On Tuesday evening [October 23rd, 1917], Mr James Myles Hogge MP visited Luton and addressed a meeting of discharged men in the Corn Exchange, under the auspices of the Luton Discharged Men's Association. There was a good attendance, and Mr Herbert W. Booth (Chairman of the Association) presided.
The Chairman and Hon. Secretary were at the outset appointed as delegates to the council meeting of the National Federation, and the chairman was appointed as representative on the executive of that body.
The Chairman said he would like to remove any impression which some people had that in the Association there were people drawing money. No person received anything, and all the officials were giving their services voluntarily to serve the interests of discharged men (applause).
The Chairman, amidst applause, then called upon Mr Hogge, the national President, who, he said, was the soldier's friend.
Mr Hogge said that they were in the early days of what was going to prove one of the greatest movements in the country. It must embrace every type of man who had been discharged from the Army. The comradeship of the fighting line must be extended into the comradeship of the organised line at home.
He agreed that the fewer paid posts inside the Federation the better. He himself was in it solely to see the discharged man get his rights (applause). The organisation must be on a strict non-party basis and he did not want to see it exploited by any party. But the time might come when they might have to be political and fight for what they wanted without the agency of the existing parties.
They must depend upon themselves. Gratitude to our soldiers today was an overflowing attribute of public opinion, but the further we receded from the end of the war the less there would be public gratitude. They must help themselves, and the first thing was to stand for the welfare of the dependants of the comrades who had died (hear, hear).
Mr Hogge went on to speak of the injustices of discharged men in respect of pensions and gratuities. Although generous when compared with pensions of the past, he did not feel yet that the pension warrant was anything like adequate for the sacrifice of a widow and children of a man who had been killed. Mr Hogge gave illustrations of the unjust administration of pensions, and said he had told Mr Hodge that if the men were refused their request they would walk over the top of him (laughter).
In regard to training the disabled, he said it with regret that the Pensions Ministry had not gripped the question at all, and some of the attempts made were ridiculous. The Government was not providing the money necessary to set up the proper organisation. They even talked about teaching men to cut diamonds! (laughter). It was essential that disabled men should not be put to the fancy trades, but to the staple and most remunerative trades.
Today many men were being exploited to accept lower wages, and if that was so now, what would it be after the war with the labour market flooded? They must as an organisation maintain the position that under no circumstances should a pension be a factor in determmini8ng the man's wage (applause).
The speaker dealt with the need for the establishment by the Government of men in their own business or trade, and instanced the case of the man who had to sell up a business to join the Army. The money he got from the paymaster was not sufficient to replace that man's lost capital. On the contrary, many would look for the paymasters to be starting in business (laughter). It would pay the Government to re-establish such men. Then the Courts Emergency Acts should be continued so that no discharged man could be sued for debt until he had re-established himself proper;y in civil life.
People thought the discharged soldier, in organising, was out for plunder, but he had no such insane idea. He had come back a better man with a wider outlook and determined to take his proper share in public life. He wanted security for himself and his children against war in the future, and to live and not merely exist. No discharged man and no dependants must be beholden to charity.
"If the discharged men of Luton want a club room," added Mr Hogge, "there are those who can give it you and ought to be proud to do so. I man the people of Luton for whom you went into the Army (applause). I don't think it is necessary to remind them that it is up to them to do it. They were eulogistic enought when they asked you from platforms to go into the Army. You were little tin gods (laughter).
"Now you have come back disabled and want to cling together, the people of Luton ought to tumble over each other to give you this memorial of gratitude. They have been proud of you. Let them be proud of the opportunity of giving this token to the men who went into the war. And when you have got it, don't let it be for billiards and cards only, but show Luton people that you relish what they have done for you by making the best use of it (hear hear). If you cling together, this Federation has a great future in front of it" (loud applause).
A considerable time was devoted to questions, and Mr Hogge had a friendly chat with the enquirers and gave valuable help, even promising to take up several cases. He also dwelt upon the iniquity of recovering alleged past debts to the army our of pensions. Mr Hogge described one case brought up that evening as a perfect scandal, and advised all men in doubt to go to the Association office.
A vote of thanks was heartily accorded Mr Hogge, the speakers including Mr J. Mabley, who described most of the cases before the local committee as "absolutely rotten".
[The Luton News: Thursday, October 25th, 1917]