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September 7th 1916 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

7th September 1916
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Sisters' Quarters, 1st Southern General Hospital, Edgbastion Section, Birmingham
Correspondence To
Captain Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Sisters’ Quarters
1st Southern General Hospital
Edgbaston Section

Sept 7th 1916

My own dear Cyril

I must do my best to make time to write you a decent long letter this week – especially as last week’s one from here was so scrappy.

I heard from Aunt Lottie today. I sent her a few extracts from one of your letters a short time back, the one in which you mentioned having gone to a concert at the Viceregal Lodge. Aunt Lottie loves the idea of you associating with all the big-wigs!!! She slept through an air raid! The following is an extract from her letter:

‘’It was kind of you to copy out those extracts from Cyril’s letter, I thought them so interesting that I put them into a letter I was posting to New Zealand.

We have had a raid on the night of the ___ and both my cousin and I slept through it but Alice was watching the bursting shells and the search lights lighted up her room. Miss Coleman particularly, wished to be called next time. The Zepp was driven off I am glad to say.’’

I am beginning to get accustomed to working in the officers’ ward. I was rather nervous at first but they have all, without exception, been so very nice to me and helped me in many little ways that I don’t mind a bit now. Nurses and Sisters who have worked in these wards have so often told me that the men were very familiar so that I was rather nervous as to how to begin.

However I simply just did my work the first day or two without talking very much just to feel my way, and now everything seems quite easy. There is a subaltern called Mackintosh in the 9th Warwicks. He knows Harold Allesbrook, he knew him when he was in the 12th. Mr Mackintosh came here in January last just before the evacuations. He had very bad frost-bitten feet and has lost his toes on both feet and is still a bed patient and cannot get up. He is very patient and so unselfish and gives up everything to others. In fact the other day a man was in great pain and Mr Mackintosh felt so sorry for him that he gave him his own dose of phenacetin! He told the other fellow not to take any from Sister if she offered it to him but he did! When Sister found out she had a fit! However the double dose had no ill effects so all’s well that ends well!

The others are jabbering so much I cannot get on a bit.

Sept 9th
Thursday was my half day – I had arranged to meet Sampson to go and see a friend of hers living at Northfield. However Mrs Thain was out so we went on to the Lickey Hills and had tea up there. It is lovely up there at this time of the year.

I heard from Mother this morning. She really sounds as though she is coming to England next month but seems undecided whether to go to Bedford or Marlow. I think she will probably choose Bedford. I am rather glad they are coming over. It will simplify matters very much in the event of you coming home because I could then be married from my own house, quite quietly. Mother does not seem to have given up hope entirely of hearing from Cecil. It is terribly sad to read her letters yearning for her boy. She saw a letter in the paper from a private in the London Scottish who was missing on July 1st and who is a prisoner at Minden and she has written to him to ask him if he can give her any information as to Cecil’s fate. I do not think there is much hope of him being alive now. I cannot realize that I shall never see him again on this earth. He is happier than if he had to go through life horribly maimed and as he was badly wounded in the back he might have been partially paralysed. So many of the nurses have lost brothers lately. One, a Nurse Giffard, lost her little middy brother in the fight off Jutland. He went down on The Invincible.

I must go out for a breath of fresh air now. I am longing for mail day to come round again. I feel starved for want of you and news will be refreshing but not satisfying.

Sept 10th
Today is Sunday and as we were not very busy in the ward I was told off to go to service. I was very glad I went as we had quite a stirring service taken by a stranger. I have been commandeered to sing in the choir so get to church oftener in consequence. Sampson has sent me a pc asked me to go round and see her as she particularly wants to see me. She says she wishes to ask my advice, but does not say what about! It seems comical to me that anyone should ask my advice!

It is Cecil’s birthday on the 13th so I must send Mother a few lines.

Sept 12th
My news from Badsey today is that Arthur is now home on 3 weeks’ leave. Isn’t it ripping for him? He arrived home on Sunday evening about a quarter to eight. Mary knew he was going to get leave soon but did not know exactly when, so she had gone to Church. Ethel went over and waited in the porch until she came out and you can guess it did not take Mary long to get over! I cannot help envying them – I keep on seeing them in my mind’s eye. Fancy three long glorious weeks together. Arthur has been a bit run down with a troublesome throat so went before a medical board and was granted three weeks’ leave. Next week he is going to take Mary away for a week and leave Baby in charge of the Aunts. Oh, darling, some people have all the luck. But it is wrong of me to write like this for I ought to be thankful that you have been spared to me and that you are not in France now where the chances are very small of a man getting through.

May has had a small operation on her upper lip. A small collection of blood vessels had formed a kind of clot and Dr Leslie said it was necessary to have it removed before it should burst. I think she feels all right now but nearly fainted off when Dr Leslie was operating.

I heard from Father a short time back and he told me that the real reason Uncle Harry disentailed the property was because of a promise he made forty years ago to Grandfather. He made him promise that if ever he came into the property that he would disentail it. Father did not say for what reason.

An officer of the 1/4th London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) was brought into our ward this afternoon with a shrapnel wound in the thigh. He is in the 56th Brigade the same as the London Scottish. He told me the latter have once more been badly cut up during the last week. He knows some of them personally. The whole division he told me has done well this last week.

Most other regiments haven’t a good word for the London Scottish – just occasionally one runs across someone who says they have been splendid and that it is an honour to hold a commission in their battalions – but generally speaking they speak of them contemptuously. I cannot help thinking it is partly due to jealously owing to the fact that they were advertised (stupidly) to such an extent at the beginning of the war. The fact remains they have supplied 1400 officers from their rankers to the British Army.

A London Scottish private came in yesterday to ward B6. I’ve asked Holtom to ask him if he knows anything about Cecil – I daren’t ask him myself, I am afraid of breaking down. It is his birthday tomorrow and he is constantly in my thoughts.

I have felt very homesick since I came back. I can so well imagine them fruit picking in the orchards – and Arthur and Mary and Baby Dorothy so happy together.

The strain of the war is beginning to make me nervous about you and I must try and control myself.

God bless you, dear Sweetheart. All the light of my life will have gone out if anything were to happen to you – may God watch over you and keep you from harm.

All my love and a long, long kiss –
From your ever loving

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 18th October 1916 at Amara.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference