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April 21st 1918 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Captain Cyril E Sladden

21st April 1918
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, WAAC Depot Hostel, Handsworth College, Birmingham
Correspondence To
Captain Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Handsworth College
Depôt Hostel QMAAC

April 21st 1918

My own dear Cyril

You will notice that the initials representing our Corps have changed. We are now known as Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the Queen having done us the honour of becoming our Commandant-in-Chief, and we have orders now to call ourselves QMAAC but all the same to the world at large we shall be known as the “Wacks” for evermore.

One of the officers on the Staff had a letter from her brother in India this week, so I have naturally been on the look-out for a letter from you. I ought soon to hear that you know I was transferred from Sutton Coldfield.

Fancy in April and nearly May – England is white with snow and so cold. We are longing for the fine weather to come so that we can start tennis and other outdoor games.

Last week there was a huge Women’s Recruiting Rally held in Birmingham, for all branches of Women’s Services. There were speeches and exhibits in the Town Hall and representatives of every Corps spoke. I was asked to speak but as there was already a very good speaker on the Wacks, I gracefully wriggled out of it. One hundred recruits rolled up for the Wacks, one hundred for the Land Army and 40 for the Women’s Royal Naval Service, commonly known as the “Wrens”. Miss Currie, Deputy Chief Director of the Wrens spoke very well. She is very tall and made an imposing figure in her Admiral’s hat, gold braid and naval uniform. There were 3 processions round the Town composed of squads of women from every corps.
By the way, the order that women are to salute like the men has come through. We are pleased in some ways because up to the present the women only did eyes right to their officers and we could only grin lamely back at them. Now we feel we can acknowledge each other properly.

I was told that Miriam Brown Constable, a second cousin of mine, paraded with the WVRs in the evening. I did not see her because I did not turn up at the Town Hall in the evening.

Uncle Harry inherited from Miriam’s father who was Uncle Harry’s nephew. I think M and her Mother live somewhere near Alcester now.

Thank you very much dear for the cheque for 10/- to buy myself a book of poems for Easter. I am thinking of getting Alfred Noyes’ poems but have not definitely decided.

Last night we had a dance here. The women had invited some of their men friends – among them being some NCOs from the Tank Corps – I had never seen their uniform before.

In the middle of the dance an orderly came and told me that the Wesleyan Chaplain and an Australian Officer wished to see me. I found he was a doctor in the Australian Red Cross in charge of Transport of Australian wounded. He came for assistance the nature of which I must not disclose in case it gave information to the enemy. I was very glad the Wacks could be of help, and I had a message from his Colonel today saying that he was going to send up a report to Headquarters about the practical help etc that the Wacks had rendered.

The Red Cross Doctor had recovered from being gassed – but he had previously been blind for three whole months and his heart is also affected. He is Irish as well as Australian so you can guess his lingo was not easy to understand.

Your Father forwarded me his letter to you about Aunt Lottie’s death, to read. I am so glad he will have something to fall back on in his old age.

You notice he mentions about buying furniture and whether “Mela” should act for you. Should the question definitely arise before he has time to hear from you I will act for you, as I think best, as I feel sure you would wish me to do so. I could have certain pieces of furniture put on one side for you to send payment when you had heard of their having been selected.

It is nearing the anniversary of our Engagement and I am celebrating it by taking Barbara to see “Aida”. She will be staying with me then. And your birthday too will soon be here. God bless you and grant you many happier returns.

Tomorrow night a friend is taking me to see “The Little Brother” by Benedict James – a very good Jewish character play – and in a fortnight’s time I am being treated to “Samson and Delilah”. I have never been to an opera!

Have you read a “General’s letters to his Son” by Smith-Dorrien? They are very good and apply to any subaltern newly joined. I enjoyed reading them very much.

I am really beginning to feel there is quite a good chance that you may get home this year. I keep hearing of men who are at home or have got leave granted them.

After we are married and the honeymoon over it would be quite possible for you to stay here for a bit if you still had some days remaining, supposing I was due back at my post. Administrators are allowed to have their husbands to stay with them for a few days like that. I sleep at Tranby one of the Master’s house in the grounds and have my own sitting room in the Hostel where you could be while I fluttered around tending to my various duties. If you were very good you could come and sit in my office and help!!!

I cannot imagine myself married, sitting here as I am in khaki! I feel sort of something between the two sexes, a war production, like the Tanks and other new inventions!

About going out of the Wacks. We will leave that to time. I’ll only apply for marriage leave and then see if you wish me to come out of the Corps or not. Personally I wish that our heart’s desire may be granted us but at the same time I shall miss the Corps life and the camaraderie of it all.

When I see you and feel you near me and wake up and realize our love fully then I know I shall want all you hint at in your last letter – but at this distance the whole thing seems so far away and unreal – just now and again I can realize it.

Lots of love and a kiss, dear Man of Mine. God bless you and bring you safely through.

Ever your devoted

Letter Images
Cyril received the letter on 20th June 1918.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 2 sheets of notepaper
Record Office Reference