Skip to main content

March 13th 1917 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his father, Julius Sladden

13th March 1917
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden, Bagdad
Correspondence To
Julius Sladden, Seward House, Badsey
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter



March 13th 1917


My dear Father


There has been little time for letter writing during a pretty strenuous march up river from Kut. Now we are here I hope I may have a little more opportunity to give you some account of things. The letter I wrote to Kath just before we crossed the Tigris at Shumrun will have supplied you with a fairly good account of proceedings up to that date, and from Mela’s letter written at Azizieh on the way up here you will probably have got further news of the crossing, and the early part of the march, including the fight on the first day.


Since that letter I have been in another scrap, got a very “cushy” wound, entered Bagdad next morning in the motor car of the colonel commanding our field ambulance, had a bullet pulled out of my leg (this operation about like a tooth, less acute but more prolonged) and rejoined for duty, the whole being accomplished well within the space of 48 hours. My chief anxiety now is to get a cable through to you to let you know how completely right I am; only at present it cannot be done owing to all private cables being prohibited for a fortnight part in consequence of pressure on the limited wires available.


We are all very glad to have got here at last. It took me a year and a day. We landed at Basra on March 10th 1916, and I entered Bagdad about midday March 11th 1917.


When we stopped for a short time at Azizieh the Turks thought we were not going to try for Bagdad after all and began to think of preparing a fairly decent defensive position some 20 miles or so way. The cavalry had a fight there and dealt with it, so that our part was confined at first to two long stiff marches. We were prepared to find trouble round about Ctesiphon, and as our brigade was advanced guard on the march which took us there I thought I might find myself taking part in a second battle of Ctesiphon. However I suppose Turkey had poor memories of his last effort there when Townshend defeated four times his own strength and the next place they prepared a line was at the Dialah river which gave them a fine natural obstacle. Reaching it late one day we found it to be held, and a tentative effort to cross that night at once stirred up opposition. More serious attempts still were not successful; one party of about 70 got across, all the boats were lost or sunk and nobody could get to them and they spent a nasty 24 hours there. Finally the regiment I was with for a fortnight in Amara got across on the third night, I believe without a casualty. I suppose our guns must have knocked the Turks out. Certainly I never remember seeing a piece of road so pitted with shell holes as was the stretch for several hundred yards on the other side of the Dialah, along which we passed next day after a bridge had been built. We were part of the advanced guard again, and knew that one line of trenches had been dug between the Dialah and Bagdad, and during the afternoon these were found to be occupied. In the advance against them about dark we were reserve battalion, and some distance back therefore to start with. We got pretty well shelled, with no ill effects. Turkey is liberal with shells on these rearguard actions as he sends over all he has got before clearing his guns away. However it is mostly poor stuff and causes surprisingly few casualties. Just after dark I was up with two companies having a look at the general situation as there had just been a general move forward; lots of small sumps were falling all round, but I didn’t notice any bullets, so was rather mystified at first by a bang on the side of my left thigh, just above the knee. I thought it was a little bit of metal from a shell that had just penetrated the skin. I went back to our headquarters to see if the doctor could fix it up for me, but it was dark, dusty and blowing very hard, so he could not.


By the light of one match I had recognized the familiar mark of a bullet entrance, and feeling for the exit I found the point pushing against the skin about two inches away in the attempt to come out. The bullet had threaded its way just about skin deep for two inches and failed to come out. I walked back to the Field Ambulance which was pitching tents by a rising moon in half a gale, and it was too dusty for them to attempt to do more than dress it for the night. Next morning, the Turks having gone away, the road was clear to Bagdad. Casualties could not be sent back so had to be carried on, and I had quite a pleasant motor ride into Bagdad. As almost all troops were marched round the city and camped beyond it I must have been one of the earliest there. At any rate we aroused the greatest interest.


We found that the Turks had used the British Consulate – one of the best buildings – as a hospital, and had left quite a lot of their people there with two doctors. We were to take the place over, and all patients to be put there. It was a fine place, but a disgusting dirty one, and for a hospital perfectly disgraceful. This was partly due to the Turks having cleared the place out pretty completely, but much of the dirt looked to be very long standing. It was a big job trying to get things into some order. The building fronts on the river, and from the balcony we watched the long procession of our river gun boats, including the Firefly recently recaptured, followed up by General Headquarters on the big steamer that has housed them through this move. The latter tied up just alongside us, and we were invaded and surrounded by staff subsequently. We soon learnt that Bagdad had been having very lively times. An organized clearance by the Turks appears to have degenerated on the departure of the government into general anarchy and looting, and the place is badly smashed about, and the bazaars and shops empty and battered. No doubt much, perhaps most of the stuff was hidden in anticipation of trouble, and will reappear in a few days, but there was a good deal of smashing, burning, and looting as can be clearly seen.


After dinner in the evening the doctors were able to attend to me and two other officers with similar slight leg wounds, and I had my bullet pulled out. It was an unpleasant ten minutes, the sharp end of a bullet being a tiresome thing to get a grip of, however they got it out very neatly with a very small incision. Next morning I had an injection against tetanus and then began to move to get back to the regiment. I ran up against two of our officers who had ridden in to look round, and took one of their grooms’ horses to carry me out, getting back for lunch, after an interesting ride through the city – but rather disappointing owing to the universal damage.


My leg is just a bit stiff, and better for being rested as much as possible for a day or two, but causes me practically no trouble. I didn’t want to have to spend a tiresome week or two in some dull hospital at Sheikh Saad or Amara on account of it and am very glad to have got straight back.


Our chief need now is mails and some news. The last mail arrived on the 15th of last month, so four are now due. We have had only one Reuters for about three weeks so have not the dimmest notion what is going on in the outside world.


What we shall do out here next remains a mystery at present. We hope it may prove a rather more restful existence than the last three months has been.


Best love to all at home from


Your affectionate son

Cyril E Sladden

Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 6 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
Record Office Reference