5th Bedfords earn nickname of The Yellow Devils


Yellow Devils

The 1/5th Bedfordshires have made a great name for themselves. This is a conclusion which is forced home more and more as accounts continue to come to hand from the Dardanelles theatre of war of the ordeal they were called upon to undergo immediately they were rushed up from the new landing on the Gallipoli Peninsular, and the heroism and success with which they accomplished the task allotted to them.

Two of the officers of the Battalion who have taken part in the fighting there have pronounced it a picnic compared with the difficult conditions under which the operations in Gallipoli are being carried on, but our Bedfordshire Territorials have upheld the reputation of the regiment as those who have closely followed them through their training expected they would.

"The lads fought well; better than I thought they would," writes one of the old hands. "We were told we were to rush on and hold a certain place, and it was to be held at all costs. Then the machine guns and shells opened fire on us, and if the men hadn't been English and knew what discipline meant they would never have stuck to the place."

Letters from officers and men who survived the trying ordeal show that they are all justly proud of the way in which the Battalion as a whole bore itself, but an even more eloquent testimony to their bravery and heroism is the admiration they seemed to have aroused among the other units of their Division.

It will have been gathered from the letter which the Commanding Officer, Lt-Col E. W. Brighten, recently wrote to Major Orlebar that the 5th Bedfordshires have a distinguishing badge in the form of a yellow triangle at the back of their helmets and, according to more than one writer, men belonging to other units were very anxious during the time the Bedfordshires were resting to know who the chaps with the yellow badges were.

Great surprise was expressed by some of the regulars when they learned that they were the Bedfords and were Territorials, and one officer pointedly remarked that he wished all the other Battalions were like them. As a matter of fact, their superb fighting qualities and their yellow badges have combined to earn for them a new name, and a name that will probably stick - that of 'Yellow Devils'.

This information does not come from any member of the Battalion, but from one of the 2/1st East Anglian Field Coy, Royal Engineers, who came across some of the Bedfords while they were resting. They have seen hard fighting, he says, and have been nicknamed the 'Yellow Devils'.

One Staff Officer was heard to declare, "With two battalions of the Yellow Devils, I'd wipe up the Turks in a week."

Since the 5th Bedfordshires underwent their baptism of fire they have had a spell in a rest camp, and one of them has sent home an interesting sketch of the daily routine of their doings in their camp on the sands between the cliff and the sea.

The articles later goes on: "The people in England have no idea of what it is like out here; it is worse, I hear, than it is in France." Thus writes Pte Fred Maynard, one of two brothers from Aspley Guise, who took part in the Terriers' first charge.

He was wounded, but before he received his wounds he wrote, "We have had a warm time ever since we landed, being shelled right up to the trenches. We had top dig ourselves in as the bullets were coming from all directions and snipers were all over the place. One of our chaps whot five of them in a heap, but this is a bad place to get about in, there being so many hills - and not little ones.

"The Turks do not like the cold steel; they run like blazes when we charge. They employ women for sniping, and as they are painted green we cannot see them well. Four were shot the other day.

"There are men landing here every day. We have got the Turks on the run now - we moved them again last night. We are with the Gurkhas, and they are soon after us for cigarettes."

One of the signallers of the 1/5th Bedfordshires also refers in a letter to the fact that the Battalion have found a name for themselves, and says they are called the 'Little Yellow Devils,' explaining that they wear a small piece of yellow silk in their hats as a badge.

Writing of the fighting, he says: "Personally, I think the Battalion was not strong enough to hold the position after it had been taken, but our Colonel organised almost all of the Brigade, and so go things on an understanding. No doubt he will be rewarded."

Writes another private: "We are now a regiment of great fame. The fight was a long and hard one, but we got through. The charge of the 1/5ths was great, and deserves to be heard more of. The enemy ran away like a lot of bally kids. The bullets, shells etc have no terror for us now. When a shell comes whizzing over we 'bob' till it has passed, and then jump up to see where it has fallen. We have done well altogether here and have advanced splendidly."

Another private writes: "I think our Battalion have upheld the honour of the old Bedfordshire Regiment. We went for the Turks with the bayonet and gave them a hot time, you can bet, and gained a decent bit of ground, but we also had a lot of casualties.

"It was something I shall never forget. But our fellows were champion. When the order was given to charge there was not one hung back. They all rushed for the Turks, and although some of our fellows were getting shot down all around us we still kept on, and drove the enemy out of their position."

[The Luton Reporter: Monday, September 20th, 1915]