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August 19th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

19th 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 19th 1917

My own dear Cyril

Last night Elijah brought round some letters, which otherwise we should not have received until Monday morning, there being no Sunday post now. Among them was one for your Father from you, dated June 23rd, and I am hoping that tomorrow’s post will bring me one from you. We were rather surprised at getting a letter this mail as we thought this was possibly the Indian mail which was sunk leaving India July 7th. In fact for 2 weeks now we’ve expected that each was the lost mail week!

You mention having received my cable and that you were not surprised at the news it contained. I am glad that you had had further news of the submarine campaign or else you might have wondered why I could not manage to get out to you one way or another.

Mary has gone to Church this evening and I have just had a battle royal with Baby Dorothy who woke up loudly demanding her Mummy. After several attempts to quiet her I said “Well Baby – I am going to write to Uncle Boo - and I expect you to be quite quiet”. To my intense surprise a sobbing reply came “All right Auntie Mela – oo go and yite Uncle Boo” – and she turned over and went to sleep her sobs getting fainter and fainter by degrees!

We are going to teach her to say Uncle Cyril and not Boo, but at present she finds it a bit difficult. I expect you’d rather be called by your right name, now you’ve held the rank of Acting Major!

Fancy – I’ve written as much as this without referring to what is uppermost in my mind, namely to congratulate you on having your name mentioned in despatches.

The Mesopotamian honours list was published on August 16th, and you were mentioned with Colonel Faviell, Major Gibbon, Captain Miles, Mr Bidlake and Mr Callander. I should think that there may probably be another list for the Bagdad operations because except for you and Major Gibbon, the others were out of action before Kut became ours again, which looks as though this was an early honours list.

Your Father is simply delighted and I had a radiant postcard from Aunt Lottie which ran: “Many congratulations – have just seen Cyril’s name mentioned in despatches, I am delighted and you!!! Love from a proud Aunt.”

I was in Liverpool on the 16th and had had no time to read the paper – so did not know until I got back that same evening. Mr & Mrs Allsebrooke called in state after the Intercession Service to congratulate your Father. Two Sergeants were also mentioned one being Sergeant Lund.

I had rather a funny sort of interview with Mr Jacobs in Liverpool, the owner of the factory which is losing its supervisor. I went into his office, hoping I looked calm and collected and inwardly quaking. Imagine my consternation (inward) when he said that my visit was almost a surprise and he had only heard that morning that anyone had applied for the post. I replied that I had had a letter asking me if I would like to apply for the post, written by the Lady Supervisor, but I naturally thought it had been authorized by him. In this letter I replied by wire that I would like to apply for the post and stating salary as £130. I next received a wire asking me to go up to Liverpool to be interviewed and signed Jacobs. Mr Jacobs said that he had not been consulted in the matter at all - and that if nothing came of the interview he asked me not to consider him responsible for bringing me such a long way. He told me this before asking me any questions as to my capabilities so that I should not feel his attitude a personal one. He said he was making many changes in his factory and had new ideas on the subject of welfare which he thought of trying, and also I found that £130 was £30 more than he had been giving! However he told me after talking the matter over with me that my qualifications were such as he required and that after thinking the matter over he’d see if he could manage the salary question. He is going to let me know early this week his final decision.

It seems that the Works Manager and the Lady Supervisor rather wanted to force the old man’s hand and he very naturally resented it. However he paid my expenses so whatever happens I am not out of pocket by the interview, though of course there are generally incidental expenses in the way of small tips etc. which one cannot legitimately expect anyone but oneself to pay.

George Mason, the school teacher’s son at Wickhamford, was reported severely wounded and missing some little time ago, and his Mother has heard from a friend of his that as he was being carried away on the stretcher, he and the bearers were blown to bits by a shell. George Mason and his brother have both won commissions. The former was engaged to Cissie Barnard, such a sweet-looking girl. I saw her in Church this morning with Mrs Mason, and she was dressed in mourning. She looked so pathetic.

The elder (Brab?) of May’s former pupils, the Jacksons, has been killed, and the second son is hovering between life and death, severely wounded. He is in a London hospital.

George left London early this morning from France. Rosie must be feeling very blue.

I am so sorry my letters are so smudgy. The notepaper nowadays seems to be of the consistency of blotting paper.

As we’ve had no wire from you – you have evidently not had any furlough to India.

What a good thing you’ve managed to keep so fit, if you have to go another year without any leave. You speak very hopefully in your Father’s letter, that the war may be over this time next year. I’m sorry not to be able to agree with you. I am quite certain about the fact that victory will be ours, but I am equally certain that 2 years at least have to pass before we break the Huns absolutely. I am not pessimistic about it. This is simply an unprejudiced view of the situation.

Have I told you that Wilfred’s address is: c/o Cox’s, 149th Infantry. He is full Lieutenant now

Geraldine Hill has been staying with the home folks at Marlow. You remember the quaint little girl who was at Uncle Harry’s. I believe she is quite unmanageable at home – but I fancy she is very fond of Mother, at any rate she seems very contented to prolong her stay at Marlow.

The others have just come in from Church, which means supper will shortly appear, and my pen will have to dry up temporarily. What a relief it must be for you, when something turns up to stop it meandering along at too great a length!!!

Aug 21st – Oh, the irony of fate! Maud Wall has had a letter from the India Office authorities stating that a few passports are now being granted via the Cape. She is going to try and get one of the few.

If I were well off and hadn’t the future to think of I would get one of these passports and remain in India until the time for furlough came round again.

