"We want men badly, and if the unit is to keep in the field at all we must have them," writes Lieut-Col E. W. Brighten, commanding the 1/5th Bedfords at the Dardanelles, to Capt Gerald P. Orr, adjutant of the 3/5th Bedfords, the draft supplying company for the 1/5th.
The need for recruits for the 3/5th, in order that a stream of properly-trained men might be sent out to join their comrades in Gallipoli, has been emphasised many times of late, and we are glad to say that in the general stimulus of recruiting during the past week or two an appreciable amount of benefit is being received by the 3/5th, who have been able to welcome a very considerable number of recruits to their new training centre at Wendover. But the needs of the moment are far from being adequately met.
The 1/5th are not only losing men by the ordinary wastage of the battlefield but also by sickness, which is always worse in hot climates than in other spheres of fighting. On this point Lieut-Col Brighten (pictured) says:
"We are losing (though no worse than other units) so many men by sickness. The worst of it is that as soon as a unit gets below a certain strength it feels the strain very much more, since it has fewer men to hold its line. Therefore, they cannot have so much relief and, again, proper fatigue parties cannot be told off to fetch stores, which all have to be man-handled a good deal of the way."
When Major Orlebar, the officer who is in command of the 3/5th, was speaking at the great recruiting rally at Luton a few weeks ago, he said the 3/5th had to supply drafts to the 1/5th and at the rate at which recruits had been coming in just previously it would take 10½ months to make up the losses the 1/5th had sustained up till that time.
To bring the 1/5th up to the full strength of 1,000 there was only the 3/5th to look to for recruits, as the 2/5th was understood to be a foreign service unit and would want every officer and man it had got. Already ten officer had been taken from the 2/5th and eight more were under orders.
He had been asked how many he could provide from the 3/5th. He had one or two officers ready, and some men would be ready shortly, but he had not the men because he did not consider it right to send men out until they been properly and fully trained. He knew the trial they would have to go through and that nothing but a thorough training would enable then to stand the test. But if we were able to send out at once every man he had got they would not be enough to bring the 1/5th up to the required strength.
As we have said, recruiting for the 3/5th has been more brisk of late, but still men are wanted and all the time that fighting goes on they will be wanted. Of the officers then mentioned as being ready to go, Second Lieut Kellie is already out there. Recently we saw him leading a bombing party through some very watery and muddy trenches in Windsor Great Park and enjoying his work tremendously, although it was pouring with rain. Now Col Brighten says Kellie is full of schemes to do the Turks no good, which is just what we should expect of him.
Col Brighten writes: "For more reasons than one we want men badly, and if the unit is to keep the field at all we must have them. We have done our bit and shown the county what we are made of. Surely the county in its turn can and will give us the reinforcements that we require to give us our second wind and out wounded an opportunity to getting well and rejoining.
"I don't know what they do with a unit when it gets below a certain strength, with no reinforcements coming on, but I imagine there must exist some such low water mark that they don't allow the unit to keep the field below, and it would be an eternal disgrace to the county to let its own Battalion lose its separate identity simply for the sake of a few hundred men. You talk of 100 men but that's only a drop in the ocean. If we are to keep going, we want more than that to carry us along. It isn't for want of trying. You would be surprised how long some of the men have stuck it out before they will give it up and go sick - until they cannot crawl about in some cases - and their pluck is this, as in other ways, has been magnificent.
"We have got enough officers to go on with at present, with the rattling good draft sent us by the 2/5th Battalion and four good fellows from the 10th Battalion, to say nothing of young Kellie, who has joined us today "full of all sorts of schemes to do our Turkish friends a bit of no good". The last lot, however, report that the recruiting rally was not a success, and that is very depressing news for us out here. "Surely there are the men somewhere."
[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: November 6th, 1915]