- Image courtesy of 'Hightowner'.
[Luton News: Thursday, October 9th, 1919]
The eagerly anticipated entertainment to the men of Luton and neighbourhood who had served overseas in the 1/5th Battalion Beds Regiment (T.F.) was given last night, and was attended with splendid success. The 350 heroes who were invited had two real causes for gratification, and both must have touched them deeply.
The one was the great reception they received in the streets as they marched from the Moor to the Plait Hall, and the other was the excellent entertainment they received, an entertainment made possible by the allocation by the Committee of the Waste Paper Scheme of a portion of their balance when they ceased operations some months ago.
The men, each of whom wore a rosette of the regimental colours, assembled in New Bedford Road against the Moor, and were formed up in six platoons by Sgt-Major Odell, whose stentorian commands recalled with mixed feelings many reminiscences of parades – and other things.
Headed by the band of the Comrades, the procession was under the command of Major J. Clutton [CO of the 3rd Battalion], while Capt H. Inwards acted as Adjutant, and Capt F. B. Hobbs, Lieut A. J. Mander, Lieut R. M. Plummer, Sgt Buckingham, Sgt H. Raynor and Cpl J. Tebbey took charge of platoons. Members of the committee marched behind the band.
Setting off to the stirring tune of the famous 'Colonel Bogey.' the men marched with an old-time swing towards the centre of the town. On each side of the road, from the Moor right up to the Corn Exchange, were lines of people, four deep in places, and a rattle of clapping and a ringing of cheering and cries of “Good old Bedfords” accompanied the men all along the route.
The way lay along Church Street, where there was no crowd, but in Waller Street again there were deep lines of people, and at the Plait Hall a dense crowd heartily cheered the arrival of the procession.
The interior of the Plait Hall had been transformed for the occasion, and the walls were ablaze with patriotic colouring, while from overhead a multitude of flags and pennants added to the gaiety of the scene. The regimental colours intermingled with the national colours in the decorative scheme, and past days were recalled by the names, prominently displayed, of the Eastern centres in which the Battalion played its part.
Standing out in bold relief above the platform were the regimental badge and the words of welcome to the 'Yellow Devils,' and this same platform was beautifully enriched with palms and flowers and foliage plants, sent by Lady Ludlow, who generously made herself responsible for the floral decoration of the hall.
The large company was presided over by Major H. Cumberland Brown, and the vice-chair was occupied by Capt H. Inwards. Among the officers of the regiment and the battalion present were Major Clutton, Capt Rex Plummer, Capt F. Hobbs MC, Lieut T. Coate, Lieut A. J. Mander, and the Chairman's supporters also included the members of the organising committee, together with Alderman Williams, Councillor Primett, Mr Hugh Cumberland and Mr F. E. Shoosmith.
Telegrams of regret and inability to attend were received from Capt Forrest, whose wife was ill, Capt Charnside MC, and Lieut Otter (who sent best wishes, especially to 'C' company), and the following letter from the Secretary of the Discharged Sailor and Soldiers Association - “The local branch of the DS&S Federation send to you their very hearty greetings at this your reunion dinner. It is with a feeling of pride that I am able to convey to you by letter the sentiments of this organisation, many members of which are among you tonight. Representing, as you do, the remnants of Luton's splendid Territorial first-line fighters, you meet together as a company of brothers strengthening the bond of comradeship, the spirit of which in harder times was so nobly borne in the trenches. Those of your fellow fighters who are unable to be with you tonight send their compliments and goodwill, and hope that you will have a royal time.”
An excellent cold repast was served by Slater's, previous to which the Chairman addressed the company as “Officers, warrant officers, NCOs and men of the Yellow Devils,” extended a hearty welcome to hem. He was very glad, he said, that the populace had shown some appreciation of the good work they had done.
The loyal toast followed immediately after the meal, and Sgt-Major dell then gave “Absent Comrades” which was drunk in reverent silence.
“The Bedfordshire Regiment” was submitted in eloquent terms by Capt Inwards, who remarked that he was one of those who stayed at home, but he did all he could to further the country's interests. Those who stayed at home, he feared could not tender an adequate tribute of gratitude to those who went abroad and fought to keep them in safety.
After paying homage to he absent and fallen, the speaker recalled the scene at St Albans in July 1915, when he said farewell to Col Brighten and the regiment on their departure for the East. The East, the Levant especially, had been the doom of many a Western expedition, and their townsmen noted their journey to Alexandria.
They heard of them again with somewhat painful anxiety on their landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and again after the heroic fight which took place when they advanced up the ridge in that crucial battle, which was probably the means of keeping the Turks at bay and allowing the British troops to withdraw safely. The deeds they did then were prodigies of valour, and he was proud to remember that no men took a greater part in them than did the 1/5th Bedfords.
A while after that battle, Col Brighten sent home to him several letters in which he gave details of the fighting, and he (the speaker) strung these letters together and had them published in the Press so that their townsmen knew exactly what had been done in Gallipoli.
Afterwards they went to Egypt and Palestine, and now, thanks to their endeavours, over the towers of Jerusalem floated once more, after about 1,200 years, the banner of the Cross.
Before the war the Beds Regiment seemed to be somewhat under a cloud. Other regiments pointed the finger of scorn at the Beds, for something they had done or left undone, or perhaps some fancied reason, but since 1914 the Beds Regiment had wiped out any such reproof.
