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September 1st 1914 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Cyril E Sladden Esq

1st September 1914
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Seward House, Badsey
Correspondence To
Cyril E Sladden Esq, Officers' Training Camp, Churn, near Didcot, Berkshire
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

At Seward House

Sept 1st 1914

My darling Cyril

I thought of you turning in perhaps about half past ten last night and wondered what your camp quarters are like. I spent the whole of last evening after supper cutting out a blouse for Betty and fitting it and came to bed soon after prayers after first writing a few lines to Mother to greet her on her arrival at Tunbridge Wells.

I had a letter from Bar this morning written on the 28th before knowing they were leaving. She says, “No French or English soldiers are in Boulogne now, it is non-combatant, so we shall have to give the Germans déjeuner if they do come. Mother has given Rose (our maid) her instructions how to serve them, that is, never to turn her back on them in case of being shot, and to be most polite! The town is full of refugees, French and Belgian, so they evidently think the place safe enough.”

I think Mother and Bar have been very calm and kept their heads very well. The latter mentions that many English people left when there was a scare after the Germans broke through Lille. I don’t think this was in the English papers – anyhow Bar says the British drove them back. When I wrote to Peggie I asked her about my things being packed up. This morning I had a funny little letter from Mrs Japp in which she says, “I have had your things packed. I think it is better if you ask me rather than Peggie. In the first place she forgets and in the second place it is better that I give the servants their orders”.

I mentioned to Peg that I would not be sending her a wedding present just yet on account of scarcity of £.s.d. Mrs J continues, “I am sorry you are so hard up and I feel as if it were partly our fault. Yet I could not let the children suffer and as you wanted to go I was forced to find a school for them. It would never have done for you to have had to leave suddenly, through being called off. I could not do otherwise as you wished to go. Of course we are very hard up too. We shall have to give up lots of things. We are giving up the car first of all when Hessy (chauffeur) can find another place. “

I think as she keeps on excusing herself that she realizes she did not act quite as she might have done.

Don’t you think the Japps ought to pay the carriage of my boxes here?

May told us one or two rather quaint things about her day at the hospital. The old man who Ethel told us had been run over told her he had a book at home “all about a man called Absalom. He’d a lot o’ hair which got in a muddle and hanged him on a tree. Then someone came along and jabbed him in the back with a harp. He thought it was Solomon.”! He also went on to say he never could understand how God could have forgiven David, that in his opinion David was a wicked man, now-a-days no one would think very much of him! His mixed story of how Absalom met his death is too delicious, isn’t it?

Mrs Jackson has mumps so May cannot go and stay with her. They are all still scrapping about the housekeeping! I think as May is not going away now, she is to take over management.

Your Father is being perfectly sweet to me – seeing I have all I want and talking so kindly almost tenderly to me – it reminds me of you.

Betty and I are going to be with Mrs Ashwin this afternoon. She has asked us to take our music.

I practised an hour this morning and tried a “Serenade” by Jensen – a very pretty thing.

Am now going for a constitutional.

7.15 pm

Just filling in my diary to you writing in my room at the casement window. Betty and I played several pieces to Mrs Ashwin. She likes the minuet by Grieg very much, also M?lodie by Moskowski, and Schytte’s Berceuse. Miss Holmes told me that she and her Mother were looking round Cheltenham the other day and her Mother pointed out a house to her and said that it is (was) one that she used to visit frequently as a girl and that the name of the people was Brown Constable. Miss H was most astonished as of course it was Grandpa’s house. Her Mother was a Miss Ratcliffe.

After leaving Mrs Ashwin’s, Betty and I went begging. We went in to Mrs Jelfs, who was very keen to hear all about “her baby”, and retailed many stories about your earliest infancy, including one about secretly taking you, Arthur and George to be photographed. She did so wish she could have seen you in your uniform, and if you have a photo taken in it, I am to take it round to show her. Coming away now, just to tease her I said, “But he’s my baby now!” “Oh - no – that he isn’t,” she indignantly replied, “I knew him long afore you did?” She told me, to my astonishment, that you were a very good baby.’

I told her you were fairly good now but she seemed to think you could not possibly be as good now as you were under her care! Arthur, she said, was a very cross baby, but it never affected his expression – he always looked very jolly.

Muriel Holmes has asked me to go over from two to three tomorrow to give her a few practical hints on nursing. She goes for her second day at the hospital on Thursday. I find everyone thinks I am lucky to have a man to send to the front, so am either an object of envy instead of pity! It rather “bucks one up” as one has to assume a very proud air as if one were going to the front oneself!

The house seems strange without you. I expect to see you at every turn and miss you beside me at the table.


Father Lopez has arranged to have a nine o’clock High Celebration at Badsey on Wickhamford Sunday. His boys will be the choir and he will celebrate. Badsey will be a little astonished I expect, but there may be a few to whom this kind of service will appeal.

There is a terrific war discussion going on in which I found it useless to take part! (I was knitting your stockings at the same time but in desperation have taken this up instead!) Your Father has a meeting on in the library in connection with the Recreation Ground. It has developed into a war meeting and Ethel is in there quite the Recruiting Sergeant. I believe your Father is telling them of some of his experiences at Dover etc.

Goodnight, dear Boy, I miss our evening hour together and wonder what you are doing and if you have had a moment to yourself during the day. Do write as fully as you can even if it is a scribble in pencil.

Sept 2nd

3.30. Darling, I am glad to have a few lines from you – to know you are in fairly comfortable quarters. You sound happy as well as busy. I want you to be happy in your work as it will just make all the difference.

I have just returned from giving Muriel Holmes a few practical hints. We got the maid to come up to her room and I taught Miss Holmes how to lift a patient properly and many other things.

I have written to Birmingham today to see if there is any opening at the hospital there. I won’t rush into anything without due consideration but am just sending out a feeler or two.

I am getting on famously with that sock.

I really don’t know, Cyril, what has happened to Kath – even Betty remarked on it yesterday. She won’t let anyone have an opinion or even allow anyone else to talk! Perhaps she will get better when she has been at Sydenham for a little while.

I had a letter from Mary today – a sort of letter of condolence because she had heard you had gone. You see she doesn’t realize what a handful you are or else perhaps she wouldn’t be so sorry for me at the present moment.

Your Father had a lovely long letter from George today. He says Russians passed through St Albans and that a Territorial friend had a letter from his people in Aberdeen saying that the sands of Russian troops had been landed there.

I notice in The Times today one correspondent finishes his article by saying though the fighting was going against us and the view pessimistic, in military circles it is very optimistic. This makes me think Kitchener has some sort of a surprise card up his sleeve.

I am amused at your having to do a certain amount of reading in your spare time. After reading the list of things you have to do there was not much time to spare as far as we could see! But it was the same when I was training in hospital, we had to work up for exams in our spare time. It was generally very spare! Betty and the others send their love, the former says she will write soon.

It is so funny, dear. They none of them can realize exactly how I feel about your going away for so long - and each in her different way think differently. As a matter of fact they are all wide of the mark. Even Mary doesn’t hit it quite, George is frantically busy but writes an amusing letter describing the appearance and character of many of his companions. One of their officers is in the regulars really. He is very keen to go to the front especially as his fiancée refuses to marry him unless he does!

Well – darling – I don’t really think there is any more news. Can I ask Jack to send your suitcase if I should want it later on.

Goodbye for the present, old Boy – will write soon again. All my heart’s love – keep well and happy and write when you have time.

Ever your own


Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference