Skip to main content

October 22nd 1917 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

22nd October 1917
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Seward House, Badsey; redirected to Residential Hostels WAAC, attached Command Depot Camp, Sutton Coldfield
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Oct 22nd 1917


My dearest Mela


I have been getting my mails in the wrong order again. Yesterday, a fortnight being due, the latter week turned up. As no suggestion of any mail being lost has ever come along I expect the earlier week any time; there is in fact a rumour of sorts that a further mail is at hand which may turn out to be the missing one. So I have a postcard of Aug 30th and letter of Sept 1st, which combine to give me the unexpected news of your appointment in the WAAC. Most of your letter consists of an account of the job, which I have just been supplementing by reading an article on it in The Weekly Times.


Well, after sleeping on it for a night I have singled my objection to the scheme down to one thing, and that after all is an objection which only holds upon a move too likely possibility coming off. Suppose I do get home some time before the war is over I shall be pretty hopelessly fed up if you are in France or somewhere, and I cannot see you. It will be almost as bad to have you practically inaccessible in England. I can see heaps of advantages to the scheme. I assume you failed to get the Aintree job, and then applied for this, that stage of the process will come out when I get your missing letters.


I should have liked the former better because you would have been less tired. But the job you have got (I don’t see your failing in your training test!) is clearly a good one, worth doing and interesting. You will have responsibility and if you are lucky in your superior officers ought to like the work. I think the regularity of the thing and the discipline will suit you very well. You will know just how you stand. Then I should think you would get a very nice set of women as your colleagues in the service. You are going into the Corps while it is young and small, and they are strenuously enlarging it, so your chances of promotion should be very good indeed. I know from experience that it is everything to be on the job early. It is highly probable that if I had waited another month before applying for a commission I should have been still a subaltern, and quite possibly only a 2nd Lieutenant. I know several 2nd Lieutenants with about 3 years’ service, much of it abroad. Your pay is not princely, but it isn’t bad. It is hard to judge what it is really worth until you have by experience found out the expenses that you will run up against.


Let me know where you open a bank account, which is what I imagine you are likely to do. I should recommend avoiding Cox & Co if you have to select an army agent. They are so crowded that they care nothing for their clients. From all accounts Messrs Holt are much better to deal with. I never had an account with Cox, but he used to draw my pay at home, and that alone was nuisance enough. I made a mistake in not banking with Grindley or King & King in Bombay too, though they are better in India.


I suppose that by this time some account has reached the public of a bit of activity that has been going on the last week or so in this neighbourhood. We were some of the lucky ones who did not have to set out on trek, but were left at our old job in our old place. I don’t know what the end of it is to be but we have effectually ‘put the wind up’ the Turk and removed him (what there was of him) from a fair sized bit of territory, a proceeding which has given us command of a big irrigation system. I have heard only very sketchy news of events up to the present, but there seems to have been more marching about than fighting. I was out in that direction last April and May, but not quite so far.


Yesterday afternoon we held company sports (at some little expense to myself in the matter of prizes, the soldier not being educated up to enjoy sport for sports sake alone) which went with a good swing and were I think greatly appreciated. We continue to get some amusement, having a football in possession in the company, and occasional use of a set of cricket apparatus belonging to the regiment.


Now that the weather is pleasant to be out in nearly all day and can get chances to make use of these things and still get ones work done. It does the men all the good in the world to have a change from the routine of training and digging. They have so little to employ their minds otherwise, as they don’t get much pleasure as a rule from reading even if plenty of books were available.


I had a letter from Father. He seemed to have only a vague idea of what you were undertaking so didn’t say much about it. You had only sent a brief note to Badsey up to then.


Arthur also wrote, among other things to express his satisfaction at my mention; also he usually writes after a visit home to give me impressions. He finds people at home more jumpy and unbalanced than those on service, but says they are all right to carry on. I have held that view for some time, chiefly from study of newspapers. Waves of optimism and pessimism of absurd degree seem to alternate, and this is the most marked sign of this state of the public mind I think. I doubt if there is any better place for watching the war from than out here provided only we get all our mails and have leisure to read them, and also get Reuter’s telegrams to keep us to date in the facts. Waves of opinion and headlines and so forth have no effect upon us, and we can judge them straight away for what they were.


Our promising work in France seems to have been held up by bad weather, and I suppose the Flanders plains in winter are just about impossible to fight in.


We get no further indications of Turkey’s attack on Bagdad; if they don’t get a move on the weather may come to interfere with them. We are not likely to have another season so fine as the last, though I hope it will avoid being as wet as the one before.


I suppose they are not employing WAAC out here, are they? I have heard nothing of them. If you get sent to Basra or Bagdad I shall be going sick and angling for a soft job in the same area!


I don’t think I like the idea of you in khaki uniform particularly. I hope you can get out of it occasionally in your off time. You are nicer in ordinary clothes. The criticism perhaps would not apply to the other necessary uniform which you said you would have to wear – in case of air raids, wasn’t it? You might look very becoming in that I can imagine, especially if you are allowed plenty of freedom of choice in material and design!


I was very pleased to hear that your thorough medical examination only confirmed all the late reports of your fit condition. Your weight certainly sounds a good deal after allowing the best part of a stone for clothes; still heaps of girls are over 10 stone in clothes and you are well over average height and well-built too. After all when I am in proper condition I am 12 stone stripped, and two stone seems a pretty reasonable margin.


I hope that with your assistance we shall now finish the war in the shortest space of time! Good luck in the new job. I shall be longing to hear how you like it when you really get to work.


Best love dear as ever from


Your most devoted


Cyril E Sladden

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 4 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference