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February 3rd 1918 - Letter from Cyril Sladden to his fiancée, Mela Brown Constable

3rd February 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

Feb 3rd 1918

My own darling Mela

Two very sweet letters from you came last week. You wrote on Dec 4th, and then again next day because you had had one from me. There was a fairly long gap between the former and the one you sent from Badsey, but you don’t make any reference to having written earlier since your return, and in fact start off by saying how hard you found it to collect your thoughts for letter writing, which was probably a sort of reference to the length of the interval. I really am glad you have had actual experience of the effect of military surroundings; making allowance for the fact that it is much worse abroad than at home you will understand pretty well how I often come to be so dull. Fortunately the influence is very superficial and vanishes at once when one returns to a respectable form of civilized life, so I have long ago given up being in any way perturbed about it.

I have been fairly busy this last week pushing on certain work at the urgent insistence of higher authority. However I am getting my usual nice lazy Sunday, a little bit of civilization I appreciate very highly out here when it is possible to get it. At times Sundays become entirely obliterated on service, and I for one miss them very much. I know in the old days at home heaps of people regarded Sundays as a nuisance, and I always disagreed. On service I think they become more generally popular. I remember at school most fellows hated all Sundays; and lots of men at Oxford did too, where I always looked forward to them as the best day of the week easily. Needless to say there was a special reason during the last year before the war why I liked Sundays; they shone with a glory partly reflected in those days and became yet more supreme! I live in hopes of yet better in store in the future and a far longer series of them.

We have got back into a spell of most beautiful weather again. It freezes a bit every night, and is generally warm and mellow all day in the sun. In another month we shall be unable to go out in the sun bareheaded in the middle of the day.

I gather from the latest I have on the subject that a few more months at any rate must elapse before I need think much about any prospects of ever getting leave to England. It is given out on authority that seems reasonably good that the first condition for all applicants is to be three years absence from England. If there is any solid basis for this (and about leave questions I distrust everything, having learnt by much experience) it is really good news, for it means that an effort is to be made to give a certain amount of leave home. Hitherto there has been practically speaking none at all, except a very few special cases of urgent private business. Anyhow I continue to entertain hopes of a kind; rather vague ones certainly, that a time may be coming when I can get back and get married to you at last. I am very glad you speak so confidently in your second letter this time of being able to get away for this purpose without real difficulty. It is the one and only thing that has ever worried me about your taking your commission in the WAAC. I hope of course that if we get married during the war it will afterwards become necessary for you to resign, that is a hope I know you share. But I should be glad if it could remain open to await events, so that in the other case you might go on with the work while I was away again. Possibly it might be as well for you to continue for some months even if our hopes were by way of being fulfilled. That would depend entirely on what you felt about it, and is a subject where I am conscious of getting rather out of my depth. I dearly wish I could respond better to your losing command to “come home soon”, you know I will do my best and take the first chance I get.

I am very interested in all the accounts you write of your doings and the sort of life you live, and the people around you. I can picture it all with the greatest of ease. Congratulations upon the public speaking: but don’t either practise upon or show off to me to excess when we are married! To think how all these years you might have been a prominent suffragette, but have been hiding your light under a bushel instead. One remark I understand so well “I get the same question asked as to numbers of women in a different way every week, and circulars with orders on them which are next door to impossible to carry out”. It is just the same everywhere. As a matter of fact one slowly becomes less conscientious about these things, and if one didn’t would be worn to nothing very quickly. With practise one can judge which returns must be really exact and which need only be approximate. There are heaps and heaps of most troublesome returns demanded which are never used, or if used are never accurately checked. It is waste of good energy to try and get them perfectly accurate, for one thing it is impossible in some cases, and in the others it really doesn’t change the course of the war either way if there are a few minor discrepancies. I remember preparing musketry returns at Tidworth and Blackdown which cost days of labour. They were shoved in a pigeonhole and burnt before we sailed!! The proficiency pay which we supposed might be affected is given by CO’s recommendation on service. It is the same with clothing and kit and stores. A return that is perfect today is wrong tomorrow, and absolutely out of date by the time any higher authority does anything with it. The thing that everybody is down upon is deliberate cooking of returns for ulterior purposes. Generally a return drawn up honestly by an intelligent person, and made as correct as the time available permits is all that is really wanted. Certainly it is superior to what is commonly produced. There are things of course which can be made exact, and need to be so; to discriminate is chiefly a matter of common sense and practice.

Monday 4th. Another fairly lazy day today, but I have got a good bit of work done. It has clouded over this evening, and I rather anticipate rain before morning, and quite likely a wet day tomorrow. The weather seems to come in clear cut spells of fine and wet, alternating every week or so; only luckily the fine lasts better than the wet.

I have kept certain stamps for you which I will enclose; one 2/6 stamp which is new to me (and came on Aunt Lottie’s parcel), and a 12 and a 2 anna stamp of this country, as issued in Bagdad. I thought they might be interesting to add to your collection.

I walked about 2 miles to an evening service yesterday with Price, an officer of my company I have probably mentioned. We have a different padre with us now since Clough went to hospital for a minor operation. His name is Webb; he is a Devonshire man, and used to be chaplain to the Bishop of Lichfield. He is a very practical sort of man whose experience has been largely with boys and men; a high churchman, and very keen on his work. He is going to move to our battalion HQ shortly. I think as it is now in a more convenient place than before, and for some purposes handier for him. He has a very wide area to cover, and has to be riding or walking about an enormous lot.

I have had no news of the next mail having got to Basra yet so it is not likely to turn up here for some time to come. It was only due at Bombay on the 28th I believe. So must exercise patience.

Best love, sweetheart

From your own

Cyril E Sladden

PS – Please inform me of your shortest cable address in case I want to wire to you direct any time.

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