The horrors of war that individuals would have to live with for the rest of their lives were being revealed by men returning home seriously wounded from the front.
Two Luton men were examples. Pte Donald Wood, an employee of the Davis Gas Stove Co Ltd at the Diamond Foundry in Dallow Road, lost a hand when a shell exploded nearby as he was grabbing some sleep at the front. But a second Diamond Foundry worker, Pte Herbert Day, 3rd Rifle Brigade, had been sent home blind with little prospect of ever being able to see again.
This poem about loyalty, heroism and personal sacrifice at the front was penned by H. Geeves, of Leagrave, in January 1915 and published in The Luton News on January 14th, 1915, under the title "Greater Love".
The troops were retiring, but sullenly,
For they didn't much like the work.
They'd rather have fought, though they'd been wiped out,
A torpedoed battleship, the losing toss of a coin, ragtime played on a piano on the sinking ship and a rescue when unconscious after 20 hours in a small boat on a rough sea.
These were elements of the dramatic story of officers' steward Alfred Joseph John Hart, probably the last man to leave the stricken HMS Formidable in the English Channel on New Year's Day 1915 and survive. The son of a Bedford railway porter, he had joined the Navy four years earlier at the age of 17. Here is his story as recorded by The Luton News on January 14th, 1915.
A letter signed "Two High Town Boys with A Squadron, Beds Yeomanry, at Hatfield Peverel, Essex," revealed how the they had spent Christmas.
It read: "As no doubt you know, Christmas leave was cancelled at the last moment for officers and men, which of course was a great disappointment to all, but in the same spirit as they take everything else that comes along, they made the best of it.
The 18 boys and 16 girls in the Guardians' Homes at Beech Hill (pictured above) were given a very happy Christmas time. Miss Gardner and her friends kindly sent a decorated tree, the branches of which were fruitful with toys etc. The tree was lit up on Christmas Eve and the children were handed presents from a bran tub, also sent by Miss Gardner and her friends.
The Eastern Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, is almost entirely composed of men from Luton and Bedford, and this Christmas, in spite of having to spend it on the East Coast, some hundreds of miles away from home and under the distinctly novel circumstances of being on active service, lacked nothing in the way of merriment or season cheer.
There were no parades on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, so each man was free to do practically what he liked.
Although this week we print one letter from a Luton soldier in the trenches wishing all his old workmates at the Diamond Foundry "a merry Christmas and a happy New Year" and another expressing similar sentiments towards all readers from a Luton soldier lying grievously wounded in a London hospital, it is to be feared that there are not many at home who will feel themselves able to indulge in the time-honoured greeting.
Stories from The Luton News: Thursday, December 24th, 1914.
After being closed for services for 18 weeks, the Wesleyan Central Mission was on Sunday again open to members.
The closing of the Mission early in August was due to troops coming into the town. They commenced to pour in at the end of the second week of August, and in addition to ordinary buildings they at once took possession of various places of worship for billeting purposes.
Stories from the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph, December 19th, 1914.
His Majesty the King has approved of the grant of the Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field to 187 Officers, Non-commissioned Officers and Men for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty whilst serving with the Expeditionary force. Among the recipients are:
Pte A. E. Bentley (10234), 1st Battalion, Beds Regt, for gallantry under fire, and for remaining behind a hot fire on October 12th to help in dressing wounds of three men whom it was impossible to move.
A reward of 20 shillings is to be offered by Luton Town Council for information which would lead to the punishment of offenders who damaged recently planted trees in Dunstable Road between the Laundry and the borough boundary.
Councillor A. A. Oakley said four had been deliberately broken off. He thought it a matter of great regret that the Council could not endeavour to beautify the surroundings of the town without this sort of thing happening. The trees he had mentioned would have to be taken up and replaced.