Welcome memories of Luton

An unnamed Territorial billeted in Luton had some very kind words for the town and its people that were reported back home in the Midlands and then picked up by The Luton News in its September 3rd, 1914, edition. He writes:Soldiers in Salisbury Street 1914

Two features of Luton have struck me as remarkable, and have also struck most of the Territorials. First of all, we cannot but marvel at the dressing of the people. There seem to be no poor or dirty people here.

The girls who are employed in the straw-plaiting factories go to their work in dresses which farther north would always be regarded as "Sunday best". There is nothing of the mill girl or pottery lass in their appearance. They tell me that in winter the lasses change their light dresses - white and colours today - for heavy clothing and sets of furs.

Some of "the boys" tell me, too, that the Luton girls are very shy. It may be true, but general observation would lead me to think that our "nuts" have a way with them which dispels shyness.

The manner in which our Battalion is housed at Luton is something we hardly expected ever to see. The billeting of soldiers upon private citizens has always seemed to us to be a thing of the olden days but here it is in the twentieth century.

I fully expected to find the householders grumble at the inconvenience to which they have been put, but was pleasantly surprised, for in the main we have been made very welcome, and in many cases their hosts are exceedingly kind and assist them with their cooking in every way. They are not annoyed either if an occasionally noisy customer keeps them awake for an hour or so after their usual time.

They recognise, as Kipling said, that "single men in barracks don't grow into plaster saints," and they give the boys a real good word for their behaviour.

One of the NCOs has just been telling me how well he has been treated. His landlord and landlady, who had previously insisted on the men using mattresses, sheets and pillows - some had even had beds enforced upon them - had heard that he intended to be up at a certain hour in the morning. They evidently made a mental note of it, for punctually at the hour stated my friend felt himself shaken, and there was the head of the house standing by his bed with a cup of tea in one hand and a plate with a slice of bread and butter in the other.

That is just one instance. Puddings and fruit in addition to the Army ration of bread and meat are also luxuries which these fortunate men from the Peak enjoy day by day.

We shall remember these days in Luton. Thousands have visited the straw hat factories and now are wearing lanyards of plaited straw to carry their knives on. But we find that as the straw hat business is slack just now, the factories are switching to felt hat making.

At all the places where a "Terrier" has sought admission he has been made welcome, and I am sure that it will be good news to the folks at home that we are being so well treated.