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January 25th 1916 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden

25th January 1916
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Seward House, Badsey
Correspondence To
Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Seward House

Jan 25th 1916

My dear Sweetheart

Yesterday a letter came from you for your Mother, which made me hope that perhaps I should hear from you today, if they were forwarded promptly from Birmingham. To my great joy, I had two letters, one by each post. The first one was dated the 31st Dec and the next one Jan 9th, the same date as your Mother's, written shortly after arriving back in camp after taking part in the evacuation of Cape Helles. I wish I could have been somewhere in that camp to welcome you. I expect you can pretty well imagine how that would be. When I read all you've been through I just longed to take you with me, to some place where we could be alone, and let you rest your head against me, just you and I alone, dear Love. After seeing your mother's letter, she brought it to me while I was dressing. I knelt down and thanked God for your preservation. The evacuation of Anzac and of Helles seems little short of miracles.

Dr Leslie came in to see me on Tuesday and asked me to nurse a case for him, just a slight operation case, removal of tonsils. I am only to be there three days so I did not refuse to take it, although I do not really feel rested enough to take on work again. The patient is a child of eight years, a little boy, the son of a Mr & Mrs Bryant of Netherton, near Elmley Castle. They are sending for me tomorrow about 5 pm and I am to stay over Saturday or Sunday. The operation is to take place on Friday at half past eleven. I hope everything will go off well, as it depends on how I manage this case, whether I get any more or not.

In your letter you suggest that I should apply for a certificate, assuming that I completed 3 years’ work by next June. As I have not signed on again there is no need to bother you by entering into details as to why this cannot be done, but one point is that you must contribute 3 years’ training in one hospital, which certificate is not handed to you until you have passed 3 examinations in that same hospital: (1) Anatomy, Physiology; (2) Surgical; (3) Medical.

At the time of training at Bournemouth the number of beds was under 100 (75 I think), the number necessary before a hospital is called a training school. The exams passed there would not be considered equal to those set in at a large training school and would not be counted in with the same. f I had finished my training at Bournemouth the certificate obtained there would only have fitted me for very minor posts. Dr Leslie thought more of my 9 months at the B'ham General, than all the rest put together.

He seems willing to give me work, although I am not certificated, because he simply cannot get nurses. Of course there will be long breaks between the cases, for he says he has not enough work to employ a private nurse permanently, or else he would have had one in Evesham. However as it is only pocket money I am wanting, it does not matter if I wait between the cases. He said he would send for me should I be staying away from Badsey, if I leave him my address.

I hope this arrangement meets with your approval dear. I expect you will be a little disappointed when you hear I've had to give up work at the 1st Southern, but I felt it was the wiser thing to do, as I do not believe in chocking up one's health, you are no good for anything or anyone after, besides in the nursing world no hospital will accept you if you have health problems. My legs do not ache very much now that I have so little standing to do.

In your letter you mention having written to me on Dec 25th – I have not had that yet but of course it may turn up any time now. It is awfully good of you to give me a birthday present, where the date falls so near Christmas. I have not quite decided what I shall get, but with part of it I am going to invest in a very nice umbrella I think and then if there is a balance I am going to buy one or two songs. I think my voice is returning a bit, I seem to be able to produce something not quite like a gramophone record. If I don't get an umbrella, I may buy something towards our house.

I have had occasion to find my training of use since I came home. The day after I arrived, Enoch Wheatley came in here for advice, having poisoned his finger. I have dressed it for him, at first 3 times a day, then twice, and now only once. It is looking healthy and clean I am glad to say.

Then May has not been very well, so I've been able to look after her a bit. She has stayed in bed a couple of days. This morning she wanted to go to school but I advised her not to do so, and went in her place for part of the morning, first to give Marjory Slater a helping hand. Miss Low will be giving drawing lessons tomorrow, so Marjory thought she could manage without May again tomorrow, and also arrange for Friday, which means that May need not go in again until next week. By that time I hope she will be feeling better, she has had a bad inward chill and sick headache and seems quite weak after it.

Mary and I went to tea with Mrs Ashwin yesterday. We played auction Bridge after. I played very badly, finding it difficult to concentrate my thoughts. I think this is a form of brain fag, I notice this same difficulty if I try to read or write - and so often in letters I find myself writing a word that is nothing to do with the sentence. I tore up the first page of this letter because I kept making mistakes.

I was interested to hear how the idea originated of buying me a scarf. Was she a very pretty girl?!!! Shall I be able to charm you to the same extent when I wear the scarf?! Away jealousy! I ought to be grateful to her for wearing so handsome an adornment and thus suggesting to your mind an idea that you would like to give me one like it! Everyone at home is charmed with it and I am sure your Mother will love to have one like it in black, she said she would not refuse so handsome a present, but felt she did not want you to spend such money on her. I told her you had said they were not expensive. I feel sure she'll love to have it if you are ever in Alexandria and able to get it for her.

You were very tactful in your letter of the 31st Dec in not referring to my age! I think I really must stand still next year until you catch me up, unless we get married before I am thirty. Fancy having a bride of over thirty!

Your father heard today that the News had received a wire from Dick dated the 17th from Suez. We wonder if your regiment is in that direction too.

One thing I am learning from this war, that is the lesson of patience – I simply have to stand and wait – nothing I can do will hurry posts on, so I have to try and be as patient as I can. When your second letter came today at lunchtime, Mary marvelled at the calmness with which I received it and opened it! It is simply the calmness borne of patience, the result of hard lessons in the school of self-discipline. It is not that I am not simply overjoyed at seeing your handwriting, but I have to be calm, or else, perhaps give way.

George is down here again until Saturday and will be spending Sunday, his birthday, at Mrs Lintott's, Rose's aunt and wife of Captain Lintott, whom you met in Alexandria. He is looking forward to hearing from you. It is good to see him so happy – I wish you were here to be with him.

Enoch Wheatley has just turned up to have his finger dressed so I will finish this later.

Jan 26th

I had a letter from Mrs Bryant this morning. The address is Netherton Hall which sounds as though it might be a nice household. She says she will send for me at 3 pm instead of at 5 o'clock.

George is enjoying a good slack. He came with rather a bad cold so is glad of a rest. You will find his ideas have become very democratic and socialistic!

I have several things I must do this morning so must end this lengthy epistle. With all my heart's love, dearest – God bless you and in his mercy watch over you.

Your devoted

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 12th February 1916 at Port Said.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference