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

4th April 1917
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Kent House, Oxton, Birkenhead, Cheshire
Correspondence To
Major Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, c/o Messrs Cox & Co, Army Agents, Bombay, India (redirected to 13th Division, Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force, c/o PPM, Bombay)
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

at Kent House, 2 Columbia Road, Oxton, Birkenhead

April 4th 1917

My own dear Cyril

No cable from you and it is 3 weeks since you were wounded. I hardly know what to think. Perhaps first cables are not allowed to be sent now, and we have to wait until we get a letter from you. Last Friday, Irene was in London, and as she holds a post in connection with the Minister of Munitions, she made enquiries about you at the War Office while she was there. She was told that no news, official or private, had come through from Mesopotamia since the week you were wounded, which re-assured us a little, because if no one had heard there must be some reason of a military nature preventing news coming through. However news from Sir Stanley Maude was in the Sunday papers, so if we don’t hear this week from you we shall wonder what can be the reason for your silence. Irene says that she will be in communication today with the War Office in connection with her work, and will find out if private cables have been prevented coming through.

I have got an application form for a passport to India. It will take a little while to fill it in as it has to be signed by a number of people.

Irene also enquired about the possibility of ladies being allowed to travel by sea and was told that the regulations might soon be relaxed a little, for Canadian women and children had been allowed to return to Canada last week, for the first time this year. They told her to advise me to get my passport ready so as to have my name early on the waiting list. So I am going to do so.

I had a lovely long letter from you this mail dated Feb 15th, and telling of the flooding out you had, my letter plainly showing by its muddy appearance, that something of that nature had occurred!

You again refer to my joining you in the summer, which did my heart good to read, for it affirmed or confirmed your suggestion contained in a previous letter and which I received over a fortnight ago now.
If it can be done, Sweetheart, you can rely upon my getting to you by hook or by crook, once I know what your plans are, and whether or not you expect to get leave home. I hope you do come home, because it will be a much greater change for you, than remaining in the East – and we could pretend for a short spell that we were not living in an age of war.

I simply daren’t dwell on the joyous side of our reunion for long at a time, in case, at any moment the cup of happiness should be dashed from my hand.

You, too, feel the same I expect, only with this difference, you know your movements better than I do, and whether you can allow yourself to dwell on the thought of all our union or re-union means to us.

Wilfred sailed from Southampton the day before yesterday. I gave him a letter for you and asked him to call at Cox’s Bombay, for your address, and should you be within reach, I’ve asked him to go and see you. If he should be stationed at Poona at the barracks near there, you’ll give him introductions to anyone you know there, won’t you?

I am glad you think I did the right thing in leaving Birmingham. I must have got pretty run down for I’ve never been free from a sore throat since.

We continue to have heavy falls of snow at intervals, and altogether the weather is unseasonable.
Maud has suffered even more than I have from the result of her work as a VAD. She faints dead away without the slightest warning and falls straight back, quite flat. We were fooling round in the snow the other day, and then without the slightest warning and in the midst of our laughter, Maud lay prone on her back in the snow. It gave me an awful fright – she lay so still that I feared she was dead. The work Maud did as a VAD was hard enough to kill an ox. This was one of her duties – to wipe down, wash, and polish a flight of stairs of 80 steps, every day, and the passage above and below it.

This was only one of her daily jobs. The consequence is she has strained her heart. Uncle is anxious for me to remain on here for a bit, because she lets me look after her more than she will anyone else, but I must somehow fit in my Eastbourne visit. But I shall make no arrangements until I hear from you.

Aunt Jessie is having a small operation, on the Monday after Low Sunday, and her doctor has asked me to help him through with it. She will only be laid up about a week, so that I expect I shall get my visit in to Aunt Lizzie about the last week in April.

Another idea of Uncle Ben’s is that Maud and I should go on a little jaunt together, at his expense. He has given me an Easter present of a coat and skirt, a hat, an evening dress (which can also be worn in the afternoons or at garden parties) and some shoes to go with it. Isn’t it awfully kind of him? Maud and I chose the things yesterday.

The evening or afternoon dress is pink and fits and suits me well. The hat is a large brown straw, trimmed with pink and blue. You’ll like it I’m sure.

Your suggestion about my working my passage out on a hospital ship, failing everything else, had also struck me. I find that unless one will sign a six month’s contract it is unlikely and practically impossible for one’s services to be accepted.

Now that America has come in on the side of the Allies, perhaps the seas will be freer for travelling purposes, as they are going to help us against the submarine warfare. President Wilson’s speech is almost a classic – I expect you’ll see it in the Indian papers.

In the War Office official telegram and in the casualty list, you are not called “Acting” major, simply Major, which looks as though you have got your majority. It will be great if you have. I believe when Major Faviell was wounded, the words Acting Lieut Colonel were inserted. I am not quite sure of this fact but I believe this was the case - and if I am right, you would have had the same insertion after your name, had your rank been only temporary while on the field of action.

Irene and Maud send their love to you and I’m sure Aunt Jessie would do so, only she is out. Uncle Ben is frightfully impressed that you are a major at 27. You’d think he had created you one!

All my love – Sweetheart is yours – God bless you, dear One. I hope by now your wound is on the mend and you are out of pain.

Ever your devoted

Letter Images
"Wounded, please forward" written on envelope. Cyril received the letter on 28th May 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference