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November 6th 1916 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

6th November 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

1 am Nov 6th 1916

My Darling

No mail at all from you last week and although my common sense tells me that I shall probably get two together next mail yet I cannot keep wondering if you are all right or whether that awful country has not made you ill in some way or another.

Isn’t it curious to think that Captain Weston who bound up your arm when you were wounded on April 9th is coming here as an anaesthetist? I heard some of my patients talking about him the other day so I enquired if he had been in your part of the world and was told he had and had been invalided home after enteric. I shall probably see him but shall not have the courage to ask him if he remembers you. He possibly attended to so many that he will not remember but having been at the General and knowing Arthur, which I believe you mentioned to him, might make him recall the incident of dressing your wounds. It gave me quite a thrill when I heard he was coming here to work. His home is in one of B’ham’s suburbs.

Yesterday we had 5 new officers brought into this ward and 10 into B3 and 4. Three of mine are Canadians, one a Scotchman in the Argyle and Southerland Highlanders, and one a Welshman.

The Canadians are medical cases: Mr Tomlinson, jaundice; Mr Lazenby, French fever; Captain Miller, influenza and debility; Mr Gibson the Scotchman has a shrapnel wound of thigh and Mr Jones a Welshman is suffering from shell shock and a blow on the head. The other old patients are surgical cases. So I have a very mixed ward at present. Shell shock patients are difficult to deal with as there is no definite treatment for them. It takes them in different ways.

In B3 and 4 they have two new patients suffering from shell shock who have to be ‘’specialled’’ as they are raving and inclined to be violent. One of them keeps calling out ‘’one hundred and eighty men went out and only thirty came back. Tell the Colonel I couldn’t help it - such decent chaps too.” Evidently he feels the loss of his men very keenly. He is only twenty-three and in his quiet moments one can see he is a very nice man. The worst part of the treatment is that they have to be heavily drugged and then when the effects of the drug wear off and the pain in their heads returns then they have no control of their own to withstand the pain and they moan and groan most terribly – it is pitiful to hear them and yet one can do nothing.

My shell shock patient started off just now. He wished me to sit by him for a bit so I had to leave my letter. I sat with him for half an hour and he has now gone off to sleep. Poor lad – he is little more than a child and keeps wishing he could see his Mother. He will soon get his wish as I expect she will be up from Wales tomorrow. .

Mother left Liverpool last Wednesday night and hoped to meet Wilfred in London for the week end but I do not know if their plan has come off or not.

I had a characteristic pc from Ethel asking me when I was having my next night off. Mary is talking of going back to Dowlais and Ethel does not want to lose Baby sooner than is absolutely necessary, and she hopes that if my night off is not until the end of the month that Mary will be persuaded to remain until then! I had a letter from Mary saying she was leaving Badsey next week.

My night off is on the 29th but I hardly think Mary will stay until then. She dreads traveling with Baby in the cold weather. I’ll continue this another night. Dear love, how many more years of nights like these are we doomed to spend – they seem unending.

Nov 6th-7th
I was overjoyed to get two letters from you this morning dated Sept 24th and Oct 1st. You mention that your ”imagination has woken up”. I could tell that by the tone of your letter before I reached that sentence. I could feel the tension in your last two letters – how much the monotonous life was affecting you, seemingly deadening all feeling. I experience it myself in a slightly lesser degree even here. There are moments after I’ve had a “dead” letter from you when I wonder if the life you are forced to lead would kill your affection for me. But I soon realize my stupidity and understand how you are situated. I simply long to get to you somehow or other, to wake you up as it were and give you fresh hope and interest. It is so deadly dull for you.

Darling I will send you my Xmas wishes in this letter. May your Xmas be as happy as it can be under the circumstances. I dread to think of them at Badsey, their first Xmas without the little Mother, and wish I could get leave to spend the day with them but it would be impossible as it is a very busy day always in hospital and we do not even get our ordinary off duty times during the day. We, in our own family too will be thinking of dear old Cecil and of Uncle Harry. When one thinks of these three who are at rest, one cannot help remarking the nobility of their characters and lives. They were all unselfish and lived for others. I believe if Cecil had not stopped to warn his men that a shell was coming he could have saved himself. His brother officers say it was characteristic of him that he never thought of himself.

And your dear Mother always put others first and never wished to give the slightest trouble to anyone and she lived a life of devotion to her husband and children. Uncle Harry lived for others too. He told me once he could never feel happy unless he was making someone else happy too. It is grand to be able to remember all three loved ones like this. I cannot remember anything but good of any of them.

I hope darling your thoughts though tinged with sadness this Xmas may still be happy ones for you have all the past years to be thankful for. May the New Year bring you back to me – God grant our prayer if it is His Will. It has been difficult to submit cheerfully but we must still strive to be patient.

I have sent you two pairs of socks in the house parcel – the muffler will follow by itself and will probably reach you by the new year. It is only a very ordinary one but I expect it will be warm and quite smart enough for Mesopotamia!

I wish I could send you more - but at any rate I send you all my love and several big, big kisses (quite new for me to send more than one in a letter!) and my prayers. God bless you, Best Beloved.

Ever your devoted

Cyril received the letter on 18th December 1916 at Shala Haji Feshan.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 5 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference