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July 2nd 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

2nd July 1917
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Riverwoods House, Marlow-on-Thames
Correspondence To
Captain Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Riverwoods House, Marlow-on-Thames

July 2nd 1917

My own dear Cyril

Before last week ended I had received 4 letters from you! Dated April 20th, May 2nd, 6th, and 18th. First I got the first two May letters and then the April one and last that of May 18th.

Thank you very much dear for the present of the cheque. It is very sweet of you, and also very naughty! You are simply incorrigible on the subject of giving me presents. All I say against it seems to make no impression! Nevertheless I like getting them and am getting more reconciled to the idea than I was at first. If you were here, or I were with you, I would and could thank you properly but at this distance nothing has yet been invented for transmitting the kind of thanks I feel inclined to send. This is the only fault I’ve got to find with Marconi - his inventions are so limited in scope!

I will buy myself some music and another book of poems and will let you know what else I do. There are no decent shops in Marlow so I sent the 10/- to Ethel to buy your Father a birthday present from you. She and the others will be sure to know of something he is particularly wishing for.

Your threat about my music if I neglect it was quite unnecessary; you fierce old gentleman! It would be much more to the point if I were to enquire if you are keeping up your singing practices (on one note!) away north of Bagdad! I am sure I’ve practised much more than you have!

All your letters this mail were such nice ones. The drawback of getting so many at once and all so nice is that it makes me impatient for more. It is extraordinary what a bump of greed I seem to be developing. Your last letter only took six weeks coming, which is an improvement I hope will continue.

The men who expected leave to England and who were entitled to it must have felt awfully sick when they heard finally that no leave to England was being granted. The authorities, one must honestly own, are right in making this restriction, for the danger of being submarined is very great, and the army out there might lose some of their best officers in this way.

You were wishing in one of your letters that I were with Wilfred on the high seas. Luckily I am still at home as events turned out, or I might now be in a different world to this – not but what I’d sail for India tomorrow if I got the chance and risk it. It would be worth it to see you again.

You comment on Ethel leaving home to take a supervisor’s post and differ from me in wishing she had taken the opportunity. I see your point of view, but when Betty goes to College in September, and May, as you know, now that she has a boarding school, is bound to be in Evesham the greater part of the day and week, who is going to be a companion to your Father and manage the house? He is very dependent on companionship since your Mother’s death.

It is the same case with Barbara – much as I see the necessity for her to learn to look after herself, in order that in the future she may not be dependent on others – yet Mother must have someone with her. It is not good for anyone to live alone. In nearly every family someone has to be the home one and invariably that one suffers for lack of experience of the world and becomes rooted to the spot. Still I quite agree with you that it would do Ethel good to get away for a bit and rub shoulders with all sorts and conditions of mankind.

I now come to your dear little extra letters written in memory of May 5th. It would be very exciting and very lovely to be able to get married the very day we meet again. I wonder if we could manage it. Nowadays one never knows when a boat will come in so that it would be difficult to carry this out but it certainly is what I’d like myself. Ethel would be furious though! She was awfully upset when we hoped to be married in India – because she could not be present! Our point of view never struck her!

It is very nice of Mrs Frizelle to write to you sometimes. I wonder if you will see her when on furlough.

You begin your letter of May 18th by explaining how you missed a mail. As so many letters came together this last week I shall not be aware of the missed week, except of course now you’ve mentioned it, I know I might have had 5 instead of 4!

I read about those two armoured cars who got into difficulties, when I was at Oxton, and explained that I hoped you were not one of the occupants. I see from your account you were very near though not one of the actual occupants. It might have been a very serious affair for those two officers had help not been forthcoming. How splendidly they managed to rout the Turks!

You comment on me being afraid of offending you. Well, darling, you see if you value something very much you naturally would do anything rather than lose even a little infinitesimal bit of it. With regard to the subject I alluded to, namely that of wishing to see something of my own people. I do feel that my debt to you and yours is so great that I must not risk incurring the slightest displeasure by appearing as though I did not appreciate their hospitality at Badsey by running away sooner than they expected. I may not have said very much about it but I have realized how very good and patient they have been with me all these 4 years – making me absolutely welcome at any time.

I was interested in your account of the dust-storm – when your tent got blown down. I have been in several such storms and became so used to them that on one occasion, we were all sleeping out of doors in the compound of a dâk bungalow, and I slept almost through a dust-storm, the others running indoors, having forgotten all about me! At last Father rushed out to find me pretty well covered – I shall never forget trying to get the dust out of my hair, which I always wear loose when in bed. We usually had to fall flat on our faces if we were out of doors when a storm came on.

I am so glad your kit turned up from Twin Canals. I hate to think of you having to go about ragged, though I suppose there are worse things than this in war time.

The “pig-in-a-poke” you drew in a raffle will make a handsome hall carpet – so I don’t think it will remain a pig in a poke, but will contradict the proverb and prove that a silk purse can be made out of a sow’s ear! I am so curious to see your purchases. If you feel like spending any more money – could you get some oriental tapestry curtains or hangings or some small table cloths, they will be effective with oriental carpets – don’t you think?

At the end of your last letter you say that when we meet you will have 2 years arrears to make up, so we shall not be able to talk all the time. Dear oh dearie me. I never realized these 2 years would be brought up as a kind of debt due from me to you!

You must give me time for consideration. I never incur debts as a rule of any description, so that your statement has rather taken my breath away! And if you insist on carrying out what you suggest and making up arrears, I shall be “kilt intolerably and shall have no breath left at all, at all!” You always were a man for expecting a lot! Blessed is he that expecteth nothing!

The Russians have come into action in Galicia again and on July 1st captured 10,000 prisoners. Isn’t that a good start?

July 1st was a trying day for us all and I was very anxious as to how Mother would get through the day. A friend came down from London to see us which helped to keep up her spirits and she really was wonderfully brave. She has aged a good deal since Cecil’s death and although she is very active and keeps on doing things, yet I notice how nervy she is and how short her breathing is at times. She is slighter which may be a good thing really – Mother thinks I have grown! Both taller and broader! I am getting quite anxious as to whether I shall be too fat for your approval when you come home. I drink about a pint of milk a day now and have done so since I went to Oxton and it has had the effect of making me plumper – as vulgar people would say – giving me quite a figure! However this is better, than pining to a shadow!

We are nearly settled now though still keep pretty busy polishing etc. I hope May will come and see us soon. Mother took a great fancy to her and I’ve written and asked her to come the first opportunity she has and also asked if Betty would come en route for London when she goes to College.

I sculled for 2 hours the other afternoon and was not a bit stiff afterwards. There are some nasty currents in this river and one has to use a lot of strength. Mother says it just suits me because it works off my superfluous energy!

Wilfred wired he had reached Alexandria safely last Saturday – which is good news. He was getting woefully tired of Malta.

Your Father said in his letter to me after his birthday that he does not feel a septuagenarian and cannot feel nearly dignified enough for 70! He was very pleased with all his presents, and with my wire in which I sent yours and my best wishes.

The Ministry of Munitions have taken up my references so I daresay I shall get a job before the winter is upon us. I must cause you amusement the way I write and say I am too run down to work and then 4 months hence I’ve completed a course of training for welfare work.

You’ll get used to me in time old fellow, and when I am married I shall settle down quite happily without chopping and changing plans. It is a kind of restlessness due I think to a long engagement.

I must close now, Sweetheart. All my love is yours dear – send me some more nice letters and help to keep me in a brave frame of mind – sometimes I get a bit despondent but not often.

God bless you, Love.

Ever your devoted

Cyril received the letter on 19th August 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 7 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference