Four Luton men in Europe when hostilities broke out managed to escape back to Britain. Mr W.T. Lye, of Leagrave Hall, was in Germany with his family; Mr H.W. Kingston, a director of hat manufacturers Carruthers Bros, of King Street, was in Paris; engineer Mr William Weatherhead was in Belgium; and "a gentleman who, if he permitted his name to be mentioned would be known to thousands of people in Luton and South Bedfordshire," was on a pleasure trip to Germany. Each had dramatic stories to tell of their attempts to get home.
The Luton News of August 6th, 1914, reported that with a few friends the last mentioned went for a voyage on a trading vessel from King's Lynn to Hamburg.
"We were in the town on Wednesday," he said, "but returned to our ship at one o'clock for lunch. While we were boarding, the captain received a message telling him to load up what he could and be off as the clock struck twelve.
"The crew got to business at once and, with the help of German workmen who worked as furiously as the others, we got in 960 tons of sugar extra, and the ship sailed at midnight. The other vessels that deferred their sailings till a little later were held back.
"We saw no sign of the military in the town or anywhere else, but there was tremendous activity all over the docks. In every street corner at Hamburg there were messenger boys handing out free copies of newspapers relating to the European crisis.
"As far as we saw there was no demonstration against English people. In fact there was the best of feeling, the Germans being very friendly and jolly with us.
"We left Hamburg on Wednesday at midnight, and reached Lynn Deeps about one o'clock the next afternoon. We saw a tremendous lot of shipping going to Hull and Grimsby, chiefly from the Baltic, but there was none going in the direction of Germany."