Peace Day Riots
Saturday July 19th 1919 was a national day of celebrations. In Luton, events started with a procession to the Town Hall from Luton Hoo. Nearly 20,000 people enjoyed sports and entertainment at Wardown. No one could have foreseen how the day would end.
At the Town Hall, the Mayor read the Proclamation from the King. It praised the bravery of servicemen and welcomed members of the armed forces taking part in the procession. Booed by the crowds, the Mayor retreated to his Parlour in the Town Hall.
A small crowd burst into the Town Hall, smashing crockery and overturning tables. Police estimated that by the afternoon more than 8,000 people were in George Street. Unhappy ex-servicemen and other people made speeches.
By 10 o’clock that night, people armed with bricks, iron bars and bottles were looking for trouble. The Town Hall windows were smashed and a fire started in the Food Office at the side. It spread to the Town Hall itself. Firemen could not control the fire. Just after 12.30 the Town Hall clock crashed down. People looted shops. Someone played ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ on a piano from Farmer’s music shop. Military reinforcements were not able to bring order until 3 o’clock in the morning.