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February 4th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

4th February 1917
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 Park Rd

Feb 4th 1917

My own dear Cyril

I have purposely delayed commencing my usual weekly budget until today, Sunday, knowing it was to be my “night off” and that I would be freer to write at length, especially as I had decided not to go away for the night but to spend it quietly here.

It had been a great week for me because I had two letters from you and also Betty forwarded hers from you for me to read. Your account of the fighting in her letter was most thrilling and I held my breath when I read the part about the bullet grazing your puttees. My next act was to offer up a silent prayer of thanksgiving that you had once more escaped. A bullet wound in the leg might or might not have been serious and a cushie Blighty one sometimes proves a blessing in disguise, but I prefer you to be whole and well, darling, even though it means a longer time away from home. It is natural for me to wish to have you sound in limb as possible, although, of course, dear, you know that if you were disabled, never mind how badly, I should still want you just the same. Indeed it would be my privilege to look after you and nurse you if need be, for the rest of our days together. How thankful I am to have had a certain amount of nursing experience! I shall know exactly what to do for you if ever you were ill, apart from any illness or injury resulting from the war.

I am becoming accustomed to the idea of throwing up my work here. At first I felt I should be a slacker but another aspect of the case has put itself before me. When the war is over England will need her women even more than she is doing now. The men, numbers of them who are not wounded, will come back wrecks. Their nerves overstrained and their health undermined. It will be necessary that the physique of the women of England should be sound in every way so that the future of the race may be assured.  Those of us, who are to be married, should not work ourselves to such an extent that we shall be too physically unfit to be the mothers of the men who are yet to be born. Certainly work, but not overwork, ought to be our motto.

Something tells me that it will not be long before you come home, sometime this year at any rate and so I feel that in building up my health I shall be doing war work of a kind. The men who are fighting for us are entitled to expect to find the girls they care for bright and cheerful strong and well when they come home to them.

The papers are still silent about the movements in Mesopotamia – but soon I expect they will burst forth into praise of the troops out there. I do hope you’ll keep safe and well not only for your sake and for mine, but also because I would love you to be in “at the finish”. You’ve gone through so much that you deserve a share in the honour and glory of victory.

The war is only now beginning to be felt in the food line in England. We are limited to 4 lbs of bread per head a week, 2½ lbs of meat and ¾ lb of sugar including that used in puddings etc. We each carry a little tin about with us and every Wednesday we receive our dole of sugar, 4 oz for the week. These little items bring the war home to us even more strikingly than a large convoy of wounded coming in. You see it strikes the personal note and this blow always strikes home hardest – doesn’t it?

As you know, Germany is now waging a “hunger war” on the world but we are told that if we fall in with the scheme for rations made out by the Government, that their Hunnish tricks will be frustrated.

I wonder if you’ve heard that they are going to sink even hospital ships carrying wounded in case we should have foodstuffs hidden on board. Lord Newton suggested reprisals in this way. He suggested that we should imprison German officers of high rank on our hospital ships, publicly publishing their names and rank to Germany so that if she sank our vessels, her own officers would go to the bottom too. This sounds quite a good scheme. Whatever shape the reprisals may take in the end, the Government have decided that we shall give them tit for tat. Lloyd George does not wait to see, he acts.

It is great to be going to have a night’s rest and as it is a quarter to eleven I must soon turn in. I rested part of the day as well so I need not hurry particularly.

The hospital is full to overflowing. If it is like this now – what will it be when the new push comes on in the Spring.

Mother has been very ill with influenza. From Bar’s account I should think she has really had trench fever. Bar has been quite worried about her. Mother visits the hospitals a great deal so she probably caught it from the soldiers. Her symptoms are the same as those of the nurses who are off duty with a mysterious kind of “flu”, which the doctors say is probably trench fever. They most of them get four attacks of it before they finally get it out of their system.

Betty tells me that the attack your Father has had of influenza has pulled him down a good deal. Dr Leslie says he must be very careful while this snow lasts. Your Father has been so active all his life that he feels any restrictions very irksome.

The houses we are quartered in are very damp and nearly all of us suffer from a kind of continual internal chill which is, naturally, weakening. No one in authority seems to care a brass farthing!

Tomorrow I shall not get up until the afternoon, thus making up arrears of sleep. We both know what it is like to go without sleep don’t we?! I slept from eleven to 4 today and shall, I hope, sleep all night and until midday tomorrow with an interval for breakfast. I’ve got a bit of a sore throat and a bit of a chill inside which is tiresome.

I went for a brisk walk this evening before supper. It is a beautiful moonlight night and the earth is covered with white clean snow and it is not too cold. How I longed for you to be with me. I imagined us married and going for an after supper walk because it was so fine or else returning from church together and then going home to a cosy fire until bedtime came round. This is a type of the picture I always have in the background of my mind. The only kind of life which really appeals to me, a happy married life, simple and full of love and joy for the ordinary things of life.

God bless you, Sweetheart. We must put our trust in Him and pray that He will let us have our happiness together some day. He has granted us our love for each other, which is in itself a blessing. May He grant us the fulfilment of all our hopes.

All my love from
Your ever devoted

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference