June 15th 1916
My dear Father
I have had two mails since last posting home; one came a few hours after I had to post last Friday afternoon, the other came in yesterday evening. Mela gave me most of your home news on both occasions, and yesterday I had also Ethel’s letter, for which many thanks. The whole family with the exception of George has now written to me since Mother’s death and it has been very nice to have so many letters while I am so far away from you all.
I am very glad I came here. It is a great relief to get back to a decent sort of temperature, where one can go out any time of day quite comfortably. One gets hot walking because it is impossible to go very far without doing a certain amount of hill climbing. I can understand why this system of foothills is always known as the hills and not as the mountains, although seven thousand feet high or more. In appearance they are just hills, only on a big scale, covered all over with pines. There is nothing of the ruggedness one expects of mountains, nor even the bareness that one finds on smaller mountain systems. The atmosphere when the clouds are not around us is clear and makes heights, depths and distances look small, and so one does not realize the scale of the place at all until one begins to walk about. The hillsides are everywhere steep, and the valleys narrow and deep. The roads and paths all have to be cut in the hillside, and are generally well made and very rarely steep. No carriages or motors are allowed however, only three persons being allowed to drive, namely the Viceroy, the Commander in Chief and the Lieut-Governor of the Punjab. Everybody uses rickshaws, made rather like bath chairs but adapted for four coolies to push and pull them; these coolies run for miles, except up fairly steep inclines, so it is a fairly quick method of getting about as well as comfortable. The houses are placed where a little level site can be made on the hillside, and are generally approached by long winding paths up from the roads which are wide enough for the rickshaws but no use for a carriage. Owing to the difficulty in finding sites on the sloping ground, Simla has had to spread over a very long distance, and one can walk three miles or more from end to end. The town is mainly on one long ridge which bends round in a big curve, facing south on which slope most of the houses are built. The Viceregal Lodge is on the hill top at the western end. The eastern end rises to one of the highest points in the neighbourhood, and is too much about the general level to be built over on the top. This hill is known as Jacko (spelling, doubtful). I have done the walk right round it twice, but have not yet been to the top. This house lies towards the eastern end of Simla, and is therefore on the western slopes of Jacko. I have never been able to see the snow capped mountains yet, because at this time of year it is rarely clear enough. I hope to get a view of them some time or other. There is one little gap in the hills out to the south west where we can often see the plains stretching away into the distance, but they look a long way off. Almost everywhere the hillsides are covered with pines, the deodar being very common indeed.
Now that the monsoon season has set in there is heavy rain almost every day. It does not as a rule last many hours, and as the water runs off as off a duck’s back, it is very nice to go out as soon as ever it stops. Of course it generally comes down pretty hard when it does come, and often we are enveloped in cloud meanwhile. We have to go to the residences of the three important personages I mentioned above and write our names in their visitors’ book. This contributes a call. I did two yesterday, and am going personally to complete my duties in this matter. I arrived here to be greeted with news of the naval battle. Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the early telegrams nothing was published out here until some news of the enemy losses had been heard. Almost immediately afterwards came the news of Lord Kitchener’s death in The Hampshire. Since then we have had the big Russian successes daily improving against Austria. Now there seems a steadily increasing activity round Ypres. I am wondering whether much will develop from that. It has been a costly job keeping that last town for the Belgians. From the news in last night’s paper that Dick New has been wounded, and from the regiments figuring in the list I gather that the 29th Division has been put in that nasty valiant.
I feel sure the Germans are getting in a bad way, and hope their real collapse will not be very long deferred now. I think it very likely the latter part of this summer may see it begin. At present I suppose they are buoyed up by their naval “victory”, but the real nature of this will leak out by degrees.
I suppose the garden is beginning to get beautiful now; the season appears to be rather a late one after the cold spring. I wish I could be at home now to see it. I know of five of our officers who have been sent to England on this occasion.
Give my love to the girls.
Your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden.