Captured while helping a dying comrade

With the end of hostilities, prisoners of war were repatriated and began to tell their stories, including this one told in the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph on December 14, 1918, by a Lutonian who had been captured by the Turks.

Indescribable horrors have been suffered by Sgt Frederick Cleaver (Bedfordshire Regiment), who is on two months leave at his home, 47 May Street, Luton, after an absence on service of three and a half years, in the hands of the Turks as a prisoner.

Returned POW tells of suffering

The terrible sufferings of British prisoners of war, especially on their release from German camps, was described to the Luton News (December 12th, 1918) by a Lutonian who had shared them. Pte William Hardwick (47929, 2/8th Lancashire Fusiliers), of 33 Cowper Street, arrived home on December 1st, following his capture at Hargicourt in France on March 21st, 1918, the opening day of the German spring offensive that year.

Post-war issues: Better housing

The expense of fighting the Great War curtailed development and public expenditure, and the influx of munition workers and others into Luton placed a strain on existing facilities, not least housing. There was talk in 1918 of a need for 1,000 new houses in the town, and some existing areas were described as slums. Board of Guardians member Violet Lewis, in an article in the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph of December 14, 1918, saw a need for new housing, but, equally important, homes that were family dwellings fit to live in comfortably. Her article read:

Sergeant's acts of daring earn DCM

Remarkable acts of daring in September 1918 earned Sgt Joseph Henry Barford from Luton the Distinguished Conduct Medal, awarded the following November. The Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph of December 7th, 1918, recorded his exploit.

“One day in September he led a party and killed six German machine gunners and captured the guns and put them our of order.

Luton's first list of women jurors

In 1918, women aged over 30 had at last won the right to vote. Two years later the first Luton women eligible to sit on a jury at Assizes or Quarter Sessions were named. There were 112 of them, half being widows and most in business. On October 7th, 1920, the Luton News published the following list of the 112:

ABELL: Mrs H. M., draper, 56 Stuart Street.

ARNOLD: Mrs A. E., widow, publican, 96 New Town Street.

AUSTIN: Miss E., draper, 49a Stuart Street.

BALDWIN: Miss R., confectioner, 90 Wellington Street.

Lutonians' victory cruise to Constantinople

Constantinople Nov 1918

  • Allied warships anchored off Constantinople in November 1918. Photo from London Illustrated News.

On October 30th, 1918, the Armistice of Mudros brought hostilities between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies to an end as of noon the following day. The agreement was reached on board the British battleship HMS Agamemnon, a ship with two Lutonians among its crew.

POW Bertie Perkins tells his story

While returning POWs frequently had stories of cruelty and near starvation in German hands, L-Cpl Bertie Perkins (266268, Yorkshire Regiment) was one who confessed to “a fairly good time,” although he had sad stories of cruelty to British prisoners working close up to the German lines.

He reached home at 3 Cumberland Street, Luton, on December 2nd, 1918, after arriving back in England at Hull on the SS Porto on November 22nd. He was enjoying two months' leave.

Decorated for sinking a U-boat

L-Cpl Sidney William Barford (pictured), Royal Marines, was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in November 1918 for sinking a German U-boat off the United States coast the previous August. He was serving in the mercantile marine as a gunner to combat submarines.

The incident was not mentioned in British newspapers at the time of the sinking, but an American journal gave a full account of the incident. This account was eventually reproduced in the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph on December 7th, 1918, following the announcement of the award of the DSM.

Victory and a 'bust-up' warning

A Luton soldier who had taken part in the battle of the River Piave in June 1918 that threw the Austrians out of occupied Italy described what he had gone through, and vented his anger on men in Britain who had gone on strike while he and his comrades were fighting. In a letter reproduced in the first edition of the 'N-T-F & Tuesday Telegraph' of December 3rd, 1918, Pte W. H. Darby wrote to his employer, Mr F. C. Bailey, of Williamson Street:

Final curtains for the Biscoteers

Biscoteers 1917

In January 1916, the arrival at the Royal Field Artillery's Biscot Camp of Lieut F. H. Howell saw the formation of the Biscoteers Concert Party. Dressed as pierrots, they used their talents, both musical and comic, to entertain and raise funds. And they became perhaps the most popular entertainment troupe in the town during World War One.


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