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February 12th 1916 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden

12th February 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

Feb 12th 1916

My own dear Love

I want you to read my letter very carefully as I want to convey a good deal more to you than may appear on the surface, towards the middle and end of this letter.

I am so glad your letter to your Mother dated Jan 31st did not arrive before mine dated Feb 1st and 2nd because mine is by far and away the most hopeful letter of the two. Very probably, the fact that your leave has been postponed will work out in the end for the best and more to our advantage. For one thing you will have more time in which to become more certain of your extra star, and the other thing is, supposing you wish us to get married while you are at home, I have more time in which to make a few necessary preparations in the way of clothes. In order to give you a clear idea of my news on the subject, I must give you an account of Cecil's visit to us and a subsequent letter from Aunt Jessie. When writing to Aunt Jessie, after having left the hospital, to say and arrange times for a visit etc, I mentioned that I had had a wire from you telling of probable leave, but I did not mention our ideas about a war wedding in the event of an opportunity presenting itself. Aunt Jessie, being of a romantic type of mind, sees visions herself, and says “if Cyril should ask you to marry him when he comes home, don't refuse him Mela, dear, trust that the future will work out all right for you, marry him and you will be happy because thereby you can make his love perfect. We will all stand by you, and see you through any rainy days.”

In reply to this letter I told her that nothing was settled about it, but that if you had your Captaincy, that it was quite likely we might do as she points out in her letter, and but that it was absolutely indefinite at present because I did not even know that your leave was certain.

Cecil comes home on leave, and goes down to Walton to stay. Your Mother invites him down here and he spends part of Thursday and Friday with us. He brought me a message from Aunt Jessie saying that she will help me to buy clothes if I am thinking of beginning to work for a trousseau, and that if we should want to get married when you came home, she and Uncle Ben would stand any expenses and that we could be married from her house or quietly in London if on thinking it over we came to the conclusion that that would be the wiser place, to avoid any jealousy on Mother's part, she might cut me rough if we favoured Walton. Cecil seemed to favour the idea of a quiet London wedding with only near relatives. He said it would be more central than Badsey, and also a wiser place, for the same reason, against Badsey might be brought up, as against Walton. He wants to avoid any friction with Mother now that we are friends again.

Now I want you to understand that none of us have made any definite plans. These are castles in the air, which we can fall back on should opportunity arise. There is no harm in anyone knowing that we do not intend to wait until the war is over, should a favourable opportunity arise for us to marry before that.

Cecil seemed to make himself at home almost at once and quite fell in love with Dolly Molly, to Mary's huge delight.

Mary was interested to hear that Captain Hill, a friend of Arthur's, was attached for some time to the London Scottish; he is not now because he went on sick leave and then got sent back to No 9 Base Hospital. Cecil knew and liked him very well and seemed to have discovered that Arthur was a pal of his.

On Thursday afternoon Cecil and I strolled over to see Mrs Ashwin. She was in a splendid mood and they got on very well. Today she told me he was a “charming fellow, such a fine big man, a strong family likeness, but he is not so good-looking as you are”!!! I was quite embarrassed and wondered if you would agree with her?! Don't hit me now, wait till you come home!

Your Mother could not come downstairs, as she has been in bed ill with a chill, so Cecil went up to see her. She is very much better. Dr Leslie was delighted in the improvement in her on Thursday. She gets up at tea time in her room but does not come downstairs yet. By making her go to bed in time we staved off her usual early spring attack.

George is coming down this evening by the train reaching Badsey 8.58 – it is now 8.45 so I suppose in another half hour he will be here. He must be feeling rotten at the idea of leaving Rosie. He goes back to the Front on Tuesday. Cecil said had he known where George's regiment had been stationed lately he would have looked him up, as he discovered on talking over the war with your Father that they have been quite close to each other. While Cecil was home on leave he had a letter from a man in his regiment telling him that the London Scottish are being transferred to a territorial division and being withdrawn from the First Division. Cecil is Divisional Bomb Officer, a kind of Staff appointment, but he wonders now if he will be sent in with his regiment and if he is he rather expects to be Company Commander of C Company, which he says will eventually lead to a Captaincy. He is in much the same muddle as you. He has a letter from his Colonel of some months ago informing him that he is a full lieutenant but he had not been able to put up his second star even yet as he has not been gazetted - and yes, there is talk of him being a Company Commander!!! He and some other fellows are going to kick up a row about it when he gets back because they none of them really know what rank they are holding.

