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November 21st 1917 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

21st November 1917
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, Greenhill School, Evesham
Correspondence To
Captain Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

WAAC Residential Hostels
Somerfield, Sutton Coldfield
attached Command Depôt Camp

at Greenhill School

To Postal Dept
If this letter should go astray please return to the Unit Administrator at the above address

My own dear Cyril

I am home on a couple of days leave – arriving yesterday afternoon. Ethel is staying with Kath so there is only your Father and May at home. Today he was taking his lunch with him to the office so I came up here to lunch.

Before starting for Evesham, I went over to the churchyard with some flowers to put on the little Mother’s grave – some very pretty pink and shaded chrysanthemums. It made me sad to think of when we shall both visit Her Grave together the first day we meet again at Seward House. I am afraid you’ll miss her presence sorely and I shall not be able to fill that gap in your life.

On the way up here I called to see Aunt Edith. She has had a bad mental breakdown and has been quite peculiar – her nurse is leaving today and a lady is coming to live with her as a companion. Aunt Edith is much altered and very frail looking. Her mind is quite clear now but she suffers from constant fits of depression.

May's school is blossoming forth slowly but surely. She has five weekly boarders and one permanent boarder, and 42 day children. Miss Rawlings, Marjory Slater’s Aunt, boards here as well, so it all brings grist to the mill, and there is another permanent boarder coming next term.

Marion is better than she was last term but is still not as well as she might be. Dr Hathorn thinks her very delicate, Marjory tells me, but he hasn’t told Marion so, of course.

It is quite nice to get away from camp for a bit, just to get one’s brain clear from a seething muddle of army forms. I expect I feel like you used to do when you came to Badsey once or twice from camp. You used to say you were sick of men, men, men – well, I get sick of men, and women too! Now there are both in the army there is no getting away from one kind of companionship to the other.

My position at the Command Depôt is that of any officer in command of a Unit, and I am responsible to the General only.

My orderly room is a very strict one so if you come home you must put on your best party manners when you report at my orderly room!

The last time we heard from Wilfred he was Adjutant at the Depôt at Nowshera and getting on well. He likes the Sepoys very much – the 94th Russell’s Infantry is a Sepoy Regiment. He expects to go to your part of the world but knows nothing for certain.

We are all so sad at the loss of General Maude. No one knew he was ill so his death came as a shock. The papers say he was stricken down suddenly by a fatal tropical disease – but everyone wonders whether there was treachery. The troops under his command must be feeling his loss terribly, he was such a fine leader, and it will be difficult to replace him.

Tomorrow night I am dining with Captain & Mrs Collard, RAMC. He is working under Colonel Sloan whose medical unit is attached to the Command Depôt. The Collards are friends of Irene’s and Maud’s too, which is jolly for me.

I have lost nearly all trace of that attack of flu and the rest from work for a couple of days is allowing my brain to recuperate. Flu leaves one suffering from brain fag and depression – a most melancholy feeling.

I often wonder how I come to hold such a responsible position! It seems so odd after years of comparative drudgery. But I suppose years of discipline, and learning to obey, gradually teaches one how to command.

I am getting to know quite a lot of people at Sutton even outside the camp. The Rector, Canon Barnard, has called, and has introduced me to several very nice people, who have called too so I’m quite in the swim, eh what?!

The camp officers are quite nice and friendly. Just at first I rather felt the shade of Kitchener hovering over me! A woman in a camp – preposterous!!! However that is all past and I hope we shall sail along, at least, not in any worse muddle, than the men’s army. They do get tied up in knots and no mistake. Men do not seem to see things as quickly as women. I’ve grasped an order while an officer is thinking about it. He probably understands it better when he has grasped it, but by then the time for action is almost passed, and it is too late to save the situation!

I read May and your Father some extracts from recent letters of yours last night. They were very interested.

Later – I am continuing this after getting back from Greenhill School. I was a bit fagged so had a snooze first. One easily tires after influenza. Your Father asks me to tell you that The Observer did not come last Sunday and he cannot trace it so he is afraid that you will miss getting a copy by this mail. He will be writing to you next mail.

I wrote Jack, Ethel and Juliet a joint letter yesterday for their birthdays. It is May’s birthday tomorrow but we had her cake today so that I could have some of it. I have to go back tomorrow.

Ada tells me that Mrs Allsebrooke called to see me today! Wonders will never cease! This is the first time she has ever paid me a formal call!

How do you like this snap of me? It was taken the day Maud came to see me. A man was going round the camp taking snaps and asked us if he might snap us. I am sorry I’ve got my Burberry on because you cannot see all my decorations! On each shoulder strap of my tunic coat I have 3 metal roses and the WAAC badge on the lapels of the coat – and the Royal standard buttons in bronze.

1 rose = Subaltern Company
2 roses = OC Company – also adjutant
3 roses = Commanding Officer of an Unit

We have not so many ranks for officers as the men have. It is not necessary because the strength of our Army is much less. You’d be surprised if you knew how many women are required. I must not tell you in a letter.

You’ll hear all sorts of rumours, bad, good and indifferent about the WAACs (commonly known as the Wacks!) but you can take them all with a pinch of salt. We are no worse and no better than other human beings who live upon this earth – but it is marvellous the tall tales one hears about the Corps.
By the way the other lady in the snapshot is Mrs Collard – with whom I am dining tomorrow night.
I am going to try and hire a piano soon. I miss one awfully and do hope I can contrive to get one not too expensive and yet good.

Aunt Lottie made your Father a present of chintzy covers for the drawing room easy chairs and sofas – they look so fresh and nice. The only thing against these beautiful covers is that we shall be bound to sit up very princely and properly in them – when you come home from the front. Perhaps I ought to have said this fact was in their favour. I was certainly off my guard when I wrote the opposite – dear me – another effect of flu – inability to control the thoughts behind one’s pen!

Lots of the officers at the Command Depôt at Sutton Coldfield went through the Gallipoli campaign.

Colonel Sloan RAMC was one – he was attached to some Scotch Regiment. Would it be Borderers? Captain Gaffney was another but for the moment I forget what regiment he was in at the time.

You see this Depôt is for training TU Officers and men to go back to the front, so that no two men belong to the same regiment. It is quite puzzling because the name of the Regiment is no guide as to his status in the camp and even rank does not place a man exactly.

I must close, Sweetheart, now. I am sleeping in the room which used to be yours. You can guess my thoughts and dreams in consequence. Some day they will come true, if God blesses us and grants us our hearts desire. All my love, man of mine. Come back to me strong in mind and will as when you went away.

Ever your devoted

Letter Images
No date but postmark is 22nd November. Cyril received the letter on 23rd January 1918.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Record Office Reference