Luton Volunteer Training Corps formed

At a crowded meeting at Luton Corn Exchange on Thursday [December 3rd, 1914], it was unanimously agreed to form a local detachment of the Volunteer Training Corps to defend homes in the event of a German invasion. The unit would be affiliated to the Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps but it would receive no Government finance - money for uniforms, weapons and ammunition would have to be raised locally.

There would also be conditions attached. Any man over the age required for service with the colours might join. Any employer or employee who was under the age limit (then 38) could join the unit on certain conditions related to their absence from work on full military service being detrimental to essential businesses. As a safeguard these men had to also give an undertaking that they would be willing to enlist with the colours if called upon.

Chamber of Commerce President Mr Harry Inwards, who would become a leading light behind the unit, said the Corps, which seemed to stand no earthly chance of going to the front, should not become the "skulking places" of men under the age limit who really ought to join the colours but did not want to.

Beyond giving the Corps recognition, the Government would do very little for it. There would be no enlistment or attestation, only an enrolment would take place. There would be an armlet with the letters "G.R." to be worn, which would sufficiently cover the requirements of the International Convention.

The Government were not prepared to find them anything in the way of equipment, so they would have to find their own rifles and ammunition. They would have to have a substantial backing of money in order to get a decently equipped force. The estimated cost per man of uniform and equipment was not less, and probably more, than £5. So if they obtained a fund of £1,000 they could properly equip only 200 men.

That being the case, the plan was to get a sufficient number of members to make a good nucleus of a detachment and then, by opening the subscription list, to provide some funds - leaving the question of uniforms in abeyance for a time - to get enough rifles for them to have musketry drill. There were some fine ranges near Luton at which they would be able to practise. In order to cover the necessary cost of ammunition it was proposed that every enrolled member should make a small contribution each week.

Military titles were not to be used and the officer in charge would be called the commandant. The company officers would be called company commanders.

Seconding the proposition to form the Corps, Mr Cumberland Brown said there were many men between the ages of 40 and 60 who, although perhaps unable to sprint 400 yards with fixed bayonets to turn the enemy out of the trenches, would be quite fit physically to defend a trench or position.

In answer to questions, it was stated that it would be necessary to arm the Corps with rifles that would take cartridges of service pattern. Any kind of rifle would not do. Martini-Enfields which took the service cartridge could be obtained in fairly good quantities at £2 10s each.

A member would not be classed efficient until he had put in 40 drills of one hour each. The drills would be made to interfere as little as possible with business, and would be taken at various times to suit the hours of those in various occupations. Drills might be put in twice a week, in some cases perhaps on Saturday afternoon or Sunday and arrangements would be made for members to be trained by competent instructors.

It was also said it should be understood that a member was expected to continue in the Corps for the duration of the war. They would have to trust to a member's honour to do that.

The size of the Luton Corps would be regulated by the amount of money they received, because a fully equipped Corps of 200 men would be superior in practice to a greater number only half equipped. Those who could afford to buy their own equipment would pay the amount for it into a general fund, and those who could and did pay more than the amount for their own equipment would be helping other members. No man would buy his own directly, but it was hoped that all who could do so would pay the amount into the fund. All members would also be asked to subscribe 6d a week to running expenses.

Mr Cumberland Brown, who was formerly a captain in the 5th Bedfords, was elected Commandant.

[Beds and Herts Saturday Telegraph, December 5th, 1914]