Disturbances among ex-munitions girls


Munition girls dole queue

Women are waiting in queues in Luton once again, not for food but for the means of obtaining it. As a result, some extraordinary scenes were witnessed yesterday at the Public Library and the Labour Exchange, where the subsistence allowances were paid out to discharged munition workers, reported the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph (February 8th, 1919).

A large room at the Library has been requisitioned for dealing with the women and girls, and there is a considerable female staff at work there. The men are dealt with at the Labour Exchange by Mr Bovey and his staff.

The labour demobilisation has proceeded with a rapidity which proved well-nigh overwhelming, despite the efforts of the Labour Exchange staff, and yesterday morning there was a large crowd thronging the Williamson Street entrance of the Library, nearly twelve hundred having to be dealt with.

This fact would not have been alarming if many of the girls had behaved themselves well. But their conduct was not all that could be desired, and the language was in many cases painfully free.

The Librarian was at his wits' end to deal with the crowd, it being quite impossible to enter the reading rooms of the Library. He drew the girls' attention the notice board asking for silence, and the response he got was far from polite.

Ultimately Mr Maw had to summon the help of the police and an officer kept the rowdy element in some semblance of order (by means of a queue), but further measures will be necessary next week.

Probably as bad was the situation with which Mr Bovey and his staff had to cope at the Labour Exchange, where a large crowd of men and boys waited for a like purpose. We have heard, in fact, that some irresponsible youths went so far as to cut electric wires in the building.

Further requests have been made for police intervention and no doubt a repetition of the trouble will be avoided.

In its report of February 18th, the Tuesday Telegraph said Mr Bovey had told its representative that on the previous Friday 1,300 girls and 480 men and youths were dealt with by Luton Employment Exchange. Matters were brightening, many men and girls having been placed in employment.

Mr Bovey paid a tribute to the assistance of the police in maintaining order, especially at the Library. The fact that the women had to wait in queues was entirely their own fault. They did not maintain order in the first place when allowed inside the Library and now they had to stand outside.

He added that arrangements would be better in a week or two, as hut were to be erected on vacant land near the present Exchange in Mill Street.