Dec 10th 1914
My dear Father
I don’t seem to have written home for some little time, so you will be looking for news of me. Arrangements have been made to give us all a week’s holiday. We go a company at a time and the first started this morning. Our time is to come next, so that we are to start on 17th and have to return on the evening of 23rd. Apart from one’s own personal likes and dislikes this scheme of returning two days before Christmas is exceedingly unsatisfactory. I know the men well enough by this time to be perfectly sure that scarcely any will come back until the Saturday or Monday, in fact I gather from my NCOs that this is already an understood thing among them. Breaking pass has been the commonest of all these offences all along – partly because leave has been too much restricted in our brigade. Serious penalties have lately been imposed, but there is safety in numbers, and all that it may be possible to do will be to stop a lot of the men’s pay which will make them all the more discontented. I believe the CO appreciates the unsatisfactory nature of the business but I don’t know whether any change can be made. I sympathize very much with the men. In the first place it is going against human nature to ask anybody to return from leave two days before Christmas; in the second place our men justly claim that they are the only company who did not get 3 or 4 days general leave after the firing, that therefore they deserve some extra recognition now. All things considered there is every reason for altering or extending our time so as to include Christmas if that is possible. But I doubt if it can be done, because we are supposed to hold two emergency companies permanently in readiness and all present, as we are not quite fully up to strength, it needs 3 companies to manage this properly.
So though it seems just possible that a change will be made, still I expect my leave will be from 17th to the 23rd. Meanwhile Mela informs me that (previous to knowing definitely what my arrangements were) she has got on the right side of Matron and secured leave from 23rd to the 26th. This will only just overlap mine, unless one or other gets altered. As Mela got hers specially to have a chance to see me I hope she may get it changed if mine remains the same.
We have it on the authority of orders that in the normal course of events we shall continue our training until the end of February, after which time we may be expected to move to the front at any time. I believe the artillery is the least advanced in training at present, I hear that the whole of the first new army of 170,000 is to go out together, and there is no intention of using us by bits for drafts and reinforcements.
We did a march of 18 or 19 miles today. Rations are carried in a wagon, and the men cooked their own meals at midday, when we had a long halt for the purpose. It was the first attempt, and more generally successful than had been anticipated I think. The weather was perfect for a march, and the men did it well, and seemed to enjoy the whole outing thoroughly. They arrived back very cheerful, and not showing many signs of fatigue, though not sorry to be back again in barracks.
You asked whether the men could do with shirts etc. I could easily find worthy recipients for a fair number of such things, especially shirts, socks and mittens would I think be very acceptable. Send the parcel to me if things are available, and I will give away what I need and hand over excess for other platoons of the company.
I have to make a return of my income to the income-tax. I want to insert the cottages’ share, so will you tell me what it is, also the “full description” they ask for of the property, as I forget which are allotted to me. As a matter of fact I sent in a return early in the summer at Sydenham, so I don’t really know whether I need do this; but as my previous estimate was necessarily all wrong perhaps I had better revise it as long as they ask.
I greatly look forward to a week’s holiday and decent unmilitary existence.
Best love from
Your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden