Skip to main content

July 5th 1915 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his father, Julius Sladden

5th July 1915
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Julius Sladden, Seward House, Badsey
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

July 5th 1915

My dear Father

I have just finished a long delayed letter to Arthur, and must get on with yours, as we are due at next port about breakfast time tomorrow. We didn’t make a very long stay at the town whose name (as a matter of form) I omit to mention. We have to censor the men’s letters, and they are forbidden to insert place names this constituting a simple and thoroughly efficient sort of rule, so it doesn’t seem quite fair to mention any oneself, though one feels capable of using judgement in the matter. Luckily up to the present there has been no difficulty at all in making perfectly clear everything I have wanted to without actual mention of names. So long as I continue to be able to send postcards from on shore the difficulty ought not to crop up.

At the present time we are going along some little distance from and unfortunately out of sight of the place where Arthur went and did his digging. So my earlier surmises as to our first destination were more accurate than the later ones which I made before we left Blackdown. I should have been well content to have spent some time at our last stopping place had we made a base of it. Still by this arrangement I see a little more of the world, which is quite satisfactory as long as one is on a trip of this sort.

We are of course quite in the dark as to what will happen after we arrive tomorrow, whether we remain on board or go into camp ashore, to embark again later for the final trip. Also the length of the stay is equally uncertain, but I think it is bound to be some days at least. Before leaving on Saturday we took on board a small draft of men just to go to the next place, where they will have to be put ashore. So we are now packed more tightly than ever on board.

It was a very pleasant change to get ashore for a few hours. We were delayed a little in getting into harbour, and hung about outside for an hour or two. Then when we moved it was some time before we got to our mooring, as the harbour is a long one, and we went some distance in. Then there was some delay before we could get permission to go ashore, as the CO had to find out how long we should be there. So we had dinner, which is at 6.30 on board and got our permission almost immediately afterwards. Only officers and warrant officers were able to go, and we had to be back at eleven. Unfortunately who happened to be on duty lost the chance altogether. We were moored out in the middle of the harbour, surrounded by boats – bumboat men trying to swindle the men of what little cash they possessed, urchins waiting to dive for coins, and the local gondola which goes by the name of daighsi (spelling uncertain, but I believe correct, pronunciation by ignoring the gh). So we all took a daighsi and got on shore. The chief part of the town lies high up on a hill above the harbour, and the cliffs, naturally steep, have been built up yet steeper by great ramparts which go sheer up to a considerable height. We took a lift up to the top of these, and reached a place laid out as a sort of gardens, from which a fine view of the harbour could be gained. Then we walked on into town. We kept to the main streets as it was after dark, and found it very entertaining. The part of the town we saw was beautifully clean (in great distinction I believe from lesser streets) and well lighted. The very light stone of which the whole place is built makes it look very nice, and the streets being thronged with people, and the shops when we first arrived all open and lighted up made everything look very gay. In a large open square a military band, of what regiment I did not find out, was playing, and playing rather well. There are a lot of very fine public buildings about.

The feature which I thought much the most striking of all was the very complete mixture of English and foreign elements in everything. English is commonly spoken, almost everybody seemed to know it a little at least; the shops were extremely English, and the windows were filled with perfectly familiar wares, and English money passes anywhere. Also there were quite a lot of English about, chiefly soldiers of course, both garrison and wounded. At the same time the majority of people about, especially the women, were more of the Italian type, and the buildings and streets were absolutely foreign in appearance. One was struck by the large number of women and girls who wore the long black mantilla over head and shoulders; they made me think at first that the wearers were nuns but I soon discovered the mistake, especially after seeing a British tar enjoying conversation with three of them!

The harbour being at all times a naval base of considerable importance was naturally very interesting indeed; unfortunately description of what I saw is almost entirely censorable matter. There is no harm in saying we had a splendid close view of much of what there was there, and to me at least, whose experience of these things is about as small as anybody’s, it was most interesting. We made a great show of our departure, with everybody on deck - and that is about the utmost number that can be packed on it - and the drum and bugle band playing, as we slowly moved out past the ships lying there in harbour. We exchanged orations with the crews who turned out in great numbers to watch us go by. Not the least amusing point was a chorus of “Tipperary” by a whole crowd of half-clothed, dirty, brown-skinned native urchins.

We actually moved out of harbour about lunch time on Saturday, as there was a certain amount of cargo to be loaded before we could move. We have been going along very steadily, with a breeze behind us ever since, and hotter weather than we have previously had.

I expect I shall be able to send you more news posted on shore in a few days. I think we certainly ought to get some letters at last, there has been heaps of time for plenty to catch us up I should think. We managed to get Daily Mails of the 25th and 26th on Friday but beyond this we have had to rely upon the scanty wireless, and that has given out now, as we are too far off to pick up the British, and the French is as dull as may be.

Best love from
Your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden

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