Unemployment was one of the major grievances of demobilised soldiers on their return from war service. One unidentified discharged man who had served throughout the war wrote the following distressing letter to The Luton News (June 19th, 1919) which gave an insight into problems experienced locally:
“I am an ex-serviceman, having served since August 4th, 1914. I am writing these few lines, hoping it will catch the eyes of the employers of labour in Luton. I think it is time something was done for us in the matter of employment.
“The ex-serviceman would rather work. I have been to most of the prominent firms in this town and have met with a blunt refusal. Is this the reward after sacrificing all in 1914 to serve our country? I was demobilised in February 1919 and it is now June, and still unemployed. I was promised work by a prominent firm in Luton on my return, but when I was released was told they could not find room for me.
“Well, Sir, I hope these few lines will catch someone's eye who will try and do something for us who have done our bit. I do not want charity.
“A lot of people think that all we want is the out-of-work donation. But they are mistaken. I, for one, want work, and there are others too.”
Meanwhile, other men were desperate to be demobilised. Sgt Miles R. Crawley, at the 9th Corps HQ of the British Army of the Rhine in Cologne, was among them and also contributed a letter to The Luton News (June 19th). He wrote:
“I am in the British Army of Occupation and am stationed near Cologne. When home on leave last January and February, I endeavoured to get demobilised, but without success, receiving two telegrams and four letters from the Records Office of the corps to which I belong, instructing me to return to my unit.
“Since getting back here I have made another sincere effort to obtain my 'ticket' on compassionate grounds , one reason being the loss in action of my only two brothers, Harry and Ralph. This application, like the first effort, was unsuccessful.
“The Army had decreed, and rightly too, that a certain number of efficient men should be retained for the Army of Occupation, and unfortunately some of us, who want to get home to our wives and families, we are still here.
“This may not interest you much, but I imagine from what I hear over and over again from fellows similarly situated as I am, that some people at home need enlightenment as to the true state of affairs, in order that they may desist in informing people – especially the nearest relatives of the person concerned – that 'so-and-so could get demobilised if he liked'.
“I have seen the harmful effects of these unkind and untrue remarks even on chums billeted in the same house as myself, and maybe the publication of these words will be the means of saving some unpleasantness.”