Friday 4th June 1915: Since August last the 1/5th Bedfords (Territorials) have been training hard to help fight for the maintenance of England’s honour in France and Flanders against the savage and merciless Germans, and now, within a few days of going to the Front, they are taking a farewell march(1). On Friday morning they started from Houghton Regis near Dunstable, to visit the county town, and reached the Polo Ground, Ampthill-road about 11.45, the 19 miles march being done in exceedingly good time, notwithstanding the hot weather, showing the men to be in good condition. On the ground the men received their rations and the Mayor kindly sent an ample supply of liquid refreshments. This over the Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Brighten, set off for Bedford – headed by their bands – and the roads to the Market Square were lined with large crowds of people, many of whom had sons and brothers in the Regiment. A reception was held by the Mayor and Corporation on the Market Square, and the men were given a rousing reception by a large crowd of people.
The Mayor welcomed the officers and men of the Battalion to Bedford after which the Mayor’s Chaplain (Rev. Canon Speck) addressed them as follows: “Colonel Brighten, officers, N. C. O’s and men of the 1/5th Bedfordshire Regiment. The history of this great Empire, of which we are subjects, the story of the steps by which it has been built up, is a sacred legacy which the past has bequeathed to us. We are adding to that history today. And to you, our gallant fighting men, this sacred legacy and noble tradition is more specially entrusted. To your discipline, endurance, courage and devotion we look , and we do not look in vain. For ourselves, as older men and citizens, men who would gladly, if we could, have gone forth with you, to share the hardships of this campaign, age, with its time-limit, steps in and forbids. For the younger men and citizens however, this should present no barrier. We are not here today to glorify war, but to glorify patriotism, and this welcome extended to you by our Mayor and Corporation will prove – may we hope – a welcome not confined to words. May it prove an object lesson in response, in results, in further offers of personal service on the part of our younger citizens of military age and physical fitness. You of the Bedfordshire Regiment (which has so lately covered itself with glory) are soon going to the Front to make good the many gaps which the casualty list reveals. Such a splendid effort on your part not only wins gratitude, but should make our sense of patriotism more robust and fruitful. I hope sincerely that his historic and local incident today may not be a mere spectacle, but rather serve as an inspiration for the present and the future. I hope that this town of Bedford may send forth still more of her sons ready and willing to do their bit in the cause of righteousness, so that you at the Front may not rely in vain for local reinforcements in times of need(3).And for yourselves, you will remember the old colours of the Regiment, tattered and torn, yet hanging still in the Church of Saint Paul, hard by. The Regiment has borne its part from 1689 to 1902. In its campaigns outstanding names are familiar to us – Blenheim, Malplaquet, the Siege of Donay, the relief of Chitral and others, right down to the close of the Boer War(4). And, in addition to the old colours, there are entrusted to us to guard, the Territorial Colours – they are only waiting to have victories inserted on them too(5). We are privileged to hold them in safe keeping. And the tablets of officers, N. C. O’s and men who have fallen bravely in past campaigns are also there. Those names will furnish you, today, with fresh inspiration and courage; they will stimulate you to hand on great traditions untarnished; and yet, the noblest inspiration of all will be found, not least in these alone, nor in these first, but rather in your prayerful confidence and trust in the Lord of Hosts, the God of Righteousness.Such trust will never fail you! Nor will you forget, today, that you are called upon not only to be loyal soldiers of King George, loyal with a strength which dreads dishonour more than death, but you are also called upon to endure hardships as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, as Christian men and heroes. May He be your shield and great reward!”
Colonel Brighten returned thanks to the Mayor, Corporation and people of Bedford for their hearty welcome and before the Mayor’s Chaplain pronounced the Blessing the boys of the Ampthill-road School, under Mr. J. Baldwin, sang the patriotic song “Keep the home fires burning”.
The Battalion consisting of over 900 officers and men, with machine-guns, baggage wagons, and all the paraphernalia necessary for the Front, then moved off via Harpur-street, Midland-road, Cauldwell Bridge, to the Barracks, where tea was partaken of. Later in the evening the men assembled at the Corn Exchange, where a capital smoking concert was provided by the Borough Recreational Committee, and cigarettes and tobacco were handed round. The Battalion bivouacked for the night at the Barracks, and just after so next morning they turned their faces south, on their way to Luton, and after a short stay there they proceeded to Saint Albans
Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 11th June 1915
(1) The officers are (left-to right): back row: Lieutenant E. V. Andreini; Second Lieutenant F. W. H. Nicholas; Second Lieutenant J. T. Yarde (died 21st September 1918); Lieutenant G. Lydekker (died 14th June 1917); Lieutenant F. Hobbs; Lieutenant F. W. Ballance; Lieutenant T. Franklin (ADC to General Officer Commanding 54th Division – died 27th November 1917). Third row: Second Lieutenant P. R. Chaundler; Lieutenant W. S. Chirnside; Second Lieutenant G. R. Day; Second Lieutenant Hunter; Lieutenant F. S. Shoosmith (died 21st August 1915); Second Lieutenant Woodhouse; Second Lieutenant F. Rising (died 15th August 1915); Lieutenant C. Miskin; Second Lieutenant W. P. Hill; Second Lieutenant R. D. J. Brighten (died 15th August 1915); Lieutenant Kempson (Medical Officer). Second row: Captain E. T. Maier; Captain C. T. Baker (died 15th August 1915); Captain R. M. Smythe (died 13th October 1915); Captain G. N. Norris; Major Clutton (Divisional Assistant Provost Marshal); Lieutenant-Colonel E. W. Brighten (Commanding Officer); Captain Younghusband (Adjutant); Captain J. E. Hill; Captain W. K. Meakin (died 15th August 1915); Captain B. C. Cumberland (died 15th August 1915); Captain R. Forrest. Front row: Lieutenant C. R. James; Second Lieutenant E. L. Rawlins; Second Lieutenant Toogood; Second Lieutenant Campbell; Second Lieutenant B. W. Smythe
(2) Their front, however, would not be France and Belgium by Gallipoli and then Egypt and Palestine with 54th (East Anglian) Division.
(3) The Diocesan Roll of Honour names 619 men from the ten parishes comprising Bedford who gave their lives in World War One
(4) In fact the regiment had had remarkably little fighting since the end of the war of the Spanish Succession and the beginning of the 18th century – so little, in fact, that Robert Graves in his autobiography Goodbye to All That records that the joke in the army was that the regimental motto of the Bedfordshire Regiment should have been “Thou Shalt Not Kill”! He adds, however that the regiment was “making a name for itself” in World War One.
(5) The Territorial Army was created in 1908. 1st/5th Battalion would earn the battle honours Suvla (for its participation at Gallipoli) and Gaza.