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

4th 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 4th 1917

My own dear Cyril

I don’t think I have written you a really interesting letter for ages and as it may be some little time before I shall have time to write a very long letter, I am going to try today and give you more of my personal news than I have been doing.

I have got the opportunity to attend what is called “An intensive course of training for Munition Welfare Supervisors”, an emergency course for war workers and am convinced it will be of great use if I take advantage of this opportunity. The training lasts 4 to 6 weeks. It is just as well to have as much knowledge as one can now-a-days on Social and industrial problems, and even if I do not take up a post in connection with the course, the knowledge will always be useful. I begin on Monday.

Auntie and Maud are going away for Auntie to have treatment at a hydro, Irene will be away about a month and I am to look after Uncle. As he is out all day I should be a good deal alone, and so this course of lectures etc will fill my time. A Mr Hibbs will be staying here and I shan’t have him on my hands all day this way! He is just awaiting his ordination – a great friend of Aunt Jessie’s.

I am feeling much better but I cannot say honestly that I really feel that I want to do anything more than just what I like, but these days one must do something, and also have an interest in things other than the daily reading of war news, so I am going to venture on this course of training. It will be of great use to me if I ever want to apply for a post through the Ministry of Munitions.

The course includes the following, and those items relating to nursing I shall not have to take:

1. Short course of lectures on First Aid.

2. ,, ,, ,, ,, ,, ,, ,,

  • a. Factory Law
  • b. Factory Hygiene
  • c. General Social Problems relating to Girls and Women.
  • d. Special Welfare Problems e.g. night work, canteens, sickness and injury, provision of suitable lodgings, recreation, health etc.
  • e. Administration:- Keeping of records; reports; case-papers: card index: correspondence: elementary accounts etc.

3. Reading. A list of suitable books will be drawn up.

4. Individual tuition, with opportunities for written work.

1. A fortnight or 3 weeks experience in a munition factory and in selected works where welfare supervision is carried out on good lines.

2. Office Work in COS or similar office for experience in visiting, making use of other organizations etc.

3. Club work amongst senior girls.

4. Dinner and Rest Room work at YWCA canteens for women clerks, affording experience among better class girls.

Besides the lectures on factory life, there are a series on sex education, also on the social welfare of children and young persons.

This coming week I shall practically spend all my time in the Liverpool Settlement, to be initiated into the mysteries of the 2nd item under “Practice”. The lectures for this week are:

  • Tuesday 8th 6 pm Moral Difficulties by Miss Higson
  • 7 pm Women in Industry before the war – Miss E F Rathbone MA
  • Friday-11th. 7pm Women in Industry after the war – Miss E F Rathbone MA

You can gather from the above details that I am going to be very busy. I hope that you won’t be very bored about this part of my letter.

I am reading all sorts of books relating to the subjects of the lectures. In the middle of this reading comes the thought of you, darling, and it is like a draught of cold water to a thirsty man, for however interested I may be in this course of training, yet it does but hide an aching void for you – where my greatest interest lies. It is so different to our ideas of spending part of this summer together, but the vision of our meeting in the future, and the rest and delight which such a vision conjures up, will be the mainspring in my life, cheering me on to fresh endeavour, and will be the reward of my strivings, some day.

Four years ago tomorrow, Sweetheart, since we first discovered each other’s life-long interest and love for one another. What miles we have travelled since then! The last two years of travelling we barely can follow. I mean that of our inner lives – because writing is so restricted, and at the best if times, it can but feebly portray one’s mind, feelings and aspirations. I think, dearest, in some ways you will find me changed. I have so missed your affectionate understanding and sympathy and encouragement, that I often fail to make the best of myself in consequence. I long to find you somewhere near at hand to talk to, or even just to be with you, rested, loved and understood.

Uncle is going to take us to the theatre tomorrow night to celebrate our engagement day. I happened to mention that we usually went on that date, so he fixed up to take me and the others. We shall all wish you could be with us.

I had a letter from you this morning from Bagdad, which the Birmingham people have been somewhat slow about forwarding, as 2 days ago I received a copy of your letter to your Father, which meant that my letter must have reached B’ham May 1st and this is the 4th.

It was very fortunate your knee was not injured when you were wounded this last time, the knee is such a tricky thing. I notice you are always hit on the left side, left arm and now left leg. We have so much to be grateful for darling to your guardian angel – he has watched over you each time you have been wounded. I prefer to think of him as a he. Very feminine of me, isn’t it?

I enclose you a copy of Wilfred’s letter to Uncle, which needs no comment from me, for it tells the story only too vividly. It is a wonder the lad is in his right mind - he had a terrible experience.

Arthur wrote to me the other day for news of you. He hopes soon to be working in a mobile lab and is looking forward to the change. He says that he has been so long in one hospital that he hates everyone and everyone hates him and one another!

You are the first to know of my plans as regards this course of training. It may cause a little surprise at Badsey – but although it may appear a sudden move to them, it is not really, as it has been maturing at the back of my mind for weeks, as an idea to follow should I not be granted a passport to India - and also in war time one can never make stated plans long beforehand. I was interviewed today by the Head of the School of Social Service, Liverpool University this morning, a Miss MacAdam. It went off satisfactorily but I hate interviews – one always has to blow one’s own trumpet to a certain extent, or else one may appear incapable.

I wonder how I shall get on with his Hibbs. I believe he belongs to some order and is known as Brother Hibbs. I hear he is 6 foot 3 inches!

May 5th – Many happy returns of “our” day, dear. It is a gloriously sunny day over here and the birds are singing so sweetly. Just a heavenly day for us if we could only be together. War seems so senseless. Life is too short for such strife and bitterness. I suppose you are in Samarra or thereabouts. What green places you do choose to live in! Birkenhead is far nicer if you’d only take my tip!

Wednesday is your birthday. I shall be thinking of and praying for you specially on that day and also of your dear Mother, whose spiritual presence will be very near you wherever you may be. She had such deep love and pride in you, Cyril dear, and her great joy was to tell me how you had never done anything to cause her sorrow and anxiety. She placed implicit trust in you. It is a comfort to me to know that she was happy in the knowledge of our love for each other. I miss her very much – but as the horrors of war increase I am glad that she has been spared the knowledge of them – her nature was such a gentle, lovely one.

Irene has been made a sort of second in command to Miss Proud, who has just taken over the welfare management of Government TNT factories. I don’t envy her going into TNT factories, as it is very poisonous and TNT poisoning is horrid. I don’t think I shall ever consent to do TNT work even it is offered to me. If the poison gets into your system your hair goes an awful tinge, and your skin almost green. Irene won’t come in actual contact with the poison much, not as much as a Supervisor in one particular factory would do.

I’ll finish up this letter now, Sweetheart and write a second when and if I have time this week. All my love is yours – even more than it was on this date 4 years ago – for I did not understand then the height and depth of human love combined with unity of interests and spiritual love. God bless you.

Ever your affectionate and devoted

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 11th July 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper plus 4 sheets of a typed copy letter from Wilfred
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference