Nov 9th 1916
My dear Father
It is possible that letters by the mail after this will just reach you by Christmas, but allowing for delay due to the usual rush I think it would be unwise to rely upon it. So I will make this my Christmas mail and send my very best wishes for the occasion for yourself and all the family; hope to write to one or two more if I can manage it but will include everybody now to avoid mistakes. I think if the following Christmas does not find peace established, at least it will find Germany in a state of collapse, and haggling for the best terms she can get. I can imagine that the first Christmas after the war, whenever it comes, will be a very memorable one to most people. I wonder where I shall spend this coming one, and what we shall be doing; it is a subject concerning which we are completely ignorant, though the usual crop of rumours are continually going round. I am old-stager enough to place a minimum of trust in rumours, no matter how wide-spread or “authoritative”. When anything is really afoot one generally gets fairly short warning while there are almost unmistakeable signs of something doing, and usually little or no mystery as to what one has to look forward to. One typical floating rumour usually is largely an expression of the general wish of everybody, tempered by some appreciation of the necessities of the situation. Thus a spell of hard fighting against either enemy or condition, or both, is immediately followed by persistent rumours that “the division is going home to refit and reorganise”. Old hands are too wary to accept this, but may be willing to go half way (to us at present half way is usually Egypt, or less often France or India). The more cautious puts more faith in a temporary move to a base. Our present case is the opposite; we have been resting (so to speak) and reorganizing for some time; so the question for us is how much longer shall we be kept here, and when the move comes where shall we go? The question of likes and dislikes enters less into this, because if it is a question of fighting any place is perfectly beastly and there is small choice. I notice it never seems to be rumoured these days that we shall be moved away and sent to France, the said front being unhealthy at present. As a matter of fact there is every reason against it, as a winter in France, on top of summer in Mesopotamia would effectively knock out anybody. Normally however there is small connection between the popularity of a rumour and the weight of reason for and against it. If we should still be here when Christmas comes I am quite sure we shall do ourselves well. For one things mails and parcels and comforts and so forth will have a fair chance to arrive in time, and not a month late as last year. We have already had time to get things running decently, and football matches, boxing, sports, race meetings and so on figure fairly prominently in the programme of our doings; under such circumstances it should not be difficult to give the men a good time at Christmas. I believe no serious break in the weather is expected until January; we have had the slight November break with a change of wind, and one or two cloudy days, but practically no rain fell with it, and now the conditions seem almost as they were except that it is a little more cloudy.
I have had more time to myself this week than I have previously had since joining the regiment again. We are battalion on duty, and have a large number of guards and fatigues to find, so that generally very few men, often none at all, are left for parade.
The opportunity is a valuable one for getting on with paper work, of which there is a good deal, but on the whole it is a distinct rest. It is for this reason that I have been able to sit in my tent writing this morning after a leisurely breakfast, while the battalion (less all my company who are on various jobs) has been out on short brigade manoeuvres.
Sunday 12th. I have had to go off duty and have been in bed all day under the doctor’s care. The night after writing the above we had all night operations from 9.30p.m to 9.30 a.m. after which I developed a temperature. Yesterday morning I was normal, so carried on more or less with duties but it was up to 100 last night and the same this morning. Also my head ached badly and I felt good for nothing so I stopped in bed, and have lived on soda water.
So sorry I have had to omit all my writing for Xmas. I cannot write to Mela, so please send her this news of me to explain why, with my best love. I hope I shall be all right in a day or two. I don’t expect to get really bad, but if I were to of course, you would hear at once by wire.
Best love to all from
Your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden