Skip to main content

October 12th 1917 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

12th October 1917
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Seward House, Badsey
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Oct 12th 1917


My darling Mela


Your very delightful letters of Aug 11th and 15th came by the mail that I just missed being able to acknowledge last time.


Only one week of mail turned up on that occasion and I now hear of the next English mail being at HQ this morning so I hope to get it this evening. Before it comes I thought I had better settle down to start a reply to the letters I already have or they may not get the attention they deserve.


To begin with you sent two snapshots of yourself, one of which is simply perfect, I mean the one taken with you leaning against the white railings, and the river behind. I just love to gaze at it. It is just you looking your very best, and I cannot say more than that, can I? If I had not fallen in love with you before I think I must have done so by that photo alone.


The other suffers by comparison. You should never try to stop laughing when being photographed, because you never do actually: when you want to laugh you do, and it is the greater delight for anybody near enough either to see or hear. And so you see the photo is not quite natural. All the same it has its points. It shows you have got a ripping laugh trying to break through, and it shows your splendid upright strong figure which I always admire so much. And you don’t look a year above 20 in either. What on earth a girl like you can see in an old fogey …..!


Your second letter emulates the newspaper serial, and leaves you just about to go to Liverpool seeking a job. If it turned out a good job (you did not give details) I hope you get it. I should love to think of you earning at last an appreciable fraction of what you are worth, and at the same time liking the job as I think you would like a good job where you had a chance to use your excellent authority and did not have to submit to other people’s rotten authority so much. My mail tonight should tell me the sequel.


I am very afraid important mail of my writing has gone down. The July 7th from Bombay has long been reported missing, and I guessed it would contain mine of about June 18th. But you acknowledge that and the previous one in your last letter, so apparently June 25th got to Bombay by July 7th and caught that mail. I am sorry if it was sunk. I wrote Father a special congratulation upon his 70th birthday and shall be most disappointed if it never got to him. There was the usual weekly one to you but I forget if there was anything special in it. Also I wrote to my bank to buy me £400 of Consols. Altogether I particularly wanted that mail to float.


You seem to have had a jolly time with Mrs Jarvis at Eckington. I am not certain how near there I have been, but I seem to fancy having once been through or near that village on a cycle ride with George years ago.


The news from France is awfully good. We seem to be hammering hard at the Germans about twice a week now. On top of the specially big effort on Oct 4th we have now had news that the attack was renewed on the 9th, and started favourably. I am waiting eagerly for further news of the result. A few more such blows and it really looks as if we shall command the north of Belgium and all its coast. I begin to look almost hopefully for the sudden collapse that I still believe will come in the end.


For all the talk there is about the attack on Bagdad I shall believe in it when it starts, not before.


We have heard of Turkish attacks before in Gallipoli where they never came at all, and in Egypt where they came to little but disaster. There won’t be any German help I am sure, except in the form of staff; and the Turks hate their German staffs. An attack on Bagdad is a mighty hard proposition. It is not likely to be easier than our attack on Kut, where we had preponderance of guns and ammunition, and superiority of supply.


Here the Turks might collect larger forces than we possess, seeing that the Caucasus does not trouble them now; but the chief question is how they would feed them, as there is not much to be had locally. We occupy all the richest ground round here. Then we are scarcely likely to lose our advantage in guns these days; and we have had all the summer and half the autumn to stock munitions.


We seemed to be pretty liberal with shells in the earliest days after taking Bagdad when the transport difficulties must have been enormous. They have been getting better day by day, and soon the rising of the river will mean a great help to all river-craft.


The complete wiping away of his Euphrates force will not help or encourage Turkey a bit. Moreover Enver Pasha is probably alive to events in France and won’t see the fun of attacking unassisted unless he thinks there will be some permanent advantage likely to be gained. He may easily imitate the man in the parable who said “I go, sir” and went not. That will keep the Kaiser quiet for a bit at the comparatively slight cost of making preparations. It will also keep us in the qui vine here which is an advantage to Germany & Co: he can always plead unforeseen difficulties at the last minute. Altogether I think there are plenty of alternatives to the great Turkish attack to recapture Bagdad.


I have got another little budget of photographs which I am sending along as usual. Some of them will interest you. One or two are almost historic. Some are of little interest to anybody who was not there.


Sunday Oct 14th – The expected mail brought your two letters posted on 16th (from Liverpool) and 22nd. The latter is a great long one, and among other things contained the very welcome acknowledgement of my letters of June 24th, July 1st. Somehow all my letters seemed to have escaped being drowned as we had been led to expect. Father got his, which he answered in the letter I had this time; also my bank informed me of the purchase of my Consols.


