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March 16th 1916 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden

16th March 1916
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Seward House, Badsey
Correspondence To
Lieutenant Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Indian Expeditionary Force (redirected to Sasoon Hospital, Poona
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Seward House

March 16th 1916

My dearest Cyril

Your parcel to your Mother arrived by afternoon's post. She could not wait to finish dinner, she was so delighted that she opened it between the courses! I think the black scarf is very handsome and it suits your mother awfully well. She is so pleased with it. The Egyptian tapestry we are presenting to your father to be made into a fire screen for the hall. You've no idea how well it looks against the drab-coloured mantelpiece. That is our idea at present, of course being women, we are privileged to change our minds several times yet! So you may not find it used as a fire screen, when you return from your travels! I like this piece of tapestry very much. Your father has just come in and he likes the idea of it being presented to him. He says he will have the work framed with glass over it and then put on a stand to be used as a fire screen. Don't you think this will be a very nice idea?

I sent Kath her present yesterday and enclosed the two scarves for her to give to Juliet and Rosie - she sees them both fairly frequently. I am sure Rosie will be very pleased that you remembered her too, I am so glad that you did. I will post Mary's parcel tomorrow. The little brooch is very quaint and Baby Dorothy will prize it, firstly because her Uncle Boo gave it to her and also because she is unlikely to get one like it again. May and Ethel will be writing to you themselves shortly.

Your mother heard from Ethel, from Deal, yesterday, where she has gone to look after poor Norah, who is slowing dying from an incurable complaint. It is quite likely that I may go on there from Folkestone to help your Aunt Edith, if she is unable to manage after Ethel leaves her. My only difficulty is that I must not be away too long from Evesham, as Doctor Leslie is good enough to give me work and I cannot afford to let opportunities slip out of my hands, or else I would be willing to nurse Norah right up to the end.

I will copy below a letter from Doctor Leslie received after leaving my case at Ashton-under-Hill. It may interest you, just to show you I will gradually work up a connection.

14 March 1916

Dear Nurse

Many thanks for your letter. I think the patient was certainly better yesterday and will I think now get on. Thank you very much for all your skilful care and attention. She ought to have died many times over I think; did you not stick to her as you did, she would have done so. The Nicklins are very grateful to you.

You want a rest now, but let me know when you are free again to take a case.

Yours sincerely
L F Leslie

He alludes to my taking a rest because in my letter I mentioned to him I was going on to Folkestone soon for a holiday.

Don't you think it is a very nice letter for a busy man to find time to write? I do.

Next week I am going over to Birmingham to see Sammy and also to do a little necessary shopping, preparatory to going on a visit - new walking shoes and odds and ends. Your father tells me that it is quite on the cards that I shall get an invitation to Aunt Lizzie's, in the not far distant future. She says in her last letter that she hopes my visit to her will be repeated but that just at present, both she and Miss Gardiner are being dieted by their doctors (Aunt Lizzie has a lady doctor now), each differently, so she feels she could not ask anyone there in the immediate present. Aunt Lizzie is so much better since being treated by this lady doctor that she hopes to be able to walk down to the sea soon. Votes for women!

Isn't it disappointing for Mary that Arthur cannot get his leave just yet? All leave from France has been stopped for the time being. She has not written just lately to anyone but we are sure to hear in a few days after she has received your parcel.

The latest news from George is that his brigade has been moved further south, out of Flanders into France, into much prettier country, and are in a town that has never before been inhabited by British soldiers. The part of the line to which they are marching has never been held by the British before. I suppose the biggest scene of action is gradually changing from Flanders to Verdun. Everything seems to centre there. Just as all eyes are fixed on Baghdad.

Brailsford prophesies the end of the summer will see the end of the war! I hope he will be right. I shouldn't mind seeing you before the roses are all gone and before Dorothy Perkins dies! You ought to be home for her funeral!

In the London Scottish magazine for March, there are photos of three officers who got commissions in other regiments, who were killed in Mesopotamia in January – I am gradually finding out the different regiments out there, from the casualty lists. The Times has many interesting articles these days, about that part of the world – one very interesting one was describing the varied craft, native and otherwise, which ply to and fro from the base and up the Tigris. We are glad to read that better medical, surgical and other accommodation is being made for the wounded out there. I suppose the authorities did not realise that the Indian Expedition would play such a prominent part in the world war, or else they would have done things on a larger scale. I think it is marvellous what is and has been done and can be done.

Old Mrs Hope's grandson, Adrian Hope, has been killed in Egypt, the only officer who was killed in one of these Arab raids. No part of the world seems safe really, except Australia. Old General Smuts seems to be accomplishing all that he sets his hand to do. Cecil has met him (I don't mean to know him) and knows of him and has a high opinion of his capabilities.

To change the subject:

We are beginning spring cleaning. This afternoon May and I washed and polished all the pictures and your room and Betty's and washed the ornaments. We are doing a little at a time instead of one big "do".

Barbara is working and collecting for the French Croix Rouge. We sent her some subscriptions from the family the other day. She will be pleased of the help, as I know she hates begging!

Mother has had two falls in the snow and was rather badly bruised and shaken by these. I've not heard from her lately - she seems a bit "off" me at present, but it is no use worrying. I wish I had never written those letters to you about our marriage, written, some of them before I knew you were not coming home for certain, but when I knew you had not got your captaincy. How I could have let myself go to such an extent, I cannot imagine – I blush to think of it. Don't take any notice of them but just destroy them and try to forgive my want of control. I am beginning to see things in a saner light and to realise that I must be patient. I don't mind now how long we wait – I will always be ready to come to you but I don't want to come to you a moment sooner than when you are quite able and prepared to have me. I realise more and more the seriousness of life and the seriousness of marriage and feel it won't hurt me in the least to have a longer time to understand what lies before us both. It will be happier for both of us that I should not live too much in fairyland – I never can quite come down from the clouds. My last experience at Ashton (which allusion you will understand if you've had my letters) has opened my eyes a good deal, and I realise that I must face the whole thing more seriously and not leave anything to chance or fate or whatever you like to call it. You know, I must be a rummy sort of girl, to have grown to my age, and yet not to have got accustomed to many things that seem quite ordinary to other people. It is so difficult to talk to you at this distance. You seem so hopelessly far away and I do need you so badly just now – no one else can keep me to a right understanding. Do hurry up and come home, old fellow. Give those Turks a piece of your mind and then come home and give me a piece of your mind.

Best love. God bless you, dear, and be your strength and stay in all dangers and if it be his will bring you home to
Your devoted

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