Rank or Title
Date of Birth
Date of Death
4 Oct 1917
War time / or Pre War occupation
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
War Memorial Location
Soldier or Civilian
Gunner Edwin Ernest Jeffs, 144354, 'C' Battery, 74th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action in Flanders on October 4th, 1917, "serving his gun like a hero". But in Luton he would be remembered as a founder and conductor of the Luton Orchestral Society, "a man who had just begun to develop those glimmerings of genius...as an outstanding exponent and interpreter of the profession he was so well fitted to adorn".
Son of Mrs Clara Annie Jeffs and the late Mr John Thomas Jeffs, of 15 Highfield Road, Luton, he was single and lived with his mother until he joined the Royal Field Artillery at Biscot in May 1916. During his time at Biscot he was a member of the highly popular Biscot Pierrot Troupe, and the slideshow below includes a picture of the troupe in November 1916 with violinist Edwin Jeffs second from the right in the middle row.
The former Waller Street School scholar had shown great promise as a violinist and later taught the instrument. He went to the Royal Academy as a student of the violin and studied under various professors. In 1900 he took a bronze medal for violin playing, and the silver medal of the Royal Academy of Music in 1902.
His subsequent career as a teacher of the violin came to an end with the death of his father in 1911, when he joined his brothers in the management of the watchmaking and jewellery business of Jeffs and Sons, of 41 Wellington Street and 15 Manchester Street.
Also when his father died he became choirmaster at Wellington Street Baptist Church, later relinquishing the post to become the organist.
The following tribute to Edwin Jeffs was paid by Mr C. P. Wood, Treasurer of the Luton Orchestral Society. He said:
"The news of the death of Gunner Edwin Jeffs in France, where he was killed in action, will be deeply regretted by all those who knew him, and especially in musical circles in Luton and district. Those of us who have played under his baton in the Luton Orchestral Society for many years past realise that we have lost a conductor of great natural ability, and one who can never be effaced from our memory.
"He had that personal magnetism which goes such a long way in the making of a successful conductor, together with a sound knowledge of the capabilities of every instrument in the band. His scores were always committed to memory, and the orchestra were never at a loss for a lead. His interpretations were those of a thorough musician.
"He endeared himself to all of us by his unassuming manner, and his extreme modesty with regard to his own capabilities was proverbial. As a conductor he made his orchestra feel that he was in supreme command, and woe betide the luckless individual who dares to question his authority.
"Had he in earlier years taken up conducting as a profession his ability would have carried him into the front rank. His orchestral compositions, one or two of which have been played by the Luton Orchestral Society at their concerts, were modern in style and showed marked ability in orchestration.
"He was a fine violinist, and some of us can recall can recall many pleasant hours of chamber music with him as first violin or viola player.
"He has made the supreme sacrifice, but his memory will be cherished by all those who knew him and loved him."
The Luton News of September 12th, 1919, said the relatives of Gunner Jeffs had erected over his grave in Luton General Cemetery a simple but beautiful marble cross ten feet high (pictured below), the work of the firm of Low Giddings. The inscription read: "In honoured and loving memory of Edwin Jeffs, Gunner, C Battery, 74th Brigade, R.F.A., killed in action in France, October 4th, 1917, aged 32. Founder and conductor of Luton Orchestral Society, 1901-1914. The beloved son of Clara Annie and John Thomas Jeffs. Such an one never dies."