Leagrave and Limbury fete their heroes

Leagrave Day

[The Luton News: Thursday, September 25th, 1919]

Saturday [September 20th] was a big day for Leagrave and Limbury, when the two parishes – for once in perfect concord and harmony – combined to welcome home their returned soldiers and sailors. The arrangements for the day were on a most elaborate and generous scale, and were carried through in an enthusiastic spirit from beginning to end.

The number of men entertained was roughly 300, and they had a most enjoyable day. The proceedings began with a procession from Norton Road School to the Omnia Works, where lunch was provided.

The afternoon was occupied by sports and other pastimes in Leagrave Park (lent by Mr A. Fensome Snr), after which the men with their wives and sweethearts were entertained to tea. This over, the great party again trekked for the park, where the girls of Norton Road School gave a short entertainment, and this was followed by the prizegiving by Mrs Lye, of Leagrave Hall.

Welcome home celebrationsAlthough by this time darkness had fallen (the proceedings being an hour or two behind the time given on the programme) the concert which had been arranged for 6.15 was given. The stage was illuminated by electric light and, in spite of the chilly night air, the audience remained, apparently enjoying the unusual setting of the entertainment. Limelight dancing followed, and the proceedings terminated shortly after 9.30, after a day which was generally agreed to have been unprecedented in the history of the sister parishes.

The celebrations were continued in the most fitting manner on Sunday, when a memorial service to the soldiers of the parishes who had given their lives in the war was held in the Commer Cars Field (Blackwell's Estate), Marsh Road.

The arrangements were made by a large committee of workers, with Mr S. Wingrave as president. Mr W. S. Hull was vice-president, Mr A. D. Cleaver, hon treasurer, and Messrs Frank Hoar (for ex-servicemen), George Maidment (Limbury) and P. E. Mitchell (Leagrave, were the joint hon secretaries.

The procession judges were Messdames Lye, Wingrave, Mitchell, Hubbard, Biggs, Sherriff, Messes Lye and Wicks, and Mr Smythe (Chairman and Hon Secretary).

The following were the members of the various committees. Finance: Messrs Wingrave, Cleaver, Hubbard, Hull, Blundell, Archer, Brooker, Cain, Brown, Edwards, Mitchell, Maidment and Dr Rollings. Entertainment and Ground Committee: Messrs S. W. Hull (Chairman), G. Shuff (Hon Sec), Henry, Gutteridge, Ward, Smith, Durston, T. K. Major, F. Hoar, S. Ell, A. Ell, G. Maidment and Davies. Refreshment Committee: Messrs A. Brown (Chairman), A. Hoar (Hon Sec), Brooker, Field, George, C. Cooper, H. Hoar, Archer, W. Cain, F. Day, Robinson, F. Cooper, assisted by a committee of local ladies organised by Mesdames Lye and Wingrave. Souvenir and Memorial Service Committee: Messrs Wingrave, Hull, Shuff, Chandler, Lovett, Gutteridge, Smith, Maidment, Mitchell, Major, Elvey, George Ell and Edwards.

Sports officials: Hon President Mr S. Wingrave, Umpire and Referee Mr P. Blundell, Hon Starter Mr E. B. Lye; Judges, Messrs C. Hubbard, F. S. Biggs, A. Smith, J. Los, E. Fensom and S. Harvey; Chief Steward Mr F. Way, Clerk of Course Mr W. Ward, Competitors' Steward Mr F. Graham, Prize Steward Mr G. Sherriff, Hon Timekeeper Mr G. Panter, Hon Handicappers Messrs F. Hoar, H. Heley and G. Panter; Hon Secretary Mr T. Panter.

The district collectors who were responsible for raising the necessary funds were: Leagrave – Messrs C. Heley, Munt, H. Heley, A. Hoar, S. Ell, A. Ell, A. Brown, Andrews, Cooper, Howe, Graham, A. Fensom, E. Fensom, Mrs Lye, F. Hudson, H. Bates and F. Smith. Limbury – Messrs Field, Anderton, Hull, Horsler, Swallow, Freeman, Brooker, Harvey, Lovett, Scales, Chandler, Durston, George, Day, G. Field, E. W. Way, T. Archer and J. Los.

