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December 31st 1917 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

31st 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

Dec 31st 1917


My own dearest Mela


Not by any means have I forgotten that this is your birthday. Just think of the dance five years ago.


It seems ages to me in lots of ways. And so it is ages to be in love and get so little satisfaction for love. May we be together for all future birthdays.


Very soon I am afraid you will think I must have gone quite off my head about mails if I go on saying they still have not come. Yet with one exception this is true, the exception being one solitary parcel, Aunt Lottie’s Christmas one which she has never yet failed to send me: it arrived this afternoon.


Actually we have been unlucky victims of a series of muddles and mishaps. Divisional Orders announced incorrectly that the mails would be up for Christmas but later had to apologize for being wrong when they did not turn up. The large majority got delivered about a day or two later.


We however happen to live at the end of a different line of communication and if what I hear is true (it generally isn’t when it is about mails) ours was sent along with the main lot, and returned by the way it came to Bagdad, whence it proceeded up the right line. It has now spent about two days on the wrong side of a bridge quite near here which has broken down. Why either the bridge has not been put right promptly, or the mail ferried over I cannot imagine. Just a few stray bags have managed to straggle across.


It is something to have secured an advanced guard at any rate. Almost one had stopped looking for mails that seemed to be purely mythical.


I suppose every day for ten days we have been led to think the mail was close at hand. Now it is clearly a fact but I still don’t know when we shall see it.


I remember celebrating your birthday last year by getting letters. It was a jolly sort of day, fine and sunny after a rotten wet spell during which we were bivouacking in the open for most of the time. I thought I should repeat the event but it did not quite come off.


I am writing now late at night after having dined out with the next door company and visited a portion of my area on the way back. I was rather glad to find I could get away in decently good time, as it is often a mighty struggle to do so from there.


I must post tomorrow, and as I did not write home last week I must at any rate write one more letter besides this.


I have been hanging on and on of course waiting for my errant letters, as it seems so stupid to keep on writing little but a series of grouses at not having heard; however I cannot wait any longer and still have time to answer them. If I get them at lunch time tomorrow I shall just be able to say so and that is about all.


We did not do so badly for Christmas, it was certainly the most comfortable we had had on service.


But one or two things were a disappointment; mails first and foremost, second we could not pay the men as intended owing to cash not being available. It was difficult to make as much difference as I should have liked; but that was mainly due to the fact that we are very well off at all times, and our duties mainly ones that cannot be relaxed even at Christmas.


We had a nice fine day, indeed it has not rained properly since I last wrote, though generally clouded to some extent.


I had to make the usual tour round all the various little parties into which we are split up, a portion of which I did at breakfast time, and the rest at midday when the men get their dinner. We played a football match during the morning, part of an inter-company competition, but got well beaten.


I did not manage to get to any service; there was none very near. The Padre gave us our Communion Service here at my company headquarters on the Sunday two days before. He has now just left us to go and have an abdominal operation of a not very serious kind, likely to keep him away a month or more. He waited till after Christmas before going.


The lamp is sending me to bed fifteen minutes too soon to see the New Year in. Goodnight, dear.


Jan 1st – Somehow nearly all the morning has gone before I have found time to settle down to write again.


I have undertaken to play a game of rugger tomorrow. It is possible now to find a ground soft enough to use for the purpose, and Major Gibbon (an old player of considerable merit) moved to get up a game.


Rawlings who is my games officer, and hails from Swansea and Swansea Grammar School, has arranged to get fifteen out of this and D Company. Few have much knowledge of the game, but I think we can raise a team that will be keen if not very skilful.


We had a practice kick about and scrumming yesterday afternoon, which we propose to repeat this afternoon. That alone has been enough to make me a bit stiff, so after the actual game I shall be just about immobile for a few days I expect. I don’t think I have played half a dozen games since Nov 1908 when I broke my collar-bone at Merthyr. A bit of hard exercise is bound to do me lots of good, as I don’t get a great deal these days beyond a fair amount of walking daily, nothing to make me really tired.


My vaccination has healed up entirely. The doctor is inclined to think it was a very slight take indeed, though I should have thought it failed completely. I may try again later, but I fancy I am pretty proof against it probably. Don’t conjure up horrible imaginations of ravaging epidemics because I mention vaccination as there is nothing of the sort.


There are cases, as is almost inevitable with an army living among Arabs who seem to carry it about as a permanent thing; so it is well to neglect no precautions.


Later – At the present rate of procedure we may hope to get all our mails before the hot weather, but not much before.


Today a useful gift from Marsh, an officer who recently left me for transfer to the Indian Army, has turned up from Bombay, in the shape of The Times War Atlas. It all helps to keep up ones hopes, but still there are no letters. There is one thing any way; I have given up expecting any seriously any longer.


I will write to Father now, and then send a messenger down to post.


My very best love dear. May this year bring both peace and a wedding I hope to be concerned in.


I have quite good hopes of either or possibly both.


Your own most affectionate


Cyril E Sladden

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