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October 27th 1914 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Cyril E Sladden Esq

27th 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 House
General Hospital

Oct 27th 1914

My one dear One

Your nice long letter reached me last night and interested me very much. We experience the same difficulty here as to getting information, very few patients know definitely their addresses or who is their next of kin! The Belgians are particularly difficult to register – as they do not know if their homes or relatives still exist and also the Belgian names are not easy to spell.

We attended another ‘practical’ lecture last night and had to demonstrate in turn how to make a bed for a sick patient. My bed got no criticisms - and if judged by that was the best as the other nurses were stopped and instructed as they went on.

More of our Belgian patients go out on Thursday and the ward is to be closed for cleaning. I don’t know which ward I shall be in previous to the hospital taking in other Belgians wounded.

I had a long pc from Barbara. She has joined Mother in France and tells me that they will be warned in plenty of time if there should be any fear of the Germans arriving. The London Scottish are now stationed at Colembert only a few miles from our house at Boulogne – so perhaps they’ll get a peep of Cecil.

You tell me at the end of your letter that you miss me more as time goes on. I can echo that fully. It simply seems ages since we had any time together and my heart aches at times to see you. There is a feeling of such incompleteness. I don’t know whether you feel the same, dear, but I find that since I have been engaged I do not seem to care to go in for any deep friendships. The nurses here are inclined to be friendly and outwardly I respond but inwardly there is a lack of spontaneity. It seems as though all the affection in my nature is concentrated in one direction.

It is partly, too, I think, because at present I have not quite found a kindred spirit. The majority I like, superficially, but there is a hidden coarseness about many of them which prevents me seriously wishing to cultivate their friendship. The soldiers are quick to finding this kind of thing. I have had no trouble with them but some of the other nurses have – but it is entirely their own fault and I tell them so. I know what foreigners are, if you give them an inch they take an ell. There is a lot of good work to be done here besides nursing. I am older than most of the junior nurses and hope to influence them a little by showing them that nursing is a sacred profession and not one to be taken up lightly. Many of the seniors openly say they took up the profession to get married. Personally I do not see that nursing gives one any more opportunity in this direction than any other work.

The sisters are many of them from Bart’s and are I think of the right metal.

I am sorry to think that the Belgians may be going away with the impression that English nurses are flippant and silly or even coarse – some of them are. I don’t for a moment think they, the nurses, think themselves to be these things but I know the soldiers think it of them, as I can understand what they say amongst themselves better than most of the others. Sister Wood of our ward rebuked the two Senior Nurses in our ward yesterday so I know my impressions are not incorrect. The longer I live the more I see how very superficial many women’s lives are and that when the mask is dropped the hidden things of their inmost minds lie revealed.

I feel since you won’t think all this “cant” on my part. I sincerely feel all I have written and am and shall try to make things in my little bit of the whole all that is nice and wholesome. It seems to me that when one knows the mysteries of life one sees the serious sacredness of it; it is when one only has a little knowledge that it is a dangerous thing. Either be absolutely ignorant or else know all there is to be known.

Well – Sweetheart – this is a funny sort of letter – but there is no particular news to give you. I am sending this today so that you may get it in time to reply to it on Wed. – I will try and get one written for you to receive on Saturday. Then if I write every Tues. and Friday and you every Wed: and Sunday our letters will not cross.

I was delighted to get a note from you on Sunday morning. I don’t want to be greedy but I do love just a line like that to greet me on Sundays – the day we always spent together for so many months.

I am now going to see if I can finish off that belt for you. With all my heart’s love and a kiss, Best-Beloved.

Ever your own

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 2 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference