On Monday, October 14th, 1918, with the Great War almost at an end, the Vicar of Luton, the Rev Arthur E. Chapman, sat down in the St Mary's Vicarage composing a letter for inclusion in the following Thursday's Luton News. In it he said he was anxious to do in Luton what was being done in other towns, that was, to have a book in which the names of all Lutonians who had fallen in the war should be inscribed.
Communities across Britain celebrated Peace Day on July 19th, 1919. Here are three examples from the Wardown House Museum collection of programmes create to commemorate the day – from Luton, Leagrave/Limbury and Dunstable.
The various programmes are accessible in pdf format in the panel (top left). Also available are various scenes from Peace Day and its aftermath, and the August 23rd, 1919, report from the DS&S Journal of the ex-servicemen's sports day at Luton Hoo Park on August 16th..
Lady Wernher has made a magnificent offer to the Luton Corporation of the free gift of 11 acres of land between Tennyson Road and Trapp's Lane [Cutenhoe Road] for use as a permanent recreation ground, and in commemoration of peace. The land is close to the water tower and is that which has previously been in use as a playing field for the Luton Modern School.
Last evening some of the parishioners of St Mary's, Luton, gathered in St Mary's Hall to hear from the Vicar of Luton (Rev A. E. Chapman) some details of a memorial which it is suggested should be placed on the north wall of the church in memory of members of the church and congregation who fell during the war.
Figures released at the end of World War One revealed that about 3,000 women and girls had come to Luton to join local counterparts in dangerous work at munition factories. They had arrived from as far west as Cornwall and Devon and as far north as Edinburgh and Glasgow, and some even from Ireland.
At the end of the war about 1,000 of the arrivals quickly returned to their home towns and cities, leaving the remainder to try to find work or receive unemployment allowances until they did so.
For the policy of the Skefko Ball Bearing Co Ltd adaptation is perhaps hardly the correct description, for the Company sum up the position in this way: “Before the war we made ball bearings, during the war we've made ball bearings, and now the war's over we're going on making ball bearings”.
It would be going little beyond the care truth to say that the Commercial Cars Works are so equipped and installed, and so self-centred, that materials enter at one end of the big range of shops and three-ton motor waggons, of the type which during the war became such familiar objects in our streets, emerge from the other end. For this practically is the case; and a tour of inspection with the Deputy Works Manager ended on a note of admiration at the splendid system of organisation which operates through the whole concern.
With an end to hostilities in 1918, industry faced the prospect of switching from four years of war-time production to peace-time working. In an interview with The Luton News (January 23, 1919), Mr Thomas Mackenzie, Secretary of Vauxhall Motors Ltd, was optimistic about what the future held and said:
Mr Hearn, manager of Messrs Brown & Green Ltd, Windsor Street, gave an outline of the varied materials the firm have turned out during the war. They commenced in 1915, and from gas valves turned to shell adapters. At that time they had about 50 employees.
Rifle and hand grenades were next turned out in large quantities, and then added to the list was submersible mine work for catching submarines. Aircraft parts were made subsequently, as well as pistols for aeroplane bombs in very large quantities.
One of the most interesting branches of war work carried on at Luton was that of the manufacture of aeroplane propellers, at the establishment of Mr Edgar L. Barber, Bury Park Road.
A tour of his premises was extremely instructive, said The Luton News (January 30th, 1919). One saw the whole process, dating from the time the planks of walnut are carried into the shop in the rough state until they emerge again in the form of the finished article.
The introduction of modern machinery always has the effect of ousting the picturesque and beautiful, and we are sorry to hear that an instance of this unfortunate fact will shortly be experienced in Luton, said the Tuesday Telegraph (January 14th, 1919).
Among provincial firms which rendered splendid service to the national cause during the war, the Davis Gas Stove Co, of Dallow Road, Luton, is entitled to rank highly, said an article in The Luton News (February 20, 1919). And the firm are displaying great energy and business acumen in preparing for the trade boom which is commonly anticipated when the national activities have settled down following the transition from a wartime to a peace regime.
A war memorial at Luton Conservative and Unionist Club, Market Hill, was unveiled on May 3rd, 1922, by the Duke of Bedford. It had cost 66 guineas and contained the names of 27 members who had given their lives during World War One.
The memorial was on the wall of the main hall at the foot of a staircase. It was fashioned in English oak with richly carved panels on either side of a representative of a rose, shamrock and thistle, with a centre panel of repousse bronze copper.
The memorial placed in the Wenlock Chapel of Luton Parish Church to the memory of the late Second Lieut Alex Pigott Wernher, Welsh Guards, was unveiled on Saturday, January 18, 1919, by Col Murray Thriepland DSO, Commanding Officer, and dedicated in front of a large congregation.
The Luton Co-operative Society War Memorial that was originally displayed in the New Bedford Road department store was found a new home at the Royal British Legion Club in Marsh Road, Leagrave, in 1993.
The memorial had originally been unveiled in 1946 with the names of Co-op employees from both world wars. It was safely removed following the closure of the store in the 1980s and was eventually found a home with the Royal British Legion. The First World War names on the memorial are (links in yellow offer more detailed information on individuals):