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December 24th 1915 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden

24th 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


Christmas Eve 1915


My own dear Sweetheart.


When I was at Badsey last Tuesday your Mother gave me a packet “not to be opened until Xmas Day” written in her own handwriting on the outside.


The nurses have decided to open their parcels today Xmas Eve because we shall be so busy on Xmas Day that we shall not have time to enjoy their contents.


You will hardly be able to imagine the scream of delight and utter astonishment which I gave on opening the outer cover and discovering your handwriting inside. I absolutely trembled with curiosity and excitement while undoing the string and the contents simply exceeded anything and everything I imagined. You, dear darling, funny old thing, how I long to give you a great big hug and a kiss. You spoil me very much, and I don’t know how to thank you for your beautiful present. I never expected anything at all, knowing what a desolate spot Gallipoli is, and never dreaming you’d think so far ahead as Xmas when you were at Alexandria.


Sweetheart – the wrap you sent me suits me beautifully and I am longing for you to see me in it. I enjoy having it now but I shall enjoy it still more when I wear it, with you with me.


Then a letter from you, dated Nov 23rd arrived today and although it is a month old the news in it is so interesting because you show me in many little ways how happy you are at the mere thought of a possibility of promotion, and you tell me the chief reason of your happiness. I hardly dare to think of it, myself beloved, the thought of the possibility of our marriage being within the not very far future, simply overwhelms me with joy, and I daren’t give way to the feelings.


It will be so sweet to have you to love and cherish me. I simply long for your sympathy and miss it so much. You know how dependant I am on the sympathy of others. It hurts so much when there is no one to share my joys and sorrows, the joys more than the sorrows strange to say.


By the way your letter is dated Nov 23rd but the postmark Army Base, is Dec 2nd – so that accounts for the long time it came in coming.


I’ve heard through a nurse who shares my bedroom that a Private Smith of your regiment is in her ward and she asked him if he knew you. He was most enthusiastic and gave you an excellent character as a first class officer! Of course I take this with a pinch of salt – ahem!


I am going to see him tomorrow, Xmas Day, he is most anxious to make my acquaintance! He suffers a great deal with his wounded leg.


Private Yates, 9th Worcesters has gone out. I sent his little children some toys for Xmas. His arm was nearly healed, it was simply a matter of time and massage for him to recover the use of it, although I expect he’ll get his discharge as it was his right arm and it will always be weak.


I’ve had such nice presents this year, and think I’m awfully lucky. Yours heads the list.


Your Mother gave me her photo for us both with Dolly Molly. Your Father gave me a pair of gloves. Mary and Arthur both gave me photos for us both. May, Kath, Ethel and Judy gave me a pair of good warm stockings. Uncle Harry gave me a new mackintosh part of my uniform. Not had Mother’s yet. Aunt Martha (Mrs Money) gave me a black satin theatre hand bag lined with heliotrope satin, and the main pocket with white leather. Father sent me a diary with a dear little letter saying he was not allowed to handle much money while he was ill or else he would have sent me something nicer. Sammy has given me a delightful pewter serviette ring, with a mauve enamel flower let into it, it is such a nice one. It is for our house!


Don’t you think I’ve been lucky? Oh, I forgot. Eva also sent me a photo of herself. I think our house will be well supplied with photos of our respective families don’t you?


We saw in the papers two days ago that the troops at Suvla and Anzac had been successfully removed, but of course no information as to their whereabouts. I cannot imagine where you can be. Some people imagine the troops were simply removed to Cape Hellas – others that they’ve gone to Egypt – Albania – Serbia and so on. Even that they are returning to go to France in order to help to deliver the decisive blow on the Western front!


I am glad if you’ve left the Peninsula. On the other fronts I should think it is possible when not actually in the firing line to get out of range even of shell fire sometimes but I suppose the Peninsula is so narrow that this is one impossibility.


I spent a short but happy time at Badsey on Tuesday last and saw all but Kathleen - your Mother and Father were in the best of spirits. They are both wonderfully well and cheerful. May was rather tired out after a hard time – and had been crying. Poor girl – a very sad thing occurred at her school. One of her pupils died of tetanus, which set in after a blow with a stick under the eye, with which another boy had accidentally hit him. Poor May has taken it very much to heart. The parents are very nice to her about it and attach no blame to anyone. This was their only son and their only daughter is an invalid suffering with spinal complaint.


Ethel was looking well after the holiday. She is quite wrapped up in her niece – it is beautiful to see her with a tiny baby.


Mary is stouter and looks awfully well. She dresses her hair more becomingly than she used to.


I put Baby to sleep in the evening just before coming away and had her for a couple of hours. I quite hated it when I had to give her up.


Juliet is becoming quite grown up and has developed a quiet manner all her own which is quite charming. She is looking forward to finding a companion in Rosie Lintott.


I heard from Kath today. She has met Rosie again but says she has got “no forrardee” with her and finds difficulty in getting to know her. She very much wants to see me to have a good chat. I don’t think she is telling anyone else exactly how she feels on the subject.


I sincerely hope that things will turn out happily. Of course Rosie is not our type exactly but I daresay we shall be all the better for a change!


George, himself described her in a letter to Judy, as being ‘not at all booky, a great tease to him, frivolous and fond of town amusements, not always talking for the sake of talking, shy and gentle”. I am quoting from memory. From this description she seems to have a contradictory character, the last part seems the opposite of the first. George does not wish her to go to Badsey until he comes home in the Spring and can take her there himself.


Mr Mustoe called in to seem me and presented me with a large number of his best apples and pears. He and his sons have also sent a large hamper of fruit and a hamper of evergreens for the patients in the Ward I’m in.


Isn’t it splendid of him? But when I thanked him he seemed quite overcome and said it is a duty and nothing else.


I’ll tell you all about our Xmas Day in my next letter. This time last year we’d just said goodbye to each other. This time next year I pray and hope we shall be together again.


God grant that you are safe today and keep you always under the Shadow of His wing.


God bless you, dear One. Thank you so much for your lovely present – you shall have 2! kisses for it when you come home and 1 for each of the others you sent, the table centre and the lace!


I am sending this c/o Cox & Co Agents in case you’ve left the Peninsula.


Best love




Your ever devoted


Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 17th January 1916 at Lemnos.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference