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November 3rd 1915 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

3rd November 1915
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden, 13th Division Details, "C" Advanced Depot, Lemnos
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Sisters' Quarters, University House, Birmingham
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

“C” Advanced Base Depot

Nov 3rd 1915

My own Darling

We still remain here wondering whether we have been forgotten, or what has caused the delay; meantime we are carrying on the usual inactive existence. There seems little doubt there is something to account for it, so it may be we shall not go after all, but hitherto we have had no information at all.

The day before yesterday I had a splendid mail which turned up just after lunch. There was a parcel which you posted to Malta containing a useful selection of things purchased at Boots; it had come through its travels pretty well except that the [?] had come loose and become rather involved in the vermin powder which had also leaked slightly. However even that damage was separable, and everything else was in good order, so it will be very useful. You made a very sound selection, and thank you very much for it. It is the first parcel I have had out here at all, as I have always recommended sending none, so it was all the more amusing unpacking it. Then I had a whole lot of letters. Yours of Sept 24th, 25th, 27th and 28th (two in one envelope) and 29th; also from Mother Sept 23rd, Father 29th and Arthur Oct 9th. So you can imagine that I had a good afternoon with all that lot to amuse me. It is so satisfactory to receive a packet of letters when one feels that so many are going about from place to place in search of me. Once in one’s hands nothing can take them away, and so much news is reward once and for all however much it is straying. As a matter of fact I feel pretty certain there are piles of mails in harbour here that only want sorting to bring me in a whole heap. Of that last lot some went to Cox’s and some to the regiment, and it was just luck that brought them in together. Your composite address causes some to go one way and some the other, but at present it clearly makes little difference in matter of time.

I was glad to read in your letters that you were feeling better as you grew more used to night work; I hope it is not wearing you out. It was a good thing I had that letter of yours by itself on Sunday before the others turned up, so that I was able to give more attention to it and answer it at once. I hope by the way that my letters get home quicker than home ones come out here just at present. I don’t think I have occasion to modify what I wrote then. Your later letters suggest that I was correct in thinking you felt below your best at the time of writing. You must judge for yourself whether you need a rest or not and arrange accordingly; but I don’t think it is any use taking me into consideration in any way. I am afraid there seems enough going on out this way to keep us here for a long time, maybe till the end of the war whenever that comes. I still hope by the way that it may come rather suddenly when it does come. It seems to me that Germany has gone too far to be able to stop until she has utterly exhausted her men and means. I suppose though we shall see a period of comparative inactivity through the winter. Out here it has been warmer lately again, and the nights are quite mild; I hear it is after Christmas that the worst weather is to be expected. Certainly it is pleasant enough now. There has been scarcely any rain on the peninsula all the autumn, only a few storms, and they complain of dust. The flies are nothing to what they were, though probably anybody fresh from England thinks them a big nuisance over here. Nobody who has not experienced them has ever shown the ability to imagine what flies can be like even in the remotest degree; any of your patients who have been in the trenches at Helles will bear me out. The conditions at Suvla have fortunately never been such as to give rise to so many.

I have had some quite interesting walks of an evening lately with Captain Attlee. He is an old Oxford man (all four of us in this tent are), and was at University College and read history. He became a barrister, but got bored with it and gave it up and is now on the staff of the London School of Economics, and lives in Stepney where he runs a boys’ club. He is extremely interested in social problems, and a very voracious reader, and knows his subject thoroughly. So we discuss how to put the world straight during our walks – at least he contributes most of the suggestions and criticisms too. Like so many students of social matters he is not an adherent of any particular political party so far as I can judge, though his tendencies are decidedly democratic.

I have just started reading a volume of the Home Union Library that he has with him, “Political Thought from Spencer to Today”. It is fairly stiff reading to me, who am little used to reading political science, but quite interesting. You know I have always had a bit of a taste for political economy, but never time to read it up. I rather doubt whether we would have quite sufficient mental energy in the trenches, as that little series would make very suitable reading, being small and compact in size and offering plenty of variation of subject. I have read most of the contents of one of the Everyman series I brought from Malta, the poems and plays of Goldsmith.

I believe when I mentioned lumbago a week ago I was wrong; it was merely a sort of strain of the back muscles resulting from long nights (about 9 hours) on the hard bed that the floor provides. I always ache during the latter part of the night, and it is always quite vanished by the time I have been up an hour. It interferes very little with my sleep, and I keep excellently well in every way.

I was interested to hear about Miss Holmes’ wedding; it was Mother’s letter that told me most about it, as there is one of yours missing in which you have probably said more about it. They soon decided the matter, didn’t they? If you hadn’t mentioned the possibility before I should have been taken thoroughly by surprise.

It seems I am very much the gainer by your night duty, as you seem to find time to write every night. I have got a complete list of all your letters I have received, and think of copying it out for you, but I want to wait a little longer to get a few more in and make the list more complete. It isn’t at all bad now.

You seem to spend your time thinking you treated me very badly in the past; only please don’t take it too seriously because you didn’t ever do anything very dreadful, and I assure you it would never have occurred to me that I could have any complaint. I should be only too happy to have you back again exactly as you were before. Now that I am quite well again I often think it is better perhaps that I never went to England; it would have been so terrible going away again, and probably have upset both of us a good deal. I always look forward to coming home for good, when the knowledge that all the worry and strain is over will let us be really happy. I suppose everybody will be desperately hard up after the war, but perhaps in some ways we shall be all the better for having more companions than we had ever anticipated.

Goodbye, sweetheart. You are a good girl to write so often, because I really live for your letters.

Your ever affectionate
Cyril E Sladden

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference