Sept 24th 1917
My own Dearest
The mail, long looked for, is hovering about not far away somewhere. A fortnight’s mail I presume it will be, as a fortnight is due.
We have to post about 5 o’clock this evening I understand, so in order to have a chance of replying I have sent my groom to ride in to headquarters and fetch out letters this morning if he can get them. As the horse rather wants exercising it ought to be a good plan all round.
As I described in my last letter we moved a week ago, and are getting pretty settled. I should have been more so but that we had to re-adjust things partially yesterday. It didn’t involve any movement of my own company headquarters luckily, so was not a very serious job. In about another week I hope to have put all our standing fittings and arrangements on a satisfactory basis, and by that time everybody should have got well used to the work and we shall be quite happy and comfortable. I anticipate enough digging to keep us pretty busy, especially as it is most desirable to keep a good deal of training going all the time, or else there is a quick drop in general efficiency.
The Arabs are becoming a nuisance round here. During most of the summer they luckily left us alone until the inevitable news came some weeks back that a rifle had been stolen somewhere. Attempts have been frequent since, and ensuring all the precautions involves a lot of extra work and responsibility all round. The loss of a rifle means courts of enquiry, and courts martial to follow for any officer or man who may not have taken every precaution as laid down in the orders on the subject.
We had the most wonderful collection of generals and staff round about this morning; they all came independently and re nothing in particular. I thought I should never get round my different posts as I kept on running into somebody, and had then to hang about and answer any questions that cropped up.
Later – Part, but only part of the mail has come, bringing your weekly letter of Aug 8th; but one of Aug 1st which you must have written has not yet turned up. Very likely when the mail arrives in full and is sorted I shall get it: or possibly some bags are still delayed on the way up river. I have a letter from Father of Aug 2nd, and also the Observer of Aug 5th and Nature of Aug 2nd; in case of each paper the previous copies missing, so I seem to have got the later but not the earlier part of the mail.
You were at Badsey when you wrote, and were apparently very fit and having quite a good time with Betty and Olwen thank goodness again and making the best of things, and being as cheerful as you can in spite of many adversities.
I am afraid I do not feel a lot of sympathy for Mary who becomes visibly distressed when she has to go one day without a letter. It is very typical though of the way of the world. It is never the people worst off who grumble or complain most; they get used to expecting little or nothing. It is those well off in comparison who most often set up a dismal scream when they miss a small fraction of their plenty. What would Mary say if Arthur got sent out here; it must have been a near thing that he did not when the Meerut division left France. I think six months of it would do her good really; letters at about fortnightly intervals, and then six or eight weeks old; and the best prospect of leave in an early peace. I can understand anybody missing a daily letter after being used to it; but I cannot think how anybody could have the face to show it with you in the same house.
I cannot picture you for example making much of our little troubles in Eva Gaukroger’s presence, which would be a similar thing in a greater scale.
I am glad Arthur has gone to his Mobile Lab; I could tell from his last letter to me that he was completely fed up with his old job. He will get more variation in this. I don’t know quite what sort of work he will be doing; I am not aware of the existence of any institution of the kind out here. I should imagine they work in conjunction with casualty clearing stations or perhaps with Field Ambulances.
However the risks, even on the French front where aeroplanes are many, are small enough at either. I think casualties among doctors are very few except among regimental medical officers. Mary is a jolly lucky girl to have married a doctor in these days; it is the next best thing to a parson I think!
I was interested in your Breconian extracts. I should enjoy seeing copies out here, but it would involve loss of several copies probably, and I have always made a point of having my series complete. They would keep me busy on return. It is rather a nuisance that my acting-majority should have become so widely known and accepted through to the accident of a stupid little wound, as it looks undignified to climb down. It does not matter with people on the spot who are familiar with the system. Whether a similar temporary change is likely one cannot say; if the present peaceful type of life persists, as I only hope it may, it is very unlikely. I am happy enough as I am and feel much more at my right level. It is always possible that Gibbon might in some emergency be sent to command another battalion. But the longer one is not fighting the better does the supply of officers generally become; men who have been a long time away turn up by degrees, and sickness casualties make only a very slight drain, particularly with senior ranks who are largely tough old nuts who have stood rough sort of campaigning and bad climates for long periods.
I wonder whether George got his leave. I have heard of a tremendous lot of leave being given from France. Apparently everybody was held up until after the capture of the Messines ridge, and then they made arrangements to let as many go as possible.
It looks almost as if there is no intention now to attempt anything big, but to keep up steady pressure, and recourse all tactical points, and wait for America to put in the necessary forces to give a big numerical superiority. From all accounts the Germans, though they have not started anything definite about terms are modifying their ideas on the subject at a pretty big rate.
The food rations and various other kinds of strain must be simply terrible in Germany now, so it is hardly surprising. This will all pave the way in a very useful manner for the final settlement which they will have to be made to accept.
I hope you enjoyed staying with Mrs Jarvis on Bredon Hill. I remember out there that Dr Baker went for several summers for his holiday. His tastes for a holiday are simple. A country place with fishing handy and a golf course within reach.
It still surprises me immensely that the absence of cabled news did not arouse your suspicions that I never got any leave. Please remember that nothing short of the transmission of cables or some such entirely insuperable difficulty would ever stop me from cabling about a matter of so much interest to both of us. And the stoppage of private cables is a rare occurrence, and was due last March to the Gibraltar-England wire going wrong. During operations we cannot always get private wires through from the theatre of operations: but that does not affect wires for the base, and it is possible to post wires to Basra and get them cabled on from there.
All my very best love from
Your ever affectionate
Cyril E Sladden