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October 19th 1914 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Cyril E Sladden Esq

19th October 1914
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, The Nurses' Home, The General Hospital, Birmingham
Correspondence To
Cyril E Sladden Esq, The Officers' Mess, 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, Bhurtpore Barracks, Tidworth, near Andover
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

The Nurses Home
General Hospital

Oct 19th 1914

My own dear One

You must forgive pencil because I am writing after getting into bed and if I use ink and drop any ink on the sheets there’ll be the _______ to pay!

I am settling in beautifully, dear, and my feet and legs are almost well again. You would be amused if you could see me now with the lower end of the mattress raised two or three feet so as to allow the circulation to return from my feet upwards. It is a very good thing to be like this and rests one wonderfully. One feels the benefit the next day. The Sister in our ward was brought up in Antwerp and her Mother is a Belgian and a refugee now, Sister was Night Sister but when the Belgians came Matron put her in charge of their ward. She is very nice indeed and sympathetic and has been most kind in advising me what to do about my feet. Up to the present no one has complained of my work or passed a disparaging remark, I feel it is too good to last!

On Monday evenings from 6 to 7 we juniors attend Matron’s lectures. She was very interesting last night and has a charming personality and a keen sense of humour.

I love my little bedroom. The walls are distempered a pretty shade of green and the furniture is brown. There is a wooden line round the walls from which one can hang pictures without driving in nails and one is allowed flowers in one’s room. One is able to get a hot tub every day which I appreciate very much. It is wonderful how I haven’t ached a bit except my feet – not a bit stiff in the back or anything and am feeling exceptionally fit. Short rations evidently don’t harm one! Yesterday we were supposed to have eggs but when they were arrived they were not cooked, absolutely raw and there was no time to wait for them to be re-done! So we just had bread and butter. I shouldn’t mind this so much only that we are not given a second plate for our bread but spread it on the tablecloth and if you grab quick enough you get some butter and if you don’t you go without! For dinner we get one kind of meat, vegetables and pudding. For tea just bread and butter and supper a cup of coffee and a plate of mincemeat without vegetables, no pudding not even cheese!

However I am told we feed well in comparison with some hospitals!

After talking in French all day I find a difficulty in expressing myself in English!

I must not write much more as I must have a few minutes to massage my feet with methylated and boracic powder. I find this plan better than soaking them in Coudy’s.

Goodnight my best – Beloved - it seems years since you took me in your arms. I sometimes feel it cannot be true that I have ever experienced such a thing. One has not much time here for indulging in day dreams but just occasionally when I see a pair of dark blue eyes looking up into mine while I tend the owner of them, the thought of you flashes across my mind and my thoughts stray to you and all you are to me.

The patients think it funny we nurses are not married because girls marry at 16 in Belgium! They ask then “Êtés vous fiancée?” and when I said “Yes” they were most interested. “Est-ce qu’il un soldat Mademoiselle?” (they forget to say Nurse) and when I told them you were a Lieutenant for the time being they were very pleased. The fact of your being an officer “places” me as it were and gives me a certain amount of standing amongst them! I should not talk like this to the ordinary patients but these men need the “human” touch to make life tolerable to them during this time of sadness for them.

Will continue tomorrow.

Today is my half day holiday and I am off duty from 2 until 10. Isn’t it a nice long time. First of all I am going to finish my letter to you and write to Mother then I am going out.

I shall be reduced to going to a cinema to fill in the evening but shall take a good airing first. Yesterday I bought myself a specially good pair of strong shoes for the ward – bang went 11/6! It was rather annoying having to get them as I had only just invested in a pair but which are not suitable for my feet, Sister says I must have a high heel because my instep is high and also must have strong soles. The stone corridors necessitate this. I should think there must be six miles of corridors here.

The nurses are most of them very nice – those in my ward are all nice – one of them I don’t quite trust she is too nice and does as little work as she need but in herself she is pleasant and kind.

Have you been able to renew your acquaintance with the Chaplain who preached at the Garrison Church last week? It would be jolly if you had a friend you have previous knowledge of.

I must close now and scribble a few lines to Mother.

I hope to send your cholera belt in a few days - and will try and remember to enclose some khaki wool in this letter.

It would be jolly if we were not so far from each other and could occasionally meet.

I expect I shall get so fond of hospital work that I shall not want to give it up at the end of the year but perhaps you will be able to persuade me to do so if you try very hard! If not at the end of a year perhaps a little later on but I wonder if it would be a good plan if you got ill, something slight! and that would enable me to continue my training by looking after you! Although I love nursing there is someone I love much better, if you think hard you may perhaps be able to guess!

Best love – my own dear Boy. God bless you.

Ever your devoted

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