Commer Cars dinner for its ex-servicemen

Commer Cars factory 1914

[Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph: July 22nd, 1919]

The employees of Commercial Cars Ltd who went from Luton to serve in the Army on various fronts were, as far as we know, the only ex-servicemen in Luton who were entertained to dinner on the official day for Peace Celebrations.

Upwards of 200 Cars men actually served, and from the early days of the war their fellow workers established a War Distress Fund so that not only should comforts go to the men in the field, but dependents left at home should also be helped through troublous times. All those who went out have not returned. Some fell by the way, but the number of those was fortunately not large.

For those who returned the War Distress Committee organised the dinner on Saturday, and the staff of the works canteen cheerfully gave up a large part of their holiday to prepare the dinner.

There were absentees, of course, even on Saturday, but there was still a very big muster of the men who had been demobilised and have returned to work at Biscot Road. Before going in to dinner they were photographed by Mr Jones, also an ex-soldier, in one big group, and late arrivals had to face much good-humoured banter for not being in time for parade.

The upper room of the canteen was made to look very gay for he dinner, which was fixed for 12 o'clock in order that without rushing the men should be abled to get away for the procession through the town which formed the principal feature of the official celebrations.

Mr Williams, works foreman, speaking after dinner, said he was very glad to give them all a very heart welcome back to Commer Cars. Some, of course could never be welcomed back. It was up to those who had returned to try and make the country a place worth living in.

They would find others of their fellow workers always ready to do a good turn for a fellow man. They all recognised that, but for those who had gone to the war they would none of them be able to go on as they were going today. Now they should all try to pull together, stick to the Company, and see whether they could not make the country one fit for heroes to live in.

Mr Singleton (Welfare Superintendent) said that what Mr Williams had expressed was the feeling of everybody on the firm. He only wished it were the feeling of everybody in the country, and that every firm was as mindful of its ordinary everyday duty as this firm had proved to be.

The firm took no particular credit for what it had done. Through the agency of Mr Williams, it had not refused or rejected one single man since November 11th, no matter what their physical or mental state might be, if they had come back. Not only this, but other ex-servicemen had also found the hand of friendship held out at Commercial Cars, and that was not one little bit more than should have been done. They were asking no credit, and did not want to be thanked. It was just what was due to the men, and if every firm in the country had done the same, would there be all the troubles there were today? No!

So while they did not congratulate or thank the firm for what had been done, they did congratulate themselves on being privileged to work for such a firm, and thanked them in that sense, and also Mr Williams for the great sympathy he had shown to every serviceman who had applied to him.

He spirit in which hey approached this day, continued Mr Singleton, was two-fold. There was a great and deep thankfulness that Armageddon was over, they hoped for ever; and secondly, they would pray that their children might never see such times as they themselves had seen.

A message from Mr C. B. Underdown was then given. Mr Underdown extended to all ex-service employees a hearty welcome on their return to the company, expressed the hope that their future would be as prosperous as it deserved to be, and promised them every sympathetic attention that he could give if they found it necessary to approach him.

During the dinner violin solos were played by Mr Pickering, and afterwards all joined in singing 'Land of Hope and Glory'.

Mr Lenton, on behalf of the ex-servicemen, moved a vote of thanks to the War Distress Committee for the work they had done during the war, and also in arranging the dinner, with special mention to Mr Williams. In thanking the management and Mr Williams, Mr Lenton said what they now wanted was to see between masters and men that spirit of comradeship which between man and man had been shown so strikingly in the war. Mr Percy Clarke seconded.

From the Commer Cars works over 200 employees went into the Army, and about 20 of them are still serving. Those who fell were Messrs Wilkins, Gay, Donne, Reader, Waring, Brodie,Young, Turner, Faunch, Littings and Horsler. The Military Medal was won by Mr A. Biggs, and the Meritorious Service Medal was awarded to Mr P. Tew and Mr S. A. Harris.

From the time of te War Distress Committee was instituted until January 31th last, employees of the company subscribed £572 12s, and since that date contributions have still be made. Out of these subscriptions, £134 1s 10d was spent on parcels sent to the men overseas, and £184 4s was distributed in 63 grants to dependents of soldier employees who were in need.

To the Prince of Wales Fund £105 10s was voted, and £150 has been invested in War Loan as a provision for future needs.