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

19th September 1917
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Woodcote Park Camp, Epsom
Correspondence To
Captain Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

c/o The Lady Superintendent, WAAC
Woodcote Camp, Epsom

Sept 19th 1917

My own dear Cyril

I have been here 5 days now and am beginning to know my bearings.

I am living in the Superintendent’s hut. She is in charge of the Women Cooks of the Women’s Legion and is instructing me in the gentle art of running camp kitchens. This will not eventually be my job but I have to know how these things are done. The Women’s Legion really exists no longer, having become absorbed into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.

The camp kitchens are now run by women, except for men butchers. They cater for 8000 convalescent Canadians here, and run 4 large kitchens. The cooking is excellent, one could not wish for better. Also the women keep their boilers and all utensils spotlessly clean - the kitchens are really a picture to behold.
The Canadians resent the substitution of women for men much more than the Imperials do. It is partly because they are not so free while women are about and they have to mind their “ps and qs”. The Sergeants resent women working in their Messes, more than the officers and men do.

I can understand their point of view and yet at the same time they might appreciate that women are only out to do their bit, and not out purposely to send the men back to the front. Of course I think the trouble is that on the whole the women hold their own so well that the men think that after the war they’ll be kept on. But if they only knew, no woman would choose to live in a camp, it is simply that “duty” calls just now and she can do nothing less than obey. There will be conscription among women before long, the Army is calling for many more than have volunteered.

The “educated” man amongst all the ranks says that women are most useful and absolutely necessary now to enable the war to be carried on. It is only the grumbler who makes things difficult and we can easily live above his views on the subject.

The discipline in a Canadian camp is not the same as I was accustomed to see carried out in cantonments in India but I think just as good work is obtained from the men so that is all that matters.

It will be great fun comparing our experiences after the war is over.

I’m sure you never dreamt that I should reside in a camp! Unless as your wife perhaps! But even so, the officers’ wives don’t live in camp here. The only women resident here are those of the WAAC and the Masseuses.

I feel quite lost not being able to wear my engagement ring – that finger feels cold without its ring which it has constantly worn for so many years.

How gay you are out East! An article headed “Bagdad Regatta” caught my eye today! What energy too in a climate of 112° to 120°! Do they require women to substitute men in Bagdad?! The only thing is we should be rather done in the eye if they substituted me for you. We should be no forwarder than we were before! Unless they gave us both 10 days leave at Bussorah before we joined up!

Those two brother officers of yours who have cleverly arranged to have fiancées at Bussorah, are really clever. Personally I think it would be rather tantalizing to know you were so near and yet so far. The quick post would be awfully nice though. We wouldn’t have to wait so long to clear up any little misunderstandings, should we?!

My other letter is a horrid one this mail. I wonder if you’ll be very cross when you read it.

God bless you, dear, and keep you safe until we meet again. All my heart’s love is yours as ever.
Ever your own devoted


Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 31st October 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 sheets of notepaper
Record Office Reference