Luton WW1 diary: August 13th, 1914

Stories from The Luton News - Thursday, August 13th, 1914

Luton News Masthead


The first Luton-born casualties of the war to be reported missing in the pages of the Luton News were serving on HMS Amphion, the first Royal Navy ship to be sunk in the conflict. Launched in December 1911, the cruiser hit a mine on August 6th while defending the eastern approaches of the English Channel.

Percy James Pinnock, who was born in Old Bedford Road in June 1894, was ranked as a stoker second-class on the ship and had spent four years in the Navy, belonging to Devonport Division. Previously he had been a signalman on HMS Berwick and had also served on HMS Irresistible, HMS Ganges and HMS Pembroke. Just a month earlier he had returned to Luton for the first time in 18 months to visit his step-father and mother, Mr and Mrs Chambers at their home at 29 Boyle Street.

Also on the ship was Private George Stokes, RMLI, who was born in Guildford Street and was the 38-year-old son of Mr William Stokes, then living with his daughter at 4 Front Row, New Town Street, Luton. Private Stokes had served in the Royal Navy for more than 19 years and was nearing the end of his service. He left a widow and two children, living in Plymouth.

  • In Luton, the past week had been comparatively uneventful, according to The Luton News. The excitement of the first few days following the outbreak of hostilities had given place to calmer feelings.
  • The Eastern Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance mustered at practically full strength at their Grove Road headquarters and moved out for active service on Friday. A large crowd outside the Town Hall heard Mayor Councillor W. J. Primett wish the troops "God-speed" on behalf of Luton, and in reply Col Cross said his men needed no words of praise, they were simply doing their duty. Men, waggons and horses were loaded on board a special train provided by the Great Northern Railway Company at the goods yard and the unit left at about 7 pm, although with fewer horses than hoped as most had been requisitioned earlier for the expeditionary force.
  • Another report said all the horses required for the immediate needs of the Army and the seizing of animals in the streets had ceased. But a Luton doctor had his horse seized from outside his house and the animal had its hoofs branded before it was taken away. And a lack of horses and brakes prevented Luton Excelsior cricket team from getting to play their planned match at Tilsworth.
  • A Luton undertaker had his horse stopped by the military who were gathering re-mounts. The man in charge pleaded that undertakers were busy and, after some demur, the officers decided not to take the horse on the ground that the dead must be buried.
  • Madame Christine, who had been a guest at the Dominican Convent in Rothesay Road, left for Belgium as a nurse. But on her arrival a crowd branded her a German spy in nun's garments. She was later released and was nursing at a school converted into a military hospital at Knocke.
  • The Bedfordshire Special Reserves were mobilised at Bedford Barracks on Saturday and got into khaki. They left for the east coast during the early hours of Sunday, Lieut-Col Lord Ampthill riding at the head of the battalion.
  • About 80 employees at bleachers and dyers Messrs T. Lye and Sons, New Bedford Road, were notified that the firm would "temporarily not require their services" pending an improvement in trade. Rumours had suggested that 140 men would be discharged.
  • And at a meeting of the Bleachers and Dyers Section of Luton Chamber of Commerce it was said that, while employers would do all they could to minimise unemployment, they were facing an extraordinary rise in the price of the principal chemicals they used.
  • Several local riders left Luton on Saturday to attend a great rally at Wimbledon Common in response to a Government appeal for motorcyclists. A large crowd gathered at Luton Town Hall to give them a good send-off. A number went on patrol work upon their arrival at Wimbledon, whilst many attended at Scotland Yard yesterday (Wednesday) and were engaged in delivering Police proclamations in various parts of the country.
  • Mrs Hunt, head of the firm of R. Costin, manufacturers of Bute Street, together with her son Mr Clifford Hunt and the Rev H. Mander, brother of Mr E. A. Mander (Borough Accountant) is held up at Lucerne, Switzerland, on account of the war. Considerable anxiety for the safety of the party was felt by their many friends in Luton, when their plight became known. Negotiations are being made for the speedy return of the party to England, and it is hoped that they will be home on Saturday or Sunday.
  • Former Surrey Street teacher Mrs W. Green, sister of Luton Football Club secretary Mr Charles Green, was also unable to get away from Switzerland. She was trapped in Geneva where, she wrote, the English were flocking and the consuls were trying to arrange to get them away to their destinations. When her hotel coupons ran out she would have to "forage for food". Between 8,000 and 9,000 British tourists were reported to have escaped into Switzerland from Germany.
  • The advertising columns carried a British Red Cross Society "appeal to patriotic women". The Women's Voluntary Aid Detachments urgently required recruits. A series of lectures had been arranged to enable women to qualify for Red Cross work. "All women interested, or wishing to join, are requested to attend at the Modern School, Park Square, on Tuesday, August 18th, at 4.45pm."
  • Last night a meeting was held under the presidency of the Mayor Councillor W. J. Primett for the purpose of forming a representative local committee to organise one local fund in conjunction with the Prince of Wales Fund, and for dealing with various matters connected with the relief of such distress as may arise out of the war. The meeting, which was held in the Council Chamber, was of a very representative character, and included Lady Wernher, Mrs Francis Crawley, members of various local authorities, clergy and ministers, commercial and philanthropic organisations, and many other people who may be expected to do very useful work in connection with the fund.
  • Dr Horace Sworder is to act as Medical Officer of Health for Luton during the absence of Capt W. Archibald on active service with the Eastern Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance.
  • Mr James Valentine, the well known aviator and nephew of Mr William Austin, was on Tuesday night gazetted, with other aviators, as Second Lieutenant (on probation) of the Royal Flying Corps.
  • The war is already beginning to have a prejudicial effect on attendances at the places of amusement in Luton.
  • A few selected members of the local troop of Boy Scouts are in attendance at the Luton Police Station to act as messengers in cases of emergency.
  • Wives of railway employees who have joined the colours will be granted the same travelling privileges as if their husbands applied on their behalf.
  • Major S. J. Green, of the Beds Yeomanry and son of Mr and Mrs J. W. Green, of The Larches, New Bedford Road, Luton, has been appointed Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Bedfordshire. The appointment has been made by the Lord Lieutenant (Mr S. Howard Whitbread) just at the time when Major Green was leaving with his squadron for active service.
  • The only article for which the grocers' section of the Luton Tradesmen's Association have now a fixed price is sugar, the agreed price being: granulated 3d, lump 3½d. Other articles are all being sold below the Government maximum. Rising food prices were blamed for disturbances in Dunstable and Hitchin.
  • All German aliens must report at the Police Station at once to be registered, under a penalty of £100.
  • The new £1 and 10 shilling notes were issued from some of the Luton banks in large numbers when they reopened on Friday, and even wage money was partly paid in notes. The small denominations of the notes, however, will make them pass easily, and it should be borne in mind that they must be accepted for all purposes for which coins would be used under nominal conditions.
  • Some comments have been made of the fact that Territorials have not been saluting officers when meeting them in the street. We are asked to explain that this is in accordance with one of their first instructions when mobilised for active service. Then one receiving a salutation is thereby proclaimed to be an officer and, as a marked man, to be picked off at the first opportunity. Because of this instructions are given that in war time no salutes are to be given.