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  • Christina Drummond

Captain Brian Clarke Cumberland, 1st/5th Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Captain Brian Clarke Cumberland, 1st/5th Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment, was killed in action on Kidney Hill at Suvla, Gallipoli.

The only son of a land agent and auctioneer, he was educated at St. George’s boarding school in Harpenden in Hertfordshire. He went on to pass the exams required to become a member of the Auctioneers & Surveyors Institute, and joined the family business. He also joined his father’s Masonic Lodge, and was well known locally as an exceptional tennis player and golfer.

In 1911 he enlisted in the 5th Battalion of the Bedforshire Regiment, being promoted to lieutenant in May of 1913, and then to captain on the 29th of August, 1914. The 5th was at that time a Territorial Force battalion, which had been raised as a Rifle Volunteer Battalion in 1860, becoming the 5th (Territorial) Battalion in 1908. They were embodied (becoming full-time instead of part-time) at the outbreak of the Great War and at first provided home defence in East Anglia and on the Norfolk coast. They became the 1st/5th when the 2nd/5th was raised in October, 1914; the 3rd/5th following on in June, 1915.

On the 6th of August, 1915, British forces opened a new front on the Gallipoli peninsular, their intention being to break the deadlock at Helles and Anzac Cove. They made new landings at Suvla Bay in order to take the surrounding hills, attack the Turks from the rear and achieve victory. Captain Cumberland’s regiment landed at Suvla Bay on the 12th of August. Three days later he was leading his company in a charge up the crest towards Kidney Hill when he was shot in the head, dying instantly.

An officer from the London Regiment wrote: “A Company, superbly led by Brian Cumberland had borne the brunt of the first bayonet charge. Kidney Hill was to prove different as his company were all but shattered during the attack that followed. After a brief pause for reorganisation, the Bedfords gathered themselves and formed up for the attack on the 2nd and more difficult objective of Kidney Hill. As soon as the Bedfords left their trenches to form up for the second advance, they came under heavy fire. It was so bad that one company recorded that it was 'led from the outset by a Private' as all Officers and NCO's became casualties in the opening minutes of the 2nd attack’”.

Private Horace Manton of Captain Cumberland’s company wrote: “We'd got no cover at all. One of the lieutenants was going aside of me. We were in open formation. He got shot while we were going up the hill, I said: 'Do you need any help Sir?' He said: 'No, carry on, don’t break the line'. We got to the top and then we got blasted by shrapnel. I saw my cousin get killed in front of me. He was crying when he got shot. It killed him anyhow; he was only sixteen. How I missed it I don't know, shrapnel was flying all the time”.

Captain Cumberland is buried in the Azmak Cemetery at Suvla, and his father erected a memorial to him in the Crawley Green Road cemetery in Luton. From Dunstable in Bedfordshire, he was 26 years old.

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