Tanks, the new weapons of war, became new weapons in funding Britain's war effort in the latter stages of the Great War. "Tank Banks" toured towns and cities to persuade residents to do their duty and buy War Savings Certificates or National War Bonds.
Luton received its visit from a "Tank Bank" in July 1918. The aim was to raised £750,000 here, but midway through its week-long stay tank Egbert, a war-battered mascot of the savings movement, had induced townsfolk to invest just £230,000, leaving £520,000 required in two days to hit the target.
The Luton News of July 11th, 1918, said Egbert was a famous British king...and Egbert was the name of the tank which arrived in Luton from Wales on Monday morning, and is now stationed under the shadow of the Corn Exchange, as a guerdon of Britain's genius and resource, and not less as a token of her need.
Many in Luton had seen a tank, but the vast majority had not, and consequently on Monday morning the approaches to the Great Northern Railway Station were thronged with people anxious to behold the mystery which had struck terror into the hearts of the enemy.
The tank is all male, and even his internals are forged of the strongest of metals of utility. His weather-beaten exterior, bruised and gored by attacks as he crawled along, bore the signatures of men who had followed safely in his wake as he crept over the wilderness between the ranks of death, crushing beneath his 27 tons weight such obstacles as blocked his progress...and spitting death from the loopholes in his sides.
The risks he had faced were marked in the fore and at his side by two great jagged holes where the high explosive had struck him and stayed his progress for a while. Yet here he was, given a triumph through the streets of Luton such as the old Romans gave their distinguished and successful warriors.
The men in khaki who accompany and care for him in these more peaceful travels have also been with him in more strenuous days, for Lieut Renwick, who is in charge, and men with him bear scars of the fighting they have seen with what is known as the Tank Corps.
Headed by the reed band of the Middlesex Depot and a military escort of artillerymen from Biscot, under Lieut Randolph, the tank came via Bute Street, Guildford Street, Church Street and Park Street to Market Hill, where it finally came to its station between the Exchange and the Ames Memorial, where a guard of honour from Biscot saluted, and then proceeded to get into position, on either side an 18-pounder field gun, manned and ready for action.
While a party of wounded officers travelled from the Hoo Hospital in the Hoo motor-bus, Lady Wernher drove in by car from Luton Hoo to the Town Hall, from where the Middlesex Regiment and a guard of honour from the Royal Field Artillery led a civic procession to Market Hill for Lady Wernher to open the "Tank Bank" event.
Mayor Councillor W.J. Primett said when the Luton War Savings Committee was formed in November 1916 there were eight War Savings Associations in the town with a total membership of 1,500. There were now 70 associations with a total membership of 8,000. In 1917 the sale of War Savings Certificates amounted to £180,000 and War Bonds to £52,000, a total of £232,000.