At the outbreak of war in 1914 Britain still relied on volunteers to serve in the armed forces. But there were others prepared to do their bit at home as a civilian army in the event of an enemy invasion.
Although at first meeting official antipathy, the home guard volunteers continued to organise themselves, forming local Volunteer Defence Corps that began to find respectability. By January 1915, Luton had its own Volunteer unit.
In April 1916 the War Office recognised the Volunteers as part of the military machine, with an enrolment age from 17 upwards without medical examination. In Bedfordshire, two Battalions were formed - 1st Battalion covering the north of the county and 2nd Battalion the south, including Luton.
By 1917, many men who were exempted by Tribunals from military service were required to join the Volunteers as part of the exemption deal. Those who did not comply left themselves open to be called up. And there was some discontent among those who in effect were forced to join the Volunteers and those who were not for various reasons.
But in the main there seemed to be an esprit de corps among most of the Volunteers, who attended regular camps, often held in the grounds of Luton Hoo.
At Whitsun 1917, Luton photographer William Harold Cox did an extensive coverage of a Volunteer camp at Luton Hoo with photos that were reproduced in the 2nd Battalion's Luton Volunteer Gazette. The picture above is from the series, with others available to view in "Media Files" (pdf file in panel, above left), with two pictures of a miniature rifle range created at Luton Hoo are included in the slideshow below.