'From the ashes of civic neglect...'

Luton Hoo drumhead service

An unnamed ex-serviceman expressed his feelings on the Luton Hoo memorial service through the Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph (July 29th, 1919). He wrote:

“Thank God for Sunday's beautiful and impressive memorial service, in that it showed us after all our comrades have not died in vain, that their sacrifices have not been forgotten and that the memory of their glorious devotion inspired such a huge gathering of sympathisers.

“One wondered if the rush and turmoil of business life, the natural chaos resulting from the four years of battling and fighting, and the dismal spectre of commercial unrest had relegated the deeds of valour and death to the vista of the horrible unrealities of those days of tragedy.

“Our lads had died for their country, had given of their utmost and had asked nothing in return; but surely the memory of their gallant devotion will remain fresh and unmarred for countless ages down.

“Thank God that Luton has come out of the ordeal triumphantly – that from the ashes of civic neglect and internal strife has arisen so noble a spirit of gratitude and solemnity.

“What a beautiful representative audience it was, from the highest to the lowest, assembled with the same feelings and with the one desire to perpetuate in reverent worship and quiet prayer their acknowledgement and indebtedness to the warriors who had fallen upholding the principles of right and justice.

“It was a fitting setting in the Hoo for such an occasion. The rolling grass-coloured slopes, the deep green woods, the shimmering lake, surrounded with verdant pasture, were typical of our England, were actual depictions of out visions of the homeland whilst we were defying the mud and dreariness of Flanders, or sweltering in the sands of Egypt.

“The spirits of our chums were not far away – one could feel them with us. They were watching over us and bidding us unite in our efforts to make the world a better place to live in – so that they would not have died in vain.

“Could not one feel them hovering around? Could not one discern the soothing influence of their presence and sense that they were urging one on to better achievements?

“Through the huge congregation and the sound of the bands and choirs, and the beautiful scenery of the Park, was a vision of those shell-shattered graves dotted about the battlefields of France, where lay the mortal remains of those who had entered the Valhalla. They had been buried, often at dead of night: a rough trench in the ground their resting place, a rude cross marking the site, without pomp or splendour, and frequently without even a bugle call or firing party. They had been laid to rest by their comrades who had fought side by side, quietly and reverently, despite the awful tide of battle.

“So it was just and fitting that the ceremony on Sunday was carried out so simply – a simplicity which was inevitably stamped with an indefinable atmosphere of grandeur and magnificence, when one considered what such a service represented.

“The town has proved itself true to our comrades, and after Sunday's substantial evidence we cannot help but feel that after all it is a place worth being proud of.”