Luton was yesterday [October 29th, 1916] included in the itinerary of an official tour undertaken by Field Marshal Viscount French as Commander in Chief of the Home Forces, in which the Volunteers of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Northants, Leicestershire and Derbyshire were inspected and impressed the Field Marshal with the important part they are to play in scheme of national defence. It was a strenuous day for Lord French, involving inspections at St Albans, Luton, Kettering, Leicester and Derby.
Bedfordshire is officially credited with some 1,200 Volunteers, 550 in No. 1 (North Beds Battalion) and 650 in the No. 2 (South Beds Battalion), and over a thousand paraded for the inspection which took place in Wardown Park.
The Bedford continent, numbering about 450 under Major Chase, arrived in Luton by a special train soon after nine o'clock, and proceeded straight away to the park, while the local Battalion spent some little time in drilling on the Moor prior to taking up their allotted position in Wardown.
The strength of the South Beds Battalion on parade was about 570, but of these 80 were detailed for guard duties on the Midland Railway between Chiltern Green and Ampthill. Major H. Cumberland was in command.
A strong body of local Boy Scouts and the borough special constables in their new caps - purchased by themselves - assisted the uniformed police in keeping the inspection ground on which the Volunteers were formed up on three sides of a square.
In spite of the unceasing deluge of rain they presented a remarkably steady formation, and smartly sprang to the general salute on the arrival of Viscount French, preceded by the County Commandant, Colonel Spenser Jackson.
Field Marshall French (pictured right), who was accompanied by an imposing array of staff officers of the Home Forces and several notable railway officials, briskly carried out an inspection of the ranks, pausing once or twice as he passed through the South Beds lines to remark how extraordinarily steady the men stood, and then delivered a typical soldier's speech - a speech that was brief, vigorous and very much to the point.
Emphasising the real and true position of the Volunteers, Lord French said they had made very great sacrifices and shown great love of country and patriotism, but they might have to make more - in fact they would have to be asked immediately to make, at any rate, one more.
It was absolutely essential for our future victory that every able-bodied man in the country should go to the trenches at the Front, and the role which fell upon the Volunteers was to make that possible by rendering themselves thoroughly efficient and able to take upon themselves practically entirely the defence of these shores.
On the conclusion of Lord French's brief address, the Volunteers gave three lusty cheers. Lord French then had a few words with Lady Wernher and on the way to his car paused to inspect the V.A.D. nurses and wounded soldiers from Wardown Hospital, being introduced to Mrs J. W. Green, the Commandant.
When he drove off after a visit which did not cover much more than 20 minutes, he was given a general salute by the Boy Scouts, and the wounded soldiers and V.A.D. nurses sent him off with a rousing cheer.
[The Luton Reporter: Monday, October 30th, 1916]