1/5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment (Yellow Devils)

All this and much more information can be found on Steven Fuller's excellent site.

The annual Territorial Army summer camp of 1914 finished with emergency orders for all units to return to their bases and await further instructions. On the 5th August 1914 the entire Battalion was 'embodied' for war service with the East Anglian Division. The soldiers were asked whether they wanted to enlist for overseas duties, with a very high percentage saying 'yes' and the '5th (Reserve) Battalion' was also raised soon afterwards. Initially the Reserve battalion was a 'Home Service' Battalion for those who did not wish to serve abroad, those who were over service age or medically unfit for active duty.

Within a week of being mobilised, the East Anglian Division was at its station in and around Chelmsford in Essex, with the Bedfords being billeted at Romford, Essex. However, the expected move abroad did not follow and in September they were dispersed throughout the East Anglia, to provide home defence and train hard in readiness for overseas duties. The 5th battalion were stationed at Buy St. Edmunds from September 1914. Late in 1914 the Companies forming the active service battalion were also re-organised from the pre war structure of eight Companies to four Companies, called A to D. In January 1915 the 5th Battalion was designated 'The 1st/5th Battalion' and the '5th Reserve Battalion' was re-designated as the '2nd/5th Battalion', serving with the '69th (2nd East Anglian) Division' in the Home Forces until disbanded in February 1918. Later that year the '3rd/5th Battalion' was also raised as a training and draft finding battalion.

In March 1915, the 1st/5th Battalion moved from Bury to Norwich and then to St. Albans in May, where specialist training was stepped up and their formation was re-designated as the 162nd (East Midland) Brigade in the 54th (East Anglian) Division. On the 25th July hot climate uniforms were issued, the battalion were ordered to hurriedly collect all stores and equipment and they set off for the south coast on a series of trains.

The battalion left Devonport on the 26th July 1915, bound for 'somewhere out East' and, after a brief stop-over in Egypt, disembarked on Gallipoli, serving there between 10th August and 4th December. During their assault against the Kiretch Tepe Sirt on 15th August 1915 an observing Staff Officer observed their progress through his binoculars and saw the battalion's metal flashes glinting yellow in the sun as they doggedly advanced. He remarked "By Jove! If only we had one or two more battalions of those yellow devils we should be across the peninsular by tommorow". With that, the battalion's nickname - the 'Yellow Devils' - was born. A pitifully small number of them remained by December 1915 and they were moved back to Egypt to be rebuilt between January and March 1916, after which a year-long posting to guard the Suez Canal followed. The battalion advanced to Gaza with the British and Commonwealth forces in March 1917, taking part in all of the actions there and during the advances through Palestine that followed. By the armistice in October 1918, they were stationed at Beirut, having spent the entire campaign in that theatre of war.

The 54th (East Anglian) Division was comprised the 161st (Essex), the 162nd (East Midland) and 163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Infantry Brigades, with the 162nd being composed from:


  • 1st/5th Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment
  • 1st/4th Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment
  • 1st/1st Battalion, the Cambridgeshire Regiment [left February 1915]
  • 1st/1st Battalion, the Hertfordshire Regiment [left November 1914]
  • 2nd/1st Battalion, the Cambridgeshire Regiment [between February and April 1915]
  • 1st/10th Battalion, the London Regiment [from April 1915]
  • 1st/11th Battalion, the London Regiment [from April 1915]


Soldiers in this theatre of war suffered notably from illness, with the battalion losing considerably more men to local diseases than enemy fire. Nevertheless, over 120 gallantry medals were issued to soldiers from the 1st/5th battalion, including a Victoria Cross and the battalion were engaged in the following actions:


  • The Suvla Bay campaign on Gallipoli, especially during the advance along the Kiretch Tepe Sirt 15th August 1915.
  • The 1st Battle of Gaza, Palestine in March 1917.
  • The 2nd Battle of Gaza, Palestine in April 1917.
  • Raids against Umbrella Hill, opposite Gaza in July 1917.
  • 3rd Battle of Gaza, Palestine in November 1917.
  • Defensive actions during November and December 1917.
  • Operations in the Jordan Valley, February to May 1918.
  • Battle at Megiddo, Palestine in September 1918.

The battalion were disembodied in June 1919 whilst stationed at Beirut and reformed in February 1920 at Bedford, as a part time, Territorial battalion again.

Sergeant Ronald McCormick


Ronald McCormick, 3142, 1/5th Bedfordshire Regiment, died of enteric fever (typhoid) at the 18th Stationary Hospital, Suez, on July 16th, 1916. He was aged 26.

Military records show him as a lance-corporal or corporal, while on the Luton Roll of Honour he is described as a sergeant. A Luton News report said he was promoted to sergeant in the field while serving at Gallipoli in August 1915.

Born near Nuneaton, Warwickshire, in early 1890, he was the son of George and Isabella McCormick, and had five brothers and three sisters.

Private Frank Herbert Lewin (Lowin)


Pte Frank Herbert Lewin (Lowin*), 5349, 5th Bedfords, died in hospital in Egypt on June 28th, 1916, a few days after being admitted suffering from heat stroke. He was aged 35 and was familiarly known as "Larry".

Born in October 1880, he was the son of the late Solomon and Mary Ann Lowin. He married Amelia (nee Watson) in 1901, his wife and eight children - seven aged under 14 - living at 33 Brunswick Street, Luton.

Private Horace Marlow

Horace Marlow was born in Sundon, Bedfordshire in 1901. He was 1 of 9 children born to Frederick & Emma.

