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December 5th 1915 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

5th December 1915
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Sisters' Quarters, University House, Birmingham
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Dec 5th 1915

My dearest Mela

I don't think I have ever gone so long before without writing to you. Two days ago a chance offered to get a postcard off, which I did. I know however that my last letter hung about for a long time before being despatched, and I don't know for certain that it has gone even now. I am going to see if I can get this away somehow. I hope it may get to you about Christmas time, or at least before your birthday; you must take it as carrying my best wishes for either or both. Mother has charge of a present for you which I bought when in Alexandria, which I have asked her to send you at the right time. I hope you will like it and find it useful. You will have to get (and choose) your own birthday present, for which I will send the wherewithal as soon as I can rely more upon mails.

The mail I referred to in my postcard turned out to be only a parcel mail, and not a big one at that, so I drew a blank. I know there is another up today, to be issued presently, so am hopeful of a good haul.

Perhaps before I tell you of our late tribulations I had better reassure you by saying at once that I personally am none the worse, having come through without developing so much as a cold or even a chilblain. But we certainly did have a perfectly awful time for a few days. On the evening of the 26th we had such a downpour as I have never before seen, nor anything to approach it. It is my estimate that something like 3 or 4 inches at least must have fallen well inside 2 hours. Practically every trench and dug-out was flooded, anything up to 3 or 4 feet deep, and almost everyone besides being soaked to the skin had all their kit soaked as well. By the greatest luck my dug-out kept out almost all the rain and did not get flooded, so I kept myself and my kit dry, but I was one of very few indeed. The only thing to do was to keep the men working all night at draining and repairing the trenches. By ill luck they had all been digging half the previous night. Next day was fine at first, and we seemed to be getting on all right. But it turned to drizzle and at night to sleet, and morning found about an inch of snow on the ground, and a very cutting north-east wind blowing. This was on Sunday last and we had to relieve another company in the firing line that day who had come off rather worse perhaps than we had. Imagine the effect of such weather on men soaked, with no change, and practically no shelter. The driest trenches were still some inches deep in liquid mud. On Sunday night it froze hard, which was I think a good thing as long as it was going to be cold at all. Of course we made fires and did all possible to get dry and warm, and kept up the men's life by pretty frequent rum issues. Monday was sunny, but the frost just held, and that proved to be the start of a period of fine sunny weather which was invaluable. The frost broke slowly so that we could tackle the mud as it thawed.

As a regiment I know we were lucky being on a gentle rising hill, so that the water did not collect as it did in some of the lower ground.

Fortunately the Turks were equally badly off at least, probably far worse. The used to run about in the open at quite short range, and our snipers gave them an awful hard time. It says something for their desperate condition that they went on in spite of the snipers. Had either side possessed a division or two of fresh dry men handy, I believe they could have done almost as they liked.

Communication was made very difficult of course, with the result that the quality of the rations went down, just at a time when lots of good food was most desirable. However in cold weather a diet founded on bully and biscuits is very bearable and quite different from the same in summer.

Naturally we have had a heavy time keeping things going in face of such awful weather. Be we have pulled through it now, and are dry and warm again. The soil drains excellently I am glad to say, and the weather when it changed was excellent too. Last night was quite mild and today is warm and pleasant.

With all this beastly wet I find life has been much more bearable and "civilises" than it was during my first spell. There is a sufficient amount of time when one is comfortable enough in body to retain a little mental activity. Formerly it was hopelessly rotten all the time. Of course we get filthily dirty, and have to get used to sleeping in our clothes all the time; but though opportunity is rare one has the energy to take it when it comes and get the best clean up that can be managed.

Later - Cheers for a mail at last. Only a little one, but very welcome after a fortnight. I had your letter written at Badsey a month ago, and a postcard posted on the 15th. Also letters from May of 10th and Father of 15th. Of course a lot are left missing but they will turn up some day; the great thing is to get some letters. I love hearing from you at Badsey, when I can picture so well everything you write about. It must be strange though with a baby in the house.

When May wrote, Mother had a cold and was having to look after it carefully, so I was glad to read in Father's letter that she was out and about again. I could gather from May's letter how extremely busy they have all been at home. Reading these letters makes me feel I could do very well with a good holiday! However I doubt whether the price necessary would make it worthwhile.

May thought you looked well considering you had been on night duty so lately; I think you are standing the work and worry very well on the whole.

I feel annoyed that circumstances should have put my intended Christmas writing all out of place. I hope before long to be able to write and tell you lots of news; just at present I have to content myself with giving a limited amount of description of the past week or so. I have had a most restful day today, and it has actually felt quite like Sunday. I am up in the firing line, but everything has been very quiet, and no odd jobs seem to have turned up. Such news as I hear seems pretty good, and I feel convinced that Germany has started on the down-grade: let's hope the hill will soon become precipitous.

I wonder whether you will have some patients soon who will describe our last weekend to you; very likely you may.

God bless you, dearest.

Your own most affectionate
Cyril E Sladden

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