Blue Sisters Hospital
Sept 4th 1915
My dear Mother
Another English mail reached Malta yesterday afternoon and the midday delivery today has just brought me four letters including yours of the 24th. The mails are very irregular now; a letter can get through in five days, but normally they seem to take longer, so I ought to get later ones again before long with any luck. One from Mela posted on the 25th also reached me.
It struck me after I had sent my cable that I might have worded it so as to give your rather more information. I had grown so accustomed myself to the knowledge that my wound was not in the least severe that I didn’t quite realise, as I despatched it rather hurriedly, that you might all be wondering whether I had half my head blown off.
Practically the wound is healed now, and I no longer have a dressing on it; I have only to get the bruise to disappear and get the use of my arm and shoulder back again. I can move it quite freely up to a point, and it is getting stronger steadily. I haven’t any idea what is likely to happen to me, whether I shall get sent elsewhere or kept here till I am declared fit, nor do I know how long it may be before I am regarded as fit. There seems a most amazing lack of method in the dealing with cases who get sent here and there in a most disconcerting manner according to the orders that happen to be received at the time. Apart from going to England, it is most satisfactory to remain in one place as long as possible I think, because then one does at least get letters. If I am extraordinarily lucky, I may some day get some of the letters you addressed to the regiment, but I know it is always a most uncertain and slow process getting them forwarded on to hospital. A letter which Aunt Lottie wrote me happens to give the information I rather wanted to hear that the presents I sent you and Mela from Alexandria arrived all right. I was just due to get your replies to my Alexandria letters when I left the peninsula, so they are still wandering.
I have been going out every day for the last week, generally in the evening so as to avoid the worst of the heat. One day I drove four or five miles across the island to the old capital of Citta Vecchia where is the cathedral of St Paul. Like all the churches here it has no claim to architectural beauty, but is very highly decorated and is chiefly remarkable for its old pictures which are very numerous. It is difficult to appreciate them in an ordinary look round, particularly as the lighting is generally poor. I was very much struck by the choir stalls, the backs of each containing a picture of one of the saints executed with wonderful skill in inlaid wood. There were also two fine mosaic pictures of St Peter and St Paul, in both of which it was impossible to see that it was mosaic work unless one got the light shining in a certain way on the surface. The whole floor was paved with the tombstones of bishops, all in inlaid marble.
One gets fine views all round the island from Citta Vecchia, which lies high. We walked round a bit and had tea at a hotel there and returned to Valletta by train on the one and only little railway line the island boasts of. Yesterday evening while in Valletta, I went into the co-cathedral, as it is called, of St John. This is even more magnificently decorated than St Paul’s though one of the great features are only to be seen on rare occasions, namely the tapestries which are very large and number 14 I think, being made to fit into the upper parts of all the archways down each side of the nave. Almost all the walls are covered with elaborate carved stone, gilded, and to my taste gaudy and not beautiful. The roof is covered with a wonderful scheme of pictures which is very fine, but not easy to comprehend though I gathered that they were intended to picture incidents in the life of St John the Baptist. The side chapels – one for each of the different sections of the Order of the Knights of St John – contained many good pictures and some tombs, all magnificent work and material but some of them rather Georgian in design. There were several portraits of Grand Masters. The floor resembled that of St Paul’s, only the tombs contained knights instead of bishops. The silver railings in front of one chapel are one of the show features; Napoleon stole the gold ones on the opposite side!
In the Union Club, Valletta, of which all wounded officers are honorary members, I can see all the English papers and most of the serious illustrated papers and magazines. I dined there two nights ago with the officers of the North Staffords whom I met. It is rather a pleasant change to have a meal out as the food here, though mostly good and well cooked, is monotonous and lacking in variations.
We get a perfectly horrible accumulation of trashy literature in hospital here, either bought in town or sent. There is a sifting of respectable stuff, such as better weeklies and good books, and the local bookshops have a plentiful supply of Millions in Engagement series etc so I do quite well. I have read novels by Bram Stoker, W J Locke, a recent book on Russia by Bishop Buzy, David Copperfield and a lot of Carlyle’s essays since I got wounded – a pretty good list for me in three weeks.
Yesterday in Valletta Cecil Jeffries accosted me and told me he was on the list for England, hoping to be sent any time. He is sure to get some leave, so I expect you will see him in Badsey before so very long. He seemed to be getting along well and looked pretty fit.
You will see I really am not in want of anything. In any case it is never worth asking for things as the chances are one gets moved before there is time to get a return by post, and then the parcel either gets lost or wanders about for months. It is much better for anybody who wants to spend money to give it in one of the innumerable ways in which it is doing certain good to plenty of people who badly need it.
I wish I could be at home for the fruit season, but if I was I should not be able to take a very active part which would be tiresome. As I write, a second instalment of the mail has been brought me bringing letters from Betty and Kathleen posted the 26th and 27th, also The Sphere which I hadn’t seen. It is very nice to get accounts of all your doings; letters are the chief event of life here. I must go out now for my daily exercise.
Best love to everybody
From your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden