Sept 9th 1917
My darling Mela
Your letters have been a long time coming, but now I have them there are several, posted 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th of July.
The last was only a letter card acknowledging arrival of a letter of mine. I was glad to hear it had come at last, as I hate reading in your letters that you are waiting and waiting and getting none; it is always reflected in your letters which become less cheerful the longer you go without news. This alone should ensure that I don’t miss many opportunities of posting to you!
Even as it was the letter you received was a slow one, so I hope the next mail made up for it a bit. The best speed for us now seems to be between six and seven weeks, which is still a dreadful long time for getting replies.
I am a little surprised you have assumed so strongly that I went on leave, because I told you often that I should not fail to cable on starting, and there is no reason to suppose private cables would be stopped in present circumstances. It is tiresome when you exclaim against the evil fates which prevent you joining me on leave when you might at least be spared that little extra occasion of annoyance, you may be pretty sure I should not fail to wire any such move at any time, provided I was able to do so. For one thing I like you to know what I am doing, and for another I want to ensure getting all possible letters.
I not infrequently think I should like to surprise you just mildly at my homecoming. But I should always let you know I was on the way, and if possible about when I hoped to turn up. I should only do it to gain a first meeting in private instead of in public, which could be effectively done by failing to wire the time of my train. There are plenty of difficulties as I should need to know where you were at the time which might be difficult if I had just landed. I don’t really seriously think I shall ever do it that way but it is a fancy I love to play with.
I will be bold and tell you a favourite picture. It is a fine warm afternoon and I am walking from Badsey station, knowing you to be at home. I arrive to find a quiet house with front door and windows all open but nobody about. Trying upstairs I gently attempt my room (knowing who has often used it) and, knocking and getting no reply, look in to find you resting there. How gently could I wake you, dear.
Would it occur to either of us that there was anything out of the natural and proper course in such an event? If it did would it make much difference? It would take a mighty barrier of convention to keep me from you when first I have you in reach.
It is good to shake the atmosphere of warfare off me enough to feel a great longing to hold you close in my arms and taste long kisses again. For days and weeks at a time I might suppose I had forgotten how sweet it feels. But down underneath I do not forget, and at bottom I know well enough, even at the worst of times, that there is no fear of me forgetting.
With your letters came three photos one of you and two of the house, one with you sitting solemnly near the big window. I don’t like this last one of you quite so well as the charming one I had by the last mail; your struggles not to laugh make it less natural. It would have been better if Bar had caught you really laughing I expect. Photos are very nice, but I do wish you could arrange to let me have the original!
I am glad you didn’t get that job of night work. I am sure it suits you rather worse than most people. You are good enough to get a job of the kind you want I am sure provided you blow your own trumpet enough to start with, blowing it I mean in a quiet sort of way by looking and talking as if you could take your own choice, so that people will take you at your own apparent valuation.
Sept 10th - People coming in and talking caused me to break off yesterday. If I fail to make use of this afternoon to go on you are likely to suffer, because we have a fairly vigorous all night manoeuvre tonight, and shall not be in in the morning until it is getting pretty warm I expect; so I may be not too energetic tomorrow. We shall have some hours rest of sorts during the night, but only just lying down as we stand so it will not go for very much.
Before I post another mail I expect we shall have left this camp and taken up a bit of front line. It ought to be pleasant enough so long as the Turks continue to remain away out of sight, and we can therefore live on the surface. The only real drawback to the job is the night duty it involves. The advantage is that of all places it gives best security of tenure; if anybody has to be rushed away suddenly for some purpose it will generally be people behind. The move as we expect it will be a short and easy one.
By this mail I had a Telegraph which Father sent me containing General Maude’s dispatch. It is unfortunately abbreviated, but less so than in the Times which, I was most surprised to see, had condensed it very much. The name of the regiment occurred in connection with our push across towards the Shumran bend. The list of awards to officers of the division has now come through officially; they have been generously distributed and heaps of people I know more or less have got something. I think with our three immediate awards gained in the same period we must stand very well with a total of seven. The awards to NCOs and men and the mentions we have at present no news of.
Our latest papers have a certain amount of talk of the possibility of the Turks attacking somewhere in this direction with a view of recapturing Bagdad. I don’t envy them the task if they try it, and the longer it takes them to prepare the less I envy them.
I still find it hard to believe the Germans will persuade Turkey to do what she has never yet attempted in this war, namely to attack a properly consolidated defensive position, to which rule I know only one exception, namely the attack on Kut on Christmas day 1915, when everything was in their favour, and they failed entirely.
I am glad to think you paid a flying farewell visit to Charleville Circus. We shall not quickly forget many associations connected with that house and various places round about. Kath’s excellent comments upon your looking so well are very good to read, and entirely confirm the opinion that your recent letters had caused me to form. These last letters of yours are rather different, and less lively; but I recognize them as a type I expect to have sometimes, and a long time without any letters from me was partly the cause I am sure.
I am sorry too that things were not quite so smooth when you last wrote. Probably it is as well you were not due to stay too long at Marlow on that occasion. Little and often is sure to work best.
I am afraid they are more or less overdoing themselves for the most part at home. The extra motive of the War is bound to have that effect upon a family who tend to be of the Martha type at the best of times. I hope they will stop short of knocking themselves up.
I think you would think me looking very fit though rather on the thin side; but everybody is bound to be thin at this time of year. Various snapshots of me were taken the other day, so with luck someday I may get a print for you. But it is a slow job getting films developed and prints made, though the firm that used to do it in Basra set up in Bagdad some time ago.
Goodbye for the present, dearest, with all my best love as ever from
Cyril E Sladden