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January 15th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

15th 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 15th 1917

My own dear Cyril

You would be amused if you could see me now. I feel like a wounded soldier! At present I am off duty with my left leg on a long back splint reaching far above the knee, making it almost impossible for me to sit up with any comfort.

On Friday (this is Monday) I felt something give in my knee and on Saturday my knee gave way at varied intervals, causing me pain at the same time. I reported it on Sunday morning and Matron was most kind and said I should have the best advice. So I waited over at the hospital to see Captain Frank Barnes. He thoroughly examined my knee and said that there appears to be a loose foreign body moving about the knee. He did not say a loose cartilage but Matron told me it was probably that. However Captain Barnes will see me again tomorrow, so I can tell you in this letter what further opinion he gives. In the meantime I am having lead and opium lotion applied to the knee and my knee pulled straight out on a splint. So long as my knee is in a bent position it is not painful but when walking the movement forward or backward caused a certain amount of pain. Personally I don’t think I have a loose cartilage, am hoping it is only a ricked knee. It is rather dull being off duty when one feels pretty fit in oneself but nevertheless a rest never comes amiss when one is nursing.

The papers continue to give very little news from your part of the world – there was just a mention that the Turkish casualties were apparently very heavy near Kut.

I heard from Mother this morning. She is having a lot of trouble with her teeth and eyes. She has had a beautiful and strong set of teeth but during the last year they’ve all seemed to give trouble. I expect it is all due to worry.

Nurse Barrow left on Friday. I miss her very much. She has gone home for a short rest before going to work in an officers’ hospital in London. I heard from her today. She says the feeling of being a lady at large once more is very nice!

Jan 16th
Captain Frank Barnes came this morning. He did not give any further or different opinion about my knee but ordered “massage” for it. This treatment I suppose will begin tomorrow. The slight swelling on the inner side of the knee has gone down and I can straighten my leg more easily than I could.

I’ve slept the greater part of the time I’ve been in bed! It is perfectly disgraceful to waste so much of the day! To tell you the truth, I start daydreaming about you, the past and the days to come and then I find myself gradually falling asleep! Do you remember I used to tell you, you were a restful person and how I used to want to go to sleep when I was with you! Evidently distance does not lessen this influence you have over me!

It is most tantalizing trying to imagine what you are doing each hour of the day – for the papers tell us so little that we might almost just as well know nothing at all. I do hope, darling, that you will be given leave in the summer. You will then have completed 2 years of active service, and having seen more active service than any other officer in your regiment I think you would be justified in asking for furlough if it is not offered to you.

Do you remember me telling you a short time back that the Army is now employing nurses (with 2 years or more experience) as Assistant Staff nurses, holding rank between the VADs and the Nursing Sisters. These people get £30 a year - £10 a year more than the VADs and special military nurses like myself get. Well, about a week ago, 3 of these nurses came. They have had 3 years fever training in children’s hospitals and have never done a surgical dressing!

They have been put in the largest and busiest surgical wards! One is in B2 the ward I am in now when on duty. I do a third of the dressings in B2 - because we have 78 beds and nearly all are heavy cases and the Sisters cannot manage them all. When this Assistant Staff nurse arrived on the scenes I naturally thought I should have to take a back seat! I proceeded to show her which dressings she would be responsible for and she told me she had never done a surgical dressing and never been in a surgical ward. The Charge Sister then said I must continue doing the dressings etc and teach nurse! I cannot help being rather amused that a girl who is earning £20 a year should be considered capable

I wonder if I shall hear from you this week - your last letters did not take any longer in coming than when you wrote from Amarah. They were only about 5 weeks on the way.

When the Army in your part of the world has accomplished your present objective, do try and see if you can come home. Even if you have to tell them you are coming home to get married. It is not so much that I want you to marry me as that I just want to see you again – to be held in your arms for even a brief spell – to feel what it is to live again. This war seems to make one into automatic machines and does its best to kill all feelings but doesn’t quite succeed.

God bless you dear Love. May He be ever with you.

I am always with you in spirit – sharing all your joys and hardships. All my love, dearest funny old thing.

Your ever devoted

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