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January 13th 1918 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

13th 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

Sunday, Jan 13th 1918


My own dearest Mela


No fresh letters since I wrote last, nor have I really expected any as I think they are to be fortnightly for the future. All the same it is beginning to be about time to look out for more, though last month’s experience has made me sceptical about approach of mails. Also nothing has happened here of great note. The general tendency has been towards the work being a good deal increased owing to the repairs of storm damage which have had to be put in hand. The weather has been very good since Monday last, though it is fallen from grace a bit today, and is cloudy, rather windy and threatening rain, though I hope nothing very severe.


I have just concluded a letter to Kath which I wrote the greater part of yesterday. She expressed very great satisfaction in her letter at your getting your present appointment, and was hoping soon to hear more news of you and your doings. She was rather annoyed with the frequent air-raids that had been going on; they must have been an awful nuisance to say the least of it last autumn in London. I gather there has not been so much of it since, and I suppose the weather is much against it.


You were wondering in your letter of Oct 29th whether I had been having any more fighting to do. You know by my letters that we have been sitting in safety for months past. Whether (if ever) this front is likely to become very active again it is hard to say. I think if the enemy proposed to start much trouble before next hot weather we should have got some indications of it by this time. It is not much fun fighting in April out here, and one would not choose that month for preference. May verges on the impossible. That leaves two and a half months, during which the rain is likely to produce complete immobility for one or two short spells. Transport for the enemy is very slow of necessity, so if no big movement of troops is reported in the very near future I think any sort of attack here may be definitely counted as off. As a matter of fact I think Turkey is sending just about all the men she can rake together to Palestine where we still seem to press on. That seems a more promising front in every way for offensive action on our part. Our communications are shorter, and can be shortened in stages as new sea ports are reached. Aleppo as a final objective is not much farther than Mosul would be for us, and would be worth ever so much more strategically I should imagine. I can imagine that if it ever seems likely that General Allenby will get so far we might be wanted to show activity here in order to squeeze a big force of Turks in between on the Aleppo-Mosul line. However that is probably looking far ahead.


You wrote on Oct 29th that you hoped to get over to Badsey next weekend, but it evidently did not come off as you say nothing of it in the next letter of Nov 7th. I hope you did not have to wait long as a short outing comes as a great refresher.


I do sympathize with you having to take on your job so suddenly and among people who have had time to get to know official routine fairly well. It isn’t very difficult really, but like most things it takes a lot of time to get used to it and familiar with the many details. The office work too is much worse at home than abroad, and even here I find I get a fair amount of paper work.


By this time I don’t suppose you find much difficulty in getting along well, and soon no doubt you will be sending official “stinkers” to other offices who make a mess of your work.


I hope they will keep you at home. Don’t go out of your way to get sent to France. I have no occasion at present to expect to get leave home, but ‘hope springs eternal’, and some day if the war goes on as indefinitely as at present appears likely my chance may suddenly arise to get a month in England. If this does happen I must be able to get at you, first and foremost for the wedding, and second to see as much of you as possible. You have never said much in any of your letters about the outlook from your point of view if I should get home. I raised the question some time ago so probably you will reply. I suppose as a matter of fact there is no precedent yet to go by, and so you hardly know what will happen. At any rate they cannot forbid you to get married, and I don't imagine you would be absolutely refused leave for at any rate a short period. Regulations if they exist always represent in practice a minimum in matters of privilege, and I think you said you were entitled to a fortnight in the year.


But obviously it would simplify things very much indeed if you were in England.


I am not in a good position for getting such a thing as England leave even if a limited amount begins to be granted. This is I think a possibility seeing how quiet this front has been and appears likely to remain so far as one can foretell. But I come third on the regimental list of officers according to the rule the CO has said he will go by if names have to be selected. He says he will simply add up length of time spent with the battalion while on service. Inwood is easily top, and the Colonel beats me in spite of the fact that he left England a little more recently. Holmden would have put me fourth but he has applied for a special job, and will be leaving us very soon, so that puts me one up. An enormous lot will depend upon the method of selection. If battalions are allotted places in turn (one may be sure there will never be many going at once) I shall never have a look-in at all. Supposing applications were submitted by brigades I should probably have a very much earlier chance, as I feel almost sure that many battalions have no officer at all worth a claim as good as mine. Whereas I am third in the regimental list I must be about sixth or so on brigade list, though I am very uncertain about this latter figure.


Supposing question of Indian leave should arise I don’t think I should take any now as long as a ghost of a chance of English leave later on seemed to exist. It is very expensive, and would probably spoil my chance if it ever came of getting home. I no longer feel in need of a holiday as I did after last years fighting. Autumn, winter and spring out here is a very healthy time. I would bet my daily sick percentage this past week is five times as good as the average in your old depôt, and that in spite of two days flood to begin with.


I will tell you roughly the percentage in my company, in a roundabout way. If you divide the difference in our ages in years by three you will be pretty near it. That is pretty remarkable isn’t it among a pretty large body of men, 2½ times the number you had of women under you at the end of October.


If I had to complain about my health it would be on account of being too comfortable and not getting that large amount of exercise that is always so good for me. And leave would certainly not correct that.


By your early gazetting to your present rank you will be very senior in your service, and I shall be prepared at any time to hear of you getting promotion. They will continue to gazette suitable women to the higher jobs direct to some extent no doubt, but the time will soon come when the obvious method of promotion will be more satisfactory as soon as there are lots of women getting well experienced in the work. And if they go by merit more than by seniority I am sure you will not be one to suffer.


From a list which I extracted from The Times several weeks back I make out your pay to be £150. I suppose you get your quarters and rations free. It isn’t princely, but it compares well with what they gave you for your nursing, and I hope you are feeling more easy financially than ever before. Possibly even with your contribution home you may manage to acquire a few National War Bonds, a handy reserve to put away in a stocking.


I think it is jolly good of you to help so much at Marlow; but it is well worth it if it helps to keep that little home going. Wilfred in the last letter I had from him wrote expressing hope we might all meet together there some time “that is if we manage to keep a little home going which we have never succeeded on doing as yet for more than about two minutes, thanks mainly to Dame Ill-fortune than anything else”.


Tuesday, 15th This letter proceeds by degrees. There is actually an English mail at battalion headquarters which will come up after lunch today. As I shall not have to send to post till afternoon I can just acknowledge any letters by this mail.


I hope you may have been able to find time for one of your old style long epistles this time; there is only one satisfaction in the brevity of recent letters which is that you must understand completely the reason why in the past mine to you have been like that too. I think the prevailing military atmosphere is as much responsible as actual lack of time; one so rarely feels free even when there is nothing urgent to do at the moment, because odd things are perpetually cropping up.


It is a very good thing I have all the confidence in you born of five intimate years; otherwise I might be getting anxious at having you surrounded by large numbers of men. It is a good thing that it is not as it was in ages past when it did not (as you put it) “take time to run away”. I can quite imagine if it were a question of carrying you off by force I might have cause for anxiety.


All my love Mela, dear. It makes me very happy that you have got a satisfactory sort of job, and I delight to think of you getting on well at it.


Your most affectionate

Cyril E Sladden


P.S. So sorry you had influenza, such a beastly depressing thing, hope the improvement mentioned in your dear little note of Nov 14th was kept up.


I must have had an inspiration to write home, at the right moment a letter you would enjoy at the time.


God bless you, my Love.

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