DS&S response to Peace Day riots

Should the authorities in Luton have been prepared for trouble on Peace Day, July 19th, 1919, when even the leading ex-servicemen's organisation, the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Association, forewarned of the possibility of trouble, and issued this advert as a result?

DS&S Peace Day appeal

And after the event, Herbert Pruden, the Editor of The DS&S Journal, wrote in the July 26th, 1919, edition of the DS&S Journal: “It is with the deepest feelings that I commence the Journal today, for as I write it is almost impossible to get the view of the ruins of our Town Hall from my mind.

“It will not come as news to any of our readers to know that on Saturday night, 19th July, on the very day set apart by the country for rejoicing over that peace for which we have struggled and fought so hard, one of the most terrible and awful disasters has occurred, a disaster which will never be forgotten so long as Luton remains.

“And now comes the question which must be answered. Who is the cause of such wanton destruction, and who are the perpetrators of so awful an outrage? And to this question our answer is most emphatic – The Discharged Sailors' and Soldiers' Association is in no way whatsoever responsible for one piece of such lawlessness.

“True, we asked for the use of Wardown Park for the most sacred cause it is conceivable to imagine; equally true that we were grievously hurt when this was refused, but owing to the extreme kindness of Lady Wernher we had offered to us a park for this occasion hallowed by the memories of her son who gallantly gave up his life for his country, and when this was offered we accepted it with delight.

“There our controversy happily ended and, when following this, we learned unofficially that there was likely to be trouble and disorder, we immediately, through the whole of the local Press, called on every man in the Association not only to keep order, but to maintain it.

“On Friday last we issued another statement to the Press of a similar nature, and on Saturday our members of committee did all that humanly possible, when the trouble had commenced to brew, to preserve and maintain the order and discipline which we, as soldiers, had so thoroughly been taught to observe, by speaking at the Town Hall and using every endeavour to persuade our men to keep away from the trouble.

“And finally, what can we say of the members of the regular police, the special constables and the firemen? Only this, that if every man behaved with patience, dignity and bravery, it was those men whose duty it was on Saturday night to uphold law and order and to battle with the flames.

“Our sincerest and most heartfelt congratulations go out to every one of these brave fellows, and to those who were so shameful and so cruelly ill-treated, we offer out deepest sympathy, and we hope they will speedily recover.”

So DS&S members were hurt by the Wardown Park decision – but no mention was made of the civic dinner. And they disclaimed any part in the riot, so who did they blame? That question was not answered directly, but was it coincidence that this advert appeared in the September 20th edition of The DS&S Journal?

Bolshevism advert

And a month later, the Picturedrome Cinema in Park Street agreed to show a six-reel film on the evils of Bolshevism for three nights, under the auspices of the DS&S. This was the leaflet produced to publicise those screenings.

Bolshevism film