Sept 30th 1917
My dearest Mela
I was disappointed in my hopes of getting an addition to the mail, that came just before I last posted to you, as nothing has turned up since.
I have seen no report at all of any mail about that date being sunk, so I still live in hopes that one day the first letter you posted from Badsey will turn up. I heard rumours today of expected mail, so with luck I may get something more tomorrow before I have to post this.
I have had a fairly active week and quite pleasant. I enjoy being away pretty much on my own. By degrees I am getting things into good working order. Among other things I have had practically to organize the whole sanitary system of the area; once the necessary digging etc. for it is finished it will leave me free to spend more time at more regular trench work. Anybody who has had experience of it knows that there is never any end to the improvement of the trench system one may happen to be in, and this place is certainly no exception.
I am keen on keeping the training up to a high pitch so far time allows. In particular I am aiming at making a great improvement in the general standard of musketry which is very poor in these days compared with pre-war standards. The rapidity of training at home in these days does not admit of anything like a proper grounding, without which the average man is never much good. During the long period of stationary trench warfare in France the rifle became rather neglected as there was little encouragement to improve the musketry standard very much.
I fancy that with more movement the rifle is coming into its own again more. At any rate there has never been any doubt of its value in the more open type of fighting one gets in this country and we have always done our best to keep the standard of shooting up as much as possible.
It is not easy in service conditions as proper training needs much time and many appliances to attain a real good standard.
Here I hope to get a lot of available time, even if appliances are few, and improvised. But we have one enormous advantage. We can shoot with bolt ammunition as much as we like and don’t get asked any questions about it. This is the rule in the line, and is a very great help indeed.
There is little trouble too about a range to fire on as anything out towards the enemy does, provided we have nobody wandering out in front.
Local inhabitants are warned to avoid our immediate front and have to take their luck; and I am afraid we don’t worry our heads very greatly about an odd Arab or two more or less.
I happen to have got a place which makes a nice little range, with a natural back stop, and very handy. I am fixing it up and mean to make the most of it as soon as possible.
We still take things easily during the middle of the day – though really it is not a hardship to go about even on the warmest days now, and soon we shall be able to go about our business all day long again. The worst worry at present is certainly the sandfly. This little beast worries us all night long on many nights when it is still and warm; and he is rarely absent entirely.
Even by day he is bad in certain places. The bite is a funny one, leaving very little mark afterwards, but hurting violently while it is being made.
Also the sandflies seem to carry some organism which gives rise to sandfly fever, an illness resembling malaria to some extent. It doesn’t usually turn bad enough to compel as to send men right away, but it makes a great many have a nasty turn of feverish illness for a few days.
The ordinary fly is rather plentiful here too, and we get a dust-storm still occasionally (as yesterday) but not often luckily.
I really meant to do a lot of writing work (ie schemes and programmes etc of company work) yesterday, but it did not get done owing largely to dust, and partly to having Major Gibbon over here for the day.
So I had to do it today instead, and had quite a rigorous morning. Final result is that I am writing this letter after dinner, to your greater benefit really because if I can only avoid getting sleepy I can write best generally in the evenings.
Ten o’clock here is quite a late hour, as it natural when one is wandering about as a rule in the small hours, and also has to be up and about well before dawn.
Tonight I am going to start on a walk round at 11.30. It is quite a useful piece of exercise.
I am glad to say there are lots of us to share duty and so it is not a bit heavy at present.
As I am expecting Lake back from leave any time now we shall probably be even more numerous soon. He is delayed in Bagdad sitting on Court Martial, having written me a note from there a few days back.
I was completely surprised and much delighted yesterday by a telegraphic report of a good success by our force on the Euphrates about Feluja.
They seem to have wiped up most of the Turks opposed to them. Rather a nice comment by General Maude upon the current rumours of impending Turkish attack in the dim future!
We were honoured by a visit from him recently, but I didn’t see him myself on this occasion. The last time I saw him was in Bagdad a few days after the first entry.
News from France has been good again too, with a renewed advance successful apparently in every way. The Germans must be sick of losing the strongest positions unfailingly every time we attack. One has only to imagine what a state public opinion would be in if things were reversed.
Myles has just come back from a long time in India. His wound was some time mending but his arm seems to be pretty well in order now. I wonder how much he has been spoiled in India. VC, DSO is rather a strain upon anybody’s vanity I should think, and he is pretty young too. However a regiment on active service is a pretty good sort of place for putting any little mistakes of that sort right in the shortest possible space of time. A year ago it didn’t take us long to make him nearly forget the VC!
These things are very nice for the regiment, but risky to the individual unless careful treatment is given.
I have been impelled to order a new watch from Bombay. You remember buying my little 10/6 wrist watch at a shop in Holborn at the beginning of the war. It has been the most wonderful bargain having gone ever since, and you know the rough time it has had. I am sure it is getting old and will collapse utterly one day. It stops occasionally and has to be coaxed on again. At present it has a cracked glass.
I hope your watch has gone well since I gave it to you; I don’t recollect you ever mentioning it either way.
I will stop now and finish tomorrow, in hopes I may have a letter to answer. This is the longest sheet of ordinary sort of gossip I have written you for quite a long time. Goodnight, dear.
Oct 1st – the expected mail turned up after tea today and turns out to be the missing letters I referred to, namely yours of July 27th from Marlow, and Aug 1st from Badsey: also various papers but no other letters.
If mails are still arriving fortnightly as seems to be the case it will be another week before I hear, and then I ought to get letters up to about Aug 22nd.
In your Marlow letter you acknowledge one of mine – the one posted June 3rd apparently. Either the next or next but one I wrote (if not both) went to the bottom, so it is not altogether surprising you have so far acknowledged no later ones.
My letters moved you to much reference to unobtainable passports and the disadvantages and (possible) advantages resulting in our special case. For the rest you wrote in a sprightly mood, and were full of pictures of me flirting outrageously in India, a vision which you entertain with the utmost satisfaction to judge from the tone of your letter! I will of course recollect this against the future if and when fate is kinder and opens up opportunities again!
You open up the question as to whether you had better come to India at any time if the regulations are relaxed and it becomes safer.
I think it is better not to consider it until next spring now, as there is no question of leave till May to the best of my belief. When that time comes it may be well to open the question again. If I have then carried on all through the winter my claim for leave will be about as strong as anybody’s. However that is looking ahead considerably.
You give such a great account of your fitness that it is plain to me that strict rationing suits you. This is very convenient from a financial point of view. I shall have to cut down the housekeeping allowance accordingly! You really are very convenient in these little matters.
The latest news of the Euphrates affair is very good, 3200 unwounded prisoners and 200 dead counted, 12 guns captured. That means that what is left of a Turkish division at present strength is not worth counting. If they are making plans for an offensive the plans will need some rearranging after that.
I must write to Father tomorrow morning, and then send my groom off to catch the mail which will have left all post offices close at hand.
This morning I heard a very interesting lecture by a staff officer recounting an official tour he made early in the summer with the Russian Armies in Persia and Turkey. He went to Kharichin, Kermanshah, Kamadan, up to the Caspian and to Tiflis which is GHQ for the whole front. Thence to Trebizond, Erzingan and Erzeroum, back to Tiflis, and then rejoining by way of Kermanshah again and the Purk-ti-Kuk mountains to Sheikh Saad. A remarkable trip at any time, but especially just after the Russian revolution. They do seem to be a regular Gilbert and Sullivan army these days.
I am very well, and growing in energy with the cooling weather.
Very best love Mela dear from
Your ever affectionate
Cyril E Sladden