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

12th November 1917
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

November 12th 1917


My dearest Mela


The arrival of two letters last night from you, both nice ones, and the latter very cheerful, have improved my spirits enormously, and taken away the horrid taste in my mouth which the previous mail had (metaphorically) produced. I feel I have got back again my real and proper Mela; the same girl I have been in love with nearly five years. For a moment she vanished and was replaced by somebody with similar handwriting but no other conceivable resemblance, and the shock I suffered was a bad one. I almost wish now that a submarine might sink my letter of last week (it may yet!); not because I think I put things in it that I now should regret, but merely because it scarcely would seem worthwhile to have replied at all to the reproaches of a (luckily) evanescent person.


I feel so sure that the genuine “you” whom I have now got back again would repudiate now, if you knew it, almost all the passages which imported to me such a perfectly loathsome nature, and in consequence aroused in me so much indignation and distress, that I can express the hope that you will take no further steps to prolong a horrid and unprofitable subject. Had I been close at hand to thresh the whole thing out at the first day of its arising it might have been as well to do so – as we have done with other points of difference in the past. The method is quite unsuited to our present situation.


I am very pleased indeed with your account of your new job. The quickest mail in my recollection has brought me your first letter from Sutton Coldfield, posted on Oct: 3rd; that is it took 5 weeks and four days in coming which is excellent, and will make a big difference on the return mail if it can be kept up. You must be awfully busy, and I can picture just the sort of work. No doubt as you get things organized it will be easier but I don’t suppose it will ever be a slack time. In many ways your letter recalled to me the early days of Kitchener’s first hundred thousand – all the gradual development of order out of chaos, or something not much better than chaos. I can well imagine the same general keenness to do things well (save for a few backsliders) and the same general inexperience and freshness in a novel kind of life - in the latter not least noticeable in oneself.


I can see you tackling methods learnt hastily and recently, and finding you have to supply details out of the genius of your own brain with the aid of hard experience; often too passing on these same recently acquired pieces of knowledge to others still fresher. And all the time it is varied and interesting and human and mighty hard work.


But I am in hopes that hard as it may be you will stand it because you will be able to use your own ideas and methods, run things in satisfactory lines, and generally be freer from annoying outside control than you have been before.


Not of course that their ideal conditions will always prevail, but to a large extent they ought to do so. I hope you get a capable second in command whom you can trust to get things done, and done in a sane manner at reasonable speed, without minute supervision. It makes all the difference in the world.


As I imagine the first comers to the commissioned ranks of the WAAC are likely to be rather a picked lot, the first volunteers, your chances of such a 2nd in command ought to be good.


I hope you will be kept where you are now that you have made a start. Moving about is the curse of military existence. There are few places so bad that one cannot contrive in a little while with some trouble to make oneself passably comfortable. My suggestion that you should make purchases on our behalf for your immediate benefit came in very opportunely. I take it you will not be hard pressed for cash now, so carry on right away with purchases such as you think fit, and send in the bill. Then I will refund by cheque. Don’t stick at a pound or two, say anything from £5-£10 for a start! Your comfort is better interest on the money than I can get any other way. I must leave it all to you obviously, and trust you entirely to select well and suitably. Think of everything you buy as something for our home, so avoid cheap and rubbishy things that won’t last; you know how I hate such things. You must not regard them as ordinary presents, as they will just belong to both of us; only I shall not be there to have the use of them at present.


Every spare shilling I possess is really half yours as it is, so why not spend a few of them? If the French arrangement of wedding by proxy were possible in England I think I should be in favour of it; then we could just go off to church and be properly married the first day we met! It would be very convenient to be legally married now in lots of ways. It would be the only way of getting everybody to regard us as on the same footing as we really regard ourselves.


I had a very cheery letter a few days ago from Wilfred. You used to describe him as a very bad letter writer, but I hardly think that applies to him now. Nobody would judge I think from our recent correspondence that we had never met in our lives. He had just heard from you of your getting the job with the WAAC.


He evidently had not enjoyed the hot weather, which I suppose would be jolly unpleasant in Nowshera. That is one benefit about our hot weather, it is dry as a bone. The moist heat of some parts of India is really worse though the temperature is lower. Above Quernah I can imagine that under peace conditions in decent barracks it would prove to be a healthy enough country. We were pretty comfortably situated in the summer, and the sick rate was quite low, and actual deaths from heat were very few indeed in the battalion, and did not compare in any way with the year before when they were not so well off, as well as being further south.


At present the country is a health resort; my daily sick report for this month has been wonderful, but I suppose I ought not to quote figures.


Your early letter this mail, written from Epsom was largely taken up with description of air raids. You ought to be free of such troubles in Sutton Coldfield, which is just as well. For however small one may know ones actual chance of being hit really is, it is rotten sitting and waiting for the off chance to happen. I expect you realized the benefit of responsibility at such a time. The fad of being in charge of other people pulls one together better than anything. About the time you wrote there seemed to be a raid over some part of England almost every night; however I gather that has quieted down a bit. At any rate we are not likely to have Zeppelins over again at present after their last attempt I should imagine.


I was very delighted with the quick success at Giza, and am interested to watch how successfully it can be followed up. Italian news remains pretty poor at present, and the latest we have suggests small hope of Russia. However Russia has had to be reckoned as worth nothing for some time. Supposing she should give in (provided any form of government can be established that is coherent enough to do anything) I should not be a bit surprised if Turkey could not be persuaded to the same. The Russians are the only enemy they dislike; and everything points to the fact that desertions in the Turkish army are practically wholesale. It is just the sort of illogical action I can well imagine the Turks taking, especially as he is getting it hot in Palestine, and hardly dares to come anywhere within reach of us here. I think the Germans have tried everything they could to encourage them to make an effort to recapture Bagdad. If they are ever going to they have lost the best period, as it will begin to be wet in a month, and they will have a lot to do to prepare for any attack that can possibly do the least bit of good; and they are almost entirely dependent upon road transport.


13th – I have to finish this letter this morning and post it. I have just been following your example and have been inoculated once again. As it has never worried me so far I am not very frightened of it this time.


I don’t quite know what to do about your address, but I should think it may be as well now to use your new one, as I imagine there is a good chance of you being kept for some time where you are.


I notice a further list of ladies gazetted, but you are not there yet. I see that not many Unit Administrators are being appointed direct, so you look like securing a good position of seniority straight away. I feel so pleased at your doing so well at last.


I must take steps to find out just where Sutton Coldfield is; at present I only know vaguely it is somewhere in the Midlands industrial district.


All my very best love, Mela dear,



Your most devoted


Cyril E Sladden

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
1 sheet of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference