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February 19th 1916 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden

19th 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

Badsey, Evesham


Feb 19th 1916
My own dear Sweetheart
I had a letter from you dated Feb 6th today which contained news which you led us to expect in your previous letters, namely that you are not coming home at any rate for some time.  Although of course this confirmation of your last letters is sad, yet I am very glad you write so cheerfully and are keeping so well, but I must beg and implore you not to go beyond 14 stone, I really don’t know what I should do if you become too rotund, and besides there would be the expense of having to get a new Sam Browne belt, do you think you could run to another so early in the war?! If you really must have a new one, you’d better get a second hand one from some rubicund and stout old Colonel, because in a few months’ time you might need another one!
I’m afraid I’ve a confession to make too, I’m getting rather fat with signs of a double chin, I shall have to wear one of Madame Adair’s (beauty specialist) chin straps when I go to bed at night!  I’m afraid this is rather expensive too, so My Dear!  We shall be RUINED!  It is a good job you’ve got a good bank balance.  This reminds me - I must congratulate you on having increased your bank account to such an extent.   You really are wonderful the way you manage to save. I must see what I can do in this way too – I have a little more than £6 saved now but very soon I must draw on that for current expenses.  However, I hope soon to get some work from Dr Leslie, he has asked me to let him know when I am feeling rested enough to begin taking cases for him.
I was very glad to get your views on the subject of how I am to jog along until the happy day when we are married.  There is much to be said in favour of living with Aunt Jessie but somehow I cannot get accustomed to the idea of losing my independence entirely. (By the way in several of your letters you spell this word also the word dependent, with an A in the last syllable.  I think you’re wrong here!)
Anyway I am going to try the place of working for Dr Leslie and see whether I can make it pay well enough to keep myself in clothes etc.  All your people seem keen that I should come to them in between the cases, when and for as long as I like.  I really think myself, darling, if I may say so without conceit, that it does cheer them up to have me here.  You say you notice from letters etc that the tone at home as regards the war is distinctly depressing.  I know you allude to England as a whole, and my answer to that is, that I don’t think people are depressed by the actual war news, but by the prospect of the length of the war, and even then I should hardly call their attitude depressed, it is more that people are becoming very, very tired of it all.  You see, we, at home, although we do not suffer physically like the troops, yet we have the anxiety and suspense, and also the problem of how to economize to meet the heavy taxation and so on, all these things tend to knock the spirit out of people.  We get no excitement like the troops occasionally get in the flush of a success or from moving from place to place, we simply have the monotonous grind of living from day to day without much hope for the morrow that it will be brighter than yesterday.  If we hear of a success we daren’t give way to excitement because tomorrow’s paper may contradict the statement.  We are like the troops in this way that we simply live from day to day not knowing what tomorrow may bring forth, the difference being, that tomorrow for us may mean bad news of our dear ones, while at any rate you can feel tolerably happy about us at home.
I don’t think, on the whole, that the English nation is as depressed as the papers may have you to suppose.  There is a lot of nonsense written and it is as difficult for you to know what is correct or incorrect as it is for us when we hear and read war rumours.
Your Mother and Father keep wonderfully cheerful.  The girls sometimes say to me-oh-Mother is always pessimistic, I’m afraid she is a little depressed today.  I go up to see for myself and find what to me looks like your Mother in quite a cheerful mood!  I don’t consider her pessimistic, I think she is wonderful considering everything.  She certainly does not come to conclusions rashly and get wildly excited about rumours but she meets everything calmly and rationally.
While I was writing the above, your Mother, who has been down for tea and supper today, thought she would like to go up to bed, so I took her up and put her to bed and she told me to tell you “she had a nurse now to look after her!”  I love doing little things for her because having more time than the others I need not hurry her in any way but can make her nice and comfortable.  I always feel people with good Mothers don’t half appreciate them!  I know I lay myself open to criticism on this point. Some people might say I don’t appreciate mine.  But still you know what I mean without my troubling to explain.
This morning Mary and I took Baby round the village saying goodbyes.  When we had just started out we meet Mrs Ashwin bringing Miss Countze over to see us.  You remember the latter was companion to Mrs Hope.  This afternoon Mary and May went over there to tea.  I went out for a walk down the Willersee Rd.  Your beloved hills were shrouded in a fine mist today, latterly they have been very clear, so close that I felt I could touch them.  They remind me so much of you- darling-I nearly always take a walk in that direction.  They seem so protective, and thats what I feel about you.
Fancy seeing the Clerk of Works of the Imperial College of Science in church at Portsaid!  Have you run across him again.  He will be awfully surprised to see you!  That is unless he has settled down like everyone else since war has become order of the day, never to be surprised!
You seem to be making your way gradually further east towards my birthplace.  Won’t we have a lot to talk about when you come home!  We shall never stop.
If you have ever had my letters from Tunbridge Wells you will have read of a Norwegian girl, a Miss Berg, who was staying there at the same time.  She was very goodlooking, and but that I knew she was engaged at the time, I should have had qualms about Cecil and not remaining heart-whole!  She has since married.
Her husband is a Major Sarson, in command of a battery in the direction you may be going.  Cecil told me he got leave and went to Bombay, sent home for her, she joined him and they were married out there!  If you may run across him, one never knows these days whom you may run up against, tell him I know his wife, and met her at HABCs – I think Uncle knows him.
To return to home news, after coming in from my walk I cleaned May’s bicycle and then took charge of Baby until Mary came in at 6.15.  Ethel and I put her to bed between us.  You would have been amused if you could have seen us!  She was frightfully naughty and yelled lustily all the time until in sheer desperation Ethel heated her bottle and hastily thrust it into her mouth and then there was peace.  She is a dear little mortal, but very impatient and with a will of her own.  She quite wears Mary out sometimes.  Her first tooth appeared the day before yesterday to everybody’s great satisfaction.
Your Mother is writing to you by this mail too, so you’ll have a good stock of home news.
Old Mustoe thinks it a great waste that you should not be down here while I am on a holiday!  He is very equipathetic with lovers, more so than married people.  He appears much more sorry for you and me than for Arthur and Mary.  I suppose it really is as hard for them as for us and yet I cannot help feeling that it isn’t.  You see Mary has got little Dorothy to love and care for and to remind her of Arthur - and she hears from him every day and sees him every 6 months.  I think Rosie must be feeling very blue.  George and she saw so much of each other that she must miss him frightfully, especially as she has such an unhappy home life.  I must write to her in a day or two.
On account of the “lighting” question, evensong is now at 5.30 instead of 6.30.  All lights must be darkened by an hour and a half after sunset - and having the service earlier saves the trouble and expense of having the windows heavily curtained.
My legs do not trouble me very much if I am careful and the swelling is hardly noticeable but if I stand for long at a stretch then the veins come up again and are painful.
Your Father sent your letter to him describing the evacuations to Aunt Lottie and Aunt Lizzie. They both thought your account most interesting; Aunt Lizzie read it after she got into bed and then found it so interesting that she read it again!
George went to Folkestone to see Aunt Lottie.  Isn’t that the first time he had been down there? 
It is getting quite late so I ought to stop – I feel like rambling on all night.
This morning after breakfast I took a turn round the garden and then walked up and down the bit of garden path by the summer house behind the pergola, fighting down my disappointment.
I think this long, newsy letter, proves to you whether I won a victory or not.
Let us hope and pray that when you do come home, whenever that day may be that it will be to your wife you will be meandering your way.  God bless you, dear Love, and guard you.
All my love
Your ever devoted

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 31st March 1916 at Sheikh Saad.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference