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February 23rd 1916 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden

23rd 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 23rd /16

Dear old Boo

It is quite a long time since you heard or read your old familiar nickname. You are still spoken of as Boo at home!

I wonder how many of my letters have reached you as yet.

If you have got a good many of these, you must be quite up in the family news! It will be so nice to get fairly quick replies to letters, so that I hope your move to other scenes may be postponed a little while.

The last few days have been bitterly bitingly cold with the wind NE and slight falls of snow. We have not let your Mother come down while it has been so cold. She gets up every day, and dresses and usually one or other of us has tea with her and sits upstairs with her. Her favourite amusement after supper is a game of Colorita, at which she squeals. She has taught me how to play and is kind enough to say I am a promising player! But I’ve never beaten her yet. She puts this down to the fact that my thoughts wander to Port Said, which of course I vigorously deny! Ahem!

May had a letter from Kath yesterday talking of George’s departure the previous week. Rosie spent the last evening and night at Sydenham. Kath said that she and George became very depressed as the evening drew to a close. George had to leave early in the morning and as Rosie was not due on duty until the afternoon Kath met her in town for lunch after George had gone.

The one nice thing about telephone work is the hours are rather good. One week Rosie goes on duty in the morning until 3 pm and then finishes, then the next week she goes on duty in the afternoon until 8 pm. So she and George were able to meet pretty frequently. Your Father had a field service pc saying George had reached his regiment safely.

Your Mother had a long letter from Mary today, telling of a very comfortable journey to Dowlais. Miss Burlingham travelled part of the way and on getting out ran up against a friend whom she introduced to Mary and who, I believe travelled part of the way to Dowlais. Mary overheard a whispered conversation, “a Mrs Sladden, wife of I don’t know which one, probably the one in the Dardanelles”! The friend was Miss Cavenagh, brother to Lieutenant Cavenagh of your regiment. All her 3 brothers are serving. One is a doctor in France, then another is in Flanders, and your one is the youngest.

Another piece of news Mary gave us in connection with the 9th is that one of her sisters, Dorothy, I think, who is doing VAD work has been nursing a man called Warren, belonging to your company, he is in hospital at Aberdare.

The Williams are delighted with Baby and think she is very forward and intelligent. Mrs W refused to believe she had a tooth until Baby kindly bit her finger for her! She has absolutely captivated Grandpapa Williams, just as she did Grandpapa Sladden. I’m almost afraid my nose will be put out of joint by her when her Uncle Boo comes home!

I think I forgot to mention in my recent letters that although the “Indian” part of Arthur’s unit has moved eastward he still remains at Meerat hospital. I fancy he is attached to the hospital, not to the Unit.

Your Father brought home the news that Mr New’s eldest son Stanley, has been wounded in East Africa. Only slightly wounded I believe. Dick is still at Suez. Do you know if he is in better health now?

The Allsebrookes continue to hear from Harold from Alexandria. He seems to come in for a good many of the ? , or as the Tommies say he has a “cushie” time.

May and Ethel had an awful tussle today. I don’t know which of them came out victorious. Every little wrong each had done the other they hurled at each other’s head and I daren’t say a word in favour of either, as they both were to blame! May kept her head the best which was to her advantage, Ethel got too blustery! However a storm generally clears the air, so perhaps they will both be happier now. Ethel cannot do all she undertakes to do, the consequence is that house duties get neglected. Now that your Mother is growing old she will have to drop some of her good works in the village, and do more in the house. Mrs Sladden really ought to do no work involving standing about in the kitchen or where she runs a risk of catching cold. Her lungs and heart are affected and we must be careful of her. I don’t want to alarm you when I say this, there is no need for alarm, all I mean to convey is that your Mother is not as young as she used to be and needs care and attention like all other old ladies. When she comes down and finds Ethel out and the work of the house not begun she naturally sets to work and does it. This must not be. When she comes down the house ought to be nice and warm and most of the work done. It is generally 11.30 or 12 am before she gets down, when she is well. I don’t know whose business it is to impress this on Ethel, as she is the one at home, or whether anyone could impress her, but the fact remains, your Mother must not be allowed to do all she has been doing.

While I am here I do all I can to help matters but I am not always here, also it is very difficult for me to take much on myself without giving offence. The actual cooking I don’t do because I do not know their ways and little economies etc. and although I have my own ideas about cooking it isn’t fair to practice on other people! Ethel has too many irons in the fire at the same time and the consequence is nothing gets finished! It seems mean to discuss another girl like this but I don’t mean it unkindly. I only wish one could get her to listen to reason. When you come home you must see if you cannot do something in the way of giving her a hint that her Mother’s health depends a good deal on the way the house is managed and having the ordinary little comforts of everyday life, such as warm rooms where the fire has not been neglected etc.

All this sounds worse than it really is, anything put in black and white seems more forcible than when it is said, but you will understand what I mean I expect.

I wrote to Dr Leslie on Monday telling him I am free to take another case, and I got his reply today. He says just at present work is slack, but that he soon hopes to give me a case and has put my name down on his list of nurses.

My legs are very much better but still I am not sorry to have a little longer rest, you see it is only 6 weeks since I left Birmingham and I have had one case during that time, so I’ve only had a month’s holiday.

I don’t feel that living with Aunt Jessie would answer. It would lead to complications with Mother. I heard from Cecil the other day after he visited home en route for his regiment. He said Mother and Barbara are not hitting it off very well. Funnily enough, I dreamt about Bar last night, a most distressing dream. In my dream I seem to be Mrs Someone or other and I ran up against Bar in a small town, looking very tired and worn out, and on questioning her she told me she had left home and gone on the stage! When I asked her what induced her to do this she said “the only thing I can do is sing so I am singing in a play”. She took me to where she was staying. The rooms or rather room was over a shop and about 20 girls were all sharing one huge bedroom! I remember feeling very scandalized and then woke up!

I suppose before I went to sleep I must have been thinking about what Cecil had been saying in his letter. It distresses me to think about it and yet I am powerless to avert it. If I went home and Bar went away, her nature is such that she would be back again after a few weeks, she cannot “serve” anyone - and although she quarrels with Mother she would not be happy away from her.

I’m afraid this is rather a grousy letter but I do not mean it in that way, I am simply being expansive on paper, ventilating my mind as it were!

Don’t get any fatter, darling, perhaps if I only worry you enough your weight will gradually become reduced. You see there is method in my madness! There is nothing like worry to reduce the weight!

With all my heart’s love and devotion (1 kiss!)
Ever your own

Your Father will be writing to you today or tomorrow.

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 7th April 1916 at Felahick.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 2 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference