Dec 27th 1914
My dear Mother
You will wonder how I have been getting along here, so I must write this evening while I have the chance. We have done practically no work. On Thursday morning we went out for a short route march. Just about half the company turned up, which was about what I really expected. Still it was pretty sickening having 130 absentees. A corresponding number of A company were kept back so as to have the necessary number of men here.
I have shifted my quarters once again. A lot of us have gone into a large empty house, which is in normal times the residence of a General or some such person. At present I have quite a good sized room on the ground floor, and am by myself. It is of course rather bare, being unfurnished. The house is about 7 minutes’ walk from the mess and is in a nice situation, just out of sight of Tidworth, the further slope of a hill. The distance is the chief disadvantage.
Nobody was very elated at having to spend Christmas Day in this desolate place; however the occasion was suitably celebrated so that one could feel that it really was Christmas. The men had a good midday spread and seemed extremely boisterous; according to established custom all the officers looked in at the beginning of the meal. We drank the men’s health to the accompaniment of much shouting and then retired, leaving them to stuff themselves as much as they pleased.
A troupe of professional entertainers were engaged to give this regiment and the Staffords an entertainment at 6.30 each night on Thursday, Friday and yesterday. They were quite a good lot – rather too good for their audience in fact; and the evenings all went quite well. We had our Christmas dinner at 8.30 and had a very good spread, and people were pretty merry, especially some who went in largely for champagne. Our menu was:
Clear Turtle Soup
Fillets of Sole
Roast Turkey, York Ham
Plum pudding, Mince pies
Herring roes on toast
Not bad for soldiers, technically on active service.
Yesterday was pretty slack again, though I was busy in the afternoon with issue of new clothing (at last!), and some other little odd jobs. I went to the entertainment on each of the three evenings.
Curiously today has turned out far the busiest day we have had, as a collection of all rifles and equipment had to be made, and the whole lot looked over and counted. I didn’t get finished until after 7 o’clock this evening, so was a heathen today by necessity, the company having been excused church parade on account of the work that had to be done. Tomorrow we shall have to start very seriously, and rub off the terrible “Mondayish” character with the men have dropped into.
I was very pleased to get Kath’s letter on Christmas morning, with Arthur’s present enclosed. The gloves fit well, and are most welcome; they are sure to be very useful in cold weather. I wore them on Christmas afternoon when out for a walk with Marshall.
Mela managed to get time to write to me on Christmas Eve; she seems to have been welcomed back very heartily by both nurses and patients. I am looking forward to hearing how you all fared over Christmas, and expect I shall have a letter very soon telling me of your doings. I wonder whether George got off or not? It was annoying having to go away just two days before.
Best love to you all from
Your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden