Aug 28th 1917
My dearest Mela
I have no fresh mail this week to reply to but as I did so well the week before I cannot grumble at that.
I have greatly enjoyed a week that has been very easy in comparison with previous ones after handing over his jobs to Major Gibbon again. Sometimes in the evening I feel as if I ought to be running about doing something, but there is really nothing to be done.
The weather is becoming decidedly cooler and the thermometer does not as a rule exceed 110° maximum. This frees one of the scorching effect which is rather trying, but it still feels pretty warm because the wind is getting slight as a rule and so one sits and streams with sweat. This however is a vast improvement upon the dust which used so often to be a nuisance but now rarely worries us.
We cannot with reason expect to be left in peace for long as the weather gets cool.
Naturally we get no hint of what is in prospect for us. Last summer of course everybody knew that Kut had to be recaptured sometime, the unknown quantities being how and when. This time we don’t know whether the War Cabinet will be satisfied that General Maude shall keep what he has got merely, or whether they want him to strafe old Turkey unmercifully to the utmost of his power. We of course have to get ourselves fully prepared for either. Should we start moving I hope at least we may not have to do so too soon. About October it wouldn’t be bad from the point of view of weather conditions. It might prove a stroke of luck should we be detailed before long to go and occupy the defensive line, as once there we might hope to be left there for a bit.
I see an item of local news has appeared in Reuters, to wit the occupation again of Shakraban close to the Jebel Hamrin hills on the road to Khanikin. We were there before in the spring of course when busy strafing the Turkish Army Corps that came down from the Russian front in the Khanikin district, but no attempt was made to occupy it during the summer. When I say ‘we’ I refer to the force generally, as I have never been there myself, though we had some dealings in April with that lot of Turks more or less in the same region. They were old friends by the way who had been up against us on the old peninsula. Judging from what prisoners told us the campaign in the Persian hills against the Russians had always been pretty much of a picnic and they didn’t at all appreciate coming up against us again for a change.
I have been having one or two great days getting my maps all in order. One can do a great deal in making them more serviceable by indexing, showing connection between one and another, also inserting all the latest reported corrections, and pasting on alteration slips issued for the purpose. The choice of areas being large there are plenty of maps, and if one is lucky enough to get a good issue ones stock becomes large. I have rather a good collection of old obsolete maps of the Kut area that I should like to be able to get home ultimately.
Maps having present value one is not allowed to carry away, though often this is done by mistake by officers sick or wounded. For this reason I generally hang on to mine till the last minute and issue them as required otherwise when the time of need comes there are no maps. And even though in this country they tend to be clean sheets of paper they are really indispensable.
I have got a few old snapshots that Ainsworth was good enough to give me. He used to be in my company in Amara days. He bore a sort of charmed life all through the winter and spring, and only got an insignificant scratch in the last show we were in although he was in the thick of almost any scrap we had. He has a most interesting collection. These I am enclosing are not of special outside interest but may amuse you a little so I send them now instead of burying them in my base kit.
Keep them safe for me somewhere. I hope I may get a few more later on, one or two of some slight historical interest in connection with the campaign.
I hope your projected visit to Kath at her new Bedford Park home came off; she told me she hoped it might be possible to get you to go and see her immediately after settling in. I shall look forward to hearing all about it if your visit did come off.
All this experience of new houses ought to be very useful later on, so you must store up tips in your mind. I will bear in mind your suggestions of tapestry hangings and tablecloths etc, if at any time I get a chance of picking up some nice ones. There seems to be a fair supply of stuff in Bagdad from all accounts, though prices are probably a bit high. The real way to pick things up is to get to some outlying town but then there is generally difficulty in carrying ones acquisitions about or getting them safely away.
I am glad my cheque that I sent about May last turned up all right. It is absurd for you to object even a little bit because you know if I was in England you would cost me lots more in presents, and I should not have half so much spare cash to pay for them – this entirely apart from any consideration of getting married which would put things on an altogether more satisfactory footing.
I should be pleased if you could get a real good welfare job at a respectable salary; it would be such a change, wouldn’t it. Suppose you were actually able to save a little, you would hardly know what to do with it. You will be wanting a banking account yet before you are married.
I hope the next mail will not be long coming and will bring as cheery letters as the last.
All my love, dearest, from
Your ever affectionate
Cyril E Sladden