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July 6th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

6th 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 6th 1917

My own dear Cyril

We have reached Friday in this week and there is no mail in yet but as I had four letters last week I must not expect anything for a bit.

We are having just perfect weather and I simply long all the time for you to be here. Yesterday afternoon Bar and I went on the river. I scull sufficiently well to get the boat along and to meet currents but I cannot confess to much style!

There is a boat house quite close to our house and the charge is only 1/- an hour. We only go out about once a week for an hour so it is not ruinous.

It is perfectly maddening to know that you are probably on leave and here am I free to take a holiday too, and yet we are doomed to remain with thousands of miles of sea between us. I think we are being punished for our sins on this side of the grave instead of the other!

I hope to go to Badsey the last week in July. We seem to be going to be a large party if everyone turns up who is expected. Mary and Baby will be there, and Olwen has been invited too.

Arthur expects to get leave in August and so does George. (You’re the only slacker this year for plum picking! I don’t think we’d either of us pick many plums if you were here, do you?!) Then of course Kath will be home after she has moved house from Sydenham to Bedford Park.

Of course, I may be called up by the Ministry of Munitions any time now, as they have taken up my references and they have given satisfaction and I have been informed that I am on the list of selected candidates for post as Lady Supervisor.

Irene tells me my references must have written “stunning testimonials” because I have been accepted without being interviewed by the London interviewing board. I wrote to the Secretary the other day saying I would prefer to be sent to London or South Midlands area so as to be within reasonable distance of Marlow or Badsey or both. I had a favourable reply, which is satisfactory.

July 8th

It is raining today so hard as to prevent us getting to church so I am taking this opportunity to continue my letter. I often find it quite difficult to find an opportunity without appearing unsociable. Directly I sit down to write someone wants me for something or other.

Yesterday afternoon Bar and I went to tea at Dr Bath’s. He is a doctor of music and the organist at Marlow Parish Church. His eldest son was at school with my brothers and held a commission in the Berkshires at the beginning of the war, but was killed in the first year. They are nice homely people with daughters of Barbara’s age, and 2 young sons. Mrs Bath is such a practical little body and since the war has grown sufficient vegetables for their own use and sold sufficient to pay the rent of their house which is a fair sized one, doing all the gardening herself. One daughter is a VAD nurse and the other has just started munition work. Wethered’s Brewery, Marlow, now manufactures shells.

I have written to Pansy Orchard to ask her and Edith Orchard, to come over next week to tea. We might go over there even I should think. Edith sculls as they used to have their own boat at Evesham.

There was a big raid on London yesterday – a lady who lives nearby was in London for the day and she said there is a lot of damage to property in the Euston Rd – and near the Bank of England and the big General Post Office. It is rumoured 800 lives lost, which is not an unlikely figure because in the previous raid 547 or more were lost.

The people of England are becoming roused on account of the apparent ease with which German air-ships and aeroplanes reach London in broad daylight. It certainly does seem extraordinary that our airmen do not engage them in combat before they reach London. One can understand them getting there once or twice but not as frequently as they do.

There are simply hundreds of Austrians and Germans still not interned in England so what else can you expect but that information is supplied to the enemy. Why even in Marlow Bar met an Austrian girl whom she met before the war and she asked Bar not to report she is an Austrian. However we saw in the local paper that she has been fired for not registering herself as an alien. We were very troubled as to whether to report her. She is a companion in some nobleman’s family too! As a nation we are very soft and deserve much more than we get for not dealing more severely with enemy aliens.

I daresay you’ll read in the papers too about the spy systems in America whereby the movements of American transport was known in detail by the enemy, and the first contingents to France might have gone to the bottom, only that they “up” and attacked the submarines and got the better of them. A feather in Uncle Sam’s cap!

I hope to send you some snapshots next week of the house and they will give you a better idea than a description in words.

I wonder if it will have occurred to you to have your photo taken when you are on furlough. If it did not occur to you, do have it taken the next opportunity you have. The one I’ve got is 3 years old nearly and you must have altered a little bit. I expect you’ve got a tremendous brush of moustache by now!

It is a splendid fruit year but there is difficulty about getting more sugar for jams and things. Big concerns are supplied with sugar but private people have great difficulty in getting enough. We find it next to impossible to get more than 1lb a week for all of us for the week, which is just half our ration which is ½ a lb each and ½lb for the servant.

We’ve got a very nice natured and nice mannered girl as a maid. She cooks a little and is willing to learn and interested in her work. She has the right attitude of mind towards work, and looks upon it as a sort of profession and not as drudgery. I do hope Mother will be able to keep her.

Barbara is going to spend 2 or 3 days with Aunt Mamie at Gerards Cross this week. It will be a bit of a change for her and as I am here to be with Mother it fits in nicely.

I am reading a book by Hugh Benson called “The Dawn of All”. It is an imaginative story of what the world will be like by 1930! All the republics have got back their Kings and nearly the whole of the world is Roman Catholic – science and religion meet and work hand in hand. I don’t agree with all the ideas in the book but it is quite interesting reading and one realizes how dear is the vision of a Roman Catholicized world to the RCs.

The Sunday paper has just come, at present the casualty lists given are low, 37 killed and 141 injured. Being a Saturday the children were not in schools so the dreadful massacre of last raid was not repeated. Twenty aeroplanes were counted and we are said to have chased them and brought four down, out at sea. The Sunday papers with their usual love of exciting headings call it “The Battle of London”!
I wonder if you’ve begun your furlough yet and if you and Wilfred will have been able to get into communication.

The Russians are doing splendidly again so we ought to find their offensive a great help. I wish some miracle would happen and bring this war to an end.

July 10th

Today’s paper gives more casualties from the air raid – 47 killed and 197 injured. Our airmen themselves are very brave – it is the organization which is at fault. The Bishop of Chelmsford saw the fleet of aeroplanes come right across Essex and no one was sent up against them. On their entire journey however our airmen gave them a bad time. There were 75 machines in deadly combat over the sea and we brought four of the enemy down. But they are fine fighters for they only had 20 airships but I believe they are a special kind they use for these raids.

I heard from May this morning. She is coming to stay with Mother and Bar for a few days in August while I am at Badsey. Betty is going to look them up on the way to College next term.

Arthur is at Badsey staying for a couple of days, and he and Mary will go from there to London. He has been to [3223|Port Talbot]] and to Dowlais so I should think he must have about 10 days leave. I am so glad they are having a little time together. It is a whole year since they saw each other. Mary is taking a cottage near Port Talbot or Newport in September and will spend August at Badsey. Baby is not accompanying her Mother and Father on this round of visits. They get a sort of honeymoon once every year, don’t they?

Marion’s Mother and sister have taken a house near Bengeworth Church and are settled in there now. May is practically settled in her school house now – and says she and Marion will be very glad of a holiday. They break up on the 27th.

How do you like this snapshot? Bar took it the first Sunday we were here. The other girl is Eloïse Scott who had come down from London to see us.

Today’s Times tells us that the Yanks have forced the Turks to evacuate their advanced positions near Baghdad, cutting off communication with General Maude’s Army. I do hope this won’t mean British troops will have to fight this hot weather, and that if they do, that you will still get your furlough to India. I do wish this senseless war would end.

With all my love and a big kiss dear Heart. God bless you and bring you back to me.

Ever your devoted

Cyril received the letter on 28th August 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 5 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference