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January 8th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

8th January 1917
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, 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 Park Rd

Jan 8th 1917

My own dear Cyril

It was a great surprise to me to receive two letters from you this mail, one yesterday and one today. The first one dated Nov 28th (3 days after last week’s’ letter) and the second one dated Dec 4th. The mails must be running pretty frequently.

From what the papers have revealed to us, I know what your long march was leading up to. You must have guessed yourself that it was bound to end in something more than merely pitching camp in a different spot. For some days now there has been no mention of any kind about the scene of action in your part of the world, which makes me think there is a great deal going on which will suddenly set the papers ablaze with headlines.

It is great to be the officer in your regiment who has seen the most service in the field. I share with you the pride, which is your right to have, in this fact. I am ambitious for you, darling, and the more you do, and the better man you’ve become, so much the better pleased I am. In many ways, darling, I am glad of all the experience you have had and are having. I always thought very highly of your judgement, but sometimes I used to feel I must rely, in some cases, on my own, because I felt you were young in the experience of some things. I know you will not feel hurt or misunderstand me, or else I would not tell you this. Your judgement was always very fair, but rather hard at times. I sometimes wonder if you are very severe with your men – not so much when on duty, but I mean with their ordinary little faults and failings!!! At one time if any certain person annoyed you, I think you simply ignored them or did not trouble them very much! I imagine now you are more tolerant and more understanding of the minor frailties of human nature.

Aren’t I horrid to dissect you like this, when you are hundreds of miles away and cannot get any of your own back, except several weeks after?! I expect you could point out many things in my character which need improving.

I had a letter from May this morning, telling me how very relieved and pleased they are that I have decided to leave here in March. Evidently they have not approved of my being here but have not said much about it. They do not consider the treatment of the nurses is at all what it ought to be. The conditions are certainly not as good as they might be and we suffer unnecessary hardships through bad management, sleeping in damp rooms, with leaking ceilings, and windows broken. We have no pane of glass in the bottom of the window, it was blown in the night and has never been repaired.

From these conditions the nurses are constantly on the sick list, and they are sent on duty long before they are fit. This hospital is the Headquarters for the Midlands and ought to be run splendidly, because all the allowances for board and lodging are adequate, and this year the allowances have been substantially raised and meet the rise in expenses, food etc. We don’t handle this money, so it ought to be spent on our comfort, judicially.

The nurses and VADs, 140 in number, have one sitting room between 5 houses, which will hold 12 people at a push. The Sisters, 60 in number, have an enormous room! - and only one house to supply. So we have to sit in our cold bedrooms. This is enough grousing, but I mention these facts to you just to show you how very little our services are appreciated by those who term themselves “THE TRAINED STAFF”.

The Doctors know who does the most work, because a VAD who was going under the anaesthetic for “tonsils” heard them remark that the probationers and nurses did all the work and got nothing but kicks for their pains. Fancy! This girl had to pay for her own operation and go into a nursing home. This home has some of the doctors who visit here, on their staff – hence the conversation overheard!

I’ve bought a lovely silver backed brush and comb for my birthday present from you, also a Gaberdine uniform outdoor cap for windy weather and 2 pairs of walking shoes out of some of your Xmas cheque as well. I must try and find time to make out a list for you – but anyhow you can see I bought some useful things and had some pleasure out of it too – I saw “The Gondoliers” and “Patience”.

Time is flying and I must away and have a bath. I am simply longing to see you. Do you know I’ve felt Cecil’s death so keenly and missed you so much that I have said to myself, “I can understand anyone getting really intoxicated.” To try and forget for just a brief spell. I hope I don’t horrify you by saying this – but it is the truth - and nothing but the truth does, between you and me. Before now I’ve always said I could not understand anyone taking anything in excess but I know myself now that there are times when one longs to drown all feeling. I would never give way to feelings of this sort as you well know, but I know now how your extremity of grief or of longing will make one long to forget everything for a brief spell.

You’ve got a fearfully emotional girl for your future wife, old fellow. That is why I am so glad you are becoming more understanding of human nature! I do not dread what you would think or say to me when I get these mad moods - and will possibly be unreserved with you instead of bottling up my feelings and looking reserved and icy – as I used to do very often and you would ask me what I was thinking about.
Goodnight – dear Heart – God bless you and keep you safe.

All my love, dear, as ever.

Ever your devoted

PS – Uncle Ben is executor for Cecil’s “will”. Cecil has left all his effects to Mother.

PPS (on envelope) – Despatched a small parcel containing muffler this week.

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 17th March 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference