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January 28th 1918 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

28th January 1918
Correspondence From
Cyril Sladden
Correspondence To
Mela Brown Constable, Unit Administrator WAAC, Command Depot Camp, Sutton Coldfield; redirected to Handsworth College, Birmingham, then to Riverwoods House, Marlow on Thames
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Jan 28th 1918

My dearest Mela

Five days ago a mail, coming rather sooner than I had expected, brought me your letter of Nov 22nd, posted from Badsey; the first long letter I have had for ages since you have become so busy with your military activities.  It was very nice to have one of the old sort of letters again.  By the same mail I had a bit of a surprise in the shape of a letter from Wilfred posted in Basra on the 9th to say he had just got there with his regiment.  We are still a very long way off meeting, but I wrote to tell him where I am, and to tell him to be sure and let me know where he gets sent, and what formations he belongs to.  Then if he should get sent anywhere at all in this direction I might possibly be able to get to see him.  Possibly if we wait till the hot weather we might contrive to get to Bagdad together.  Short leave to Bagdad is not very hard to get in the hot season.  Anyhow I want to be sure to use any opportunity if there should be one.  Supposing he gets sent to the Euphrates or remains a long way down river in lines of communication it will be quite impossible.  You mentioned in this last letter of yours that he spoke of some likelihood of being sent here, but as his letter was handed to me before yours I was not expecting it at all.

He had had no home news for a very long time so I passed on the latest I had; but as his letter took a fortnight to get to me I imagine he will have bundles of home letters before he gets my reply.

We have had a spell of perfect weather, quite cloudless for days, but it has gone now, and today is rather a nasty rainy day with a considerable wind.  Fortunately it is not that heavy tropical rain which is so very nasty, but just an English type of rainy day.  It is not really cold but rather raw.

I wrote a fairly long letter to May yesterday, not having written to anybody at home last week.  She is very good about writing to me pretty regularly, and I am afraid I don’t always reply as quickly as I should do.

You enclosed in your letter a photo of yourself taken with Maud and Mrs. Bollard.  It isn’t a very brilliant one of you, and makes you look about twice your age.  I think it will be a long time before you can get any so good as the last two you sent, taken at Marlow.

Later.  I am writing now after dinner while sitting up waiting for my turn on duty which is an early one.  I had to go in to headquarters this afternoon on business, not a very cheering sort of prospect at the start but the rain held off after the first part of the journey, and it was fine all the way back.  It is a respectable walk, about like walking to Evesham station from home as regards distance, and soft mud to go on most of the way.  The weather is still very unsettled, as there was only a partial clearance at sunset, and I expect we shall have a few days bad weather before it settles down again.  I am afraid you will gather from my letters that the exact state of the weather is becoming a perfect obsession; I admit that while rain is about it takes most of my attention.  This is simply because its power for harm is so very great under these conditions.  The tricks it will play are endless and cannot be foreseen, and I always want to be on the look-out for the first sign of trouble anywhere so as to check it if possible.  Leaks develop in a most surreptitious manner and silently soak some part of ones belongings that appeared secure enough.  The first few drops of rain on my tent in the middle of the night wake me promptly.  If it begins at all steadily I am soon up, and striking a light and set to work to pack things in the safest places, cover them from drip and so on.  Generally I dress myself fully so as to be ready to turn out in a moment for any emergency; we always have to sleep in our clothes more or less, but I dispense with boots and coat, and ordinarily wear trousers and not breeches which are horrid things to sleep in.

You mention in your letter that you ran across a number of officers who were in Gallipoli formerly.  You give only two names, one of which Col. Sloan RAMC you had given before.  The other oddly enough Capt. Gaffney must assuredly be a man I remember very well – a most extraordinary person incidentally, about whom I and others in the regiment who knew him have often spoken to our mutual merriment.  He is middle aged and unhandsome.  He was one of the two others who shared a cabin with me on board the Manitou, going from Alexandria to Lemnos at the beginning of October ’15.  He was OC 13th Div. details on board if I remember right, and generally regarded as rather officious in the post.  He belonged to the East Lancs, and had joined them at Blackdown only a little while before we left England.  I have an idea he was left behind, and had never been on the peninsula when I knew him.  I seem to have a dim recollection that he didn’t stop there long when he did get across, but from whom I got that piece of information I cannot recollect.  He was in the details camp at Lemnos for a week or so only, during which time he conducted a field operations scheme that I well recollect.  There were herds of officers and very few men; lots of the former afterwards belonged to this battalion, and one I think is here now, Captain Boshier who commands A Company these days. I must ask him when I see him if he recollects Gaffney and the great field day.  I have laughed over that show many a time.  He is a most astonishing man to talk to but I could never make out his exact origin; it was a public mystery much discussed, he being such a noticeable character that wherever he was he soon became notorious.  On board the Manitou however there was another character so remarkable – an Irishman, a regular captain of the Munsters who was never entirely sober, and never beastly drunk – that he would have overshadowed Gaffney entirely if the latter had not drawn full attention to himself by having a huge quarrel and almost a free fight with him.

Don’t leave this letter about in case the gentleman in question gets hold of it!  I feel sure it must be the same, there would never have been two Captain Gaffney’s on the peninsula.  I wonder what he has been doing since.

We are beginning to look up a bit.  We can take in the newly started Bagdad Times which gets to us at the best only two days after publication.  As plenty of copies can be had we not only get news much earlier, but it is more accessible for everybody.  The Basra Times has long been in existence, and this is a similar sort of publication, just a double news sheet, with all the latest cables, a few articles and comments, and some advertisements.  From the latest copy in today I see that the London mails of Dec 4th and Dec 8th left Amara four days ago.  They should be delivered here in another couple of days or so I hope.  Mails up to Nov 29th have been delivered, so evidently there was one of yours that probably just missed it. I think I saw somewhere that no information is now issued as to departure of Indian mails, so that is bound to happen sometimes.  I look forward to two letters by this coming mail.

This letter ought to reach you about Easter; my very best wishes will be for you that day.  To keep up the old tradition I am sending a cheque for ten shillings with which I want you to buy another poet to add to your collection. You know which ones we now possess between us so far, I think; so add another, any you fancy.  They vary a bit in price I think, but unless they have gone up I think the ten shillings covers most of the Oxford editions.

I hope your plan of hiring a piano comes off; it will make a great difference to your spare time, and prevent you forgetting how to play.  It would never do if that happened.

I think this letter is dull, so must ask you to forgive it.

God bless you, dear.

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