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September 22nd 1916 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

22nd September 1916
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Sisters' Quarters, University House, Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham
Correspondence To
Captain Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Sisters’ Quarters
University House
Edgbaston Pk Rd

Sept 22nd 1916

My own dear Cyril.

I think my surprise about not getting any mail this week is proving itself to be correct as tomorrow is Saturday and no letter has appeared up to date. I expect your letter posted from Basra will reach me by next mail. I am anxious to get it to know how you are standing the heat – it must have been very tiring after Suvla.

After my day off at Badsey I wrote to Mary wishing her and Arthur a good time on their holiday together – I got a reply back from Badsey saying their holiday had been postponed for a day or two on account of Baby Dorothy having developed weakness of the left leg and they were afraid of infantile paralysis. There is so much of it about and it is catching. However Baby was getting better and showed no further signs of weakness so they were going away the next day, Tuesday.

We continue to get rumours about Cecil and have had no official intimation of his death except that he could not be traced. The other day Uncle Ben had a pc from Berlin forwarded through the Geneva Red Cross authorities stating that “Lieutenant JCBC is a wounded prisoner of war in Germany and his people know his address”. The mysterious part of this statement is that we do not possess his address. Perhaps letters/pcs of ours sent at random have been seen and therefore the authorities think we know his address. Mother has written to him to one of two known prison camps on the chance of him being there.

The extraordinary part of it all is why don't we hear from him? Yet if he died a prisoner there is time for information to come through to that effect. It is awful to have gleams of hope coming through only to be dashed to the ground again.

Convoys come in thick and fast. Two or three a day 140 at a time. Men have to be transferred to other hospitals at a moment's notice to make room for the fresh arrivals – it is pitiful and heart-rending.

We have had two German prisoners brought here off the train in a dying condition. One poor fellow died after his operation, just a lad he was. The other is still living but is very ill. I'm glad to say our orderlies and the patients have been most considerate to the prisoners – it shows such a splendid spirit. Although some patients had to be hastily moved to another ward so that their ward could be given up to the prisoners, they never grumbled or begrudged it. Although the majority of the officers are quite nice to nurse, yet, taking them as a whole, I prefer nursing the private soldiers. You come across such splendid men among them – men whom you would have thought would have been sure to hold commissions, whereas among the officers there are many who make you wonder how and why they hold commissions. The officers' minds seem bent on pleasure seeking of one sort or another – I don't mean to infer that they should be gloomy when they come home, I know they require recreation and amusement but it is the form their amusements take which appears so useless and piffling.

I heard from Father the other day. He seems very worried about his affairs. Uncle Harry's death is evidently going to make a difference to his life in many ways, although I do not understand quite why money should be any scarcer as I presume someone or other has control of it even if the property was disentailed. Poor old Father – he has made a hash of his life and I am powerless to help in any way, and the boys can't either so long as the war lasts. Father talks of getting some work to do, but his health never holds out long enough for him to keep a billet of any sort.

I am keeping fairly fit – my legs do not trouble me much. The food here is not good and I daren't take too many liberties in this line because I do not want a return of that indigestion.

I must go to bed now, Sweetheart – to dream of you, I hope. Oh when will the time come when my dreams shall be realities? Some day – and it will be a glorious some day - won't it, dear?

Sept 23rd
I have a morning pass today and am going to write many letters I owe to various people – first of all adding a little to yours.

The papers continue to be full of good news. There is an account today of the brilliant work done by the London regiments. This division has down awfully well ever since July 1st.

Occasionally one sees short paragraphs alluding to your part of the world but the majority of these prove to be Turkish fabrications.

Mr Mattock has lent me a book called “One of Us”. It is a novel in verse by Gilbert Frankau – you'd think a whole novel in verse would be distinctly boring but this one isn't a bit. It is a satirical poem, very cleverly written of a young man's, meaning any young man, in his way through life.

Another nurse and I went to see “Peg o' My Heart” on Thursday afternoon. In order to be in time we had to go without any lunch and the consequence was we became very weak with laughter in the funny parts. We tried to get some tea between the acts but failed – but made up for it afterwards by having a huge tea at the Wedgewood – lunch, tea and supper combined! Peg o' My Heart is a fascinating Irish hobble-de-hoy of a girl, always doing the wrong thing at the wrong moment, but possessing a very warm and generous heart. There is not much plot in the play and except for “Peg” the acting was nothing special. The hero made to be very flabbily – I'm sure he had never really been in love himself! He said, “Will you be my wife,” very languidly and without any expression of feeling – if I had been in Peg's place I'd have said “No” straight off!

I must write some other letters now so will continue this another time.

Sunday, Sept 24th
To my great surprise and joy a letter came from you by the evening post yesterday. It was written from Basra and posted Aug 23rd so it was exactly a month on the way.

Darling – I have to go on night duty tomorrow, in one of the officers' wards B10. It is a small ward with only ten beds so I am able to be alone with no sister and no other nurse. I hate night duty as you know, but must go through with it in these hard times. The ward next to mine has been turned into a sitting room for officers so that the convalescent ones will be hanging round to 10 and 11 at night which will be rather a bore. I am to have an orderly so I shall make him look after those in the sitting room if they need anything. Now if only you could get lumbago or something medical wrong with you and be sent to B10 it would be very nice! At present there are surgical cases in there but it is going to be a medical ward – quite a change for me. Medical patients require more real nursing than surgical so although the ward is small I may have plenty to do.

Fancy Basra being gay enough to have a band – I am so glad you've been kept at the base. I expect you rather like your job. It is quite a “Sladden” job isn't it?!

By now the weather must be quite bearable even in the day time – so I feel fairly happy as regards your well-being. Won’t it be grand if Mr Gridley's tale came true?

I loathe night duty because I feel and look so rotten. If you should come home I should hate you to see me – looking just like a hag. We shall be on “nights” until January – 3 whole months – isn't it ghastly?! I will write a second letter this mail, dear.

God bless you, Sweetheart. All my love.

Your ever affectionate

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 1st November 1916.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference