June 17th 1918
My dear Father
I should have written to you last week, but I was compelled to go a fairly long journey to divisional headquarters last Monday, at very short notice, and it kept me away most of the day. Mails are not very regular, but Tuesday is generally regarded as the day for posting to catch the mail for Bombay, we never know how English mails run from there.
I was not altogether surprised to read in your last letter of Aunt Lottie’s death, though it had appeared likely she would have lived a few months more. I am very relieved to know that she was spared a long painful period of illness, and seeing she had an incurable disease it was better she should go soon. She was a dear good soul to all of us, and especially so to me; and I shall miss her very much.
In a few days’ time I think we shall be getting another mail in, and then I shall hear about her funeral. A letter from Mela is the latest I have, but she did not then know either when or where it had been.
I was glad to hear that you had had news from George after the first big stroke of the offensive. As the last I knew of his division was that it was somewhere in the Cambrai area. I knew it was very likely that he had been in the thick of it.
It seems possible that Arthur may have been closely concerned with the second phase of the offensive further north.
It must be a pretty awful time for most people in France this summer; certainly the Germans seem quite decided that it is now or never for them, and it must be worrying them that of three big onslaughts none have succeeded in producing a decisive result. The strong point of the situation from the present point of view is that Foch has not yet shown his hand.
Before you get this letter no doubt much more will have occurred as there seems little likelihood of things dropping back into the old stationary warfare.
I am today taking over command of the battalion for a time, while the brigadier is on leave to India. I am just as glad that there is no prospect of anything much doing in view of the hottest part of the year just coming upon us. So far it has been exceptionally cool, but the last day or two have been much hotter suddenly and I expect it will be running up towards 120° very soon.
We are much more comfortable here than we have ever been before. The soil makes splendid sun-baked bricks, and all the bricklayers we can raise have been kept busy for weeks past. We have good cook-houses, wash-houses, stores etc, and all tents are walled round high enough to keep out much of the dust. Our meat-house is a splendid place, nice and cool, and scarcely a fly gets in through the double door of mosquito netting fastened on a well fitting frame.
Now that more essential things are done we are getting on with buildings for officers’ messes. This besides being more comfortable for us sets free tents which can always be usefully employed for some purpose. Now that the bulk of this work has been completed we shall be turning our attention rather more to training. I expect I shall find myself pretty fully occupied, as I shall constantly be running up against things which are quite unfamiliar to me and I shall need to read many things up.
I have not so far managed to get to Bagdad. I was called upon about ten days ago for a report concerning the unit I commanded on operations recently. Then a day or two later I had to deliver a lecture to a divisional officers’ school which left me no time to put in the trip. Now I shall want to get well into my new work before I care to leave it even for a couple of days.
Had Wilfred been able to get away I would have made a special effort, but he could not.
I don’t think when I wrote to May my acting rank of major had come through; it took a long while.
Best love to yourself and the girls.
Your affectionate son
Cyril E Sladden