No battalion of the regiment had done better the the citizen battalion – the 1/5th. They had been passing through some exciting times, continued Capt Inwards. The British were not an emotional race, and some people had found fault with the somewhat inadequate reception towns had given to their regimental soldiers, but though they might seem cold they were not cold at heart. The reception they had in the streets of Luton that evening must be evidence to them that their townsmen appreciated their service.
In the stress of circumstances during the war, everyone had been working shoulder to shoulder. They had done what they could to promote the interests of their country, and he submitted that the only possibility of peace and prosperity for the future was that they should work together in the same manner. “Comrades all” should be their motto. If they worked together like brothers, without malice towards anyone, and charity towards all, the future destiny of the country would be so bright as to cast into the shade all the glories of the past.
Some interesting facts relative to the Beds Regiment were detailed by Major Clutton in the course of his reply. The regiment, he said, was 231 years old in August of this year. It was raised in 1688, and in 1694 it fought over the very ground that their brothers fought over in 1914. It defended a little town which they all knew now – Mons – unsuccessfully, because their force was much too small and had to retire.
Some years afterwards, in 1709 – in the meantime they fought through all the Marlborough wars – they were among the force which took Mons from our then enemies, the French. In 1914 the 1st Battalion of the regiment retreated from Mons in the historic retreat of the Old Contemptibles.
In that retreat they lost a side drum. The drummer whose drum it was handed it to an inhabitant of Mons, and the drum was kept during the war disguised as a lady's hat box. In 1918, when the regiment were again in Mons in somewhat different circumstances, the drum was handed to the 4th Battalion, and at the present moment it was back again with the 1st Battalion.
They belonged to a regiment which had earned distinction not only during the war but also in the past, continued Major Clutton, who went on to explain how the regiment came by its name of “The Peacemakers”. It had been thrown at them a good deal and thrown at them wrongly. They were called that because in the days about 1700 they were brigaded with the Scots Guards, and the regiment pulled the Guards out of a very tight corner. After they came into the fighting line peace was declared, and they partly earned the name because they served with the utmost distinction.
There was another thing which was perhaps not known as it should be, that only twice in the history of the Army had the duties of the Guards been taken over from the in London, and on one of those occasions the regiment which was chosen was the Beds Regiment. The 1st Battalion did it in 1912, and the 3rd Battalion did it in February of this year.
Later on, in June this year, the King attended a very big review at Leicester, and out of the Battalions in the Northern Command only one battalion was ordered to take 500 men, and it was the 3rd Bedfords. The others took 100.
Of what the 5th Battalion had done he was not going to say anything, because every man in the room knew, and no words of his could give the proper credit to it. There was one thing he would like to tell them, and that was that the Commander-in-Chief, Northern Command, inspected the three battalions just before they were disembarked, and in front of one company turned to him and said: “I have had units of the Beds Regiment under my command in France on many occasions, and I can say this, that no man wearing the Beds badge has ever let me down.”
In a racy speech full of humorous references to the Battalion and to certain local incidents, Councillor Primett gave the toast of “The Officers of the Battalion”. They had had perfect offic ers, he said, and had always respected them. Some of them were present that evening, and though young in years they were old warriors.
He felt a little ashamed when they and the men returned to the county that they had to be received at Bedford because of the state of Luton, but they had made up for that that evening.
Capt Hobbs responded/ He paid his tribute to the work of the men under him, saying that it did not matter how perfect the officer might be, he could not work without good material. He did not think anyone could doubt him when he said they had had that material, and whatever distinctions an officer of the 1/5th had won, it had been through the Battalion.
He wishes all present the best of luck, and on behalf of the officers, expressed the thanks of the Battalion for the way in which the town had received them.
Alderman Williams proposed “The Warrant Officers, NCOs and Men of the Battalion,” and reiterated the old saying that non-commissioned officers are the backbone of the Army. He referred feelingly to the old Volunteer Force, and passed on to speak of the Territorials and of the work of the 1/5th Battalion.
He thought they had had one of the greatest honours. They had taken part in the Palestine expeditions, the last and final of the crusades, and they had a leader in Viscount Allenby whom the national looked up to as one of the finest soldiers of the day.
Sgt J. E. Buckingham fittingly acknowledged the compliment.
The hosts, or as it was termed on the toast list, “The Waste Paper Scheme,” were honoured on the call of Lieut Mander, who spoke very appreciatively of what had been done by that organisation and especially of the part played by Mr W. H. Cox.
In reply, Mr Cox said the Committee were delighted to have the honour of entertaining the company present. He expressed sincere thanks to Lady Ludlow for the floral decorations and to the Corporation for the use of the hall.
The remaining toast was that of the Chairman, proposed by Mr H. Cumberland, who alluded to Major Cumberland Brown's work for the Volunteers.
Musical honours were awarded, and Major Cumberland Brown, briefly replying, conveyed kind regards from Col Spencer Jackson.
There was an enthusiastic interlude when the Chairman presented CSM W. Young with the DCM, awarded him for bravery and devotion to duty in a raid on the enemy's trenches in Palestine on the night of September 10th-11th, 1918. Hearty cheers were raised as he came forward to received the award, and he was warmly congratulated by the Chairman and many others present.
An entertainment followed the speech-making and presentation, and the programme was of a praiseworthy character.
Thanks to Hightowner, a copy of the programme and menu can be viewed here.