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June 15th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Acting Major Cyril E Sladden

15th June 1917
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Kent House, Oxton, Birkenhead, Cheshire
Correspondence To
Acting Major Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

at Kent House, Oxton, Cheshire

June 15th 1917

My own dear Cyril

I have not long returned from sending off a wire to you in answer to yours sent off from Basra May 20th. It was ten days on the way and then I made another attempt to get a passport but it was unsuccessful, and this is the reply I received yesterday afternoon.

India Office, Whitehall SW

June 13th 1917

Dear Madam

In reply to your letter dated June 2nd to the address of the Passport Officer, Foreign Office, I regret to inform you that the Secretary of State for India is still unable to recommend you for a passport.
You will recognise that to make an exception in your case to the rules prohibiting women and children from travelling by sea to India at the present time, would be inconsistent with the practice which he has been constrained to follow with regard to other persons in similar circumstances, though he recognises the hardship which the rule must involve in individual cases.

Yours faithfully
F D Fowler

So, dear, our dream of being together this summer is shattered. If one could be reasonable where one is in love, one would see that our dream would be even more rudely shattered still, were I to find myself at the bottom of the sea. But I’ve not quite reached this stage of reasonableness yet, and just feel bitterly disappointed and I simply hated sending you such a cold blooded wire. I felt like saying “Thousands of regrets, passport unobtainable – owing to the horrid old Kaiser and his U boats. Heaps of love and kisses from your ever devoted and disappointed Mela.” Instead of which convention demanded “Regret passport India unobtainable – Constable”. I think I’ll write about other matters, the above subject does not bear thinking about.

Next Tuesday, the 19th, is the date fixed for my departure from here to Marlow, to be with Mother and Bar for a bit. I shall be quite glad to be home. After all there is no place like home, be it ever so humble. I’ve been very happy up here, but this is a very excitable household and we never sit still a minute. You can tell from my scrappy scribbled letters that I find it difficult to get letters written. I hope when I get to Marlow to write more interesting letters.

At 2 o’clock this afternoon I was summoned to appear before a representative of the Board of Trade from Warrington, for an interview on behalf of the Ministry of Munitions. Miss Ewart was the name of the interviewer, and I took the wind out of her sails by not appearing the least fluttered or flustered by her. When I appeared she said very coldly “Sit down”. I sat down quite coolly and comfortably, not in the least perturbed, and she hardly kept me two minutes! I wish I did not always see the funny side of everything but I always do and can never treat a situation seriously enough. This was only an interview to see what I am like, not for actually engaging me. Miss Ewart will send in a report of what she thinks of me.

There was a big explosion at a munitions factory at Ashton-under-Lyne the other day, and nearly all the employees injured or killed. Irene was to have visited this factory as Investigator of Welfare, the very day of the explosion, but was luckily unexpectedly prevented, or else she would have been in the works at the time the accident took place. Wasn’t it a providential escape.

There has been an air raid on London this week, 108 people killed and nearly 500 injured. The raid was on the East End and a great deal of damage was done to business premises and a school, but nothing of military value. 50 children killed and injured at the school, many of them in the infant classes. This has saddened England very much.

The shipping losses have gone up again this week, so it is really not surprising that I have not been granted a passport. Some boats go out and never reach their destination at all, and no one, none of the crew or passengers are ever heard of again. No one lives to tell the tale.

We are having grilling hot weather which I enjoy very much but it is just a little too hot to be really comfortable.

I wonder where you are now, Sweetheart. I hope you are having a very happy time. You will appreciate your furlough very much as you’ve not had any when you have the use of all your limbs!

I am longing to get your letters telling of your doings but it will be nearly September before I hear.
The papers describe a wonderfully constructed hospital ship, which will feel quite at home on the Tigris and will navigate it easily. It has four rudders so that it can turn round like a taxi-cab. It seems to me that the building of new river craft of this description, fitted up with everything medical science can devise, is prophetic that the campaign out your way is not nearly over yet.

The mails to India and consequentially to Mesopotamia only go out fortnightly now, but I’ll write every week just the same, and then you’ll have two letters by every mail.

Sir William Lever is now Lord Leverhulme. He was promoted to the peerage in the last list of honours. Uncle is still one of the directors of Lever Bros. Another of the directors, who is just home from the Congo, a Mr Brahm, dined here the other evening. His conversation reminded me of George. He is a very “interesting” man. At one time he was a journalist so you may know he had plenty to say!

Potatoes are beginning to come in and we now have them once a week as a great treat. They were 1/- a lb last week.

This is a good strawberry year, but they are not cheap yet. The cheapest are 10d a lb. We get lots here. Auntie does not seem limited in any way as to the amount she pays for a thing. She keeps to the ration allowance of bread and sugar very faithfully though. People who are well off do not suffer from the rationing, because they can buy substitutes, but the poor people feel it very much. And the bread they buy is made of very poor mixed flour, which is not satisfying and disagrees with many people.

Is the European population of India rationed? Or isn’t it necessary, out there?

What did you do eventually with the Persian rugs you bought in Baghdad?

It is nearly a year ago since we got the news that Cecil was wounded and missing. I shall be glad to be with Mother and Bar on July 1st, the day of the anniversary of his death. Poor little Barbara still writes very sadly about his loss. She was simply devoted to him, and his return from Africa made a great deal of difference to her life.

I must close now, dearest. Enjoy your furlough to the full, try and forget there is a war on for 4 whole weeks – live every moment of the time and keep fit and well. Don’t think I don’t feel not being with you now. It simply won’t bear thinking about much less writing.

Some nights I can hardly sleep.

All my love and heaps of kisses.

Your ever devoted

Cyril received the letter on 2nd August 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 5 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference