c/o the Lady Superintendent, WAAC
Woodcote Park Conv. Camp, Epsom
Sept 17th 1917
My dear Mr Sladden
At last I’ve managed to send you some extracts from Cyril’s letters.
I wonder if you’ll be surprised, as I am bound to say I was, at the calm way he dissects the subject of the submarine menace with regard to my joining him. I’ve never once spoken of the idea with fear, neither was I afraid to go, and I cannot help feeling hurt at the tone in which he writes. You know I did my very best to get out to him, and although I fully realized the risks not only at sea but the risk that he might have his leave cancelled etc – yet I was perfectly willing to go. Cyril has not given me credit for doing anything in the matter - and seems only to think that I “funked” it, to use a school boy’s expression!
I’ll write you again about my life here. I am told my name has gone up for promotion and that in consequence I am to be kept on Home Service for a bit before going to France. I shall probably be in the Southern Command – anywhere South of or perhaps in Birmingham.
I saw Kath on Thursday and I may possibly write and ask her to have me for next Sunday.
With much love to all of you – I hope Aunt Edith is better.
Ever your affectionate
Extracts from Cyril’s letters
The end of a very busy week indeed brought me to Sunday and near the outgoing mail (which is tonight, being Monday) with no attempt made to get any letters written. For one thing the first of our fortnightly mails, now quite due, has not yet turned up, and there is therefore nothing to reply to, and I naturally waited in hopes of getting it. But in any case I really have been so busy most of the week that I had no space of time fit to sit down in to start correspondence.
The details of my much business I have recounted in the letter I wrote yesterday to Betty, so if you should be at Badsey when you get this you will presumably hear them. They are chiefly comprised in a combination of training with the running of an extensive grocery department which has just been supplied with a much larger stock than ever before.
Day after day I was busy with accounts etc. right through the heat of the day when the rest of the camp was chiefly sleeping. Yesterday was the first day I had at all free, and I was out last night digging and only returned at 8.45 this morning. We had 5 miles to go, and were supposed to put in 5 hours digging, but I did’nt as I think it was a bit too much at that distance, so cut it down slightly. I had my horse to carry me there and back, but was glad enough to see camp again all the same.
It has been a record hot day, reaching 118°, and the wind has been strong, blowing dust thickly, and being perfectly scorching. The conditions made letter writing – or almost any other form of activity almost out of the question all day, so I fear your letter has been unfortunate. Things were not assisted by the general sleepiness that followed upon last night’s activity.
It is most difficult writing – this period shortly before dawn generally finds me handing out bottles of drink to messes, and so every three lines I have to stop and book down an issue. Now in the middle of this very sentence my orderly sergeant comes for orders.
On the day after I posted to you the mail came, bringing me your three letters posted May 5th, 10th and 15th. The first of these was a long one written just before you started your course of training; it also enclosed a copy of Wilfred’s account of his adventure which is most interesting.
There was pretty clearly some bad management somewhere, and he came near to being a victim of it. I am wondering whether he is in India now, having heard nothing.
Hewitt, who was lately in Bagdad, tells me he met a man who was in the same wreck, some days ago, so evidently some of them got taken on pretty soon. I want to hear where he goes and what regiment he gets posted to.
I have not been as fit this last week as I am accustomed to feel; just my inside feeling the heat and a bit out of order. There has really been some heat to feel too; we have topped 120° regularly, and on Friday touched 127° which was a distinctly good effort.
It is quite a nice day today; just a perceptible breeze most of the time, and no dust. Several days lately have been dusty as well as hot.
July 22nd 1917
We had a very pleasant surprise a few days ago in the form of a house mail up to about May 23rd. As I had supposed it to be resting at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea I was not expecting anything for a long time. The mail of May 31st was definitely reported sunk. Evidently the weekly and not only fortnightly mail was still running.
Your letter written on Sunday, May 20th, and posted two days later represented your share in the mail, and I had also letters from Father and Kath.
Your rotten newspapers at home are in the habit of “getting the wind up” badly, and are presumably having the inevitable bad influence on everybody. Just about the early part of May it was submarines, for an example. The moment anything happens that they don’t like they begin to squeal with one accord, and generally set about searching for some unfortunate scapegoat. Of course the sinkings were bad for a couple of weeks. We got the figures out here in Reuters, without all the rubbishy nervous comment you suffered from; I had little doubt that it was a special concentrated effort designed to create a panic, and so it turned out.
At the worst rather less than one boat out of every fifty leaving harbour was sunk, and a one in fifty risk is almost safety in the eyes of an infantry soldier. In estimating the risk you would run supposing you set out for India I also took into consideration the fact that special care is taken of mail boats; also your risk of being killed or injured would only have been a small one, as mail boats as a rule don’t sink very quickly; you would have been put into one of the small boats; and bad weather in summer in the Mediterranean is highly improbably: lastly you would not I knew be granted a passport unless the risks were noticeably less than they had been previously. Actually I reckoned there was not one chance in 500 that you would lose your life by attempting the journey – I wish we could congratulate ourselves that I at present stood half as good a chance of reaching peace with a whole skin.
Yesterday I wrote to Father, and now this morning I am seizing a few minutes to finish up this letter in time for the mail.