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October 11th 1915 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden

11th October 1915
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Sisters' Quarters, University House, Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham
Correspondence To
Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 39th Brigade, 13th Division, British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Sisters’ Quarters, University House

Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham


Oct 11th 1915, 12.15 am


My own dear Cyril


Another Sunday come and gone with no opportunity for worship. The day passes in sleep which makes it difficult to realize that it is Sunday, and consequently one loses count of time, as ordinarily speaking one reckons up one’s week from a Sunday and the Psalms always help one one out with the date of the month. If it is a Sunday with special Psalms appointed my calculations were always thrown out! I used to be able to apply to you!


Numbers of our VAD nurses have been sent away to the smaller branch hospitals of the 1st Southern General and a new batch has been sent here in their place.


Among them is rather an attractive, sensible looking girl, a subaltern’s wife. I hope I shall get to know her in time. I believe her husband is at the Front.


It is quite evident that the War Office are employing nurses, irrespective of the fact of their being married or single. I’m sure the married ones are of more use in many ways and at the same time they are having occupation and saving their husband’s purses. It must make an enormous difference to this VAD nurse’s husband not to have to keep up a house or rent rooms in addition to which his wife earns a little pin money.


I heard from Ethel today definitely fixing up a meeting for next week. Her train gets to Birmingham at 9.15 am and I am going to ask for an extension to stay out until twelve instead of eleven so as to see as much of her as possible.


She told me on her pc that George had met a London Scottish man who told him Cecil had come through safely so far, so I think all rumours of his having been wounded are unfounded. George himself is still flourishing.


I am taking my tonic regularly and hope to feel the benefit of it soon. I must say one feels rotten on night duty.


Have I told you in any of my letters that Father is in a Nursing Home in London under Dr Risian Russell of Harley St, undergoing treatment for neuritis. Dr Russell told Uncle Harry that if his treatment did not cure Father, nothing will, and that in time in all probability Father will gradually become paralysed. Isn’t it awful to contemplate? Uncle says he will leave no stone unturned to try and get him cured. The treatment is frightfully expensive having cost £30 already apart from the nursing home fees.


Mother has not been told this yet because they are afraid she might want to see Father which would upset him and unnerve him, and part of the treatment is that he should have complete rest. I cannot keep worrying about him. What will his life be like, paralysed, unable to stir?


It is a sad end to a sad life, a life which was so full of promise at the beginning.


He had charm, ability, a gift for his work, a home and children, but all of no use to him because his own happiness sacred to himself was spoilt through want of sympathy between Mother and himself.


It would not be just to blame one more than the other because no one can judge between husband and wife. But to me this loss of unity in two people’s lives who have been everything to each other, is a tragedy. The biggest tragedy earth holds.


I can remember Captain McKenzie saying “a tragedy which makes the angels turn their heads away and weep”. And yet in a sense he did much the same thing himself, but in his case out of evil came good and doubtless we should not have been happy had we married.


It is strange, dear, how I can talk to you about him. It just shows what confidence I place in your love and good judgement.


How are you getting along, my darling? Have you got a nice little “dug-out”? I have a nice little “dug-out” here, having two screens round me and an easy chair. The men always call it my dug-out.


At this point I had to get up to turn a man over on his side. He snores most abominably and wakes the others up. The worst of it is nothing stops him for long – he starts more lustily than ever after about 10 minutes respite!


If he slept in the trenches he’d give away his whereabouts at once!


The worst of night duty is one has so much time to dwell on one’s past sins and shortcomings. I constantly keep fancying things, such as “was I unfair in my criticisms of the Sturges-Jones”? etc. Then my mind rambles on and I get gloomier and gloomier and then – thank heaven – dawn begins to break and with it work commences and then goodbye to gloomy thoughts and forebodings!


I am going to write to Mother and Cecil now. Mother is back in Boulogne. They have taken a small flat – 67 Grande Avenue, Boulogne-S-Mer. It is a temporary arrangement while they look round for something better.


Having had letters so frequently from you lately, I think myself very unlucky if I do not hear even for a few days! Although I know it is an utter impossibility to continue to hear so often.


All my love, Sweetheart, God bless you and guard you and bring you safe home to me happy in the knowledge of duty nobly done. The following is an extract from a prayer which the nurses here offer up publicly every morning “If they are sick or wounded, grant them Thy favour - if they fall take them to Thy Rest, and in all things guard our soldiers and sailors, keeping them brave, tender, and persevering. Hear these our prayers for Jesus Christ’s sake.” You can imagine how hard I prayed this prayer when I heard you had been wounded.


Au revoir, Best Beloved.


Ever your affectionate and devoted


Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 5 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference