Hostile reaction to Wardown decision

Drumhead advert, Wardown cancelled

Reaction to the public revelation in the Saturday Telegraph that Luton's biggest ex-servicemen's organisation had been refused Council permission to hold their drumhead memorial service in Wardown Park was, not unnaturally, hostile in correspondence to The Luton News on the following Thursday [July 17th, 1919].


From William Armstrong, of Mondella, Park Street, Luton: The local authorities are needlessly creating for themselves an unenviable reputation. In their corporate capacity they are doing things which, individually, they would shrink from. Not satisfied with banning women Guardians, co-equal in authority with themselves, from attending the Peace Banquet, their latest act of intolerance seems well-nigh incredible.

The Council have bluntly refused permission for the use of Wardown Park next Sunday - a fitting sequel to Saturday's Peace Celebrations - for a memorial service to those brave men who have nobly fallen in the defence of their country. This action is not only an insult to the disabled and demobilised soldiers and sailors who organised a public drumhead memorial service, warmly supported by the clergy of Luton, but it has aroused widespread indignation. The reasons given for this refusal are, to say the least, absolutely childish.

What is the defence? That bye-laws - passed in pre-war times - are prohibitive of the noble purpose of a solemn memorial service in unprecedented circumstances of national loss.

Where in this religious service is the violation of the sacredness of Wardown Park? It is more like a consecration than a desecration.

Again, it is contended that the Park is not for any particular section of the community at any time. This reason is equally as fallacious as the first. This memorial service is not for any section of the public - unless the soldier-cripples and fortunate survivors are a prohibited section, nowithstanding their great sacrifice for others. No, the general public are invited, and would have warmly responded.

The people of Luton will not easily forget the attitude of the Council in showing such lamentable lack of sympathy for this solemn ceremonial. With scant courtesy, the promoters of the memorial service are relegated to the choice of two out-of-the-way places. a No Man's Land as it were.

Words of contempt fail adequately to express public disgust at this deplorable business. Wise councillors are an ornament to a town. Have we got them? Judge ye by their fruits.

PS: It needed a lady - Lady Wernher - to exemplify a more sympathetic and broader minded spirit than our autocratic mandarins to come generously forward and offer Luton Hoo for the purpose of the memorial service next Sunday. This is the right and final exposure of the Council's action.


A letter signed "Non-Member and Sympathiser," said: The war brought us several surprises which, in turn, seemed more staggering than the forerunner, but I will venture to say that people have never been so staggered as by the thunderbolt which was dropped amongst them by your announcement in the Saturday Telegraph that the Council, through the Town Clerk, has refused permission to the Luton and District Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Association to hold a drumhead service in Wardown in memory of our comrades who fell so gloriously and so nobly in the Great War.

Is it really imagined that discharged soldiers are "a particular section?" Were the men recruited from the Liberal Party alone, or the Conservative Party alone, or the Labour Party, or any other party, alone? No, sir, I will venture to remind the Council that the volunteers and those who had to follow came from every section represented in Luton, from the lowest to the highest.

Surely the action of this Association is to be commended. On no other occasion have I heard that a memorial service has, or is, being held in Luton for our honoured dead. I feel that we are too prone to forget these dear chaps. By all means rejoice in a manner worthy of British citizens, but let us never forget that amongst it all there is the sorrowing mother, wife or sweetheart asking the eternal and unanswerable question "Why?"

No mansion or park on earth is too good to hold a service for them, so do let us offer of our very best. Their memory is sacred to us; let our thoughts and our actions be equally sacred. To offer Pope's Meadow or the Moor is an insult to that memory, and I trust the members of the Council will realise this and offer warmly and generously Wardown for this service. Not only this, but to come themselves and show by their presence that they are not ashamed of those who made the supreme sacrifice - for the Council, as well as their country.


From "Two Luton Lads of the Army of Occupation": We happened to be home on Saturday and noted in your issue of the Telegraph a lot of correspondence concerning the refusal of the Town Council to permit Wardown Park to be used for a drumhead service.

We are sure everyone will cry shame on the Town Council. Had this been 1914-15 we should have seen all the big-wigs etc of the Council mounted on a platform asking for volunteers for the Army, but, alas, now that the war is over and some of out brave comrades will never return, they refuse to allow the use of the Park for a memorial service.

