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May 1st 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Major Cyril E Sladden

1st May 1917
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Kent House, Oxton, Birkenhead, Cheshire
Correspondence To
Major Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

at Kent House, Oxton, Cheshire

May 1st 1917

My own dear Cyril

The 1st of May (our month) has dawned bright and sunny – a beautiful day – making me remember the 1st week in May, 4 years ago. The birds are singing without ceasing and everything whispers that Summer is coming. I can imagine how elated we should both be feeling if you were at home now. We should feel there was nothing left to be desired.

I see that Miss Olwen Lloyd George’s fiancé has been given permission to come home in June from Mesopotamia, in order that their marriage may take place. He is Captain Evans, RAMC. When I read this in yesterday’s paper I was mad with jealousy! I should have thought Mr Lloyd George would not have favoured one man more than another and would not like a special favour granted to his future son-in-law. If you get the opportunity you might ask if you might come home too – only the difference is I am not a Prime Minister’s daughter!

I will write out a copy of my final letter from the Chief Passport Office.

26th April 1917


I have the honour to inform you that the most careful consideration has been given to your letter of the 18th dealing with your application for a passport. It is much regretted however that while fully appreciating all the circumstances’ put forward, it is impossible at the present time to issue passports for ladies proceeding to India.

I am
Your obedient Servant
J H Hatton Richards
For Chief Passport Officer

This letter answers mine in which I offer my services as a nurse.

So darling, our place is at an end and I have had a wretched 3 or 4 days fighting with myself; trying not to be downhearted.

Everyone assures me and assured me even before I received this letter that you would not wish me to risk my life under the present very thorough submarine campaign menace, did you know that it existed to such an extent. A great deal of one’s information reached one from private sources, so I daresay you get very little idea up the Tigris how very dangerous travelling by sea is at present.

If I had been granted a passport, danger would not have deterred me trying to get out, but as you see the matter is taken out of my hands and I can do nothing further to gain our end.

Mother forwarded a letter from Wilfred for me to read, written the same day that he cabled from Malta. He says:

Floriana Hospital

My dear old Mother

So we got it in the neck after all, and most unpleasant it was while it lasted, and I hope I may never have another similar experience. But here I am, alive and perfectly well, and I thank God for it, for my own escape was a marvelous one. I will not go into details now, as the Censor would probably scratch it all out, and will tell you more about it some other time! I have just wired to Uncle Ben to say I am alive and well and to cable me some money, as I haven’t a brass farthing. I had some in my pockets, but the latter were rifled by someone on the destroyer that picked me up, while my clothes were being dried.

Of course all my kit went to the bottom, and my insurance is good. If you can, you might claim it and put it to my credit at Cox’s. Everyone has been very decent to us, and we were immediately put to bed in this hospital. Today they are making arrangements to get us a little clothing etc. and soon we shall be settled down.

I don’t know what they are going to do with us, but I expect we may be here for some little while, so if you write to me at this address, letters will find me, and I will arrange when I move for them to be forwarded on.

Now, please don’t worry. I’m quite well, and none the worse for the wetting I got, and I can get everything I need here. This place is nice and warm and this afternoon I hope to go out for a bit and explore the town.
Goodbye dear old Mother. I thank God that my life has been spared to you, and may I be worthy of his Goodness.

Ever your loving son
Wilfred Brown Constable

Although he cannot enter into details one can read between the lines and realize what a terrible experience he has been through. He is a strong swimmer, and as he was apparently picked up out of the water, it was this fact which helped to save him, with the aid of a Higher Power.

I am thinking of taking a six weeks course of training in Social Science, in order to take an opportunity which is offering itself at the moment. This training does not necessarily mean I get a job the moment it is over but will be of great use to me in getting a well-paid job, although it might not come my way for a few months. The course begins on May 6th and I will tell you more about it when I know more about it myself. This course plus my nursing experience ought to obtain me a good post under “Social Welfare” work.
If you [?] it does not mean you are dismissed from your work, unless you wish to resign.

I do not yet feel like tackling the actual work but the course of training is not strenuous, two lectures a week and a fortnight of experience in factories, outpatients departments etc., when you go round with a Welfare Supervisor who lets you into the workings of everything.

Uncle is very kindly paying the fee for the course of lectures, and as it is an excellent opportunity I feel I ought to take it. Should you be lucky enough to come home the course would just be over probably, or at any rate I should not have obtained a post by then. And also if we were married and you returned East, I should have this qualification at my back, should it be possible for me to work in your absence.

Irene who is a Travelling Officer for the Ministry of Munitions and inspects factories all over Lancashire and Chester, advises the Ministry whom to appoint. She considers that I have by nature many of the necessary personal qualifications for social welfare work and that once I got a job I should do well at it and probably rise. This is her opinion (not mine!) and as she has had a great deal of experience and is considered the most brilliant of the Ministry’s Travelling Officers, I bow to her superior knowledge, and am willing to see what I can do!

Aunt Jessie had a slight operation last week so once again, the little knowledge I possess came in useful. She is getting up for a bit today and is going on well. She sends her love to you. Write her a few lines when you have time. She always feels she has a share in our lives, because she knew and liked you in the stormy stress of the first few months of our engagement.

Mother writes that Barbara has got work in Chelsea but has forgotten to mention the nature of the work! She is trying to get rooms near Chelsea but says it is awfully muggy and dull round there.

Hope Ferguson turned up here on Sunday quite unexpectedly. It appears that she is taking a six months training in midwifery and district nursing in order to get her CMB. She says the experience will be useful to her when she is stranded away in the wilds with her husband, she could nurse other officers’ wives and so do some good in the world.

It is rather a quaint idea, and shows how deliciously young Hope is – but still all knowledge is useful, and it is certainly better than idling her time. She has a good nurse for her baby – but it seems odd to have a child and then tear round looking after other people’s babies!

When I went to the University yesterday to get some particulars of the course of lectures I may be going to attend, to my great astonishment I met Hope coming out from a lecture. She was dressed in a very Mother Gamp Uniform and quite looked the part! She really is the most curious girl, for she absolutely looked the part to perfection, and really one would never have imagined she could have or would have liked slumming.
The district her work lies in is in the very worst part of Liverpool, and Hope says she fully expects to be murdered one night on her way to one of her cases!

Her husband will not get leave now until the Autumn. He also told her that it will take 5 years to garrison Germany after the war is over and that if he is sent there he will not take Hope with him because he would not allow her or any of his women folk to enter Germany. So poor Hope feels life is not a very exciting or pleasing thing these days.

I must close now dear as there are many things waiting to be done. I’ve been busy this week one way and another so did not get a letter started until today.

All my love, dearest Sweetheart. Every lane has a turning and I think we’ve reached the turning in this war and there will be all the good things in life waiting for us when we’ve turned the corner. God bless you – you dear man of mine.

Ever your devoted

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 26th June 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference