Skip to main content

August 11th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

11th August 1917
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, The Mill House, Strensham, Worcester
Correspondence To
Captain Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

at the Mill House
Strensham, Worcester

Aug 11th 1917

My own dear Cyril

Two years ago today you wrote to me after the heat of the battle telling me to “make this day a day of thanksgiving”, for until then you had come through unscathed, for it was not until the following day you were wounded. And even though you were wounded, the 12th too is a day, the memory of which will make me raise my heartfelt prayer of thankfulness that you were spared to me. Two years have gone by since then and I’ve not forgotten what you told me. Today I went over Eckington Church and before I came out I did not forget to thank God for His mercies to us.

It is Dorothy-Mary’s birthday tomorrow – she is to have the Vicarage children to tea this afternoon. It is pouring in torrents at the present moment. I hope it will not prevent the children enjoying themselves.
I did not come here until Thursday, instead of Wednesday as at first arranged. On Wednesday morning I had a letter from the Director General of Munitions Inspection asking me to go to B’ham on Thursday afternoon to be interviewed by the Assistant Director General with regard to obtaining a post in that Department of the Ministry of Munitions.

So I wired to Elsie Jarvis that I’d go to B’ham first and then catch an evening train for Eckington which is the station for Strensham. The time named was 4 pm at the Queen’s Hotel. I got there fairly punctually and asked for Mrs Perfect – only to be told she had gone out in her car and would not be back until 6 pm! Two other girls were also waiting to be seen by her. Well - as my train left at 5.57 I could not wait until 6.

However I waited until 5.45 on the chance of her returning sooner but met with no success. I was very annoyed about it because I had changed my plans to suit the convenience of Mrs Perfect! When I got to Eckington or rather Strensham, I wrote to Headquarters explaining that I did not fail to keep the appointment made and requesting them to refund my expenses.

As a rule we have to pay our own expenses for these interviews, which is pretty thick even when they are satisfactory, but it is too much to expect us to pay our own expenses only to find no one there the other end!

I had a pleasant journey back to Eckington. The cornfields are lovely, so rich and brown. It had poured all day but cleared in the evening. The fruit round here is even more plentiful than round Evesham.

Elsie met me at Eckington and we walked until we came to the river, where we found Mr Jarvis waiting to row us across. This was a surprise to me. This is such a nice cottage, with good sized rooms and a fair sized orchard and kitchen garden, standing on a slope, and all for £15 a year! They’ve furnished it in cottage style with oak settles, old dressers etc and in such a way that work is reduced to a minimum.

From the window where I am sitting is a view of Bredon Hill, across meadows and cornfields – just below the window is a border of tall Hollyhocks of varying colours and the garden slopes down towards the Mill, which is now only used to grind cattle fodder. I can see a grand crop of Victoria plums and Blenheim apples, and rows and rows of priceless potatoes. You know there has been a shortage of potatoes and for three months most people had none.

There is another girl staying here, Muriel Beckingsale. She teaches deaf and dumb children in London. She is one of the most “petite” women I’ve ever seen. I feel a giantess beside her.

The weather cleared up yesterday afternoon so we decided we’d risk a wetting and scull to Tewkesbury. I started off sculling with Mr Jarvis but after we’d gone about 2 miles, my right arm seemed to give out for some unknown reason and I had to give in and let Elsie take the oars. It is about 5 miles down the river to Tewkesbury and as it was 7 o’clock when we got there we could not stay to see the beauty of the place, especially as we intended to sail back so as not to have any more exertion. It was past 10 when we got home!

The sail back was grand but a bit spoilt the last half hour by torrents of rain which even came through our mackintoshes. However we changed when we got in and Mr Jarvis set the fire going with logs and we all had a good warm and are none the worse for our adventures.

This morning Miss Beckingsale and I crossed to Eckington to do the household shopping for Elsie and incidentally to see the village. The Church is a very pretty one and possesses a fine Norman door and I think the windows are very old too, I mean the stonework frames are. There are numbers of black and white cottages with thatched roofs, and gardens crammed full of vegetables almost up to the windows – very few flowers. One notices the absence of flowers, now we need the ground for growing food.

It is wet again this afternoon – hence my ability to write to you!

On Wednesday, Mary, Baby, and I went to tea with Aunt Edith at Bengeworth. Norah seemed to do a good deal about the house, so she is evidently feeling stronger.

You must be on your way back to Mesopotamia if you are to be sure of reaching there by Sept 1st. We are being led to expect further fighting this cold season in your part of the world. I am so sick and tired of the sound of war, and you who are really in the midst of it must feel very fed up with your wandering life.
You said in your last letter to me you guessed you’d feel badly disappointed if I did not join you.

You can guess too someone else was pretty badly disappointed too. But I daren’t grumble even to you about it because it is so wonderful to know that you are spared to me so far, that in itself is so much more than many women have. After all anything one values is worth waiting for and I must just go on waiting and hoping until that day when we meet again. Think of that day. I do, aye and dream of it sometimes. Why should one man be so essential to one’s life – without whom life is incomplete? It is a riddle which cannot be solved – it remains a mystery.

With heaps of love, dear Heart, and a message of hope from your everlasting hills which you love.

Ever your devoted

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 9th October 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference