Flu epidemic overwhelms doctors

Digest of stories from The Luton News: Thursday, October 24th, 1918.

Luton is having its fair share of the world-wide influenza epidemic. The doctors, already overwhelmed with work, have been at their wit's end to cope with the unseen enemy. The most they can do is to provide medicine and give general instructions on a wholesale method, for it is found impossible to see all patients individually. One or two of the practitioners are themselves victims.

As to the situation from the business point of view, it is very serious, large numbers of workpeople being quite unable to remain at their labours. Straw hat factories in many instances, and works like those of George Kent Ltd have suffered heavily.

The germs, of course, spread with great rapidity where numbers of people are breathing the atmosphere of one room, and the elementary schools have received quite an onslaught from the disease.

The result is that on Tuesday Tennyson Road, Chapel Street and Beech Hill schools were closed down for a week, an average of one-third of the children having contracted the malady. At Chapel Street there are about 160 cases, we believe, and all the schools in the town are involved. No doubt by today all the schools will have been closed as a precautionary measure.

Seen by our representative, Dr Cox, the Medical Officer, said the results of the epidemic did not seem to be very serious except for the temporary illness of the patients, but the epidemic appeared to be growing more virulent.

In Toddington there had been no fewer than seven deaths during the past week as the result of the spread of influenza.

  • On Saturday about 8.15am, an American airman named Lieut P. A. Kingsland had a narrow escape in the neighbourhood of Kimpton Road. He was flying a Sopwith Camel scout machine, and apparently lost his bearings by reason of prevailing fog. He came down purposely in a field adjoining the Model Farm, Kimpton Road, but he was too near a fence and the aeroplane wheels struck it with considerable force. The machine turned a somersault, but the occupant, probably being strapped in, kept his seat. The aeroplane however was damaged beyond immediate repair, and it could not be removed by the breakdown gang until the beginning of this week.

  • We regret to announce the death of Lieut Cecil George Lunell Pearse (R.F.A.), who has been stationed at Biscot and has for the past two years resided with Mr F. S. Biggs at Leagrave. He passed away here on Monday following an operation, the cause of death being pneumonia. With full military honours the body was brought from Leagrave to Luton Railway Station, en route for the deceased home at Weston-super-Mare, where the interment took place. His brother, Sgt Claude Pearse, who assisted him in his work at Biscot, was unfortunately unable to attend the funeral, being 'down' at Wardown V.A.D. Hospital with influenza.

  • Stott DCMAlthough only 18 years of age, Pte M. R. Stott (Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment) has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and his mother and uncle who reside at 85 Ashton Road have received the congratulation of many friends. We believe that the medal is awarded for bravery in successfully carrying despatches under heavy fire. He was a scholar at Chapel Street School, and prior to enlisting was on the staff of hat manufacturers Read & Horn, Market Hill. Pte Stott is pictured (right).

  • Many Luton men have been among our jubilant troops during their triumphant victory in the Balkans, culminating in the surrender of Bulgaria. Two of these men are Pte Frederick Smith (R.A.M.C.) and L-Cpl Albert E. Smith (Machine Gun Corps, Middlesex), the sons of Mrs Smith, of 11 Norman Road. Fred has been in the East for three years and Albert over two, and after a long separation the brothers have had several happy meetings during the campaign, each meeting being in a different place.

  • Pte H. Fleckney (Royal West Surrey Regiment) is home at Mangrove for a few days for his first leave since he joined up in June. During training he distinguished himself as the best bomb-thrower in his company.

  • Pte H. Channing, of 30 Pondwicks Road, is progressing well in a Glasgow hospital following wounds in the thigh and head received on October 12th. Pte Channing was in the Northumberland Fusiliers, but was afterwards transferred to the West Ridings. He was previously wounded on March 21st.

  • On Wednesday last week members of the congregation and choir of St Thomas's Church, Stopsley, held a farewell social at the Mission Church, Round Green, in honour of Mr Lionel W. Shaw, of the Manor Farm, Stopsley, who was about to leave the parish to take up his duties as a cable-operator in Portugal.

  • Those who have strolled around the Wardown Park gardens during the past month or so have admired the splendid crop of onions which the Park Superintendent has grown in ground where flowers were previously produced. Mr West now reports that about 12cwt of onions have been harvested, of which about 500lb have been sold at 3d a pound.