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April 17th 1916 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his mother, Eugénie Sladden

17th April 1916
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden, Officers' Hospital, Basra
Correspondence To
Eugénie Sladden, Seward House, Badsey
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Officers Hospital, Basra
April 17th 1916

My dear Mother

I have been rather lazy in setting to work at letter writing. But it is only the last day or two I have become decently mobile. At first I didn’t get about very much. I find I can walk about without jarring the wound at all now.

We made an attempt on the early morning of the 9th to capture the Turkish position at Sunaiyat. It turned out a failure, and like all failures was a rotten show and cast a good many casualties. I cannot in a letter go into details of what we tried to do and how we tried to do it, and how it happened that we didn’t succeed. It seemed to me a rather bold and difficult scheme, which ought nevertheless to have given the Turks a very bad time indeed if it had gone all right.

I happened to be in the very last line of advance. We were just into position for attack during the night, and then lay down and slept. It was damp and cold and we only had just our drill uniform on, so it wasn’t a very enjoyable snooze. When we started the Turks put up flares much sooner than we had anticipated, and spotted us. I had gone two or three hundred yards forward and was building up a line in the open when I was hit. I was lying down resting on my elbows at the time, and the bullet went clean through my left arm, about midway between the shoulder and elbow. I had no doubt from the moment it happened that the bone was broken. The arm was completely numbed at first and might have dropped off for all I could feel. I could only see it was there. It was still dark, so I got back at once and came to a shallow trench, about 18 inches deep. There I stopped and got a man to put my field dressing on. He did it very badly in spite of his best instructions. By this time it was getting light and the bullets kept spinning just over into the low parapet. The trench was full of men, chiefly wounded, of whom more kept arriving. It was impossible to move along it under cover. Presently a doctor came along from an aid port established a little further along, and he bound my arm to my side which made things much easier for me. After I had been there some 3 hours I got sick of it. The breeze was blowing a constant stream of dust all over us. The firing had died down pretty much, so I decided to take my chance and get back if possible. I could walk fast but barred running. Once they started firing at me so I lay down in a bit of a depression, and there found our padre, so stopped and had a talk. When I went on I only had one shrapnel burst rather nearer than I liked, and so got to a dressing station. It was enveloped in clouds of dust, so they were not touching more wounds than was necessary; but mine was chiefly uncovered, so they did me afresh. I rode back in an ambulance wagon a mile or so to a field ambulance by the river, where we were made pretty comfortable in tents and straw mattresses. I got there about 10 o’clock, and was there til eleven at night. Meanwhile I saw the sergeant in charge of our baggage who secured me all my things, which was a great piece of luck.

I had tea with a staff general who happened to light upon me when I took a walk round, being bored with the tent. He was very good to me, and offered me facilities for a bit of a wash for which I was very grateful.

At night we moved a few miles down river by boat, disembarking at daybreak, when we went into the clearing hospital at Orah. It was very crowded, and the staff very short handed. I got my arm properly dressed and put in a splint that evening, and was glad to get it done at last, having endured temporary bandaging for 36 hours. We left next morning and embarked on one of the river boats and started our journey downstream. There is a very swift current running now, so we moved fast.

Starting in the afternoon on Tuesday, and stopping nearly all Wednesday at Amarah we got down here on Thursday night. Although it was not a regular hospital boat we were well looked after.

My doctor in hospital here, Captain Weston, was house surgeon at Birmingham with Arthur. It is funny I should twice have struck old colleagues of his when wounded. He had my arm X-rayed, and tells me the bone is well set, but badly “comminuted”, which technical term apparently means splintered. He is disturbing it as little as possible in consequence. Fortunately the wounds seem splendidly clean. I can only see the entrance hole which is small and has dried up and looks in first class form. The hole which I cannot see appears in equally good condition. It is not large as I should have expected, and never bled very much. By now I am very comfortable and well in every way, and can sleep almost continuously all night.

I am writing before breakfast, and after breakfast am to move on board HMS Sicilia, and expect to leave shortly for Bombay. Where we shall all go subsequently I cannot say.

I feel very lucky with my slight damage amongst many much more unpleasant cases. I hope my cable will reach you safely today.

I was sorry the weather was so unkind to you when you were getting better and wanted to get out. I hope a change for the better has set in now. Some good fine Easter weather will cheer everybody up a lot.

Best love to everybody from
Your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
Record Office Reference