Well, dear, I rather expect to read when the next mail turns up (I fear not for some time, but I cannot grumble really) that you have got the job at Aintree. I think from the little you have told me so far that it is likely to be the right sort of thing. I am particularly delighted that you asked £30 more than your predecessor got, because you will be valued quite 30% more in consequence. Incidentally a firm like Jacobs will never think twice about £30 a year more or less, so long as they think your qualifications are the right ones. The difference between a good and a bad supervisor of the women workers will easily make more than ten times that value in difference to the annual profits. They will be silly if they don’t offer you the job, especially after seeing you. You will feel quite bucked to be earning more than I did before the war!


I am very glad I got my name in despatches. I knew you would be pleased. I cannot quite understand the list, as the decorations do not appear to have been published previously, and several of our people who get a decoration are not mentioned in this list, which is very odd and most unusual. I am practically certain too that the whole period to the end of March is supposed to be covered, as there was only the one list sent in. I believe the decorations appeared in the gazette of the 25th so presumably they followed later, and will be in the papers of next mail. Generally they all come together. You tell me Father was “simply delighted”, which pleases me very much too. The chief pleasure of any sort of distinction is the knowledge that it gives pleasure at home. He writes in his letter; “We were pleased to see your name, among others, as receiving special mention in the Mesopotamian list recently issued, many congratulations thereon for I feel you have well-earned that distinction, it gave Aunt Lottie much pleasure and I have letters from Aunt Polly, Uncle Fred and others congratulating me on the event and sending kind messages to you.”


This was quite nice, and Father means things he writes. I will admit to your private ear (or eye) that a message or letter referring to it from one of my four sisters (who had six days to write it in) would have been an extra pleasure.


Aunt Lottie went one better than they did and wrote me quite a long one. I don’t profess to have done anything very great to deserve it, but I have been through a pretty good lot of pretty trying times altogether and with luck might have got it sooner, though if that had been so it probably would not have come again this time. I know of course unofficially that my name had been put in the regimental list when I mentioned my hopes to you in a letter some time ago, but it was one of a good many.


I was surprised at your account of George’s silly trick. He makes me rather angry when he does things of that kind. His highly absurd pose of secrecy was merely humorous as long as he was young enough to be anxious to exhibit his independence. Now that he has been old enough for several years for that claim to be established automatically he might as well let it drop. Moreover I think he might have tried to go home to start with as he had not seen Father since Mother died. Just occasionally he wants shaking, to make his solemn dignity evaporate and leave him natural.


I thought I had pretty accurately gauged the family attitude towards my scheme (my scheme!) of getting you to India. I can imagine so well the chorus of stony silence that greeted your remarks about passports. The letters I got weeks ago were the libretto to the same – they tactfully omitted all reference to the matter when it was possible to do so!


Well I suppose it is enough that you should understand me and me you: but it would be much nicer if we could only do it at rather closer quarters. At any rate they are happy at present while the proposal is shelved. One can only live in hope now that, if the war still looks like carrying on, a few old stagers like me may be allowed to go home for a spell. If not we may have to fall back upon the ‘horrible proposal’ after all.


Meanwhile I continue to differ entirely from you about the length of the war. I feel sure Germany cannot keep it up for two years more. It is about as much as we could do. I think if Russia had fought this summer we should now be overrunning Germany.


Having taken every scrap of high ground overlooking Flanders, which we have almost done now, it hardly seems sensible to stop, and I am in hopes that in a month or two we shall have regained much or possibly all the Belgian coast.


The Germans in France appear to be getting just the same sort of thing on a more extensive scale that the Turks get round Kut; and the end must be the same and cannot take two years surely?


And now I have one thing for which I must scold you. You simply are not to let your mind entertain over a “wee bit” of nervousness lest when we meet “my feelings should have changed”. If this could happen it would be equally hopeless for both of us; our faith in mankind would be gone alike for both, but you at least would have some respect left for yourself; I hope that for myself I should have none. Don’t let your mind entertain the thought at all, I say; and still more don’t write about it. It is a poisonous hateful subject that befouls the pages of your letter where it appears.


You do not waste time in considering what you would do if I should start floating bogus companies and decamping with the proceeds; or if I should turn Mohammedan, or any such unthinkable thing. Yet either seems to me as likely to happen and not more hopelessly destructive of every ideal I cherish.


I seem to have run this letter on to a length almost as great as your best efforts. But if you don’t mind more than I do it is all right! I must go a long walk all round to see my sentries now, and then to bed.


All my love, my own dear Mela, from


Your ever affectionate


Cyril E Sladden

Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 6 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference