Jan 17th 1915
My dear Mother
You will be wondering how I am getting on since our rather sudden change of quarters. Although rumours of the move were going about for some days we didn’t know definitely whether we should be going or not until Monday. The first idea was that the brigades should go to Winchester and Torquay, and then they tossed for it and we got the latter. However the orders came then that it was to be Basingstoke. A lot of second army have been here recently but moved into huts at Perham Down for a short time to do range firing, and have now gone on I believe to Weston. The Canadians are to occupy the barracks at Tidworth; I fancy there were some still under canvas, and it was found that the bad weather, and all the mud was having a bad effect on their health. So they had to be moved into barracks and we had to turn out to make room for them. I think very few either of officers or men were sorry to say goodbye to Tidworth which is a dreary spot, and we were all rather tired of being removed from all civilization. All the men thought they were going to have the time of their lives in billets; however A and C companies are billeted in the schools, and are tightly packed into the bargain and not at all comfortable, so that they are suffering rather badly from disappointment, and we have some little trouble in the evenings in consequence. What makes things worse is the reports the other companies give of all their comforts in houses, reports which are probably laid on rather thick just to make them tell. However I hope they will settle down now; I think something should be done to make them a bit more comfortable, but they rather spoil what sympathy one has when they go making a nuisance of themselves.
It was rather a troublesome job moving, especially this end where the baggage was badly managed and the men had a fearful struggle to find their kit bags especially as it got dark while the proceedings were going on. Luckily it was quite fine.
I am quite well looked after in my billet here. The greater number of our officers are in or close to the road, which is a nice road full of fairly new villas chiefly semi-detached. Our people here are shopkeepers, very decent, but not pretending to any very high social status. The master of the house is an oldish man who still looks after his business which is I think that of tailor and outfitter. He has a son living here who is in the business with him, and a daughter (beginning to get on in years) who helps in the house. She does a great part of the housework herself, though a servant is kept. You have not seen The Great Adventure, but it will give most members of the family some idea of my surroundings when I say that I felt on arrival as if I had been billeted in the little Putney villa of Janet Cannot. I have a table and comfortable chairs in my room upstairs but am pretty free of the house, so spend a good deal of time downstairs where there is a fire, as I don’t care to ask for one upstairs particularly. As meals are very early in the house I generally get mine alone rather later, as my times don’t fit in. The food is quite simple, but well-cooked and very plentiful. As I am not the first officer to be billeted here my ways are pretty well understood.
I don’t expect we shall be here more than two or three weeks. Some rumours suggest that we shall return to Tidworth, but I think more probably we shall go straight to Aldershot when we leave here.
Basingstoke is not a bad little town, a bit larger than Evesham I should think. It looks pleasant enough country around, though not very open and I expect we are likely to have to go some distance for training. We had a short route march yesterday afternoon, but have not done anything beyond that so far. We had church parade this morning in the Parish Church of St Michael’s, which is quite a fine old church. I went there this evening again.
We have been very lucky in our weather here up to the present; it is such a pleasant change from what we have been having at Tidworth.
Mela seems to be settling down by degrees to her new work, but it has been as much as she could manage to start with. She has a Sister with a bad temper whom she works under which is rather bad luck, but I judge that her work is giving satisfaction. A week ago when Mr Barling had a private case on she expected to be replaced by a 3rd year nurse but was kept on for it.
I have been finishing this letter while I ought to be going to bed, especially as I want to be up in good time, so I will close.
Best love from
Your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden
PS - Please thank Ethel for the mittens and her letter. The former will be quite useful. If she has any socks for the men I have several who are very short, and I could find suitable owners for mittens too.