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

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

The Nurses’ Home
The General Hospital

Nov 19th


I was so very glad to receive your sweet letter this morning. You really are a dear funny old thing and I would just love to put my arms round your neck and give you a big hug and a kiss. You are having a busy time and I do hope you do not get over-tired but are keeping as fit as when I saw you last.

The culprit who opened my letter has been traced and has been dismissed. He was the House Office Boy and the detective thinks he was looking for postal orders but that it was his first offence, for had he not been a novice at the game he would have destroyed my letter altogether instead of enclosing it in another envelope. Matron is glad I reported the matter as he might another time have succeeded in opening a letter which did contain money.

I heard from Bar today and her principal piece of news is that my brother Wilfred is engaged to be married to a hospital Nurse, Mary Campbell by name and Scotch. George won’t like this at all! This is how it all came about. Mary Campbell is the nurse in charge of Hilton College Sanatorium, and one day Wilfred was taken there in an unconscious condition having had an accident while out riding and fall on his head.

Evidently Mary nursed him and now they are engaged to be married! This sounds like a novel and might so end up with “and they lived happily ever after”! I have just finished writing him a congratulatory letter. I really am delighted to hear his news because he will not be so lonely now that he has someone to care for and who cares for him. Send him two or three lines when you have time.

I believe he suffered a good deal with his head after the accident. There is one thing about it, being a Nurse, his fiancée will know how to look after him should he ever be ill again.

Cecil is still safe and unhurt but unable to send any details.

May sent me a pc today saying Mary is crossing tomorrow, Friday, as it took some time to get a passport.

Last night, Nurse Saunders came to my room and told me a very curious history of her own life. She had just been to Confession and after Confession the Priest asked her if she had anything she would like to ask his advice about and she said “yes”. So he asked her to come to his house and she ended by telling him the story of her life and he gave her some money £3 or £4 to tide her over her present difficulties. He asked her if she had no woman friend and she replied “No – but one of the nurses’ had been very good to her” and she mentioned my name.

He advised her to tell me what she told him as then she would not be sailing under false colours and if I were a sensible minded girl he thought I would still be a friend to her.

This is her story. Her Father left her Mother before she was born and she thinks he did not know that her Mother was going to have a child, it was so soon that he left her. The child grew up very like her Father and the Mother grew to hate her for it and sent her away to the convent and the girl was brought up with the idea that she had no Mother and that her Mother was her Aunt. As she grew up her instinct told her that her supposed Aunt was her Mother and she tackled her on the subject. She was sixteen at this time. Her Mother was so infuriated she turned her adrift by putting her in a train for London with no money.

When she had wondered about for a few days taking shelter in Salvation Army Shelters and even sleeping on the Embankment, she put herself into the hands of a Magistrate who gave her a good dinner and sent her back to her home and said her Mother could not refuse her entrance to her own home. By this time the girl was in a dreadful unkempt condition and it transpired she was walking the streets with pneumonia and pleurisy. She got to Oxford but was picked up by a Miss Fairfax in an unconscious condition and taken to her house. Miss Fairfax adopted the girl from that time and she calls her Mother and it is she who is niece to Dr Sandling or Sandys of Christ Church College.

Now, isn’t this a most extraordinary life history. The awful things Nurse Saunders must have suffered and as the Priest she consulted said she must have a Guardian Angel to have come through those days alone in London without a penny to her name. Goodness knows what might have happened to her.

This Priest wishes to see me some day and I shall be interested to meet him. During her conversation with him it transpired that he was a college friend of her guardian, Mr Underhill, Vicar of St Albans, Moseley, who is some relation to Miss Fairfax.

I am going to go thoroughly into the case before I become too friendly with her, but if all she tells me is true I am most awfully sorry for her and will befriend her to the utmost of my powers.

Hope’s husband has been promoted to the rank of Major. Hope has been resting on her back since her return to England having been injured in a motor accident from Ostend to Dunkirk.

By the way there is a private of Major Ferguson’s regiment in hospital here, he told me he had come under his command at one time.

I must close this really quite exciting thrilling novel as it is nearly supper time and I have to send off a parcel of washing tonight.

Your khaki socks are nearly finished.

Goodnight – Beloved – I look forward every night to the time when Goodnights will no longer be necessary – it will be real rest then such as yet we have not experienced. God bless you – dear: take care of yourself – a long kiss my dear, dear, Boy.

Ever your own

Am now in No 6 Men’s Surgical. The old patient no longer needs a special but is still living.

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