Nov 20th 1917
My dearest Mela
I have had no fresh letter from you since I wrote last week. There was a mail on Sunday, two days ago, but it did not appear to be much later than the one that came a week before, as the only letter I had was one from Father posted Oct 3rd, about the same date as your last one.
Things are much as they were when I last wrote, except that the weather has become rather cloudy and cooler in consequence by day. There has so far been no rain at all, but it might come any time from appearances. I have been very busy remaking the roofs of the dug-outs where most of the men live. They were designed solely for summer use, and in event of rain would either have let it all in with a plentiful addition of soil, or if they had proved at all rainproof they would have accumulated large pools (being flat) until they finally collapsed entirely.
We have been putting a slope on to let the water run off, and remaking the surface in a manner which ought I think to keep out most of the rain, though it is quite experimental. While conditions allow we may be able to use tents to a great extent, but we have not got them yet, and they would have to go out of sight if there were any expectation of the Turk appearing on the scene.
General Maude’s death on Sunday evening came as a great shock to everybody. I received wires at the same time late that night, the one saying he was ill, and the other that he was dead. The perfect confidence the whole force had in him was a very great moral asset; and however good a substitute may be found that loss cannot be replaced for some time.
We are not very keen on getting an outsider from France or elsewhere, and should prefer a commander-in-chief who knows the country and our methods.
I am not quite so well off for officers as I have been, as one has been taken for special duty with headquarters for a time, and another has just left to join the Indian Army. Under present circumstances I can do with a lot, having a big area to look after. Also the more there are the easier the night work is for us.
We are in process of having a general TAB inoculation all round. It is rather a nuisance, because although scarcely anyone feels it a bit, they all know they can make it an excuse for a holiday, and we cannot object. Also as a matter of discipline there has to be a period of exemption from night duty; otherwise a man could be slack and plead medical reasons, and so probably get off lightly which is very bad for discipline in a matter of such extreme importance. Besides in a few cases the medical reasons might be genuine. In our present circumstances we have to work it on a relay system which makes more work of it.
I am due for my second dose tomorrow.
I notice you said you were done recently, but you did not suggest that it troubled you at all. If it doesn’t first time it is never likely to at all.
The weather is being true to its old habits, and just because I am writing a letter a dusty wind is getting up, although we have had practically nothing of the kind for weeks except one awful day! Once the rain has come there will be winds, but they will not be dusty any more, or nothing to speak of.
I see in a recent Reuters that mails are going to be fortnightly to India again from now, which is sad. However they often are so as it is, and when Indian mails are less frequent I fancy our mails occasionally get a through boat to Basra; that seems the only explanation of our occasional extra quick ones, which will at times overtake an earlier one.
I am looking forward very much to your next letter giving further impressions of your new job. I am in great hopes that they will remain good.
This is a dull and short letter, but there is little doing here, and with nothing further from you there does not seem a lot to write about. I wrote to Father yesterday, chiefly about the war in general. If I were in the best letter writing mood I could go on easily enough at great length about nothing; but that is a mood which is born and not made.
Best love Mela, dear.
Your own devoted
Cyril E Sladden