Had the Park been applied for by a party of conscientious objectors, we wonder if their request would have been readily granted. Maybe the Council would have let them have a tram or two to take them to it!

If the Council could only have been in France instead of nicely snuggled up in officialdom, perhaps their stony hearts would have been softened.


A copy of a letter sent to the Town Clerk by A. M. Philpott, Secretary of the Bury Park Brotherhood: At the meeting of the Bury Park Brotherhood held on Sunday afternoon, July 13th, it was agreed that no meeting should be held on Sunday, July 20th, but that the members should join in the public Drumhead Memorial Service as a token of their respect for the brave men of Luton who have laid down their lives in our defence.

At the same meeting it was agreed that a letter be sent to the Town Council informing them that we heartily disagree with their action in refusing the use of Wardown Park for the Memorial Service. We shall, therefore, be pleased if you will place this letter before the Council at their next meeting.


From "Contempt": In reference to the Peace Celebrations, it is possible that the heroes of the Celebration Committee who won the war may be interested in the following list of bodies who helped them in smaller ways to win the war or keep the home fires burning.

Discharged soldiers, discharged sailors, prisoners of war (the thousands not invited).

Munition workers (those who went to work, although not within the Military Service Act).

Widows and orphans of deceased soldiers and sailors.

Widows and orphans of deceased munition workers.

Old age pensioners who returned to work.

Women who undertook street cleaning.

Girls who gave up straw hat work for munitions.

Girls and women who worked at Chaul End Shell Filling Works.

The Boy Scouts.

The Girl Guides.

Special police, volunteers rank and file not admitted.

The Fire Brigade.

The bell ringers.

Waste Paper Committee, Prisoners of War Committee (members not invited).

Various factory and voluntary organisations who worked for charity.

The Town Crier.

The Tribunal, the Food Committee (including Labour members).

The Kaiser, Crown Prince and others who made the war possible.


From S. H. Wheewall, 71 Cowper Street, Luton: Would you grant me space to protest against the action of the Mayor and Town Council in refusing permission to the DS&S to use Wardown Park for their Drumhead Memorial Service on July 20th to those heroes who have fallen during the last five years of bloodshed and strife?

My thoughts carry me to the Thanksgiving Service at the Wesleyan Chapel on July 6th, and I wonder if it was really a service of thanksgiving and did our Council attend with that thanksgiving spirit in them? If so, I must say they have a poor way of showing it, or gratitude to the fallen; also, how soon they must have forgotten that splendid little poem entitled "Poppies Grow on Flanders Fields".

They shield behind an old bye-law; if that is so, why did they let Wardown to the Volunteers for their inspection by General Lord French? That, I suppose, is a different thing. They can bow and scrape with the high nobility, but this is only a memorial to those fine fellows who gave up home, wife and children to fight and never return, for good old England, that we might live in peace and plenty. So the City Fathers tell us we cannot have the Park, and will not come and pay homage to the dead!


From Ted Childs, 95 Church Street, Luton: As one of the many who consider the Town Council and other responsible public bodies of the town have not done their duty by the men who won the war and the dependants of those men, I should like to make a little offer in the hope that the general public will follow suit.

In almost every town and village in the country the men who have returned, and the dependants of the fallen men, have been entertained officially. Luton stands conspicuous by its failure. As one who wants to see that the kiddies of men who lost their lives are not forgotten, and as a working man, I will gladly give £5 towards a tea for these children, and do my level best to help in any other way possible with any who care to co-operate.


And on a slightly different tack, "One of the disgusted firemen", wrote: I should like to know from the Luton Peace Committee what the ever-willing firemen have done to be not wanted in the grand final of Peace Day. Have they not done as much or more than some of those who will be there? What about air raids - out every time, three or four times a week? What about Wardown last year, and the ever-ready calls for church on Sunday morning for the good of the cause?

"But I don't think it will come off again unless something happens, as it was a near thing about church on July 6th (Civic Thanksgiving Service). We shall forget next time. Of course, it was said that the Fire Brigade could stand by the the Station on Peace Day, but I don't think that will wash after the treatment we have had this time.

[The Luton News, July 17th, 1919]