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September 25th 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

25th 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 Park Convalescent Camp

Sept 25th 1917

My own dear Cyril

A letter from you reached me at tea time today – it was so nice – my first letter from you in camp here. You little guessed when you wrote it that I too should be in the Army by the time it reached me – in khaki - and living in camp!

Miss Bradley and I had just returned from seeing one of the women off by train and on the way home, the thought was in my mind that another mail ought soon to be in and how welcome one would be.

We had a thrilling night last night. There was a Zeppelin raid on London by moonlight. We had just begun supper, when suddenly every light went out. About half an hour before, Miss Bradley had been warned that an air raid was in progress and to be prepared. We sent each girl to her own hut and detailed different women to keep each little squad in order while we went from hut to hut seeing everything was all right.
Our orders were that if the fire alarm bugle was blown, Miss Bradley and I were to take the women out on to the Downs, and separate them one by one and make them lie down on the ground. This would be safer than remaining in wooden huts. As the men had the same orders, you can imagine the Downs would have been pretty crowded! This Camp holds 8000, but this week there are only about 6500 including the Staff. We stood by until 10 pm and then we told the women to go and lie on their beds and we would rouse them if necessary. About 11 pm the lights were put on again so we knew that all was serene and we went to bed ourselves.

We could see bombs bursting etc and hear the roar of the guns, feeling the vibrations too. Another raid is expected again tonight. There are special shelters now in London and houses and shops with basement accommodation have a sign posted up such as “you may shelter here”, so that people may enter at will. The papers reveal that the raiders were over Kent, Essex, London, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire!

We are having beautiful moonlight and starlit nights just now, and it is just wonderful out here on the Downs – nights made for lovers, not raiders. Standing out in the moonlight last night watching the raid – my thoughts went out to you and although I did not want you there while the raid was in progress, yet I thought “what a night to waste”. It was a night such as you love – the air was balmy and soft and the stars were brilliant.

I wonder how Kath and Jack fared. Not having anything special to do over the weekend, I went up on Saturday afternoon to see them and remained until Monday morning (yesterday). Their house in Bath Road is a great improvement on the Sydenham one. The rooms are large and airy – thus the furniture shows to greater advantage. Besides a drawing and dining room, Jack has a study which also serves as a smoking room, which leads out on to a very wide balcony, which Kath calls her garden. The garden at the back is quite nice and occupies most of Jack’s spare time. The housekeeper, Mrs Whitefield, is a capable young woman of 25. She has her little boy of 2½ with her – whom she brings up in the way he should go. She is the widow of a man very much older than herself. Kath finds her invaluable.

Miss Bradley and I have been invited to a Baseball match tomorrow. I’ve never seen the game played before. The Canadians are crazy on the game, and Captain McKinley, who heads the team here, is a crack player. All the men have been sent out to France and unable to go back at present at any rate. Captain McKinley is an ugly little man – red hair and freckled - “very Canadian”, and plenty of money! You can guess the style. Still – he means well!

Your account of the divisional gramophone made me feel quite sad. To think that such a small thing is so rare where you are, when it gives so much pleasure. I hope General Maude will have some more sent out to him.

There was an article in yesterday’s “Daily Mail” by Lovat Fraser, giving his views as to the Turks Schemes for the winter campaign in Mesopotamia. He tries to impress on the public not to be too sniffy about the strength of the Turkish Army, at the same time re-assuring them that Bagdad will remain in our hands. By now you must have a pretty clear idea of the campaign which is ahead – and I quite expect to see accounts of fighting within the next few weeks. It is only natural that the enemy should try to retake Bagdad. I should say his schemes go further afield too, and there will probably be “something doing” on the Indian frontier.

We heard from Wilfred last week. He is attached to the 94th Russell’s Infantry, Nowshera. He expects to be sent to Mesopotamia or else East Africa before Xmas. At present he is busy stewing Hindustani with a Munshi. He is most indignant at having to keep 4 servants, when, as he says, there is not enough work to keep a woman busy for half a day! He was on the look-out for a horse, and when he gets it, his syce will have a bit more to do.

I believe Betty is going to stay down at Marlow, some time this week.

Did I tell you Barbara has a pupil for French? He is the head boy at Borlase School and is going up for his BA. She gets £1 a week for coaching him in the mornings only. He is supposed to be a very clever boy, but Bar says he is very dense at languages! She did not know at first that it was for his BA that he wanted French lessons. I should think this will lead to her getting other pupils. I am so glad. With this and gardening her days are pretty full.

Miss Bradley has had a field postcard from her fiancé today saying he is in hospital, but not stating that he is either sick or wounded. He has crossed everything out except the fact that he is in hospital. She does not know what to make of it. He is an Australian, and they have been in some very heavy fighting just lately. He was all through Gallipoli, and in Egypt and has been 10 months in France.

When I was on the subject of my visit to Kath – I forgot to mention that we spent Sunday afternoon at Kew. The flowers were lovely and the day was perfect. You could not realize the war there, in spite of the fact that there were hundreds of wounded soldiers roaming the grounds, and three observation balloons were overhead.

I’ve not heard just lately from Badsey but I expect to hear quite soon, because of having had a letter forwarded from you. In spite of the fact that whenever possible, which is nearly always, I send them extracts from your letters, yet I generally get a very broad hint not to forget to do so!

Kath and I went to the Early Service.

Sept 26th – There was another raid last night, nearer to us this time but it was not a very violent one. We were only in darkness for a couple of hours. The night before they actually passed overhead, but dropped no bombs.

I think I’ve given you all the news for this week so I’ll stop scribbling. I hope I shan’t have to wait long for another letter from you. I notice it is oftener once a fortnight than once a week – so I suppose the weekly mails from Mesopotamia have not reached us yet. The mails leave England once a week now and have done for some time.

God bless you – my own man. May He keep you safe until we meet again - keep you just the same dear funny old thing I used to know.

All my love as ever.

Your ever devoted

Cyril received the letter on 11th November 1917.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 5 sheets of notepaper
Record Office Reference