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December 19th 1915 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden

19th December 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


Dec 19th 1915


My own dear Sweetheart.


I received a letter from you on Thursday last, dated Nov 17th – the first one you wrote after leaving Lemnos. Then this morning I got your pc dated Dec 3rd which did not take so long in coming, in fact, about half as long.


To think of you, flooded and frozen in the trenches, makes me most unhappy. I wish I could be the one to suffer, not you. It is harder to know that the one being one loves is suffering hardships, than to suffer oneself.


We had a convoy in from Gallipoli about a week ago, and they told me how awful conditions out there are at the present time. Many of the men are suffering from frost-bite. So in a way I was prepared to hear you were also going through the mill.


From the tone of your letters I judge that to a certain extent you have become more accustomed to the life you are forced to lead at the present time. They sound more “reconciled-to-your-lot” as it were.


You must be getting on very well to be in command of a company but I expect you will prefer returning to your old friends the machine guns. I suppose you’ll have a good deal of responsibility if you are made BMGO. I think you like responsibility therefore you’ll doubtless prove yourself worthy when you get it. Of course, I think you are worthy of any post, because I know that whatever you do, you do it thoroughly, even though it be a task which is distasteful to you.


I saw in the Times that a 2nd Lieutenant Littleboy, West Kent Regt. attached 9th Worcesters, had died of wounds. Did you know him?


The finding of your valise was truly a miracle! You must be awfully glad to have it.


I had a very nice letter from George in answer to my one of congratulations. He says:


“It was delicious of you to write so charmingly. I have just finished writing to Rosie and I have told her that you are going to write (jolly nice of you – that.) She will be so pleased. I expect Kath has told you her address – if not, it is 8 Whitchurch Lane, Edgware, Middlesex. Everybody has been tremendously nice. The only cloud is that the text has necessarily been ‘I hope, I feel sure; I anticipate . . . . . etc etc’. That is the disadvantage of getting engaged surreptitiously! Yes, I fully expect in due course that Boo will write me a letter such as my soul desirette. Arthur and Mary sent me two of that kind. In fact I divide the letters I have received into two classes. Those of people ‘who have been there’, and of those who haven’t. The first class is streets ahead of the other”.


“I feel quite sure that you and Rosie will like each other and I shall leave you to find her out for yourself. It is not much use my telling you what I think about her! You know just about what that is from your own experience! I never believe very much in labelling people for the benefit of others. I think the people at home are at present just a little bit aghast at Rosie’s youthfulness. I expect they compare her mentally with Judy; and that makes them ‘think’. Mary says she feels quite aged! As for Boo I look upon him as my elder brother now! I am not a day older than 24 now, and I am still growing backwards.”


“Do you think it would make them happier all round if we averaged our ages (you and Rosie, and Boo and I) I agreed to adopt the resulting figures! Suggest it to Boo!”


“I have heaps more letters to write. Best of luck to all of us. We have it, but we need it.”


“Yours affectionately




I quote his letter to you to show you how genuinely happy George seems to be. I don’t think we need fear any vain regrets concerning the other affair. I am so glad he has found someone to love and to cherish and who is also very, very fond of him.


Your Mother says George wishes to bring Rosie to Badsey, himself, that she would be very shy by herself – or else I believe she would have been invited down there these holidays. It would be rather an ordeal to face a whole family of new faces alone.


I am probably having my day off on Thursday, the day before Xmas Eve. This time last year we were together, dear Love, with the sword of parting held over us, as it were.


We are really better off now in some ways than these, because we’ve faced the ordeal and much of the bitterness of separation has been softened by prayer and God’s mercy to us.


If we are spared to each other, dear Love, the remainder of our Lives must be spent in a Psalm of Thanksgiving.


Sometimes when I see, hear of, and feel the sorrow of others, caused by this war, I wonder if such a miracle as your safety would be, could be possible. But I do not lose confidence in God’s Mercy. In a way I feel your safety depends on the kind of life I lead in your absence.


When I am tempted to give in and give up, the thought rushes over me that I am keeping watch as it were for your life, just as the disciples were expected to watch in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Could ye not watch with me, one brief hour”.


If I get Thursday for my day off Kath will be home by then.


She is very anxious to talk over George’s engagement with me. I shall tell her I think she need not fear that he will return to his first love. She is so fearful lest this is the reaction after being refused by Clara Jones, and that in time he will regret an impulsive step.


I think Mother felt something like this after our engagement, on account of the dissimilarity of our ages.


She thought I would regret (what seemed to her) a decision made impulsively. However, we’ve proved she was mistaken, and doubtless George and Rosie will be as happy as we are and have been.


We are busy decorating for Xmas week. I believe the Bishop is giving a prize for the best decorated ward. We are making ours look as homely as possible with red lampshades, holly, mistletoe, and flags of the Allies, but are not going to try and compete for the prize, as we and our Charge Sister, consider it is wrong to spend very much money at a time like this.


One of the Surgeons’ dresses up as Father Xmas and each man receives a present. I believe entertainments are being got up for the amusement of the patients, but they are being kept a secret, and I don’t know much about them in consequence.


I must close soon to write to Cecil for Xmas. I’ve sent him a big box of Kunzle’s chocolates. I hope they’ll reach him safely.


With all my heart’s love, dear, dear One.


Ever your devoted


Cyril received the letter on 23rd January 1916 at Alexandria.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 double sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference