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December 2nd 1917 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

2nd December 1917
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Unit Administrator WAAC, Command Depot Camp, Sutton Coldfield; redirected to Depot Hostel, Handsworth, Birmingham
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Sunday Dec 2nd 1917


My own Darling


After a most tiresome period of daily expectation and daily disappointment a mail at last arrived on Friday, after an interval of almost three weeks, the longest for a long time.


What was most annoying was that persistent rumours kept coming along and saying the mail was in when it really was not in at all.


When it came there was your letter of Oct 11th, also one from May and one of the 17th from Father written from Eastbourne. I ought not therefore to have to wait too long for your next.


This time you were much too busy to be able to write at great length, but you make up for it by writing a very nice dear letter such as I like to get. You had in it a further apology for your perfectly horrible letter of some weeks ago which I was glad of because it helps to blot it right out of my mind, which is what I am anxious to do.


Now that my move which I referred to in the last letter is completed and we have settled down again we are quite comfortable. We seem most awfully scattered though; the previous place was compact in comparison.


I have to run things very much on paper, by messages etc, instead of the more direct verbal and personal manner which is usually all that is required. Luckily there are plenty of officers to assist, to whom things can be handed over.


When you wrote the details of the Ramadie battle on the Euphrates had recently been in the papers, and awoken you suddenly to the realization that there might be a war on again out here. That, from our point of view, was a remarkably useful bit of war too. However I was a very long way from having any share in it; so far that I had not even a hint that anything was doing at all until it was all over. Actually though we have not taken any part so far in such movements as there have been in this direction from time to time, though if we had done they were not very unpleasant, only troublesome as all active warfare is bound to be.


I have wondered sometimes whether you had got any approximate idea of my whereabouts, judging from passing remarks in my letters from time to time. I suppose actually it is hard to do so because nobody knows much about the position of our defences on this front, and maps published are not generally very good either.


I thought you might have got some idea originally last spring by comparing the news in my letters with newspaper accounts of the fighting. And my letters since have shown I have been in the same area ever since.


However seeing that I am out here at all I suppose it does not greatly matter just where I happen to get to. Certainly from our point of view one place looks very like another. It is the absence or near presence of the Turk that makes the difference, and lately we have been lucky enough to have him absent entirely.


Dec 3rd – You will be thinking with me that this is Mother’s birthday. I can hardly believe it is already the second since she died.  I often wonder just how much I shall miss her on returning home. I have now grown quite used to thinking of home without her about in it, but there will be a subtle change of atmosphere resulting from her absence that I am sure to feel strongly, quite regardless of the time.


If she had lived, the long continuation of war would have distressed her terribly: she always had so vivid an imagination of the trials of people utterly unknown to her, and a paragraph in a paper describing any sort of tragic occurrence distressed her quite visibly. She was altogether too gentle by nature for these times.


I wonder whether your next letter will make up the omission of your last, which promised enclosure of a newspaper cutting, but belied its promise. I hope that after posting the letter you may have discovered the cutting, and remembered to put it in next time for me to see. As it appears to have been an entirely unsolicited testimonial to you I particularly do not want to miss it. I am glad you have made the sort of reputation you absolutely deserve so very promptly. I felt for a long time that hospital work was giving you no chance to make the best of yourself. It was all too hide-bound with laws of Medes and Persians. I believe your chance has come now, and I don’t doubt you will make the most of it.


I don’t think, dear, you really got into any disfavour at home by going suddenly into the WAAC. Very likely they wonder what my opinion will be; also I don’t doubt you took their breath away, but that is an easy enough thing to do with so deliberate a family as mine.


May wrote in her letter this time “I must write to Mela soon. I am glad she has a good post and I should think she finds the work interesting. She seems pretty busy; the worst of these busy times is that one hasn’t time to keep properly in touch with people by correspondence.” Most of that could have been omitted or very differently put if there had really been any feeling of annoyance on the subject. Besides what you have got is just the sort of thing Kath long ago expressed a wish you might get. Anyhow even if you did give them a bit of a shock I am sure that they got over it long ago.


I am very glad you have got nice men to work with; it makes a lot of difference. As a matter of fact it would be a poor sort of man I think who would be anything but nice when so lucky as to have you to deal with, even in a purely business capacity.


I am not a bit alarmed, having so high opinion of you that any form of fickleness, unintentional as well as deliberate, is entirely remote from all my thoughts of you. So I don’t lose a wink of sleep at the thought of you interviewing Generals, COs, Adjutants, MOs etc in profusion. The real danger is that some of them may begin to find their sleep is being interfered with; I should be the last to blame them if it were so, knowing I should be helpless under such conditions myself.


I hope however for their peace of mind that they may with your sober assistance avoid that extremity; in this case they will probably regard the WAAC as providing a wholly excellent addition to a previously dull and over-masculine army.


Though I write lightly I really mean most of what I say. I assure you I never have the least fear that you will let me down by falling in love with anybody else. I am sure it is impossible to you because your whole principles are dead against it, and therefore your whole moral force would revolt at the barest suggestion of the possibility of such a thing. Besides after all I don’t believe anybody was ever genuinely in love with two people at once, and as you have not fallen out of love with me so far I don’t see why you should begin now.


I hope they keep you in England, just in case I get the chance to go home before war ends. After all if anybody ever gets allowed leave from here to England again (as a few did last summer, but none in my brigade) I ought to stand a very good chance. Then there is always the possibility of our some day being moved to some other theatre where it is not quite so far. That would depend on the course of the war, and so cannot prophesy about it. Supposing all threat of an offensive against us vanished (it looks faint enough now, but it is early to be sure at present) they might think it waste to keep us here any longer.


Anyhow if we can only meet I want to get married, even though we could only have a very little time together. Our present relationship is becoming more and more unreal and unsatisfactory. It annoys me to be compelled to regard myself as unmarried; I feel nothing of the kind. Don’t you constantly get the same feeling?


It would not necessarily compel you to give up your appointment if we did get married; you might leave it open and carry on for a bit at any rate. After all they cannot forbid you to marry, and if you did so and were able and willing to carry on they would not be so stupid I should think as to compel you to resign.


All my best love, dear, from


Your own affectionate


Cyril E Sladden

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Envelope containing 3 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Imperial War Museum
Record Office Reference