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September 29th 1918 - Letter from Mela Brown Constable to her fiancé, Major Cyril E Sladden

29th September 1918
Correspondence From
Mela Brown Constable, QMAAC, Bulford Camp, Salisbury Plain
Correspondence To
Major Cyril E Sladden, 9th Worcesters, 13th Division, Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force D (readdressed to Badsey)
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

QMAAC Quarters
Bulford Camp
Salisbury Plain

Sept 29th 1918

My own dear Cyril

It is simply raining cats and dogs – as we always get on the Plain, of which I expect you’ve had experience I expect when in training the first year of the war.

I had a couple of short letters from you last week, mentioning your change of address. I haven’t them by me at the moment. The day after I received them the account of the Baku affair, revealed your whereabouts and gave the key to your address. That must have been a nasty piece of work your brigade took part in – I wonder where you went afterwards.

I enclose a letter from Jack for you to read – about the purchases made for us at the sale of furniture belonging to Aunt Lottie. I hope you will feel quite satisfied about it. The last five articles bought appeal to me. I doubt whether I should have bought the odds and ends at the beginning of the list had I been there – still they are quite a good collection for 15/-.

You will see from Jack’s letter that George has been home. His engagement to Rosie seems to be standing the test of time – better than many people thought it would. The greatest bulk of our difficulties here are over I think.

I believe I told you the tone here was very bad amongst the members and necessitated many transfers on disciplinary grounds. These have been accomplished. It has been an anxious time holding one’s own and one met with a lot of opposition from the men. Still, things are better so I must remain where I am and struggle on. The General Officer Commanding General Sclater told me personally that he considers there is a wonderful improvement. All this struggle for keeping up a high standard costs one a great deal of mental effort, and I feel it very much at times.

The winter in England is going to be very trying owing to the shortage of coal, and the coal one does get is so poor that potatoes put on at 10.00 am are not boiled through by one o’clock.

Our quarters and those of the women have been made more habitable which is a blessing with the winter coming on. Since I came here we have opened a new mess for the Forewomen and a new mess for ourselves.

When I came we used to have our meals in the office! Now I have my own sitting room as well as an office and there is a nice common room and mess room combined for the assistants. The engineers have put in a lovely bath for us too, with a Sawyer’s stove boiler attached, which is a great luxury.

The girls get heaps of fun. I am President of our own Regimental Institute and we get up all sorts of shows. This week we are having a Fancy Dress Ball. Great excitement prevails everywhere!

I am just longing for you to come home, dear. My deputy, Mrs Bryant, is a dear girl and we are great chums but her friendship does not satisfy me. I want you, my man. It will be just great when you do come home.

It is getting more and more difficult to get out of the Wacks even after one is married. There is such a shortage of women. In the case of a member wishing for her discharge to get married, the man’s Commanding Officer has to state that there is no likelihood of the man being sent overseas. The man has to sign that he has a home which requires his wife’s presence to look after it. If the man is a minor he has to get his parent’s consent. By the time all the formalities have been gone through the war might be over. Marriage without discharge is allowed. A month’s unpaid leave can be granted to the member.

I am not so clear as to the procedure in the case of officials but I shall soon know, as one of my assistants has put in for her discharge in order to get married.  I have sent up her application and asked what further action is necessary to be taken to procure her discharge.

Mrs Bryant is feeling very sad – her brother, who has been missing, is now proved to have died of his wounds on the field.  It appears to have been a case where he might have lived had someone remained with him to help him.

Did I ever tell you I bought two volumes of Alfred Noyes’ poems with the 10/- you sent for Easter.  I have also had the Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke given me recently containing a memoir.

Mrs Bryant’s husband, after paying us a visit here, gave me the Oxford Book of English Verse, so I am getting along famously with my collection.

I hope I shall be able to get to Badsey somewhere near Xmas time.  It is such a long way from here and travelling is so expensive nowadays.

I never hear anything of Mary and Baby these days.  I must write to Mary and see what has happened to her.  I believe Arthur found her very depressed the last time he was home on leave.

The Roman Catholic Padre called the other afternoon.  He had tea with me in my little sitting room.  He said he was too shy to come across to our Mess.  He has studied the “mind” he told me for ten years.  He is very interested in character building and so forth.  We had quite an interesting discussion on social questions during tea.  I should judge he is a man of the people, highly educated.  He is very much liked by the men, and is a great favourite in the Mess.

Yesterday we had Dr Turnbull, the Controller of Medical Services QMAAC from the War Office, to inspect.  She appeared to be charmed with everything – I hope she really was.  Some Controllers appear to be and then a day or two after on receives a circular letter, and wonders if it is meant for your camp or whether it is meant for someone else’s!

There is a plague of flies here just now.  One spends one’s days instructing cooks etc how to deal with them, followed up by an irate SMO with a fierce little white dog on a lead. I don’t know whether the dog eats the flies or why else he comes round on these chases round cookhouses!

We have women attached for duty to different units: MT, MT ASC, ASC, RFA, RHA, AVC.

We are soon opening a school of instruction here for women mechanics. Women mechanics are already employed, but still more are required and very few have the experience necessary – so the ADS is starting a school for them.

All my love, dear, goes out to you. Do try and get leave and yet, who knows, perhaps you are safer where you are.

God bless you, darling.

Ever your devoted

Letter Images
Cyril did not receive the letter until his return to England in 1919.
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Record Office Reference