July 30th 1917
My darling Mela
This time I have no new letter to reply to, and must rely solely upon my unaided efforts to supply you with your weekly letter.
I wrote yesterday (being Sunday) to Arthur. My correspondence with him since the war began has been of rare occurrence; but I had a letter of his that had been several weeks unanswered, so I took the occasion to answer it, leaving your letter until today.
The programme didn’t suggest I should be very busy today as regards training.
The spell of great heat which I mentioned in my letter a week ago had the effect of easing things down a bit, and we haven’t troubled to screw them up again though for a week now it has been nothing like so hot, the temperature averaging perhaps 110°.
I was out one day – or rather night – with the digging party last week as I anticipated, but have not otherwise had anything very much to do beyond the ordinary early morning parade. These become less trouble from my point of view as we get more battalion outings, where I simply have to carry out instructions given on the spot, and am not responsible for the whole plan of everything as when the company is on its own.
My grocery department still takes up the chief part of every evening.
We have just got an acquisition in the form of a gramophone, which is a very pleasant thing in these parts. Drewitt had to go down for a short time to Bagdad and managed to get hold of it, more or less on loan for an unstated period. He is a marvel at getting things, having the rare genius a very few people possess in that line. He is properly a stock-jobber on the Exchange, and in years a good deal my senior. He has been with us over a year with two absences for short periods on account of being wounded, and has been given a well-earned Military Cross for coolness and gallantry in action. He is very unlucky in still having only one star, though his name went in some time back for a second, as he has several times commanded a company for short periods. At present I am living in an E.P. tent with him and one other officer so I see a lot of him. The gramophone is one of fifty sent out to General Maude, which he is distributing among divisions, and we have got this one on condition that we are prepared to hand it over to the division on demand.
However possession being nine points of the law in such cases I hope we may keep hold of it for some time. It is kept packed away all day, as it is too dusty almost always, and on the calmest days sudden dust devils will come and smother everything now and again without warning. In the early part of the evening we generally arrange to play it down in the men’s lines, and later on in the evening after dinner one of the company officers messes generally has it. My opinion does not alter that the best gramophone is in tone a very poor imitation of the original, but it acts as a splendid guide to memory and imagination, and in a place like this is a boon.
We are lucky in getting an instrument a good deal superior to most that find their way out here; and we have 50 very decently selected records with it.
Our first base party is still down-river, and must have just got held up a bit somewhere. We have lately had a wire from Major Gibbon showing that he is in the country, so the second party should follow them up pretty close.
I have managed to find time to do a bit of reading lately, having got some distance into four books. I generally like to have five on hand, but don’t often run to four. They are The Usurper by W J Locke – fairly typical of him but not at his best; The Long Road by John Oxenham; The Making of the Earth by Prof Gregory (one of the Home University Library series); and Elements of Drawing by Ruskin which is just the sort of book on the rudimentary principles of art that I have long wanted to get hold of. It gives me some idea of what to look for in a picture.
I wish I knew what you are doing now, whether you have got a job on welfare work, or if not where you are at present.
I suppose you must suffer permanently from the same vagueness about me, though not quite as much now as at other periods of the year.
Nobody knows in the least what is in prospect out here, and possibly it depends most upon the Turk! But I know there will be heavy casualties from heat if we try and do anything much before October, so I should not think we are likely to unless something pressing demands it. I personally am content to stop here as long as they like. I don’t ask a lot in war time and we might do very much worse than this.
31st I left this to finish this morning but now have practically no time available. Inwood arrived last night, very cheery and glad to be back. He says the leave is not worth the trouble it involves, but all the same I think a change has done him good.
Best love, dear. I look forward to another letter but don’t know when it will come.
Your ever affectionate
Cyril E Sladden