March 7th 1916
My dear Mother
After spending some days transferring cargo and ourselves onto another boat we sailed yesterday from an anchorage. The change into a boat of rather shallower draught was necessary in order to get us across a bar, which passage we accomplished this morning. We are anchored tonight and have only three or four miles to go tomorrow morning to reach our place of disembarkation. The trip up river has been rather interesting. The land on either side is dead flat, but mostly covered with growth, chiefly palm trees thickly planted for miles, with frequent channels cut out to the side for irrigation. There are mud dwellings built at frequent intervals most of the way along. At one point an oil town of modern growth made a variation in the view - and in the atmosphere.
The temperature shows a marked tendency to increase, and I believe we are likely to find getting hot rapidly, but still very wet under foot, as the flood season is only just about over.
From our last anchorage I was able to make the trip ashore in a native sailing boat one day, a distance of about two and a half miles. The town off which we lay is one of very fair size, and very interesting to see because it is devoid of Western influence almost entirely. I was chiefly struck by the richness of apparel of a large proportion of the inhabitants. I have since gathered that the presence of a strain of African negroes which I noticed is due to the practice of employing slave labour which still continues. French slaves are not introduced now, but the slave race continues, though they are pretty well treated. The town is ruled by a sheik who is very wealthy and holds absolute sway. The wealth of the place is mainly derived from pearl fisheries.
I was two or three hours ashore, and enjoyed the experience very much. In my letter to Mela I have given rather more details, so if she is with you, you will be able to hear rather more about it. I cannot write the same thing over twice in different letters, even to people who don’t meet. When there is a fair chance of the recipients being under the same roof it is more than ever impossible.
If the mails are well managed we ought to get a few letters pretty soon, that is assuming that we stay here for a bit and don’t start journeying up country at once, which may of course happen. It is over three weeks already since we had any, and it is beginning to feel a long time. Of course once letters begin to reach us again there is no special reason to suppose they will not be fairly regular afterwards.
We get a little wireless news most days, and are chiefly interested at present in the German attacks near Verdun. It is very hard to gather quite how matters are going, but it seems at present as if they have not gained much ground, while their losses must have been very heavy. If the result is merely that they knock their heads ineffectually against a stone wall it will be the best thing that can happen.
Today’s news states that the younger married men are now being called up. I wonder what has happened about Jack; I quite expect he will not be spared from his office, but am anxious to know for certain.
I hope the letters I posted last week will get through in decent time. I did quite a lot of scribing on board The Marathon and posted six letters, all of them fairly long.
The unfortunate party of officers (including two from this regiment) who started for their leave in England got turned back in Marseilles, as we heard it rumoured. They have now caught us up again. It was the worst luck imaginable I think, and I am most thankful I didn’t have the experience.
I thought I should do well to write now, so that I shall be able to seize the first chance of posting again that we get. If the chance is long delayed I can add more in the meantime.
March 8th. We have moved up near to the landing stage, and a mail is going to be taken off in a short time. It is a good thing I wrote last night.
Best love to all from your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden