At Wind Cliff
July 18th 1916
My dear Father
The last mail brought me your letter of June 21st. One of my home mails had been delayed apparently as it had not turned up when you wrote, and I feel quite sure I made no mistake about catching the mails every week; generally I posted my letters myself to make quite sure.
I am very glad Davies called in to see you. He was in a position to give you a lot of news of things first hand. I had a short letter from him by this last mail, but he was pressed for time and promised to write at greater length shortly. The doctor didn’t make much mistake in deciding which of our cases would take longer to get right. In accordance with the regulations I have taken the necessary steps to get another medical board, and I have no doubt they will pass me fit without hesitation. My arm is not far short of being at full strength again, and I very rarely notice even the smallest ache now.
I may get ordered to our base camp at Dagshai, a little way down the line from here to Kalka, still in the hills but not so high up as we are. At present Myles is there with about 60 of our men, but he expects to have to leave with a draft before long.
If I don’t get sent to Dagshai I shall probably leave direct for either Bombay or Karachi, and take the first boat back to Basra. I mean to cable my departure from India so that you will then know that letters can be addressed again in the old way. I shall of course get Cox’s to send on to me anymore that reach them, and very little delay should arise, probably none at all if Basra mails still go via Bombay as they used to. I have heard rumours of a direct mail being established from Aden but I don’t know that it is true, and I am almost sure the home mail goes via Bombay.
I am pleased to hear through Davies that Capt Gibbon is rejoining the regiment. He was in command on Aug 12th, and was badly wounded that night; he came away on the same hospital ship that took me to Malta. He is a most excellent fellow, and a valuable officer. I should think he will be made a major and become 2nd in command.
The steady success of our offensive in France up to date has been most satisfactory. I shall be very glad when the English papers giving an account of it begin to arrive. The telegraphic news published out here is subjected to a censorship, which prevents one putting complete reliance on its presenting the whole truth. For example, I have only recently realised that the Austrians at one time were doing remarkably well against the Italians. We get an undue proportion of good news and very little that is bad. In case of the present fighting there is no question as to the extent of our gains, but I do not for example know whether perhaps part of the attack has been unsuccessful at some points. Supposing that efforts in some places have been made and repulsed I feel sure the news would be omitted in our telegrams. However, so far as I can judge from casualty lists it really seems as if our losses have not been so severe in proportion to the success attained as in the previous big battles. I have been particularly struck by the apparently low proportion of killed, which I can only attribute to the use of the shrapnel-proof helmet. I well know how many men lose their lives through getting a bullet in the brain. During the first year of the war of seven officers appearing in the lists, two were killed or died of wounds. This proportion was kept almost exactly, and I have tested it again and again on daily lists, monthly totals and totals for long periods. So far as I have been able to make out the proportion in recent lists has been nothing like so great. I expect Harold Allsebrooke will have contrived to get home fairly soon after reaching England, as it was then over ten weeks since he was hit, and that ought to be plenty long enough for even a femur to mend, unless any complications set in. His was a short turn, and not at all a pleasant end to it.
On Saturday evening I had my first good view of the mountains. After the rainy season sets in it is unusual to see the snows which are nearly always clouded over. But occasionally after a long spell of rain in the evening or early morning it will clear, and this is what happened on Saturday. It was wretchedly wet all the morning, and then very gradually the clouds lifted and broke and it cleared and about six o’clock the whole range of snow-capped peaks showed all along the north and north east horizon, brilliantly clear in detail after the rain had washed the air clean, and with the sun shining on them, it was a magnificent view, under the very best possible conditions. The nearest snow is 70 miles away, and the view must have extended to well over 100 miles. Mr Lowndes has seen a relief map of the whole line as seen from here, with names and heights all marked. He tells me the highest visible point is 24,000 feet high. The rise up to them is gradual, there being line after line of hills, each a little higher than the previous one. The same evening the plains were very clear, and from one point on our walk, they could be seen continuously for about 45 degrees of the horizon. They stretch away to a level horizon like the sea at Mesopotamia. Looking from a height of 7000 feet to the horizon of a plain not above 1000 feet high one must be able to see an enormous long way. Altogether the view from north to south must have covered quite 200 miles.
On Sunday morning I walked to the top of Jakke, just over 8000 feet high. It is very steep, and quite a stiff climb, but disappointing, as it is very much enclosed with pines even at the top. As it happened, it was misty when we got up there so we should not have seen much any way. At the top are kept a lot of monkeys, who run about free, but are fed by some sort of fakirs, and have a house to live in. They are considered holy, but I found them a beastly mangy lot, and not half as amusing to watch as those we often see in large numbers in the woods all round.
July 21st. I saw yesterday that Cecil is reported wounded and missing. I am afraid poor Mela will be terribly upset and worried about it. She is having a bad time of it, and feels things so much more than she shows. She has missed Mother very much indeed, then, Uncle Harry’s break up must have worried her as she had become very fond of him, and he will be a great loss to all his family. Finally this news of Cecil is about as worrying as any sort of news can be. If any definite information is obtained I hope I may hear soon. I am glad Mela is in your charge, as I know you will look after her as well as possible. I was sorry to hear by your last letter that she had been out of sorts, and hope to hear in my letters today that she had picked up.
Mela’s health reacts more quickly I think to her mental state than anybody’s I know. If she is worried she is always on the verge of breaking up, and when she is feeling happy she soon appears very well again. I wish I could have got home and we would have got married quietly as soon as possible, and I could have taken her away for a few weeks to some nice bracing place and tried to help her forget the war as much as possible for a bit. It would have done her all the good in the world.
I am glad to think that George’s job pretty well ensures that he will not have to go digging Germans out of villages and so on; I hope he will safely avoid the shells which I imagine constitute his chief risk. I suppose all the medical staff in France is frightfully busy, and all the hospitals at home must be filling up. I expect Arthur has as much work as he can manage.
I had a letter from Aunt Fanny recently, in which she asked for a photo if I had one. I told her I would ask you to send her one of those I had done before coming out here; I think there were several I left in Mother’s charge. Will you see about sending her one.
Much love to yourself and the girls
From your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden