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August 6th 1917 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

6th August 1917
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Seward House, Badsey; redirected to c/o Lady Superintendent WAAC, Woodcote Park, Convalescent Camp, Epsom
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Aug 6th 1917


My dearest Mela


The mails during the past week have excelled themselves entirely. First came mails of June 7th, the first after the one that was sunk (a portion of which has I hear been recovered, the boat being partially visible in shallow water outside Bombay where she apparently encountered one of the stray mines left there by a benevolent ‘neutral’). That brought yours of June 6th. Then to our extreme surprise we got a whole fortnight’s further mails at once only two days afterwards, which included four from you. The last from Marlow dated June 20th. That is quite the quickest mail I have had all this way up river, and would have been a quiet time even for Kut in the winter.


We go on much the same here, so I have not very thrilling news to give concerning myself; but your letters will supply lots of topics for comment.


Your sunk letter of about May 31st evidently gave me details of an application made for a job in your new line of business, but nothing had materialized up to the date of your latest letter. I do hope you manage to get a good one in some nice place, near London for preference. I have been thinking that if you have to make a sort of temporary home for yourself somewhere it might be a good plan if I put some money at your disposal for the purchase of such little things as you may find useful now, and which would still continue to be useful to us when we are at last able to settle down together. I should like to feel you were getting the use of them now, and the money spent at leisure in collecting really useful things as required would probably be well spent, better than buying all in a lump off a list. And by getting good stuff you could rely upon its lasting as long as required. Meanwhile I will wait till I hear what you get, where you go, and how you have to live.


I am very glad my long ‘history’ (as you call it) of the Kut fighting reached Father all right. I knew he would send it round to various people, which partially explains the style being so very impersonal.


All the same my letters to you are as you remark rather different in style from those I write to most of other people, though I find the constant practice I got in colloquial style has made me write more in that manner to the girls than I used to do.


That account of the operations read in conjunction with my very non-communicative letters written at the time ought to be interesting as a sort of guide to your imagination in filling in between the lines at any time should I be pushed into similar activities again.


You enclose a letter from Aunt Lottie which I must send back. She must have had a rotten time during that raid as bombs dropped all round her. I imagine they were after the viaduct as a lot fell in that part of town. No doubt the harbour was a target too but no news is given of course of any damage done there. Aunt Lottie sent me a Folkestone Herald describing the affair in considerable detail; also an Illustrated London News, and a Chamber’s Journal.


I have had lots of reading matter altogether, two Observers from Father, four of my weekly copies of Nature, and the 19th Century for May and June in addition to the above having come. That ought to keep me going until next mail even if the interval is a long one, as would seem probable. I have not had time to get very far into them up to the present.


The process of writing to you has a bad effect upon the weather; it has been less windy and dusty of late, and not very hot either comparatively speaking yet immediately I got started writing this morning the wind got stronger and stronger and the dust steadily thicker until I despaired of it and put the whole of my writing things well away. Now that it is better again this evening I am continuing.


Inwood in opening bundles of old mails and newspapers lit upon a Berrow’s Worcester Journal with a nice little photo (not to mention biography) of Major C E Sladden; as it happened I had seen another copy weeks ago which my servant had produced somewhere but I did not call attention to it. They were all quite amused by my youthful appearance, and have ragged me about my little brother’s photograph. So it must undoubtedly be a fact that I am looking quite aged.


However there is no need for occasional apprehension that we shall find each other so changed on meeting that we shall think each other horrid. I am sure you won’t be a scrap more horrid than you used to be; and I couldn’t be if I tried, could I, so that settles it. But serious, as it really is a most interesting question how much we shall find each other altered, I am perfectly sure there will be little or no change in foundation in either of us; for one thing we were too completely formed in character to be susceptible of great change. The differences will be in the superstructure, which may show some useful additions at points, and signs of knocking about at other points, not I hope beyond repair where repair is worthwhile. In fact I hope there will finally be nothing but benefit to both of us, and so we shall each have reason to be if possible more content with each other than before.


You often imagine me as having developed all sorts of new tastes, but in that I am sure you are wrong. I have developed the power of adjusting myself to very different kinds of surroundings by sheer necessity, but all the old fundamental likes and dislikes, interests and abominations are still there just the same as ever.


It is not in my nature to express dissatisfaction with any circumstance in life that I realize to be quite unavoidable, even though they may be completely unsatisfactory to me really.


In short and simple terms, I don’t grouse at what can’t be cured, at least not often. I don’t know why this is, but because that is the way I was made I suppose. This is true of me mentally too; I mean I don’t fret internally any more than I air my grievances internally, so it is not in any way a laudable repression of my feelings. But to draw the conclusion that I am satisfied because of this would be as wrong as possible. If life had nothing better in prospect then the programme of the last three years indefinitely extended it would cease to have any value to me at all so completely unsatisfying is it.


I am very glad you have been down to Marlow with your Mother and Bar. It is well that it should be understood as only a visit, but I don’t believe you will have any real difficulties, and quite hope you may get back to a better footing than for a long time back. It is one of the benefits that the war should I think have earned for us.


One of my mails to you has been lost, the one posted here about June 18th I expect and hope, as the next one I particularly don’t want sunk. I wrote rather special congratulations to Father on his birthday being the 70th. I think I wrote a moderate one to you too, but forget. I also wrote to my bank to buy me some bonds, and I don’t want that delayed weeks and weeks.


We are having some river sports this evening, and a concert this evening. Not very elaborate affairs either of them, but a little impromptu amusement.


All my best love dearest. I don’t agree with you that the war will last at least 2 years more, so I hope I am right. Germany’s last hope was the submarine campaign, and I think it is safe to say that has failed her. So something may be expected to happen shortly, within a few months.


Your ever devoted


Cyril E Sladden

Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper and one photograph
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference