, however, likes me in it very much and disagrees with your Father’s opinion …..  I went over to see Mrs Ashwin this morning in my bonnet and cloak – she liked it very much.  Ellen, the quaint little maid here, said I am much better looking in uniform!!!”

Two versions of the photo were taken, as Mela consulted Cyril about the proofs on 8th June:  “Will you decide for me which of these photos is the best, and also if I should have 6 of one and 6 of the other or 12 of one?”

© The Sladden family descendants and by kind permission of the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (reference 705:1037/9520/22/ii/11) and the Imperial War Museum (reference 60/98/3)