Memorial service at Luton Hoo Park

Luton Hoo drumhead service 27-7-1919

[Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph: July 29th, 1919]

A mighty gathering, a wonderful concourse of people, assembled at Luton Hoo Park on Sunday afternoon to participate in a united memorial service to men who have paid the supreme sacrifice for their God and country.

Nothing could have brought home more forcibly the sympathy, interest and personal feelings of gratitude the people of the town have for those who so nobly bore the brunt of battle than the crowd which filled the capacious slopes of the Park to pay its tribute of affection and remembrance to those who fell in the fight.

Probably 20,000 people were there, and no previous event for years past has seen such a magnificent attendance.

People began to arrive as early as 2pm, and half an hour later the streets from the Corn Exchange to the Park were thronged with crowds making their way towards the service. Brakes and cars were provided for men who through wounds were unable to walk, and they were given seats close to the Drum-head.

The drums, covered with a Union Jack, were placed in front of an effectively decorated platform, at the back of which was the Empire flag, flying at half-mast. The pole was covered with laurel wreaths, and the platform was also fringed with this tribute to heroism and bravery.

In front of the platform were beautiful wreaths from the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Federation, Comrades of the Great War, the Liberal and Conservative Clubs, and 'To the glorious dead who championed our cause and made the supreme sacrifice' – Chairman and members of the War Pensions Committee, and from Luton Waste Paper Scheme.

Hoo service 27-7-1919Amongst those present were noticed Lady Wernher and Major Harold Wernher, Miss Pryce and Col Pollen, Mr and Mrs W. Austin, Mr S. Dillingham, Mr H. Arnold, Mr W. J. Primett, Mr H. O. Williams. Mr J. A. Burgess, Dr J. Birch, Mr R. F. Briggs, and representatives from the Federation, Comrades, Pensions Committee, Trades and Labour Council, Chamber of Commerce and other organisations. The wreaths were made by A. Stratton, florist, of Manchester Street, Luton.

The service commenced at 3pm, and the ministers present were the Rev Canon Coate, Rev T. Bulman, Rev E. C. Whitworth and Rev W. C. M. Winter, representing the Established Church; the Revs E. B. Mahon, F. B. Clogg, R. H. A. Routledge, G. Hern, W. Dean Turner and W. H. Haden, the Free Churches; and Major Shaw, the Salvation Army.

There was a large choir composed of representatives from every church and denomination, and the bands of the Comrades, Red Cross and both Salvation Army Corps attended. They were under the able conductorship of Mr F. Gostelow.

The service opened with the National Anthem, and the hymns sung were 'Praise My Soul the King of Heaven,' 'Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me' and 'O God, Our Help in Ages Past'.

The Rev E. C. Whitworth read the lesson, Rev F. B. Clogg led in the general thanksgiving, Rev W. H. Haden recited an impressive 'In Memoriam,' and Canon Coate gave intercessory prayers. The address was given by the Rev E. B. Mahon (King Street Congregational Church pastor).

The Rev E. B. Mahon read a telegram of apology from the Vicar of Luton for his unavoidable absence, and gave the following extract: 'Men who died for us must never be forgotten. May God's blessing be with you all'.

In a brief but stirring address, the Rev Mahon said: “My brothers, serving and ex-servicemen. It is you who have wished to hold this service, and this immense congregation is the token of public sympathy and interest. We are here to join in thanksgiving to Almighty God because of the victory that has rewarded your efforts and the efforts of our men on land and sea and because of the Peace that has crowned the victory.

“We are here to join you in prayer for those who have suffered the loss of dear ones. There are multitudes here this afternoon who have lost those whom they love. Some have lost husbands and some have lost lovers. Many of us have lost brothers and sons, and all of you have lost comrades. We are all here together in an act of sympathy which springs from a deep fellow feeling, but the central feature of our services is one of quiet, reverent memory.

“It is our act of homage to the heroism and chivalry of the brave lads who have fallen. Respectfully we salute them today, and it may be that they are not very far off. We praise their courage in life and in death, and we have to think of them now as having fought the good fight and as having entered into that rest which is the peace of God. Bright, laughter-loving lads they were, bright happy lads they are now, now they are there, for the love of God encircles them like the sunshine.

“God make us all worthy of them. My brothers, strange times lie before us – times that are full of problems. Sometimes our opinion will be right and sometimes wrong. If we face our difficulties in the spirit of this service we shall overcome them, and we shall have our opportunity in helping to bring in that new and better day for which our comrades have given their lives.

“Let us all step into the future resolved to be true to the highest and cleanest ideals of life, true to the voice of God within our hearts, for the sake of the lads who have gone – for the sake of our children and for the sake of the Kingdom of God that is yet to be.”

At the conclusion of the service the massed bands played the Dead March in 'Saul,' and this was followed by the bugle call, 'The Last Post.' This was finely sounded by Mr H. Carter, late of the 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry, and Sgt-Drummer of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Beds Regiment.

He was the civic trumpeter on the occasion of the proclamation in Luton of the late King Edward VII and of King George V.

The people showed their gratitude to Lady Wernher for attending the service by a remarkable display of affection, and an applauding crowd awaited her round her car.

En route to the Park and inside, collectors were very busy, offering being requested on behalf of the DS&S Widows and Orphans Fund. Already over £100 has been handed in and several boxes have yet to be dealt with. In addition, Lady Wernher has intimated her intention to contribute £20.

Despite the huge number of people, the organising arrangements were in every way satisfactory, and splendid assistance was given the Federation marshal (Mr W. B. Clay) by Supt Panter and the County Police, ambulance men, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts.

Hoo service report

A featured of the ceremony was the presence of a Crimean veteran, Mr S. Ellingham, of North Street, Luton. The gallant old soldier is now in his 85th year, and has seen the conclusion of five peaces following wars in which Britain has been engaged.

He was at the signing of peace in India, China and the Crimea, and on Sunday was wearing the Crimean medals of 1854 and 1855, with the Sebastopol bar, and a China medal of 1860 with a bar for the Taku Forts campaign. He possesses two Crimean medals for 1855, one being a Turkish medal presented to him by a Turkish officer whom he found lying wounded and bandaged, and assisted to reach some of his fellow countrymen at a neighbouring fort.

Mr Ellingham served in the old 31st Regiment, now the East Surreys, and left the Army in 1862.