Skip to main content

January 6th 1918 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

6th January 1918
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Unit Administrator WAAC, Residential Hostel, Command Depot, Sutton Coldfield; redirected to Depot Hostel, Handsworth, Birmingham
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Jan 6th 1918


My darling Mela


The year started well and brought the mails we have wanted so long. They came a few at a time, and I got between the 1st and the 3rd your present of a note case posted with only a very brief little not enclosed, posted Oct 18th, and promising a letter which never materialised owing to multiplicity of chits from Orderly room; your letter of the following week post Oct 30; and finally your letter posted Nov 8th. It was an enormous delight to get them all, and thank you very much for the little gift which now reposes in my pocket stuffed with bunches of dirty R10 and R5 notes.


Your letters were well backed up by others extending over a similar range of dates from Jack, Kathleen, Father, May and Aunt Lottie. I shall certainly have to set to work with replies - I have written dutifully to my already.


Jan 8th - Alas for my intentions. When I sat down shortly before tea-time on Sunday and started this letter I had a gloomy tale of floods and thunderstorms to tell you of, that happened on Friday evening and night. It was that indeed that had caused my writing to be so long put off. I little realised as I wrote that we were on the brink of a worse and more violent storm, which actually started while we were at tea and raged in forty for about an hour and a half. Then the weather relented for a time and cleared till nearly dawn yesterday, when it clouded and turned into a beastly wet day of English type, that is not dangerously violent but unpleasant. Yesterday evening it cleared, and today it looks more settled, having turned rather colder, so we are rapidly recovering in the sun.


I have been busy nearly all the morning, and must send specially down to post this afternoon so have not very long to write.


Personally I had had nothing to grumble at as my own dug-out turned out proof against all the evil efforts of the weather in turn, and nothing got really wet. Even our mess, dug out of the ground and built of mud just stood the storm, and only got puddly through the entrance, and dripped just a very little. But even so it is beastly as everything gets a bit damp and muddy, and getting about is awful. One never knows while the rain lasts how long it will persist, and whether it will not in the end triumph.


In heaps of cases, the sheets of surface water, inches deep on the level ground, finds a weak spot, and forthwith trenches and dug-outs are filled generally to the brim. Or in some cases some exit is found by a trench leading to a big mullah, when the whole system becomes a torrent with disastrous results. For the earth is frightfully soft when wet and the water undercuts the sides rapidly, and then the overhanging soils falls in, roofs if any collapse, kit if not rescued is first flooded, then buried; and one’s beautiful defensive works, the labour of months, may be ruined beyond repair.


This is the disastrous sort of rain we had twice within 48 hours, and followed by a wet day just to give our Mark Tapleys (magnificently numerous they are too) a chance of earning some real credit.


The Friday storm started with a good does of ordinary rain, followed by a break which was filled by a regular gale (just to test the strength of our tent pegs and ropes and all other erections); this dropped and was followed by a prolonged and vigorous thunderstorm, the total rainfall being anything up to two inches in about four hours. Most of it fell after dark which makes it worse, as you cannot see where trouble is going to come.


We rejoiced in fine days on Saturday and Sunday, which was as well as it enabled surface water to drain away or soak in, and the many temporary channels to subside.


Sunday’s storm for sheer violence was one of the most remarkable I have ever known. After half an hour of ordinary thunderstorm, there was a break. We were within a few miles of the edge of the storm, and the setting sun was obscured only by falling rain, not by cloud, so the sun came out. We began to do the same when we suddenly saw a great vertical wall of falling rain racing across between us and the sun (the storm blew from the south). It was accompanied by a growing roar which I have heard before and knew the meaning of. The sky to the south-east was meanwhile an amazing dark greenish colour. We dived for shelter, and in a few seconds the rain and hail came, with a terrific blast of wind, which hit everything like a load of bricks. My dug-out has a tent pitched very flat over it, which minimises strain but I made sure it would give. I hung on to a pole and supported the side against the wind, and rejoiced after a few minutes to find my fears were not borne out. As a matter of fact only one tent gave way of the few which make my headquarters, others were saved by much anxious holding. Meanwhile the rain fell in a deluge and went on and on.


At intervals the tantalizing edge of the storm showed up, but would not approach. Finally just as it was getting dark the rain got less and intermittent and slowly cleared, and we emerged to survey the effects. We felt we had earned a fine day on Monday, but it started showery and turned thoroughly wet until tea-time. It made it rotten for many homeless people with soaked clothes and kit and a flooded dug-out.


Everything is drying splendidly today fortunately, so we ought to recover rapidly as one always seems to out here from all troubles.


It has been jolly unpleasant, and a bit of an eye-opener for lots of our young soldiers (young in service, I mean) who previously had failed entirely to realise how extremely luxurious they have been for months. The soldier is an amazing person. He grouses and looks bored as long as he has a continuous easy and comfortable time; then when you flood him out of his only shelter, soak him to the skin, wet all his blankets, and put him up to do guard for one hour out of three on a dark, rainy and muddy night in the open, he begins to want to sing noisily in choruses.


Well, dear, this letter seems to be mainly about rain, but at least I can claim if accurately reflects my thoughts for the past few days.


Comments upon your letters I must postpone, as I have yet to write a short letter home. I was very pleased to hear you were gazetted Unit Administrator right away, and rejoice that somebody else has been found who judges our merits fully. I hope as you get more used to things the work is getting easier.


Best love, dear, from

Your own

Cyril E Sladden

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