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February 10th 1918 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

10th February 1918
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, WAAC Depot Hostel, Handsworth, Birmingham
Correspondence To
Captain Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

WAAC Depôt Hostel
Handsworth College

Feb 10th 1918

My own dear Cyril

There is one thing in favour of being laid up for a few days. It gives me an opportunity to write to you! I am only temporarily indisposed through taking a bad chocolate! I don’t buy chocs in war time except on very special occasions. This one was given to me and seems to have poisoned me. This is the only thing to which I can trace it. It cannot be any food we’ve had here because no one else has been affected.

I am going to wire you congratulations tomorrow on your having been awarded the Military Cross. I am wondering if my wire will be the first intimation you will have yourself of the fact. I am longing to know details of how you won it. It came out under the heading of the Mesopotamian Honours List on February 8th. I missed seeing The Times that day through being seedy – your Father’s letter gave me the news today. He is of course simply delighted.

He tells me Aunt Lottie is in a nursing home (he does not give address) after having undergone an operation. Mrs Thornton is with her. The operation revealed grave trouble. I don’t know whether I told you that the doctor feared cancer. If you write to Aunt Lottie don’t mention that her case is thought seriously of – I don’t know whether she has been told or not.

I’m afraid you will find this letter is full of mournful facts. Poor Aunt Edith has been taken to Northampton to a Home for mentally affected people. Marion and Ethel motored there with her yesterday.

Your Father urges me to go to Badsey soon and I think if possible I shall go this week. He, himself, will be going to Folkestone soon to see Aunt Lottie – I’m afraid he is very distressed and worried about her.

The news of your having been awarded the Military Cross will cheer her up I am sure. She always thought there was something wrong somewhere that her favourite nephew should have been overlooked so long!!

Badsey, Febr 12th – I came down yesterday feeling that only change of air and scene would do me good. I saw Dr Leslie today and he considers that the “attack” I had was not due to physical causes at all, simply the result of mental strain showing itself in a physical way. He says I did the wisest thing possible in running away from work for a few days and has given me a medical certificate stating that a week’s rest at least is essential. So I can be lazy for a whole week. I must get back after that as my adjutant has leave due to her from that date and is badly in need of it too.

I brought all dry rations with me for a week – to May’s great delight. The Bacon caused quite a stir in fact it competed with your MC in conversation! Civilians can barely get bacon for love or money. Margarine too was so warmly welcomed that I was afraid it might melt away. The Bacon began to frizzle owing to the heat of its reception and – oh, be quiet Mela – remember you are an UA WAAC addressing the winner of an MC there should be less frivolity in the tone of your letters!

You are the first one from Badsey to win a distinction and the village is very proud. You can guess who is the proudest in the village at this moment. She is like the sailor’s parrot who didn’t say much but thought all the more.

The worry in connection with Aunt Edith has rather pulled your Father down and also about Aunt Lottie. You see with the former money is the difficulty – luckily Tom Sladden wired home £50 when he heard about his Mother’s illness which has helped considerably – but I think your Father is going to help when this is used up. She has been sent to a place called St Andrews at Northampton. Your Father says it is an ideal place in every way and caters for every kind of mental case.

Further reports from Mrs Thornton show that Aunt Lottie has got over the operation and is going on nicely. It was hoped that the cancer would have proved operable. It is on the liver – but it was hopeless so the doctor wrote and told your Father he had made another passage to draw off the bile and prevent it accumulating which will give considerable relief to the patient. These facts are not being made generally known as it is hoped that Aunt Lottie may live for some little time fairly free from pain and comfortable after this and we do not want it to reach her ears at any rate while she is in this weak state after the operation. Mrs Thornton says she is wonderfully cheerful and very happy in the nursing home. I wrote to her last night.

Bernard has been wafted back to New Zealand in order to get his discharge. He was awfully annoyed about it. He and your Father had arranged a jaunt through Kent together, had Bernard got his discharge in England, and they were both so disappointed that it cannot come off now. Bernard sailed 3/2/18 on HM Troopship 3218.

You remember I told you he bought you and me a present of a Worcester china bowl. I did not see it until I came down here yesterday. It is very pretty – willow pattern, only in pale blue, not the usual willow pattern blue.

George expects to get home on leave in a month’s time. Aren’t all these people lucky?! Still dear. They come back – but then there is the going back afterwards. If you came home now it would be simply terrible having to separate again – wouldn’t it?

There is a new Chief Controller WAAC in place of (Mrs) Dr Chalmers Watson who has retired in order to be able to nurse her little son who is very ill. Mrs Burleigh Leach, Controller of Inspection, has been promoted to take her place – wife of Colonel Burleigh Leach. She has gone up right through the ranks, starting as an Assistant Cook in the Women’s Legion before the Wacks came into being. The WL as you know has been absorbed into the WAAC.

Feb 13th – It has taken me nearly all day today to make out some confidential reports on administrators in training, which were forwarded here for me to do. My deputy has very few dealings with them so that it was absolutely impossible for her to deal with them. We do not usually send each other work to do when away on leave but this was imperative as the reports have to reach Headquarters by the end of the week. As Ethel and May were both going to be in Evesham all day I stopped in bed – rested my limbs though not my brain as I made out these reports. However it seems to have rested me. I got up just in time to have tea with your Father. He has to be watched to prevent him eating too quickly. When he is worried now it always shows in this way – he eats far too quickly.

After tea I posted the reports and then went to see Mrs Ashwin. The reflected glory of your MC follows me wherever I go. It is hard luck that I should receive the congratulations when it is you who have won the distinction and should be the one to be congratulated.

Dorothy Young, Mrs Ashwin’s granddaughter, is going to join the WRENS. The women’s air service is going to be known as the Penguins.

I wonder if any of us will get to Baghdad! If I were a Penguin I’d fly to Baghdad. You’d meet me there – wouldn’t you - and we would live through the “Arabian Nights” together.

By the way your Father has got those copies of the Arabian Nights which he has wanted so long – which used to belong to your Father. He remarked last night that he thought it would be appropriate if you had them, having been to Baghdad.

Today is Ash Wednesday. I have been naughty and not been to church. I am not feeling inclined to be any further depressed, and the commination service is the limit if you are in the kind of mood I am in.
I am sleeping in the spare room this time. It is nice to sleep in such a comfy bed again.

In camp we had “biscuits” but where I am now we have ordinary mattresses. I often look ahead to the time when we shall stay here for the first time after we are married and wonder if we’ll feel any different or how we shall feel. We’ve been engaged so long now that it almost seems as if we are married.

Old Mr Doeg is still flourishing. I know you always admired the old man so much.

Did the girls tell you that old Mrs Mustoe is dead? She died soon after Xmas, from heart failure. She got through a severe operation well and then suddenly passed away, quite unexpectedly. You’ll miss many familiar figures from the village, I’m afraid, dearest. Still time brings this to all, doesn’t it?

I hope your poor old back is better. You mustn’t screw yourself up in knots another time. I knew you were fond of untying knots in string, so I suppose you were playing at tying knots for a change and having no string substituted yourself. This is the age of substitutes but it is advisable to choose one’s substitutes wisely.

All my best love, Sweetheart, as ever. God bless you and bring you back safe to me, my own brave man. You shall have a special kiss for each gold stripe, and another for the MC. Aren’t I generous?! And then 1000 just for yourself.

Ever your devoted

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 15th May 1918.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Record Office Reference