Lieutenant Colonel Edgar William Brighten
Rank or Title
Date of Birth
18 May 1880
War time / or Pre War occupation
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
Soldier or Civilian
The promotion of Major Edgar William Brighten, of the 5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel was announced in The London Gazette on Saturday night (May 15th, 1915).
Lieut-Col Brighten, although only just gazetted to the rank, had in actual fact been in command of the battalion since the beginning of the year. The retirement of his predecessor, Lieut-Col Butler, on medical grounds, was only formally announced a few days earlier, but he had taken no active part in the training of the battalion for some weeks, and, although only now officially notified, the promotion of the new commanding officer was dated as from January 25th.
He had been associated with the battalion since 1898. He joined as a subaltern just before the South African War, and took his place with the other Bedfordshire Volunteers in the fighting line at the Cape.
For some years he had been in command of the Luton detachment of the 5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, and he had been a very keen advocate of the Territorial movement. Only three or four years earlier he was still holding the rank of captain, but he had gone the next two steps very quickly, and the men serving under him in what was now the 1/5th Battalion were confident that if he got the opportunity he would help them to make a good name for the battalion in the firing line.
Edgar William Brighten was born in Rochford, Southend, on May 18th, 1880, to Capt William and Fanny Brighten and at the time of the 1891 Census was living in the Essex Town with his parents, a sister and two brothers, and a grandmother of independent means. After his military service in South Africa, he followed in his father's footsteps and in 1904 became a solicitor.
The Brighten family moved to Brooke House, Biggleswade, when Edgar was 16. On April 29th, 1905, the young Captain Brighten married local doctor's daughter Sarah Hirell (Sallie) James at Biggleswade Parish Church. His father was a partner in Brighten and Lemon, solicitors in Biggleswade, before Edgar was in practice in London and finally Luton, where he was a partner in the Chapel Street firm of Brown and Brighten, solicitors.
By the time of the 1911 Census Edgar and Sarah were living at Lingfield, Lansdowne Road, Luton, with three-year-old daughter Muriel Helen. They employed a cook and a housemaid. He later had two more children, both sons.
[The Luton News, May 20th, 1915, and Biggleswade Chronicle, May 5th, 1905]
Edgar Brighten was educated at Fauconberg School, Eccles, and Christ Church College, Blackheath. He was commissioned in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment in 1898, serving with the Volunteer Company - later the 5th Battalion - in the South African (Boer) War. He served in Orange Free State and Western Transvaal, receiving the Queen's Medal, with four clasps and the South Africa war medal.
He was promoted captain in the 3rd Volunteer Service Company in 1902 and transferred to the 5th Battalion when the Territorial Force was constituted. At the coronation of King George V in May 1910 he was in command of a representative detachment of his battalion and was awarded the Coronation Medal.
In 1912 he was promoted major and at the outbreak of the Great War he was second-in-command of the 5th Battalion.
He went on to command the 5th Battalion throughout most of the war, seeing service in Gallipoli (where he adopted the name Yellow Devils for his battalion), the Suez Canal and Palestine. For his service at the Suvla Bay landing in the Gallipoli campaign he was awarded the C.M.G. (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George), and in Palestine he earned the D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order). He was mentioned in despatches five times.
He was promoted Lieutenant Colonel from January 1915 (although the appointment was not announced officially until May 15th that year. He was given a commission in the Regular Army as a major on February 21st, 1917, and promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on June 3rd 1919.
After the Armistice, during the rising in Egypt, Lieut Col Brighten was in charge of an important district in Upper Egypt. Later he was given command of the 7th Royal Welsh Fusiliers and appointed O. C. in Cyprus. It was at this time that he was awarded the T. D. (Territorial Decoration), having completed 23 years in the Volunteer and Territorial Force.
In 1920 he was posted to the 2nd Battalion Beds & Herts Regiment (created 1919) and served for eight years in India, four of them as instructor in the Senior Officers' School at Belgaum in Bengal.
On completing his appointment in January 1928 he rejoined the 2nd Battalion at Dover as second-in-command. He was given command of the Battalion in June 1929.
By June 3, 1933, when he retired from command of the 2nd Battalion, he was the only battalion commander of the Regular Army who held the Territorial Decoration.
He became president of the Old Comrades Association of the 5th Beds, and in 1936 he moved to the then Rhodesia, where he bought a large farm.
[Extracts from the archives of The Luton News]