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September 13th 1914 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Cyril E Sladden Esq

13th 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

Seward House

Sept 13th 1914

My darling Cyril

Today is Cecil’s birthday, he has reached the grand old age of twenty five – must make you feel quite youthful.

We are all very much elated at the news contained in the Post Office telegram this morning. It is so cheering to know that we have more than turned the tables on our enemies.

Sergeant Walker recruited three men at the Badsey meeting the other night. They are fairly newcomers to Badsey, not one of them a true native of the place. Sergeant Walker, talked to the young fellows individually, almost pleaded with them, all to no effect. He said never in his twenty years’ experience as recruiting Sergeant, had he had to do more than put the facts before the men and they responded whole heartedly. He was quite upset at the attitude of the men here.

Your Father made a stirring speech, which I should have thought would have melted a heart of stone and fired the men with enthusiasm. Captain Oldfield also gave a splendid speech. These two were the principal speakers. Mr Lees-Milne impressed us very much by his simplicity and straight to the point way of appealing to the men. Mr Chandler, who is an American by birth, gave us the American sentiment and point of view as regards this war; and Sergeant Walker told the men exactly how they were to set about joining either Kitchener’s Army or the Territorials. I expect you know that those who join now are on a kind of reserve which can be drawn on at any moment, and are paid from the day they offer themselves for enlistment at the rate of 3/- a day including Sundays, until their services are required.

I cannot understand these Badsey men. Green , the hairdresser, told us, that if they are seen going to play football or lounging about Evesham, the Evesham men are going to mob them. This is the worst village in the constituency, and in the whole of Worcestershire.

Their land is not an excuse because they make next to nothing out of it these days and also they could get a neighbour to have an eye to it. Another excuse is that after “Parson’s” sermon they’d not dream of going. Well – if the cap fits then let ‘em wear it!

If they were unable to defend themselves in Church, they had their chance to do so at the meeting, and none of them there had a proper defence.

I, personally, can find no excuse for them, and it makes one feel that they are less intelligent than heathen nations, and so should be treated as though they had no minds of their own to make up. The worst of conscription is that unwilling men make bad fighters, but I feel about the lads here that if they could only be made to go, they would make good soldiers and would really like the life.

What should we do if the rest of England’s men were the same.

Thank you, dear, for the your little note and the key. I hope you are not feeling very rotten after being inoculated.

Do you think you will be able to get a Sunday off soon, like those first men did? If you do think you can, it would be so nice if you could come down here before I go to the hospital.

I expect I shall hear tomorrow when Matron will want me.

Did you remember Peggie and John on the 8th? Their wedding was in the Times. They are rather a lucky pair in a way as this war has made very little difference to their lives.

Sunday is a hopeless sort of day without you, but I am less lost today than last week, so as time goes on I shall become more accustomed to the routine of a Sunday away from you.

I am going to read for a bit now, dear, as there is no more to give you at present.

Sept 14th

On my way back from seeing Kath off I met the postman and enquired if there was a letter for me. He was awfully pleased to be able to give me one from you. There was also a letter from Arthur for May and one for your Mother from Marion Sladden. This latter contained very bad news about Aunt Lizzie Sladden. The surgeons were unable to do much in this last operation, something to do with her gland in the thigh, and they told Marion yesterday that she cannot live many weeks now, probably not more than a fortnight. Poor Marion is heartbroken.

Your Mother sends her love and asks me to tell you that she was to have written to you this afternoon but now thinks she must write first to Marion and then perhaps tonight pen a letter to you.

Arthur gives no address but says he and others are quartered in a Sport Grandstand, which he says is comfortable as long as it is warm weather.

Mary’s letter to your Mother this morning says that he is at Nantes. He does not give much news but says England must wake up and that in comparison with other countries Badsey ought to provide 100 men. His letter was dated the 9th, before we had good news, or else I expect he would have written more elatedly.

Poor Mary still writes pessimistically and suggests the Germans are retiring simply to await reinforcements! I don’t think they would retire in such disorder if this were the case. After all we retired ourselves, but we did it gracefully which just makes all the difference! Personally I feel our retirement was for strategical reasons, and the Times of a day or two ago said the French towns were allowing themselves to be taken as they had been told to do so for strategical reasons, to help on a scheme which was presently to be worked out.

I believe we’ve bluffed the Germans all through. Paris was held out to them as a lure, like holding a carrot to a donkey.

I am so glad you suffered so little from the after effects of inoculation, and hope they have not appeared today.

I do wish you could come down here next Saturday afternoon and return on Sunday. I promise you I’ll be a good girl and let you go away again!

Kath and I had a nice long walk yesterday evening. She asked me a lot about my visit to the flat.

We are beginning to think that Mary in particular is ignorant really as regards military matters and that the ? of war are thus greatly magnified to her. It is hard luck on her for us to pick her to pieces and I have tried to say nothing that will throw a false light on her attitude, but her letters are what puzzle the girls most. I feel very, very sorry for her because having such funny ideas about war must make her so miserable. Of course Arthur’s letter home was not inspiring, so if he writes in the same strain to Mary, this may partly account for her pessimism. Kath asked me my opinion on the other matters I mentioned to you. She wants to try and get Mary some L.P.P. or Charity Org. work to do but as she is in the dark about this other matter she has not yet suggested it. Mary would then put up at Sydenham.

I told Kath there could be no harm in suggesting work, and if the proposal were rejected, she could then draw her own conclusions.

Betty has nearly finished her second blouse. She has been wearing the other one and it fits and suits her very well.

I keep myself busily employed practising, knitting, mending, making, and writing to you so the time passes pretty well. I am happy knowing you are well, dear, but I miss the atmosphere of thoughtful love, which is always present if you are in the house. The last day or two has been rather chilly and I have thought ‘ugh. It is cold – I wish Boo were here – he is such a nice warm person’!

P A U S E - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Just been fitting cuffs on Betty’s blouse and must now really be a good girl and go and practise.

If I get definite news from Matron tomorrow I may send you a card, otherwise your next letter will reach you on Thursday.

Mrs Gaukroger has another son, about ten days old. Mary and Kath went to enquire after her en route for the Byrds. She had her husband’s brother’s wife with her and Nurse Shepherd. The elder boy is very proud of the newcomer and calls him “little Gauk”! The Byrds are rather angry with the Father for having gone away so soon, but I suppose he had to do so if he were a Territorial.

Was it in the letter you never received that I asked you to draw me a map of your quarters at Tidworth? When you get there. We heard the Worcs. were quartered there. I have lived in the Huts. They are jolly little places. The Herapath’s hut was to the left of the station as you came out. There are huge barracks there, and we used to go to Church in the Theatre, but I believe a Church has been built since.

All my heart’s love, dearest, may peace come soon, not only for our sakes but everyone’s. Don’t be afraid for me – Sweetheart – if you do have to go abroad. Strength will be given me to bear the anxiety and if God wills you will come back to me after having been “tried in the fire” and having come out pure metal. War has rather that effect on nations and on individuals too I think. We shall all be much stronger in character and in faith at the end of it all. I shall be so proud of you and we shall be so happy knowing that we were tried but were not found wanting.

God bless you, my own dear Boy. The others send their love and they don’t mind not hearing from you directly as I always read the greater part of your letters to them.

A long kiss Sweetheart.

From your own waiting

These tapes are badly marked because the ink is bad. I shall be getting some new ink to mark my own things and will then send you some nicely marked.

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