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July 4th 1915 - Letter from Arthur Sladden to his sister, Kathleen Sladden

4th July 1915
Correspondence From
Arthur Sladden, No 9 General Hospital, France
Correspondence To
Kathleen Sladden, 12 Charleville Circus, Sydenham, London SE
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

No 9 General Hospital


My dear Kathleen

It was a great treat to have your nice long letter with real news in it especially of the boys. I only get scanty news of them otherwise. I suppose Cyril is probably at Gallipoli now, I wish I had been able to see him. My last sight of him was at Victoria Station last August when he came to see me off. Is he still machine gun officer, or doing ordinary infantry leading? George appears to have been able to give a fairly detailed account of his movements. I'm so glad he writes cheerfully and doesn't seem to be suffering from nerve strain that affects so many people in this war, and not on our side only I believe. My experience of opinion on shells and kindred questions is that the DM [Daily Mail] was essentially right but that the manner of its attack was deplorable; we haven't got at the truth yet, but it's coming out regretfully.

I hope the country welcomes the Registration bill and that the net result will really be useful. A sentence in Jack’s letter seemed to me to be full of significance, speaking of CS men and enlistment he said that the Somerset House people were not likely to let any more men go because it would necessitate employing women in the Departments! Why not employ them? Really some Government departments are more strangled in precedent and prejudice than are employers. They ought to keep drafting in and training suitable women so as to effect the change as conveniently as possible.

I hope Jack will get his chance at the Arsenal work. It will have a moral value for him and others in like which they will greatly appreciate. In several ways the new government inspire confidence, and one gathers a more hopeful and trustful atmosphere all round, together with a better understanding of the possibilities up against us. I see The Times, DM and Chronicle and note in the latter a better disposition to face facts rather than bury its head in the sand as heretofore.

You may have heard of my immediate plans. I am hard put to it to know what to do but have made a decision. The WO ask whether we wish to renew our contract in August on the same terms, so I take it that they will continue to engage men on the same lines throughout. Leave of more than a few days isn't obtainable, and so I've decided not to sign on just now, but to come home and be with Mary for a few weeks and see what possibilities lie before me in the way of Army employment at home. If anything in England is at all possible lies open I may take it. If not I must sign on again unconditionally: but at least it should be possible to make arrangements for Mary and the baby before I have to go again. Of course from my own standpoint, professionally I mean, I am probably doing foolishly in not carrying straight on. I wrote the WO saying I should probably be prepared to come in again after September, and I hope they'll send me some sort of a reply; it may guide me a bit.

As a matter of fact, Army medical work at home and out here at the base are two very different things. At home there is far more to do and the pay conditions are worse and if I had to choose between being posted say at the Curragh, or on Salisbury Plain, and out here, undoubtedly Rouen would be my wisest choice.

I'm a bad soldier - a good one would take his commission and his orders and never question whether things were being arranged to the best advantage. But fifteen years of having to think and criticise can't be shed instantly and I can't help seeing that even granting the possibilities of great rushes of cases through here in spite of that they are tending to overstaff everywhere. And the reason is that war establishments are based on peace ideas - that medical officers only ought to work three or four hours a day!

In emergencies, and in a few individual instances very hard work and long hours are being done, but at least 80% of the men out here are in no danger of health breakdown from overwork. How things are at home I don't know but can guess.

On principle at this juncture one ought to fall in and make no question, and that is likely to be what I'll do later but I honestly feel that my place can be so readily filled by the people who are tumbling over one another for work, that by withdrawing for a month for what is after all a very urgent private matter, I'm not doing a wrong thing. But I shall feel an awful worm, dropping out even temporarily just now.

Well, the Ordnance people are getting it in the neck and apparently rightly. The medical service on the other hand has great praise, and I suppose it's due largely to lavish preparations against all eventualities, so we must not grumble. But I know many of their temporary lieutenants would willingly work double their present hours and do so efficiently also.

Personally of late I've been pretty busy, doing a good deal of pathology, for which I ought really to get extra pay, but owing to certain circumstances viz a senior officer, incompetent and Scotch, I get left out. If I were staying straight on I should shortly be dropped as pathologist to another unit; however that plan is now off. Actually I much prefer doing ward work, and only a little pathology, but the further work if whole time brings in an extra 2/6 a day. Poor Mela, I feel so sorry for her, she has so much to lose in this war. I hope the heavy work at Bournbrook won't be too much for her.

How little news I get from home. Never anything about Badsey soldiers, whether War Loan is being bought there at all well, I don't even know if the flower show is off this year, but guess it is.

Please thank Jack for his letter and say I'll answer it soon. If, as I suppose, I come home at the end of my contract, I may be in London about August 15th and may be glad to stay a night. For one thing I'll have to dig out some clothes. I hope by that time the flat will be let again, it's rather a dead weight just now. That's another matter I might be able to settle when in England. If your plan of war work for part of August comes off you may be in town then, anyway I gather that Jack will be there till about 23rd. It would be good for Ethel to come up and put in some weeks of work with you. Do you think she will? I suppose she holds many threads at home though.

We are rapidly becoming more colonial, Australians and Canadians both medical and nursing. There's a nice Australian fellow here with an atrocious accent, it is the vilest Cockney and it takes a day or two to realise that a man talking like that is in all essentials the right sort.

Write again if you've time.

With much love.

Your affectionate brother

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 5 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
Record Office Reference