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October 5th 1914 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Cyril E Sladden Esq

5th October 1914
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Seward House, Badsey
Correspondence To
Cyril E Sladden Esq, The Officers' Mess, 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, Bhurtpore Barracks, Tidworth
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

at Seward House

Oct 5th 1914

My dear Sweetheart

Yesterday I was consumed with jealousy and really became quite violent! As we came out of Church in the evening, Patty Mustoe stopped me to give me news of you. Charles Murray, who lives on the Bretforton Road has been staying at or near Tidworth with his brother. They used to watch the soldiers drilling and Murray suddenly saw a young officer leading his men whose appearance seemed familiar, and he was delighted to recognize in him your honoured self. Patty was bubbling over to tell me, but the result has been that to pay you out for allowing yourself to be seen by other Badsey eyes other than my own, I have fallen in love with Capt. Nicholson of HMS Hogue, who was saved in that disaster, and whose portrait is in this week’s “Land and Water”! He has a nice sailor face. I’ve quite lost my heart to him – the worst of it is that he is probably married or engaged so my admiration is wasted on the desert air! Pity me!

I have been reading “Beatrice of Venice” for the second time. I found it on the shelf in your room and as it has your name in it I did not hesitate to borrow it. I can knit and read at the same time now which is much more interesting than knitting and thinking.

By the way, dear, will you do me a favour? Is the oak book rest in your room your property? If it is, will you lend it to me to use while at Birmingham. There are just a few of my books I’d like to have with me, and it is so much neater to have them in a ‘rest’ than piled up in groups. They look so nice in the ‘rest’ that I have been tempted to ask you to lend it to me if it is yours.

I had a very interesting letter from Eva Money today – which I am sending you to read as it tells of her adventures on the way home from Switzerland and about the doings of the troops and refugees at Folkestone.

She always writes amusingly and I should spoil the gist of her narrative if I told you it in other than her own words.

May read us Tommy’s description of Lord Kitchener. The article was in reference to the latter’s sense of justice and impartiality. The Tommy says “he is like the bloomin’ day of judgement!” Another tale of him, which shows his sense of impartiality was once broken down, is rather sweet. In S. Africa, he had a pet starling which was fretting and he thought it was lonely, so Kitchener sent an order far and wide that a mate was to be found for his pet at once if not sooner. The article finishes off with “and this is the man who does not approve of married officers taking their wives with them if he can prevent it!”

Miss Opie came to tea this afternoon and brought her songs. We had quite a musical afternoon, your Mother playing and I had the honour of playing the accompaniments and also ventured on that “Mennuet” by Grieg. Miss Opie has a lovely voice and sang several songs – among them some Roumanian Songs by Hermann Lo?hr – which are simply fascinating. It was a great treat to hear her and cheered us all up. She is a very pretty girl, but spoils herself by walking and sitting very badly.

I have come across several very nice quotations lately which I am going to put down here as I like them so much. They seem to apply so well to the present suffering caused by the war. I hope I shall not bore you by doing this – you assure me that my letters never do bore you but I often wonder if these little extra bits outside the ordinary news appear silly and sentimental to you.

“It is a great thing when our cup of Gethsemane hours come, when the cup of bitterness is pressed to one’s lips, and when we pray that it may pass away – to feel that it is not fate, that it is not necessity, but Divine Love for good ends working upon us.”

“There are no times in life when opportunity, the chance to be and to do gathers so richly about the soul, as when it has to suffer. Then everything depends upon whether man looks to the lower or higher helps. If he looks up to God the hour of suffering is the turning hour of life.”

“All the past is shut up within us and is a sort of perpetual present. All the future is before us and though our duty is a present thing, it is constructed out of the past, and runs endlessly into the future. We thus have the past with its memories, the present with its duties, and the future with its anticipations. One for wisdom – one for action - and one for hope.”

Oct 6th

Your nice long letter reached me this morning – it is such a relief when the post brings me news of you. Your last sentence “I want you so badly at this moment”, equally applies now to me. It went to my heart and made me simply long to have you. Life seems so dry and hard without those almost select moments of unspoken sympathy. Nothing can make up for them and no one but ourselves can realize what it is to be deprived of them.

3 pm At the point over page your Mother and Miss Pollard asked me to go for a walk with them. So I’ll continue my budget now.

The black huts you mention are those in which I stayed, or rather one of them is. I think it was the third one – it was semi-detached and the Herapaths was the half on the left as you face the houses. Yes – I know Tidworth House, there was a dance given there while I was there – it is a magnificent place. I forget to whom it belongs.

I saw “The Merry Widow” acted in the Garrison Theatre and the next day went to Parade Service held in the same building. Are they having any plays there these days or is life taken more seriously during war time. Ordinarily speaking a young subaltern has more time off than you get at present and is often able to get off for afternoon gymkhanas or anything else he fancies but now I expect you are kept very busy as you have such a short time in which to complete your training.

I am so glad you think you will find a congenial companion in Mr Marshall – it will be so much nicer for you as you may have to share a room. We were amused at your having to drill the men to stand absolutely still for a few seconds – it sounds so simple but if one tries to do it oneself one realizes how difficult it is. I am surprised at my fidgety Phil being able to do it! For you never keep still two seconds together. I shan’t know you next time we meet, you’ll be such a still, calm column of collosal courage, and you will not ever hang your head! Dear one – what a lot the Kaiser is responsible for!

Miss Pollard is delightful, her dry way of saying really funny things is most amusing. She went to visit old Mrs Griffin the other day and on coming away she said “Goodbye, I have enjoyed my visit so much.” “I’m sure you ‘ave mum, says Mrs Griffin”!

Uncle Harry tells me, in a letter I had from him this morning that Mother wants to go back to France. Uncle Ben and he have been having a correspondence about this and have decided that she had better wait until after the result of this present battle, if it should be favourable and she could return but if it should go against us then she had better stay where she is. He also told me that the doctor informs him that Father has been keeping well.

Capt. Ferguson now has an appointment as Staff Captain in the 9th Divisional Artillery and is stationed at Aldershot at present, but he is shortly to go to the Front.

I told the others you would probably be sending washing home at intervals. I always read them out the ordinary news in your letters and am getting quite skilled in the art of reading straight on as though there were no pieces being left out!

I am writing at your Father’s desk looking out on the gardens. The garden always speaks to me so intimately of you – the roses remind me of strolls round when you often picked me one, and the chrysanthemums are great favourites of yours. We have had the most gorgeous sunsets this week which have toned so well with the autumn foliage, which is just at its very best but I cannot yet bear to stroll round by myself, the loneliness is too much for me – and yet when I have you I am so often horrid to you – this will teach me a lesson.

My ring is looking so pretty and bright today, you know how it varies.

Am very glad the socks are comfortable – it would have been very unsatisfactory if they had not been so.

Mrs Drysdale is coming to tea this afternoon - her son has volunteered.


Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference