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October 28th 1917 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

28th October 1917
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Somerfield (sic) Hostel WAAC, Manor Hill, Sutton Coldfield
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Oct 28th 1917


My Darling


To write for Christmas so soon seems absurd; but we have been warned that this is the mail for doing so, though with luck it should reach you rather earlier.


It will be a new kind of Christmas for you I expect; not an unenjoyable one I hope and think likely. I picture you settled in your duties, assisting to look after some big household of women who will probably get enough holiday just to enjoy themselves for a spell, and will determine to make the most of it. Perhaps you might even be in France, in which case I think my picture is likely to be fairly accurate.


Of course it is just conceivable that if in England you might get away, but I imagine that unlikely. So having due respect to the news of you which I may get between that time and this you can gather what roughly I shall be picturing as I think of you on that day. Once more it will have to be a day of hope with comparatively little satisfaction in itself.


It seems ironical these days that it should be taken as the festival of peace and goodwill. Yet that is still the ultimate aim ahead of us, though it is a grievous round about sort of way we find ourselves approaching it. But I believe when the labour is over and we begin to reap the reward it will be very easy then to see clearly how much we have really approached the ideal that Christmas calls to mind.


You know my belief, which I hold unaltered, that the Christmas of next year is more likely than not to see the war over, and beginning to become in our minds a hideous nightmare of the past. That will bring a Christmas that should go a long way to repay the disappointment of its predecessors. This coming one should have been the first of the new era, and would have been had Russia exerted the force that everybody reasonably expected from her during the year. The balance came near to being overturned as things were about the end of the summer, and the extra weight would have made the enormous difference.


The occasion brings again my best annual excuse for giving you a present – one of the pleasant little things that not even the war can quite prevent. I wish I could better exert my own choice and care in selecting you a Christmas and birthday present (which I link together at this distance as I have done before – but should not do if I was with you). In the circumstances I can only leave it all to you again, for which purpose I send along a cheque for your disposal. Previously I wanted you to use my presents in purchase of such little odd things as you badly needed and could not easily find the money to buy at the princely rate of pay which nurses enjoy. I felt that would really be the greatest help in time of need. I hope by the time you get this your own pay will be covering such things, and therefore I should like you to spend part or all the money on some rather more permanent thing or things that will give you (and me too later on I hope) pleasure and satisfaction for a long time to come.


It is really impossible for me to make suggestions because I am so hopelessly out of touch with your wants – particularly your wants two months hence.


I am disappointed to think that there is now no possibility of me making you my wife before this coming birthday. You remember I reckoned I should manage it by then? But I couldn’t reckon on a war like this interfering, and I cannot blame myself as it has been no fault of mine that we have not got married any time this last two years almost.


Please will you cable to me if you get sent abroad. I should like to know always that I could count upon getting quick information of that move if it comes off. I gather from what I read in papers that at present the bulk of the WAAC is engaged at home, so I do not particularly expect to hear of you going out at present.


I want to get your next letter which ought to give me more news of your prospects, as you will have started your training course by that time.


29th – True to its old habits the weather has provided an absolutely first class dust storm on the last available mail day. However my policy of waiting till after lunch; on the reasonable theory that it might then be better, but couldn’t be worse, is working out well. I continued somehow too to write a letter of sorts to Ethel this morning though I am afraid it wasn’t a sparklingly brilliant one.


However it is stated on pretty sound authority that another mail is in, which is good. I don’t think we are likely to get it in time to reply by this mail but it will stand over for your birthday letter in case the following one is less well up to time.


Two days ago the old missing week of mail turned up, very much after its predecessor. Your letter was in a minor key throughout, which I don’t prefer on its own account; but the fact that your letters honestly present your mood is one I appreciate very much, and at any rate the allegro and pronto movements in a major key which you send quite often gain extra value by comparison, and because I know them not to be forced for my supposed satisfaction.


In one paragraph you were disposed to be naughty, but I won’t scold you in a Christmas letter, particularly as I scolded you so recently on the same sort of subject!


The fact of the matter was the atmosphere at home was getting on your nerves rather badly, and small blame to you. Even before the war when it was probably never quite so bad it used to irritate me quite often, and being born and bred to it I am naturally more immune than you who are quite a different type of person. And as you must know that if you had been of similar type I should never have started even to fall in love with you, you may rest assured that I shall not become disappointed with you for remaining the sort of person you are. I have not the slightest desire for you to “rush round doing things like my sisters” and I shall have altered and degenerated badly before I shall be anything but glad that you do things in a different sort of way.


Please dear do fight hard in your gloomy moments against vain and empty imaginings of troubles never likely to arise. It wears you out to no purpose whatever. The troubles you think you foresee will never happen – because you have foreseen them if for no other reason. If troubles are to come they will almost certainly turn out (like this war) to be something we neither of us ever dreamt of. And when they do come we shall be older and wiser and in every way more capable of meeting them then than we are now. Don’t look at life as if all the sense we are ever to be blessed with in life will be exhausted in about two years time, leaving us either childish or fools! In short “sufficient (or more than sufficient just at present) unto the day is the evil thereof”.


I wonder if you noticed that Dr Baker was awarded the CBE in the first long list of appointments to that Order. I had not written to him for ages, so I took the chance to write congratulations.


I am told that Sir Eric Geddes and his sister who is commander-in-chief of your show (I forget her name) are cousins of Major Gibbon. What a chance for pulling strings if the persons concerned were the kind who don’t mind doing that sort of thing; but I am afraid Major Gibbon decidedly is not!


Very best love, dear, with the happiest Christmas circumstances will allow.


Your own affectionate


Cyril E Sladden

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