Skip to main content

July 8th 1917 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his sister, Juliet Sladden

8th July 1917
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Juliet Sladden, Seward House, Badsey
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

July 8th 1917


My dear Betty


The fortnightly mail is beginning to affect us, and so it is a long time since I had any letters from home, the last being Father’s, posted on May 2nd. The next mail might come any time now though I have heard no news about it to say where it has got to.


We moved to our present camp a week ago yesterday, and are now pretty well settled down in it. It is a very dusty place, and in a wind becomes most unpleasant. We were unlucky in striking a real bad day for wind on the first day we were here, but we have been relieved to find it was not an average specimen; we always get strong gusts of wind almost every day at fairly frequent intervals, but it is not bad in between. The great point of the situation is that we are actually on the river bank which is a very big advantage indeed; the wind blows across, and slightly down stream, so reaches us clean and comparatively cool; that is to say it does not hit me like a current from a furnace which is the effect produced by a sudden gust of wind blowing over a hot plain.


The temperature in an airy tent generally reaches from 110° to 114° as a maximum, but I think it looks as if today might go higher and touch a record. There is usually a slight breeze all the time which makes a tremendous difference. Also the air is extraordinarily dry. It is most astonishing the way in which things dry; water vanishes here just about like ether or volatile petrols on a warm day at home. A loaf of bread cut at one meal has a surface as hard as a brick by the next, even if kept covered over, and there is not much question of covering things with a moist cloth, because a soaked cloth will dry in a quarter of an hour or so.


I should think it is one of the healthiest hot places in existence; the number who get troubled with the heat is very small indeed. It is of course necessary to have a sufficient supply of proper tents that really do keep out the sun and then everybody is quite all right. I am sure too that quite half the sickness there used to be out here was the result of sheer funk: the place had got a bad reputation, and all newcomers daily expected to collapse, and so fell victim to the slightest thing. Probably this is very much more pleasant than it is lower down river: it would be interesting to try Basra after having got absolutely accustomed to heat up the river beforehand.


I have just had an extremely busy week, with hardly a spare moment all day long. On reaching this camp we entered upon the fullest course of training that the temperature conditions permit. We parade at 5 am, just as the sun gets up, until 7.30. After breakfast we put in instruction that can be done under cover, as it is better to avoid standing about in the open more than necessary after about 9.0. This continues until either 11.0 or 12.0. We don’t do anything very formal in the evenings, but after 4.30 there are battery parades, rowing practice in pontoons, bomb throwing exercise etc. Such a programme alone, with all the incidental business of preparing things ahead, and getting through all the small company business, is enough to make a very decent day’s work. But I still have to do all Major Gibbon’s odd jobs while he is on leave and they happen at present to be very much heavier than usual.


The 2nd in command always does the duties of PMC (President of the Mess Committee) and PRI (President of Regimental Institutes). The latter is a big job with a battalion in barracks in a civilized country under peace conditions, and a perfect sinecure in the field when fighting is in progress. Between these limits it varies according to the nature of one’s existence. It is concerned with the management of all institutions devised for the amusement and benefit of the men, covering games, canteens, reading rooms and so on. Much the same applies to the job of PMC, who is responsible for running all matters of the Officer’s Mess; and in stations where there are many officers this may be a whole time job for one of them.


At present we are not, I am thankful to say, running a battalion officers’ mess, so I am spared running it. But there are stores to distribute among the small company messes, and all the accounts to keep. Also the canteen now runs a system of allocating stores, through division and brigades, so that every unit gets an equal chance, and the supplies are not all snapped up at once by the lucky units that happen to be close at hand. I have to take over the whole lot for the regiment; divide it up as between officers’ mess and the men’s canteen and then arrange the retail sale of all the latter.


It works out pretty much like running a sort of minor Harrods, and involves a good deal of time at accounts if one is not going to get in a great muddle. There is a good deal more to be done than merely get the stuff and sell it, as the supply never equals demand, especially in some things, and it is up to me to arrange that everybody gets a fair chance to get his share. I get all sorts of pleading, and become very autocratic over it all – which is quite up to date for anybody in the provisions line I suppose.


It happened that at the beginning of the week the biggest lot of stuff by far that we have yet had was issued, so there has been correspondingly much to do. Hence my very busy week.


9th - I must finish and post this tonight. Last night I had to start out at 5.30 in charge of a big digging fatigue. We had five miles to march, and bivouaced out the night and were supposed to get in five hours digging before starting back. Actually we did not do quite so much. We worked till it was too dark to see, and then in the morning rose at 3.0 and started by moonlight. We were back in camp at 8.45 – plenty late enough. These diggings happen every now and again.


It has been a scorcher today and dusty into the bargain. The thermometer beat yesterday’s record of 116° by doing a further 2°.


I suppose you are likely to be going to Bedford College not so long after you get this letter. Best luck if so. I expect you wish you could see the war over before leaving home.


Very best love from


Your affectionate brother


Cyril E Sladden

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 2 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
Record Office Reference