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February 6th 1916 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

6th February 1916
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Seward House, Badsey, Evesham
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Feb 6th 1916

My own Darling

Two more letters from you, and one from Mother, arrived this morning, so with those others that came too late for me to do more than mention them I have a lot awaiting reply.

I am afraid I must disappoint you by telling you not to expect to see me on leave at present after all. At the end of your last letter you say “do hurry on the war if you can and come home”. I am afraid I shall have to do the first again before a chance comes of the second. I am anticipating being sent a little further in the direction of your birthplace before very long. The disadvantage of belonging to the best body of troops is that you get all the nasty jobs to do. Anyhow as far as I am concerned I ought to be game for anything; in fact I am getting so fat that I am quite disturbed and begin to think I badly need more violent exercise; here I am pretty busy without being at all strenuously employed. Result that I scaled practically 14 stone (!) yesterday in ordinary uniform. This is about half a stone more than I have ever been before. I can hardly get my Sam Browne belt to meet. At the same time there is enough sun to burn my face a deep reddish brown, so people who only knew me in London would scarcely recognize me. I think perhaps you might be able to pick me out of a crowd, with care! So you need not be afraid that if at the next alarm I was more lucky and do really get home that you won’t know me.

By the way, what is Arthur doing now? From news I have heard I understand that the hospital he was working in as bacteriologist moved some time ago, and went (to the best of my belief) where I expect to be sent. As your remarks about his daily letters to Mary show, he is still in France, so has presumably been transferred elsewhere, provided my information is reliable.

It is annoying that letters I posted at Christmas time got held up; I heard, if you remember, that this had been the case. I am hoping soon to get your acknowledgement of my letter I wrote you on Christmas Day. Incidentally, I am much in need of a new cheque book which I sent for at the same time, though now that leave is no longer imminent the necessity is diminished greatly. By this time at any rate you should have received it or if it hasn’t turned up you will have got some I posted after leaving Helles. The two recent letters of yours that came today were written on the 20th and 23rd and you were still waiting for news.

I was so sorry to hear about poor Wilfred; his affair seemed to have taken a bad turn from which you wrote earlier. It certainly doesn’t seem as if it was any of his doing. You will be glad to be free to see something of him when he gets home.

From this distance it is a hopeless business discussing things with you, because it takes such an age to get a reply through, even when as present we are separated by a comparatively rapid mail. Discussions by letter are bad at the best, but specially so at present. Still although I may be little use in helping you with life’s little problems, you will like to know, and I like to tell you what I think about them.

At present I think the obvious thing is to arrange things for yourself so that you may secure a maximum of rest, that being the whole purpose of your giving up nursing. So your plan of making visits to Badsey and Folkestone first is a sound one. It is a pity you can’t go for a little while to your home, but money will clearly be your problem most of the time, and in this particular case it seems to settle matters completely. Some day, dear, we will go over there together when opportunity offers, and try to efface the recollection of the last unfortunate occasion.

The main question seems to arise between making your home at Liverpool or at Badsey, and living in the first case on an allowance, in the second case on what you earned by private nursing. I should favour a combination of the two but for the trouble that the two places are far apart, and you could not well afford frequent journeys from one to the other. I like the idea of your keeping up your nursing a bit; it may well be useful. And I am sure you would feel happier to be earning for yourself. At the same time you might feel you were deserting your own people before you had quite ceased to belong to them.

On the other hand if you go to Aunt Jessie’s you will get useful experience at housekeeping, and not have too strenuous a time, and I think you would be fairly happy there. You would very likely find you did enough to feel you were earning your keep, and I imagine Aunt Jessie has enough outside interests to let her leave housekeeping to anybody sufficiently capable to do it well – as I know you very soon would with a little experience. You will like having Uncle Ben at home too. Really speaking it seems as if the financial position is the one that counts most. Living at Liverpool will involve more expense, but you would be getting I presume a sufficient allowance. As I don’t know the various figures involved I cannot discuss the matter effectively. As a general guiding rule I would say chiefly, avoid any arrangement that is of too permanent and binding a nature then if it doesn’t work you can change your plans without difficulty and offence.

In order to cure you of your restlessness in face of an uncertain future you ought to try the army. It has absolutely wiped all such feelings out of my head. If I can feel there is a reasonable chance of depending on the future for as much as a week, I regard it as a great luxury. And nothing whatever surprises me, however sudden and unforeseen. It is a hand-to-mouth sort of existence. So long one can see one’s way to worry along for the next 24 hours one doesn’t grouse at all.

I was most interested to read your account of George and Rosie’s visit and your early and rather scanty impressions of the latter. In incline to think that George will find the most agreeable sort of life-companion in a girl who grows to accept his ideas in many subjects, because he doesn’t argue well, and is always inclined to get a bit annoyed with people who question his over-confident assertions. He will in exchange accept her word as law in matters domestic probably.

It is always a hopeless question trying to work out why people fall in love, and what they see in each other. For my part I cannot understand how any man falls in love with any girl after having seen you; however it is just as well they are afflicted with a mysterious sort of blindness.

George’s letter doesn’t turn up, so I am beginning to wonder if it is entirely lost. I am returning to you Rosie’s that you sent for me to see.

I went to communion service this morning, also church parade, and to the English Church in town this evening. It is a nice little church, and a nice service though not at all elaborate; but the drawback was having to sit through a sermon that really excelled in dullness and fatuity. It had no ideas at all in it, not even disconnected ones. However, not to be depressed by its influence I sang hymn 477 with great vigour and felt much better after it.

I saw in church a sergeant whom I recognized as Clerk of Works at the Imperial College. I remember being told he was an old soldier. It was funny spotting him again suddenly like that; I didn’t see him to speak to though, and I don’t think he noticed me.

George is a lucky beggar to get a whole month’s leave from France. Poor Mother was meekly expressing in my letter a hope that he would spend rather more than the very short weekend at home. He may be much in love, but I should hope he hasn’t gone quite as far as that!

The impression I get from letters, papers and general description is that everybody at home is getting a bit low-spirited, and the only people who keep cheerful are those who do the fighting; do you think this is really the case, and if so is it a temporary effect of bad weather, as is it the strain of anxiety gradually wearing everybody out? Personally I find the longer I go on the safer I feel – which to a certain extent is reasonable, for whatever the future holds it holds less than it did when I left home, and correspondingly less risk. But every time one escapes damage when there is a chance of getting it, one seems to regard danger as less and risk smaller. So having gone so far with nor more result than that I feel as fit as or fitter than ever before, I naturally regard it as a simple enough thing to accomplish the same again. I feel very sorry now that I sent that cable to tell you I expected leave; it was unwise of me really, although at the time the prospect seemed excellent; I suppose my usual cautious habits were a little upset by my elation – a feeling you will sympathize with. I shouldn’t feel half so sick about it though if I hadn’s raised your hopes (not to mention other people’s at home) all for nothing.

I must turn in to bed now, so will close. I like to think of you in the old home at Badsey again for a bit; it is ages since you were there for any length of time.

Good girl to practise at the piano, you mustn’t fail to make the very most of this good opportunity. War economy or no war economy I mean to have a piano somehow in our little house. I can raise about £220 new when all due to me is paid up, so things are looking up slowly, are they not?

Very best love my own, sweetheart. Keep a cheery heart inside if you can; I can trust you for the outside.

Your ever most devoted
Cyril E Sladden

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference