Christmas party for fatherless children

Xmas party advert

Frequently do we hear people talk about the comradeship of the trenches. Sometimes it is probably said rather glibly and without realisation of its meaning. The members of the Luton branch of the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Federation, however, are showing that it is a very real interpretation for them, and in no instance have they better illustrated it than on Monday [December 23, 1918], when they demonstrated that they, at any rate, have not forgotten the men who have laid down their lives.

About 450 children gathered at the Luton Assembly Hall and were indulged as they might have been treated at home this Christmastide if their daddies had lived to see the effect of the armistice. It was a moving scene, many of them brought by their mothers – widows ranging from the prime of life to mere girlhood, many sad-faced and not a few still heavy-hearted. But these men with the Ivy Leaf Badge gave the children so merry a time that the hearts of the mothers rejoiced.

In the centre of the hall was a huge Christmas tree, given by Lady Wernher, decked with ribbons and flags, and on a table near the platform were stacked handsome toys which had been made by the blind and otherwise maimed soldiers in Lord Roberts' workshops.

There was a splendid tea, including a variety of cake that has not been seen in Luton since the Food Controller began to make trouble among the bakers and pastry cooks, an ample supply of bread and butter and tea. Moreover, appetites were not restrained and the merry youngsters made havoc with comestibles and kept on the move their entertainers and the lady friends assisting. But the provender won, and there was still a balance when the hungriest of the guests was appeased.

Then the hosts entertained with rollicking fun, from a passable' monkey' to a comic boxing match, and the large hall rang with merry shouts and laughter. The fun continued until past eight o'clock, when each child received fruit and one of the handsome toys as a Christmas gift.

The Mayor (Councillor Henry Impey) attended at tea, and expressed pleasure that so many fatherless children were entertained under one roof. He commended the Federation for the kindly interest they took in the children, and was glad that such an excellent evening was assured.

Canon Coate said he appreciated the invitation to be present because he loved children and he, too, had suffered bereavement through the war and could understand the feelings of the mothers. The Canon led the singing of grace, and was heartily joined by the children.

The Mayoress (Mrs Impey) attended at night and handed the toys to the children, saying a word or two to many of them, particularly the mites and dots, for the ages of the little guests ranged from two to 14 years.

The Entertainments Committee of the Federation made all arrangements and they did their work well. They were: Messrs Clay (chairman), Hoy (hon sec), Whewell, Pugh, Walker, Ellingham, Painter, Coleman, Buckingham, Barton, Burgess and Hawkes.

Mr Whewell had the responsibility for arranging the tea, while the other members of the committee willingly undertook the numerous little details connected with the event. Many wives and friends of members of the Federation also assisted.

[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: December 28, 1918]