Talking of promotion leads me to the point I want you to read most carefully. Supposing you are not gazetted as a Captain before taking your leave, shall you still wish to get married when you get home? I want you to realise that as far as I am concerned, if it will make you happy, and I know it will make me happy, I shall be willing and glad to face life with you even on the small pay of a 1st Lieutenant. I can keep myself as much and as well then as I can now, by earning at private nursing, while you are at the Front, and after a bit your promotion to Captain would come along in its turn. Now this is where the gist of the matter comes in. This would only be possible if I were able to go on with nursing. Do you understand? It will rest with us if this will be possible. For my part just to be with you will be great happiness and the greater happiness will be in the future when you can get a job at home. But this may not be your point of view. Still, whatever your point of view may be, I would like you to know I am prepared to help by every means in my power. I can earn 2 guineas a week while with a case and all expenses paid. Dr Leslie is eager to give me work, he is only waiting for me to give the word that I feel rested enough to take cases for him. He has been very nice and complimentary about that case I took for him – although it was only a slight case and lasted only 4 days, I still got 2 guineas, which I have banked. I have now got £6 9s in the Post Office including your cheque. I haven't used any of it yet. Of course I may have to draw on this later on for current expenses – I had another £1 by me but have spent that on material for making pretty pretties for my trousseau!

You end your letter by saying get your legs better and bother the money! I … bother - it is a bother. If there were no such thing how much happier we would be. Don't let it worry you if you would like us to get married because it will be great joy to feel we can be together and then when you get your next spell of leave you will be able to join me wherever I am and no one can say us nay.

On reading this letter it may take on rather a Leap Year tone to you; this year is Leap year I've just discovered, so I can make all sorts of proposals quite indefinitely! Because I make them it does not mean that I shall not understand if you reject them. When I was riding back from Evesham today I was pondering over the situation and I simply longed to be able to speak to you. My heart has ached for you, dear laddie mine, for you must have been terribly disappointed at not getting leave fairly soon after having wired. Also the uncertainty about promotion is so annoying for you. If I could only have you here, Sweetheart, I just long to comfort you – it is so hard after all you've gone through for you to be disappointed. Never mind – we must trust in God and leave the future in His Hands. He never has failed us and He never will so long as we trust Him fully. I am so glad that you feel that I ought to be by your side when you are in Church. Just you and I alone with our creator. He knows our hearts desire, dear love, and will grant it us in His own good time.

Your father says he will be writing to you in a day or two. He and I are both very interested to hear you are writing for the Worcestershire Old Comrades’ Association book, and hope you will let us know when it is published so that we can buy it.

Your letters are very interesting now-a-days so that I should say what you write for the book will be.

I can remember Port Said very well, and have a vivid recollection of the dirty bazaar main street with Eastern men sitting gambling outside their shops. There used to be one rather large grocer, confectioner shop, English goods about half way up the street on the left hand side where we used to make purchases. I think it was a corner shop. I can also remember the post office, and some of the Government buildings on the quay. Going down the Suez Canal one of the Ship's officers asked me to elope with him! Although very young, I'm glad I had the sense to tell him not to be so silly. I shouldn't mind eloping with you, darling, if you asked me to meet you by the Suez Canal by moonlight! But you won't!

George has just turned up so I think I'll finish this another time. At least I'll write another letter another time.

Ethel is just busy counting Russia money, this is Russia's Day so she has been very busy. Last Tuesday we had a concert in aid of it. I sang and to my great surprise I was encored each time! We made over five pounds after paying expenses.

Mrs New called on Thursday when Cecil was here. She seems anxious about Dick as he hasn't been very well.

Mr Allsebrook seems quite glad you are in touch with Harold. Do you ever come across Robin Dewhurst?

Goodnight, dear Heart, God bless you and may it not be many months before we meet again.

Ever your devoted

Cyril received the letter on 13th March 1916 at Basra.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 5 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference