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August 13th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

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

at Seward House
Badsey, Evesham

Aug 13th 1917

My own dear Cyril

On my return from Strensham I found a budget of letters awaiting me. Three OHMS letters, one from Wilfred posted at Aden and two from you. In a way I dreaded to open yours because I knew that you must have heard that it was impossible for me to obtain a passport, and I thought you might perhaps be feeling a bit fed up about it.

In the first letter of June 11th you were still uncertain about things but by June 17th, although my wire had not reached you, you knew from a letter of mine that the situation was a hopeless one. There was hardly a forlorn hope.

The picture you painted in your second letter made my heart simply yearn for you. One feels that years are slipping by and one’s dreams are unfulfilled. Oh, if I were only a few years younger I would not begrudge the years of waiting quite so much. It is dear of you to wonder whether it would be fair to ask everything at once from me, in this time of stress, but you know that we know each other so well that it would have seemed only the natural thing for you to ask.

Indeed I can even go so far as to say that I should feel hurt had you desired otherwise. You exaggerate the trials – it is difficult for you to realize that women are constituted in such a way, that the more they suffer the more they value what suffering brings them. There is a lot of nonsense talked by a few about the thoughtlessness of men as regards this subject, but these women are not worth their salt. We were created principally to be mothers, and therefore wives. It will be a great sorrow to me if we are denied the joys of family life – and this is what grieves me so when time slips by and we are still unmarried.

I long to see the joy of parenthood in your eyes. Those dear blue eyes which have looked unspeakable things into mine, and given their message with much more directness than speech. Sometimes the desire in them has almost broken my own silly resolve but somehow they did not quite because what I wanted to say was beyond speech. But you knew I expect what was passing through my mind just as well as I knew what was passing through yours. It is not given to everyone to love as we love. You say you want to be woken up again, to feel as you used to feel. Perhaps, Sweetheart, this numbness is God’s way of helping you. Life would be much harder for you if your feelings were as acute as they would be were we together. I don’t think this paralysis of feeling is a lasting one. It is a Providential deadening of one’s acutest longings.
We are having a big lesson in the school of life and it is up to us to keep our backs to the wall and learn our lesson hard. I simply won’t give up “keeping on smiling”, I feel if I do I shall be asking for trouble. Don’t you know what I mean? Never say die kind of thing, to put it plainly!

You speak of the unlikelihood of your getting any leave at all. In Wilfred’s letter today he speaks of looking forward to meeting you. It would have been so nice for you both to know each other. He liked all your people so much that I think he felt sure he’d like you too.

George got home yesterday. He looks thin but well. He is staying until Thursday and then I expect will stay somewhere in London in order to see as much as possible of Rosie. He and your Father are having a good “pow-wow” and settling the affairs of state!

I had a very jolly time with the Jarvis’.

I wrote to you from Strensham and so you know something about our doings there up to Saturday. On Sunday we went to church in the village. The church and vicarage are really rather isolated on top of a hill, overlooking the Avon. The church is very old and quaint – rather like Wickhamford but more beautiful. The oak seatings are high and there is a skirting of oak all round the church with pegs to hang up hats and coats in each pew!

The vicar preached well and took the service rather like Mr Kendall. There was a big band of boy scouts in church who appeared very interested in the Sermon which was on the subject of Rehoboam consulting with the young men and forsaking the advice of his elders!

In the late afternoon we took our tea on the river and sailed up the river to Nafford and then sculled back. I forget whether I told you we sculled to Tewkesbury on Friday and then sailed back. It took us some time as it was a matter of 10 miles there and back – but as we all knew how to scull the distance did not seem great because we took it in turns.

Betty’s friend, Freda Cameron is staying here. Olwen returned to Wales yesterday. We shall have plenty of fruit picking this week, as we are just getting into the swing of regular picking.

My OHMS letters were rather nice ones. One was offering me a job at Jacob’s Factory, Aintree, Liverpool, which was a great surprise. It was one of the factories at which I trained. The supervisor there is moving on to a bigger job. The letter has been following me round a bit so I’m afraid I may have lost my chance of getting the appointment, as they asked for an answer by return of post. However I’ve wired today in the hope of helping matters a bit.

Another letter was asking me if I’d like to apply for a post as Matron of an Ordnance hostel. Girls are now in the Ordnance Dept of the Army. This may also slip through my hands because I want first to consider the Aintree post and so it looks as though I may fall between two stools! This last is quite a decent job. One gets one’s own bedroom and a private sitting room and board and lodging plus 25/- a week – quite decent – don’t you think? Still with all these irons in the fire I ought to get a job soon!

Since supper Judy and I have been entertaining George with some music. I’ve really been longing to get back to my letter but knew you’d like me to help to amuse George. It is the first time he has been home since your Mother’s death and he must feel her absence very keenly.

It is now very late so I must stop for the present. Tonight I am tucking in with May because George has the room I’ve been in, viz your room. I rather wish I could be alone tonight – alone with my thoughts. Your letter revives memories and also hopes of what may be. God bless you, dear man of mine.

Aug 14th – We are waiting to go into Evesham and are hoping to go on the river – that is if the rain will be good enough to keep off. We have not had a day with no rain at all for a long time.

Barbara has sent me two more snapshots of myself which she took. You’ll be tired of getting so many photos of me but when you’ve just looked at them you can destroy some of them – you cannot possibly carry them all about with you! The one on the landing stage takes in a bit of the scenery opposite our house. The other one is rather a funny one but I was trying not to laugh. I am in the pale blue and white cotton frock I told you I was making. The fashions have changed a lot since you were home.

It is bad luck for George and for me that we are each the wrong person for the other. If he were you it would be all right for me and if I were Rosie it would be well for George! I can see he is counting the hours until Thursday when he’ll see her again.

Freda Cameron, Betty’s friend, is such a nice girl. She and I have been picking apples together this morning. She would be good looking if she had not outgrown her strength and therefore stoops. She has a good complexion, regular features and beautiful hair, very fair. I think she and I are to be the scullers of the party this afternoon.

Later – We had a very jolly afternoon on the river - and on my return I found a letter from Jacob’s Factory, Liverpool asking me to go up there for an interview tomorrow or Thursday. I have decided to travel tomorrow and be interviewed on Thursday – and spend the night at the Settlement House for Students of Social Service. I can’t go to the Walls because they are away from home.

I am rather tired of rushing hither and thither for interviews and will be glad to be settled somewhere. I am happy enough here but it is not the same since your Mother left us – and also your own dear self I miss at every turn. The girls are very decent to their in-laws and I expect they are very often very tired of us!

Your Father is a dear to me. I expect he guesses how much I miss you. He is so brave about the loss of your Mother.

Kath came home tonight so I shall be having another change of residence tonight. I shall tuck in with Mary tonight.

It is getting late, my darling. God bless you and bring you back safe to me. I simply long and long to see you again. I am so sorry your furlough never came off – you do have rotten luck.

All my love from
Your ever devoted

Cyril received the letter on 9th October 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 6 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference