'Wanton damage' by Territorials

A serious charge against the conduct of soldiers billeted in some of the public buildings of Luton was made at a special meeting of the Town Council on Friday evening. Town Clerk Mr William Smith said that in some places "absolutely wanton damage" had been done.

Baths conversion to Assembly HallThe matter arose through Councillor C. Dillingham, Chairman of the committee controlling the public baths, asking for the views of members of the Council with regard to the desirability of keeping the swimming baths open. He said that at the last meeting of the Committee it was decided that the baths should be kept open until the Committee met again, but as he had since received several inquiries he thought it well to bring the matter before the Council.

The number of Territorials using the swimming baths on recent Sundays were: October 11th 380, October 18th 370, October 25th 60 - the latter because they were sent by their officers (laughter).

As colder weather had set in the swimming bath would not be so much required, but he was reluctant to close it and have the place used for housing soldiers, for then the place would be so damaged that it would cost a lot to do up.

Alderman E. Oakley thought it would be a calamity if the place were used for billeting purposes, and that it would be best to keep the baths going as they were at present until they saw what likelihood there was of the troops going away. Others coming into the town might appreciate the baths, especially if they had such facilities elsewhere.

The Mayor (Councillor W. J. Primett) said he was advised that whatever happened some troops would still be here, but if the Council put their foot down he did not think it likely the baths would be commandeered. Councillor Dillingham did not think it wise to risk it.

It was mentioned that if the floor was put down in the baths and the troops need the place, the floor would very quickly be ruined.

The Town Clerk said he hoped the Council would keep the swimming bath open as long as possible, for the amount of damage done to public buildings by the military might almost be called violent and wilful. They took away things they had no need to take, and nobody was responsible afterwards. He specially mentioned the mansion at Wardown as a place where great damage had been done, and described some of it as "absolutely wanton damage".

[The Luton News, November 5th, 1914]