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December 25th 1915 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

25th December 1915
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Sisters' Quarters, University House, Birmingham; redirected to c/o J Sladden Esq, Seward House, Badsey, Evesham
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Xmas Day

My own Darling

I am spending today as I had rather expected in the same old place I left only about 6 weeks ago. But we took our time getting here and were kept knocking about in considerable discomfort until we got into camp here yesterday morning. The length of our stay and next destination are absolutely unknown. Circumstances made writing next to impossible till today so your promised letter is being written rather later than intended; still the post from here ought to be a fairly quick one. I hope the note I posted on the 20th will go through quickly.

I feel as time elapses a little less discretion is required so I can tell you a bit about the great evacuation. We first got wind of it a day or two before the flood, which must have caused the proceedings to be put off a long time, because for several days we were almost cut off from the beach. It was a very big job clearing the whole of our material away; by degrees we got rid of every conceivable thing, and had to "pig" it with no kit finally for some time. This of course was the chief reason why letters could not be got away easily, because there were no regular mails sent out; for one thing our censor stamp was packed off, for another transport could not be spared. An indirect reason which made it hard to write was that everything I wanted to say concerned the projected move so could not be said.

It was distinctly exciting wondering whether the Turks would ever find out what was doing, and if so how much they would trouble us. Actually they seem to have had no notion at all of what was on, as they were heard digging and wiring late on the last night before our final rear-guard party left the trenches. I personally left at dusk on the last night so embarked early that night. The only cause we ever had for apprehension was a few shells which they sent down to the beach just as we started our march; however no more were sent so it meant nothing. We were all most pleased at the success of the evacuation, because there was always a chance of its being a very nasty job; as it is a very useful force is set free for more useful purposes. From a personal point of view we are glad to be relieved of the prospect of spending January and February over there, having had a taste of what bad weather can be like.

It was bad luck not getting sent home direct so as to settle down at once, as some luckier ones did. We could then have made some preparations for festivities today, and should have secured more mails which are only awaiting transport. Actually we had a good night on board, and a fairly pleasant day and night to follow on land, the weather being excellent. Next day provided us with a drenching storm, after which some tent accommodation was found into which we were packed like sardines for two more nights before having a very slow and weary journey on here. It was raining a bit when we landed, but cleared; today is simply perfect again, warm and sunny.

It is a funny sort of Christmas. We had a short Church Parade Service in the open. I didn't find out the time of communion service early enough to go, so am going tomorrow instead. A certain amount of special Christmas gifts for the men are available; a good supply of puddings were issued. Yesterday I spent £50 for the CO on various things which I obtained from a very good canteen run by some chaplains which was only starting when I was here before. I was able to secure quite a good lot of stuff which is being issued this afternoon, cakes, oranges, chocolate, tinned salmon and sardines, etc. I fancy this is intended as a present form the officers generally.

We had a mail last night which brought letters and parcels for a fair number, thought the majority could not be got up in the short space of time; I think it is pretty certain that a few days will see a lot more brought in, and perhaps in some ways that no better than getting a glut such as the soldiers had in France last year.

My share of the post was three letters, from you (December 1st), Father and Mother. Yours was the long one giving news of George’s engagement. Certainly it was a big surprise to me. For one thing one never dreamt that any opportunity had been possible for forming an attachment during the war. And in the special circumstances I was naturally all the more surprised. I am very glad now that I met Lintott in Alex recently and saw enough of him to like him. Fortunately I have more faith in George’s good sense than in most men's so am better pleased than I should have been in similar circumstances with other men. Without seeing the lady it is futile really to hold any opinion on the subject of the wisdom of the whole thing; probably futile in any case. Absurdly I cannot yet swallow the name Rose to which I have a strong antipathy! And the modification Rosie that Mother uses is just a stage worse! However, this is nothing against the poor girl, and I shall have time to get accustomed to it before reaching home. A more serious matter is a slight sympathy with Kath’s feelings, but there is no real reason why they should be justified.

It will be difficult writing to George. By way of a start I am going to wait a day or two in hopes of getting his letter which will help greatly. One thing at any rate I can do, and that is to wish him in turn what Arthur wished for me two and a half years ago. If his venture will bear comparison with ours then he can't do better.

I told you in my note that I had a bit of news for you. My name has been sent in for promotion now that I have completed 30 days in command of a company. Our adjutant Conybeare who has had 7 months in France with the 1st Battalion tells me they put up their extra star at once on completing the time; however this is irregular, and I may have a longish wait before it gets put through and appears in orders. Anyhow I am entitled to captain's pay from November 17th. But this would cease if I went sick or had for any reason to relinquish command as my rank stands at present. I am promised that the chance of having to revert to subaltern rank again may be taken as negligible. So you had better keep an eye upon the Gazette so far as infantry service battalions are concerned. I haven't said anything to them at home about this as I think it better to wait and let them see if when it comes. Arthur’s example once again!

And now (this is the point of the whole thing) supposing the promotion is fixed up all right, as I may reasonably expect, will you take the first chance that my return home may afford us to get married and face such risks and difficulties as may come? This is assuming I return in fit condition of course, and involves carrying out the suggestions I made in a letter some time ago. How previous I may be in this I cannot say, as I certainly cannot foresee any immediate prospect of returning home. One thing, the longer I wait the more the funds accumulate which is some advantage at any rate.

I am sending your cheque with this letter. You will be able to get it cashed somehow I expect; if you go to the Birmingham branch of the bank they will do it at short notice at any rate. Or you can pay it into the savings bank and you will get the receipt as soon as it is cleared, within a week probably; and then you can draw out what you want of it. I am sorry to be so late with it but could not trust the posts about the time of the evacuation.

I expect you have been busy today, but I hope it has been a happy Christmas all the same. I am sure your patients have had the happier one for being looked after by you.

All my love, dear, from
Your ever affectionate
Cyril E Sladden

Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 5 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference