Brighten: They all went down like men


They all went down like men, with their faces to the enemy. This tribute to the fallen heroes of the 1/5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, otherwise the "Yellow Devils" is paid by Lieut-Col E. W. Brighten (pictured), the Commanding Officer, in a letter just received by the Mayor of Luton (Councillor Walter Primett). Lieut-Col Brighten writes from in the field on September 4th:

Dear Mr Mayor. The first consignment of fly-nets has arrived. Will you thank the Mayoress and all who have worked for her in this on my behalf and on behalf of the officers, NCOs and man of the battalion, not forgetting, of course, yourself and those who helped you to organise and provide the funds?

Liut-Col Edgar BrightenWill you say that no more acceptable present could have reached us at the moment, although we are not troubled with mosquitoes, which they were really intended to provide against? We are in some trenches now where we are simply eaten up with ordinary flies. These trenches were taken over by us in a very dirty condition, and consequently it is absolutely impossible to get rid of the flies, although we have done what we could to mitigate the nuisance.

At any rate, with a net over one's head life becomes more bearable. The men appreciate them very much indeed, and it is very good of you to have responded so readily and promptly to the suggestion put forth by me.

I expect by the time this reaches you, you will have had news of us - not altogether good, as our casualties have been very heavy and we have lost many that we could ill afford to lose, both in officers and men. But they have done splendidly, and I am prouder than ever of them, and particularly of those who have fallen. All went down like men, with their faces to the enemy.

It is giving no secrets away to say that we were in one of the new landings. We did not take part in the original landing, but we were in one of the first big pushes, two or three days after we landed.

This country is a particularly wicked one to fight in - very hilly, with deep dongas [dry gulleys], and covered with thick scrub. By reason of this one cannot see the enemy, whereas they are able to pepper attacking troops with shrapnel from positions away on the further hills, and even very often, as in our case, to absolutely enfilade us with shell fire.

About the action there is not a lot to be said except that we were told to take a certain hill, and we did it. For the next few days we held it and consolidated our position in the face of some opposition until relieved and drawn out of the firing line for a bit of a rest. But in this country one soon learns that casualties have got to be faced if we are going to do anything at all. I have now got only seven officers, including myself, so you can see that we are pretty short-handed.

As things have turned out, we could have done very well with a smaller number of fly-nets. However, we shall take care of those which are not wanted at the moment, and there will be a number of men who were only slightly wounded who will come back to duty in the near future, and we shall issue nets as they come along.

Since the action we have been moving round into another part of the line, and have been in the first line trenches for the past six days. We are expecting relief (though only into the second line trenches) this afternoon.

The rations are wonderful. How it is done I don't know, but we had, among other things, an issue of eggs the other day and with the excellent bacon we get they were able to make a splendid breakfast that morning. We do not get much bread at present, but that cannot be helped. We had it for two days a little time ago, though. We get Maconochie's meat and vegetable ration a good deal, and that, as you no doubt know, is wonderfully good either hot or cold. We also get a certain amount of rice, dried potatoes, onions, and such like things, so that we do not often have to fall back on plain 'bully' and biscuits.

Above all, we get a small ration of cigarettes or tobacco. I think the men like that the best of all. If they can get their smoke, it makes a wonderful difference in their spirits. Of course, the ration is only a small one, and does not go far, but still it is something, and no doubt their friends at home will be sending them something to supplement it soon.

I hope these few details about the Battalion will interest you, and be some small return for the kindness of all of you to us. We all wish to be remembered to our friends.

[The Luton News: Thursday, September 30th, 1915]