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January 12th 1916 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

12th January 1916
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Sisters' Quarters, University House, Birmingham; redirected to c/o Mr Sladden, Seward House, Badsey, Evesham
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Jan 12th 1916

My dearest Mela

I ought to have started my letter yesterday but was feeling a bit cheap with rather a headache, so deferred it till I felt more lively.

It is very pleasant having a rest from work and responsibility. Having checked the regiment on Sunday we had practically an off day on Monday which I employed in taking a trip over the hills to a place where there was natural hot springs, and one can get an excellent hot bath. I had had nothing better than a rather fiddling cold “wash-all-over” since September, and only a few of these so wanted it badly enough. It is a nice walk there, about four miles each way. I went with Howell, one of our original officers who has been MGO since September, having been away sick in our early days. I missed going over for the same purpose when last here because of our sudden orders to leave, so wast4ed no time on this visit. The baths are fairly commodious, and the whole regiment was marched over this morning, and all were able to get quite a good clean up. This and a certain amount of drilling has represented about all we have done.

I am at present in touch with both my valise and my base hut box, so have almost everything with me that I brought out. I have been very lucky in losing very little kit.

Everything points to a spell of camp life for a bit with no enemy to worry us. The opportunity to absorb reinforcements and reorganize will be welcome, and supposing we should have a month or two of this we should benefit very greatly. I don’t anticipate being here for long, and look forward to retracing (roughly at least) my journey of the beginning of October. I say this with a certain amount of confidence, though it is never wise to rely upon the future turning out in any particular way.

I want to read the papers on the subject of our two evacuations. I have seen a copy of the News of the World for Dec 26th, but that is a rag not worth reading at any time. I fancy most people will fail to realize what a fine performance the whole thing really was. Each process offered to an active enemy a glorious chance of giving us a very bad time indeed; each time we had no casualties whatever beyond the normal average. I heard from certain reliable sources that previous to the Suvla evacuation special hospital accommodation for 20,000 casualties was prepared; in fact we actually used for temporary shelter some of the unwanted tents that had been put up for this purpose. One garrison on the last day is necessarily limited to the maximum number the naval people can disembark in a night, calculating to leave several hours’ margin of safety before light. At the same time one is almost destitute of artillery support, as most of the guns have to be got away earlier. A bit of bad luck with the weather could have spoiled everything and perhaps have meant disaster; a sudden wind getting up the other day didn’t help matters by any means. The first show was magnificently carried out, and there is no doubt that the enemy must have been absolutely take by surprise. They never stirred a finger to worry us, and were busy improving their defences at the very time the last men were leaving our trenches. For weeks we had laid the foundation by keeping extremely quiet every night especially after midnight, so I doubt whether they found out we had gone until the big bonfires started on the beach. I fancy that for a long time a big accumulation of war stores was made to carry us through winter bad weather; so it was not possible to clear everything entirely. I believe the loss was really very small indeed all the same. In the case of large stacks of fodder etc it would have excited suspicion had they been cleared; but I know many a great stack of boxes was standing there, hollow in the middle, and all the boxes empty ones, at the end of the time. Some tents used for hospitals could not be cleared for the same reason that it would have given the game away. Judging from what I saw I should think the Turks picked up extremely little of value, and our loss in stuff destroyed was small.

The Helles evacuation was a more difficult one, especially as they were bound to be on the look-out. Less time was available for clearing stores, and I think our loss in that direction was greater in consequence. It was rather unsatisfactory having to clear away all the accumulation of our predecessors who were a rotten extravagant crowd. Had we been in occupation for several months we could have made as good a job of this show as the last.

I hear the “Turkish official” has made a great deal of their “driving us into the sea”. Rather foolish of him not to tell the press a little more on each occasion while driving us so hard!

It was sad to leave so many graves behind; Helles is covered with them. Taken as a whole the campaign has been a sad failure, but we are glad that the part we were concerned in latterly was entirely successful. I think it was a sound scheme worth attempting, but it ought to have been made to succeed; that is where the mistake lay.

On Monday a mail of sorts arrived bringing me a packet of letters that went to the regiment just before I rejoined and so missed me. They included several you wrote in the middle of October when on night duty, also one each from Father, Mother and Kath.

This letter is taking ages to write. A tent with numerous and often rowdy companions is a hopeless place to write in. It is the evening of the 14th as I now continue writing. The first of our old battalion who got sent to England have rejoined us, amongst others Moseley, the man you saw in hospital. I have not yet spoken to him, as they have only just arrived and are settling in this evening.

The acquisition of a new captain from one of the old regular battalions made me a little nervous of retaining my job, but he is taking on the position of second in command of the regiment, so I am all right. It is quite a different sort of job when working under conditions approximating more to peace conditions: more difficult in a way.

I met Harold Allsebrooke an hour or two ago, looking very fit I thought. I see he has got his second star up, and has been in charge of a big draft for some time past.

All our mails have gone ahead of us to our next destination, so I see no chance of getting letters for some little time to come, which is annoying. Your October letters contain the news of your Father’s illness from neuritis. I had not previously been able to catch the full meaning of your later news that he was better: I am so glad, and do hope paralysis won’t set in after all.

Also I had your two enclosures of letters from Mrs Japp and Mrs Herapath. Poor Mrs Japp; I do think her letter splendid.

Supposing we settle down in some not too strenuous a place it is just on the cards that leave may be granted to some who have been out here a long time. The chances are I fear remote at present, but it is nice to think it isn’t quite impossible. I can’t picture myself standing the whole of a summer in this climate in any case, but that is some way off at present.

I realize this letter is dull even if long. I will try to write you a [?] one another day. I am dreadfully dependent upon conditions.

Best love, sweetheart, from
Your most affectionate
Cyril E Sladden

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