Volunteers to disband

Members of Luton Volunteers 1917

[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: October 4th, 1919]

The 2nd Volunteer Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment is to be disbanded, and discharges given to all members. This announcement was made by the Commanding Officer, Major H. Cumberland Brown, at a meeting at the headquarters of the Battalion in Castle Street last night.

It was afterwards decided by a large number of the men that, as they were no longer required as Volunteers, they would do the next best thing and enrol themselves in a special company of special constables for service in the preservation of order if the necessity should arise during the present railway strike.
The meeting was called at very short notice, and in explanation of this Major Cumberland Brown said that he had received notice two days ago to send out discharges to all. He regretted the time had arrived, because they had had some good times together and he was looking forward to a jolly camp next summer, when the shadow of war was no longer over them.

It had been hoped, he said, there would be a place for the Volunteers in the new Territorial Scheme which was to be promulgated some time or other by Mr Winston Churchill, but the War Office had now decided that the Volunteers were to be disbanded.

“I should like to take this opportunity of thanking you all very sincerely for the excellent work you all did in preparing yourselves to defend the shores of this country if called upon to do so. The fact that you were never called upon to do so does not affect the merit of your actions, and I hope none of your will ever regret having joined the Battalion.”

The menace of foreign invasion had passed away, at any rate for the time, but they were now faced with strikes and industrial unrest, and he felt there would be some willingness to utilise the existing organisation of the battalion in another way for the public good.

The officers were sympathetic, so he went on Wednesday to see Chief Constable Griffin, and asked him how he was off for special constables. He replied that he had a good number, but could do with some more, and that if the Volunteer Force could provide some he would be glad to have them.

It was therefore proposed to form a special company of special constables, with their own organisation and under their own officers, and only to be called out in great emergency.

Reference was made to the possibility that if the current strike continued for such a time as to cause general unemployment there might be troubles among the civil population which would make a reserve force a very valuable asset.

Major Cumberland then pointed out that the Chief Constable had power in an emergency to require anyone to serve in the capacity of special constable. That being so, it was considered that members would much prefer to be in a special company of their own, so that if they had to take part in quelling any disturbance, they would go out to do so with their own pals with whom they had been expecting and preparing to go out to fight.

The men were given an interval to chat over the matter, it being stated that the officers were quite ready to take up the duties of special constables. Later, when a show of hands was called for, there was a response ample to justify the establishment of a special company.

Many attended the Court House together on Monday, October 6th, to be sworn in. Volunteers who were already special constables were free to transfer to the special company.