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February 20th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

20th February 1917
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Seward House, Badsey
Correspondence To
Captain Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

At Seward House

Feb 20th 1917

My own dear Cyril

You will see directly you open this letter that I am once more in the old home. I forget exactly how far I had got with my plans when I sent off my last letters but I believe I told you that it was probable I should come home this week. Captain Mackey said I must have sick leave and when I told him I should be resigning in March he marked me off for 12 days’ leave which would bring me to the date on which my agreement would be up. So I have got home 12 days sooner.

I saw Miss Musson at the General Hospital before I left. She said she thought I was quite wise to resign as she could see the strain of the work was too much for me. She enquired after you. Have you ever come across her nephew, same name, by any chance? He is a Sapper with the 13th Division and has just been given some Serbian decoration, I didn’t hear what decoration she mentioned, but it sounded like Serbian needle? or eagle?

Nurse Latham, a very jolly girl, treated me to lunch and saw me off. Our taxi was driven by a woman and, on arrival at Snow Hill, a woman porter came forward. She was about half my size and very seedy looking, I couldn’t possibly have allowed her to carry my trunk alone so we carried it between us while Nurse Latham brought up the rear with my or rather your suitcase. At Hatton, a very handsome guard popped his head into the window and told me to change there instead of at Stratford and helped me with my luggage or else I should probably have had to fish it out myself! I was really quite surprised to find the guard was a man, having encountered nothing but females until then, the booking clerks being women too!

Really, I shall be frightfully shy of you when you come home, men are so scarce that even a handsome guard causes quite a flutter in the feminine heart!

Bernard Sladden wired from Salisbury Plain to say he was getting 4 days’ leave and would spend two days here arriving on Wednesday, that is tomorrow and you can imagine a New Zealander in khaki and wide-awake hat will cause “some” sensation in the village. I am glad I got home in time to meet him, although I’m afraid he will think I am a very measly looking object, for no one looks their best after an illness. I don’t mind for my own sake, but I do for yours – it is nicer for him to go away with the impression that I am passable, than that I am plain and ill looking!

Miss Allan came in at this point so my letter was interrupted. She is now giving Betty her singing lesson. Do you remember in my last letter I mentioned that Betty had not quite hit the style of hair dressing which really suited her well. Lo and behold I find she has altered it and does it most becomingly. She is an uncommonly good looking girl and so merry and I am quite envious of her lovely complexion.

Enclosed you will find a piece of paper giving particulars of a Littleton man who joined your regiment about Xmas time after having had sunstroke and jaundice. Private L Walter 24197 was in D Company but he never gave the name of his platoon. He was killed on January 25th. He was the adopted son of a Mr & Mrs Hobbins of Littleton, and worked as an engineer at Wood Norton until joining the army. He was engaged to a farmer’s daughter, Violet Gibbs, and she has written to Ethel and asked her to ask you if you would mind finding out particulars as to how he met his death and any details about his life with the regiment which may be known to his pals. His foster mother speaks most highly of him.

Your Father has just done up The Observer to post to you. He is also writing you a few lines to “report”, as he says! I hope he won’t give me a very bad character! He, himself, is looking a bit pulled down after his attack of influenza, although he seems pretty well on the whole.

May and Betty were both on the sick list a short time back but are recovered. May looks very thin and everyone tries to think of some means to make her fatter. Ethel is very busy collecting money for the War Loan, at least for War Savings (15/6) certificates, at present the figure stands at £600. They say that Evesham has contributed ¼ of a million.

Old Mr Henry Keen is dead. He was quite out of his mind for many months so that it is a happy release for him. His wife nursed him devotedly to the last but it was a tremendous strain for her as he had lost all control of himself.

A wire came from Bernard Sladden this evening saying “leave deferred” so he won’t be coming tomorrow.
Your room has to be spring cleaned so I am in the spare room temporarily but am to move later on into your room. It is grand having a room to oneself again – time for spiritual and mental reflection. My mind at present is just like a cabbage – not a fresh green cabbage either.

My letters are dull dead things too but I know you’ll forgive me – for I think after a spell like this last of flu and laryngitis, that I cannot expect to be otherwise than dull headed for a bit.

Later – I did not get on very well with my letter this morning, partly on account of interruptions and partly because I felt tired, so rested in an armchair by the dining-room fire and read “Gallipoli” by Masefield. I became very absorbed in this and finished the book after tea. Did you ever get the copy your Father sent out to you for Xmas? The account of the Anzac and Suvla Bay landings must have brought those days back to you very vividly, if you received the book and had time to read it. What splendid work the Australians did preparing cover for the other troops to land, fighting by day and digging by night! I know people say that what they did was over rated, but personally I think they did what no other troops would have done, because they are such a hardy race and of such fine physique.

I have met so many of them in hospital and the majority of them seem to be men of fine character as well. Our British troops fought just as heroically but I doubt whether they could stand as much as the Anzacs in the way of hardship and privation. They went through just as much I know but am I right in stating that more of them fell sick than amongst the Anzacs? Yet indeed it is hard to say who came out best in that terrible drawn out contest in Gallipoli; every man was a hero and did his bit uncomplainingly. It is pathetic to read how near we were to victory and how owing to lack of reserves and munitions the whole scheme had to be abandoned.

Today’s paper gives the news of a reverse to our troops at Sannai-Yat. I was wondering only yesterday how we should fare when attacking that position. I thought it might prove an even tougher job than the clearing of the south side of the river.

Betty and I had a little music after tea today, I played for her to sing. Her voice is fuller and she sings very well. As I played, memories of you rose before me, recalled by different things in the room. How I just longed to see your tall, lanky, huge figure standing over there by the fireplace and to hear you making critical remarks on our music! After having passed your criticism you would think you’d make up for it by saying that of course anything I played was very nice even the mistakes! You were a cunning old funny old thing, weren’t you?! The worst of it is you’ll be much worse when you come back - and I expect I shall be very pleased to hear you unblushingly commit yourself in this dear, sweet way, even though I don’t think you are quite correct, darling!!

I’ll write a longer letter next mail, dear. I shall feel more rested in mind and body.

God bless you and care for you in the hour of danger and bring you back soon safe and well.

All my love
From your ever devoted

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference