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January 28th 1916 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

28th January 1916
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

Jan 28th 1916


I am feeling pretty fed up with the turn of events. Suddenly today we have had a new CO sent to us, an officer who served a year ago in France, and was attached to us for light duty for a time in the early spring at home, since when he has been doing staff jobs in France and out here at the base. This means that Faviell (who was temporary Lieutenant-Colonel while in command) reverts to Major and becomes 2nd in command – bad luck after commanding us for three months in the field. Dobson who joined a few days back as 2nd in command has to take a company, which means of course mine. So I lose the rank of temporary captain while in command of a company, which rank I have never been able to put up because it still has to come through from GHQ so is most annoying in every way, especially as we were very comfortable as we were. I am entitled to my extra pay from Nov 17th when I took over until today of course. But we have still on our strength a lot of officers who have been away months, and are likely to remain so for a long time, which means there are no vacancies for promotion, though we are not up to establishment actually out here. Whether any of them will ever be crossed off and leave a vacancy I cannot say; nor can anybody tell how many new people we may get joining. At any rate I have got to hand over my job, and drop roughly £7 a month in salary and make the best of it.

And this comes the very day after everything looked so cheery ahead. Circumstances seemed to be holding out the possibility of combining two much desired things, promotion and leave; and you know from what I wrote some time ago what castles I built in the air in consequence.

Now about this leave, which I cabled about two days ago. If it comes off all right it will be for a month absent from duty. Also we have to pay our own expenses in full both ways unless we can manage to get taken on a transport, when they only charge a messing fee. The first method, by P&O would run to over £30 going via Marseilles and using the cheap fares available across France to soldiers. The transport method is so uncertain that it is doubtful whether it could be used for return in any case; and it would be several days slower in almost every case. At the very quickest the journey (by P&O) would take about a week, and we shall be responsible for returning within time; so if the return journey fits badly we shall suffer.

Naturally the reduction in salary puts rather a different complexion upon spending a lot of money; at the same time I cannot bring myself to give up all my bright hopes; and disappoint you too. So I still hope to be able to come and see you. I shall of course cable when anything is settled. The leave is granted to officers who have been with the MEF six months or more, so not a lot are eligible. We are not all to go at once, and those who have seen longest actual service with the regiment go first, so I shall come in a later class. Meanwhile we may get a sudden call to business which would wipe the whole thing out, so don’t depend upon seeing me.

I wrote you a long and happy letter last night before all my plans were put in the soup. I have just decided not to burn it after all, but to send it enclosed for you to read after this one. That alone will explain how I come to write so glumly about so happy a prospect. Besides we arranged to have no secrets, so you are entitled to share my disappointments like everything else. I can assure you I have felt wild all day, and almost decided once to up all thought of leave.

I wish I could get some faint idea of my future prospects. Pretty poor if all the patched up crocks are going to rejoin now we are having a soft time!

I will write again as soon as any further news about leave is forthcoming. It seems to us that they are making the very worst of our time for us by lack of arrangements in connection with that. Fourteen or even ten days in England assured, with transport free and risk of shipping delay taken by the authorities would involve so little expense or trouble, and be vastly better for us. I know you will forgive my long grouse, understanding the cause.

Your ever 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