You say in your letter that you think your people were against the plan of my joining you. Curiously enough I had no idea of this until this morning, when I read from Maud’s letter that passports were being granted. The announcement was received in stony silence, which silently bristled with disapproval! Of course I knew the girls were against the idea but that was because they would not have been able to be present at the wedding!

As for myself, I had no views against the plan. It was simply that I could not get a passport. The risks rather appealed to me than otherwise! It would have been so gorgeous to have got to you in spite of every obstacle, to be held in your arms and hear you telling me that it was worth the risk of losing me to have me with you then. The only part I felt a wee bit nervous about was supposing when you saw me again you felt your feelings had changed. The world says that a man cannot honourably break an engagement but I think the opposite.

If ever you should find your feelings had changed you must tell me so, straight, even if you know it will cost me much. I should know if you had changed even if you did not tell me.

Your letters to your people have given them the idea that you never really thought I should be able to get out to you. If disapproval there has been, then it is that I should have tried so hard to get to you. They think the fervour is on my side and not yours. They cannot imagine a Sladden doing anything which was not sensible!

You, poor thing, have been powerless against my frantic appeals, and the only thing you could do was to send for me!

I am always told, “Well, Boo never really expected you would be able to go out to him.” Not very flattering to me! However none of them can understand our point of view so it is no use trying to show it to them.
You want me for the reasons you gave me in a recent letter. I want you for the same reasons. We both feel time is slipping away and we are no nearer our heart’s desire. Oh – what is the use of writing about it even. Words cannot express all I mean and you know without being told that our reasons for wishing to meet again are the same.

I had two letters from you yesterday, dated June 24th and July 1st. You had had my cable – and ended one letter by remarking that your brain is quite stupid this week so you will not try to write any more. This little remark shows one that you have passed through the reaction which was bound to recur, as it did with me, after weeks of anticipation. My brain felt quite woolly and interest in everything seemed in abeyance. I am so glad you have had a good consignment of books with which to while away an hour. Your Father sent you 4 books. Have you received them?

I hope you are not still in a dusty region. What a pity you had to leave that comfortable camp where you had a good view for miles, and where you used to stroll in the evenings, “and wish Somebody Else could be there too”.

It is a splendid scheme of yours to get a few Consols. I hear that they are the most useful thing to invest in and promise good things after the war. And they are safe which is a great point when investing money, isn’t it?

While we are on the subject of money, you must be wondering how I spent the last present you sent me. With the exception of some books I have been lending it to myself for present expenses, but I intend to buy something useful with it, when I can pay it back or I may buy some 15/6 Exchequer bonds. I am having rather a lot of expenses just now so have been glad to have the use of your present.

Jack came home on Saturday. He and May have gone for a bicycling tour in Gloucestershire, their headquarters being the Royal George Hotel, Birdlip. They went off in gay holiday mood and May was looking better just with the prospect before her of an enjoyable holiday.

While George and Jack have been here I have tucked in with Mary at nights.

In consequence of midnight-talks we have got to know each other much better. She is really a very dear girl and I can see that Arthur must be awfully fond of her. Of course like all lovers, we will never admit that anyone has loved as much as we do – but Arthur and Mary come a good second! Arthur is an awfully good husband, and I think you’ll have hard work to beat him! The only thing is that you are Cyril and therefore in my eyes you (will must) be the best husband in the world.

If the war continues through next year I will try to get out to you again if you will have me. The submarine warfare is supposed to be slightly on the downward wane now.

You wonder, in your letter, why no one has persuaded George to take a commission. He says he prefers to be top dog among the NCOs than junior officer amongst those holding commissions. At any rate, he is safer remaining in the Transport as a Sergeant, than having to head a platoon in action.

Mrs Mason has had official intimation of George Mason’s death today. As soon as men take commissions in France, they seem to become a target for the enemy. An Evesham man held a commission for a few days, having risen from the ranks, and was killed – after having gone through all right for months and months as a private.

Mary gets her letters from Arthur now as regularly as she did when he was at the base. He likes his new billet much better and says he is among a very nice set of men – likes them better than those he worked with at Rouen.

Someone who has been home on leave and knows Arthur, told one of the girls that he has done and is doing brilliant pathological work.

We are busy picking the damascenes (how do you spell it?!) now. I’ve only picked a pot today. It was not very good picking – few and far between and high up.

Ethel was rather ratty with me today because I would not go up a high ladder because in my opinion the ladder was not safely placed. “You can’t expect Brailsford to do all the top picking”!

To my amusement when Brailsford did go up, he grumbled excessively and finally broke off the boughs because he had such difficulty in reaching them! Juliet and I do most of the high picking, and Mary does too. Ethel herself generally manages to get to a well loaded tree on a well-placed ladder! I don’t know how she manages it. I expect Ethel is astonished and thinks that a girl who will risk submarines ought to have no two thoughts about going up a riskily placed ladder! So inconsistent of me, isn’t it?!

I seem to have written you a book this week and will end now before you are bored!

Being so lucky as to get 2 letters by this mail, I can hardly expect to hear again next week. Never mind – there’ll come a day when neither you nor I will write to each other – there’ll be no need – we shall know all the news.

Won’t it be strange to be with each other for a whole 24 hrs at a stretch. Say the first day of our honeymoon.
All my heart’s love, dear man of mine. God bless you – a kiss on your forehead between your eyes – like I used to give you last thing before we parted for the night – also a long long kiss if you can imagine such a thing away out in Mesopotamia.

Ever your devoted

Cyril received the letter on 13th October 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 9 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference