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October 22nd 1915 - Letter from Arthur Sladden to his sister, Kathleen Sladden

22nd October 1915
Correspondence From
Arthur Sladden, Meerut BF Hospital
Correspondence To
Kathleen Sladden, 12 Charleville Circus, Sydenham, London SE
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Meerut BG Hospital


My dear Kathleen

It was such a pleasure to get your nice long letter, your name has been on a list of people awaiting letters from me for some time now. I am glad you appreciate the reasons for Mary not coming to town with Baby just now. Although as I pointed out to her the actual chances of any harm coming are so far as we can tell extremely small, still there is risk these days, and as there is no necessity whatever for the baby to be exposed to them I think Mary’s decision is quite right. Mothers (and fathers too) don't always find themselves thinking mathematically at times of crisis. I naturally don't like any appearance of panic, but this is really a measure of common prudence. Of course if my work took me to London they would join me there without any hesitation, unless I thought it better not: things haven't come to that stage fortunately.

Meanwhile Mary will be at Badsey for a few weeks and then at her home till after Xmas and then she must make some definite arrangements. I think she finds Dowlais with Baby quite a different proposition to Dowlais before our marriage, and of course if she wishes it I know that an arrangement for her to make that her home temporarily would please her Mother very much. I want her however to feel she has freedom of action in the matter. Perhaps in such a case as this the "wait and see" policy is justifiable; by January some plan must be come at.

I am glad to hear you think of looking round for a change of work soon - being deprived of initiative and freedom of action is galling beyond words. I found that especially at first in this Corps. However at my present job I am very much my own master, and in my own sphere of bacteriology what I say goes! If I say a man has typhoid he has and "there's an end ont". We are quite a happy crowd of five at the Meerut Mess. I have quite as much work as is good for me, but not often too much, so time passes quickly and the work is interesting as a rule. We are part of the special organisation for rooting out infective diseases and notably typhoid, and as my specialist knowledge is being utilised I have not that satisfactory feeling that I'm a square peg in a square hole, and incidentally that the supply of pegs of the necessary shape is not unlimited!

It's good to get news of the boys frequently, I think with any luck George should get his leave this side of Xmas. And the dear old Boo I should think may very likely change his venue a little for the north and west. I am fearfully anxious just now about our handling of the near east problem. If only they will act strongly enough and quickly enough the outcome may be all to the good, but one fears so much the "wait and see" way of governing may let us down hopelessly. Have we no really great men, statesmen or soldiers, or is your suggestion that a democracy is incapable of finding out and retaining great men, the correct explanation? One feels that now the weak part is less the executive management of departments and units but more the lack of firm and decisive control at the top: that I suppose is Carson's reason for retirement. But what would he advise in the Near East now? The past there is done with and I have no use for those whose time is being spent in girding at past mistakes.

We may yet come to a dictatorship - a good thing if the man to run it could be spotted. One thing I would do - abolish all newspaper placards, and all journalistic headings. Make the papers go back to the dull forms of a century ago - then those who want the news and the facts can dig it out - and those who want cheap and fictitious victories can go hungry. Any journalistic misdemeanour would be instantly shaped by suspension of the paper, but the printing of achieved facts, good or bad, would in no circumstances be a misdemeanour. The fault would lie with the officer who gads about letting out secrets. The army and I suppose the government offices, are full of people out to impress their friends with titbits of special information which isn't to go any further, and the higher executive people out here number many offenders of that type.

I had a letter from Norton some days back, he is running a motor ambulance convoy with the French in Champagne, had had a fearful time recently. He says he is nearly as sick with our country as with his own, and that "in a people who will put up with the censorship, refuse conscription, have strikes and tolerate night clubs betokens something very rotten in their state". Outspoken, but there's much truth in it. The pity is that although there are so many millions whose attitudes and actions are both beyond praise, yet there remain sufficient other millions who really only deserve to go in their selfishness and blindness under the German heel. What that heel means, and for we English especially, that poor girl’s fate in Brussels shows. I think that and the sinking of the Lusitania have perhaps stirred one's wrath more than many of their acts which doubtless were as bad and if possible worse.

It's rather curious isn't it that I who came out in the first month of the war have yet to hear a German gun, while you at home are on occasion in the thick of it. Your account - so discreet too - was very interesting. I'm glad to hear Jack is fitter, and with less overtime now perhaps he will be able to carry on all right.

I get cheerful letters from Badsey, Dorothy Mary seems to be proving herself very charming, although she is not shy about screaming at times. I hear they are now getting a maid again. With colder weather it must be difficult for them to manage without, and both May and Ethel must be regarded as otherwise occupied most of their time.

I see very few papers these days, but I don't know that I miss much. The Paris Daily Mail comes in about 11 am, a boiled-down Daily Mail and I get The Observer some days late. It takes a high patriotic kind of view, but much of Garvin's talk, though blameless in taste and intention, is rather high-falutin' nonsense. Every week it is THE CRISIS - and it's been so ever since the far off days of ordinary politics in 1913-14. Only we never get to the top of the curve.

Cold days are slowly creeping on; we ought to have a wooden hut for mess and ante-room by now but the building process seems to be slow. I hope it’s ready before there is snow on the ground! I have rather a nice tent but it’s pretty chilly at times. Nearly all the MOs at No 9 General have moved on. Most of the hospitals are a bit understaffed now, I expect other regions are demanding a big medical staff and that reinforcements are deflected from here.

This letter is assuming the dimensions of an essay, or even a thesis! I hope you'll find time to read it, not for anything of value in it, but because I shouldn't like to feel I'd wasted so much time.

I hope Mrs Horsman is well. Give her my best remembrances. I hope something good will turn up for you when you start looking.

With love to you and Jack.

Your affectionate brother

Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 double sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
Record Office Reference