In 1911 he is aged 10 & living with his family in Sundon. His eldest brother George is 18 years old & working as a chalk digger in a lime works, his 16 year old brother Arthur is a truck driver & 14 year old brother Fred is a farm labourer with his 43 year old father. Ivy Sarah aged 8 is also at school whilst their 44 year old mother is at home looking after 2 year old Doris & 3 week old Evelyn (Cissie).

Lance Corporal Arthur Thomas Highton


L-Cpl Arthur Thomas Highton, 3874, 1/5th Bedfords, died in the University War Hospital, Southampton, on November 10th, 1915, after suffering from dysentery at Gallipoli. He was aged 18.

The only son of cabinet maker Frederick George Highton and wife Annie (nee Harris), of Orlingbury, Havelock Road, Luton, he enlisted in the 1/5th Beds Regiment soon after the outbreak of war. He served in the Signals Section under Lieut F. W. Ballance (from Dunstable), and while in Gallipoli won his first stripe.

Private Frank Boutwood


Pte Frank Boutwood, 4626, B Company, 1/5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, died in the 5th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth on October 23rd, 1915, from complications arising from dysentery contracted in Gallipoli. He was aged 34.

His death meant that Luton had its first experience a funeral of one of its Territorials who had been on active service with the 1/5th Bedfords in Gallipoli. He had been invalided home about a month before his death suffering from dysentery, but complications set in and he passed peacefully away in the presence of his relatives.

Private George Hutchings


Pte George Hutchings, 4229, 1/5th Beds Regt, was killed in action on August 16th, 1915, aged 20, The son of William and Sarah Hutchings, of Canning Street, Bedford, he had come to the Luton area to be engaged on harvesting work at Eaton Green in 1914.

He enlisted in the Bedfords in Luton and struck up a close friendship with Pte Herbert Stanley Toyer, of 22 Duke Street, Luton. During the three months or so of drilling at Luton under Major (then Capt) Lathom, Pte Hutchings made his home with Pte Toyer's parents at 7 Burr Street.

Private William George Ibbett


Pte William George Ibbett, 3073, 1/5th Bedfords, died of pneumonia on board the hospital ship Guildford Castle and was buried at sea on September 23rd, 1915. He was aged 18.

Christened George William Ibbett, he had switched his first names when he enlisted to avoid confusion with a comrade with exactly the same name. He was the eldest son of bricklayer John Thomas and Susan Ibbett, of 6 Warwick Road, Luton. The family had moved from Wollaston, Northamptonshire, their two youngest children, aged eight and five, having been born in Luton.

Private Ralph Stanley Lewin


Pte Ralph Stanley Lewin, 3875, 1/5th Bedfords, was killed in at action at Gallipoli on September 15th, 1915. He was aged 30 and left a widow, May, and one child, Hilda, aged six.

Mrs Lewin, of 54 Grange Road [now St Peter's Road], Luton, received official notification of his death in early October. Her husband was serving with the Machine Gun Section and was called into the first line after the fierce fighting in Gallipoli of August 15th. He had been an employee of Luton Corporation and was described as a bricklayer's labourer in the 1911 Census.

Private George Henry Brown (Willis)


Pte George Henry Brown (Willis), 4350, 1/5th Bedfords, died on September 9th, 1915, from wounds sustained at Gallipoli. He was buried at Cairo War Memorial Cemetery.

The Luton Reporter said in an article on September 27th, 1915, that after some weeks of anxiety, the mother of Pte George Henry Brown, 4485, of 16 St Ann's Road, Luton, has been acquainted that her son lies buried in a Cairo cemetery.

Private William Fensome


Pte William Fensome, 4487, 1/5th Bedfords, was killed in action at Gallipoli on August 15th, 1915.

Born in Luton in 1883, he was a farm labourer living with his widowed straw hat maker mother Eliza at 14 Park Place, Park Street, Luton, at the time of the 1911 Census. His father, David, had died in 1905 at the age of 48.


Private Albert Edward Mitchell


Pte Alfred Edward Mitchell, 4401, 1/5th Bedfords, was killed in action at Gallipoli on September 3rd, 1915. He was aged 27 and had been married to Jane (nee Heath) only since October 1914.

He joined the 1/5th Bedfords a year earlier after working as a moulder at Messrs Brown and Green's, Windsor Street, Luton, for 11 years. He was also a popular sportsman, figuring in several local teams, including that of the firm he worked for.

Private Benjamin Tuffnell


Pte Benjamin Tuffnell, 4291, D Company, 1/5th Bedfords, was killed in action at Gallipoli on August 15th*, 1915. He was the fifth son of Mrs Ann Tuffnell, of 15 York Street, Luton, and the second of her boys to die on the battlefield.

Luton-born Benjamin was born in the summer of 1887, around the time his father William, a Staff Sergeant in the Army, died. William had married Ann Fuller at St Nicholas Church, Plumstead, on July 1st, 1869. He went through the Boer War without a scratch and received two medals. He saw considerable service abroad, chiefly at Gibraltar.

Sergeant David William Buckingham


Sgt David William Buckingham, 2911, 1/5th Bedfords, was killed in action at Gallipoli on August 16th, 1915. He was aged 29.

No news had been had been heard of him when his family, who lived at 82 Warwick Road, Luton, learned that his two brothers with him in the Dardanelles had been wounded. Pte Frank Buckingham, aged 21, who was wounded by a piece of shrapnel that broke his arm, wrote from hospital in Alexandria to say that Sgt Buckingham was all right the last time he heard of him.


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