22nd Oct, 2016

Letters offer unique look at First World War

Evesham Editorial 4th Sep, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

A UNIQUE look at the First World War through the eyes of a Vale family is being staged by members of the Badsey Society.

Observer editor Rob George found out more about ‘An Evening with the Sladden Family of Seward House’.

EARLY in 1879, a recently-married couple arrived at Seward House in Badsey, with their young son, Jack.

Julius and Eugénie Sladden had married in December 1877 at the British Embassy in Paris and their son, Jack, was born the following year in Chipping Norton.

Seven more children followed, all born at Seward House and the family quickly became involved in village life and were to remain a major influence in Badsey for over a hundred years until the death of the youngest in the family, Juliet Sladden, in

October 1984 at the age of 86.

The historic Seward House was later sold and a huge archive of letters, many depicting life during the First World War, were deposited at Worcestershire Record Office.

And now, members of the Badsey Society have unlocked this treasure trove of information to stage an evening at St James’ Church on Friday (September 12) from 7.30pm devoted to the letters written at the outbreak of the First World War.

Members play the parts of the Sladden family and Patsy Miller, the great-great-niece of Julius Sladden, and her husband Anthony will join members and guests and take the parts of Mr and Mrs Sladden.

Among the letters to be read will be those from Monday, August 3, a Bank Holiday in Britain.

Eugénie Sladden was on holiday at Craig-y-Mor in the village of Parrog near Newport with her four daughters.

Julius was with their youngest son, Cyril, staying with his sister, Charlotte Hayward, in Folkestone. The other three sons had been unable to get to Newport because of the events which were unfolding.

Eugénie wrote to her husband: “Kathleen arrived this afternoon bringing us the latest London news. We knew last night that the Naval Reserve had been called out.

“The Territorials were turned back on their way to camp and George had to start off again in a few hours.

“She does not know where he is likely to be sent, but he will try and send us an address as soon as he can.

“Should England really go to war, he will volunteer for active service. I feel very sad about it though I suppose it is quite right that he should do so.

“Of course he will not now be able to come down here and there is some uncertainty about Jack as they will probably be short of clerks and may have to lend some to the War Office.

“Kathleen says if doctors are wanted, Arthur may also volunteer, and in that case, Mary would offer herself as nurse, so it seems as if there may be a time of great anxiety before us.

“I am so thankful that if we fight we shall be with the French and not against them, but it is all very terrible.”

The following evening, Britain declared war on Germany and two days later Arthur Sladden wrote to his mother to say he had joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.

“Goodbye, Mother dear, keep up a stout heart in all these troubles and we’ll hope for a speedy end to the war.”

Admission to the evening is £2.50 for Badsey Society members and £5 for non-members, all profits will go to the Royal British

Legion Poppy Appeal and the British Red Cross.

Abbey Manor Hospital, Evesham, where one of the daughters, Ethel Sladden, was a Voluntary Aid Detachment. (s)