The procession which commenced the day's proceedings on Saturday was somewhat delayed owing to misunderstanding with regard to the band, but in due course all was ready and, headed by the band of the Luton Comrades of the Great War, the column marched off in great style from Norton Road School, and proceeded by way of Marsh Road and Grange Road to the mess room of the Omnia Works. Ex-Regimental Sgt-Major French marshalled the men.

Immediately behind the band was the 1st Luton Troop of Scouts (3rd Beds), and then followed the ex-servicemen. It was evident they had not forgotten those little touches of smartness so essential to the military element for, in spite of an occasional limp or halt suggestive of the cruel side of war, they swung along in the real old Army style – though there was that in their faces which was never seen in those old, dark days when they were soldiers.

Next in the procession came the floral dancers and fancy dress competitors, Masters Albert Fane and Jack Harman, both mounted and representing respectively a cowboy and a jockey, with Frank Graham as a clown, while the committee brought up the rear.

At the mess room, which the firm kindly lent free of charge, the men sat down to a fine cold luncheon provided by Dujon's, and comprising: roast beef, ham and tongue, steak and kidney pies; apple tart and custard, assorted fancy pastries, cheese and celery.

A large number of helpers, including Mr and Mrs Povey and their staff, waited on the men, who thoroughly enjoyed the luncheon.

Afterwards, the President, Mr S. Wingrave, made a short speech to the men and was warmly received. He said he considered it a privilege as well as his duty as the representative of the committee to say how extremely glad they were to see the men there. It had given them the greatest of pleasure to work for this object, and during the whole of his 40 years of public life he had never known one entered into with more enthusiasm or one to which so much unselfish toil had been devoted.

This was not anything like what they would like to do to mark their appreciation of the magificent service of their men during the five years of warfare. They admired and respected them – he would say further than that, without entering into the sentimental, they loved them. They loved them for what they had done, and felt they could make no return for the services the men had rendered.

They were glad to see them home again, but they hoped they would not forget those left afar off who would never join them – visibly – again. They did not know how near they were, but they believed they were very near. Let them see to it that nothing they ever did, in word or deed, would shame the memory of those left behind, those who had made the supreme sacrifice.

As long as the people of those parishes lived they would try to show their respect to the ex-servicemen who had done so well in the defence of their homes and Empire.

Mr George Field, speaking for the parish of Limbury, said that, although he was comparatively a new resident, he had caught the spirit which had affected the two villages in organising this welcome. He had never worked on a committee which had put more whole-hearted energy into their work than this one, and their one idea was to mark, in some measure, their appreciation of the men's services.

Replying for the ex-servicemen, Mr French observed that he was “not much of a speech maker”. But he wished to thank the committee and everyone who had helped for the way in which that “welcome” had been got up for them.

Capt Harrison, of Limbury, also spoke, and was greeted with hearty applause. He voiced the men's appreciation of all that had been done for them, and said they understood it the more knowing the spirit in which it was done.

Mr Mitchell proposed a comprehensive vote of thanks to Messrs Hewlett & Blondeau for the use of the mess room; to Mr Coxhead, manager of Commer Cars, for the use of the ground on Sunday and of their 'bus on both occasions; to Mr A. Fensom for the loan of Leagrave Park; and to Mr O. Edwards, who gave the memorial cards presented to the men.

The proceedings at Omnia Works closed with a resounding rendering by all the ex-servicemen of 'For They are Jolly Good Fellows,' the band leading. A procession was then formed outside, and the company adjourned to the Park, where sports commenced at once. A large number of the general public witnessed the various events, which were run off without a hitch, and excited keen attention.

After the sports the men, with their wives, returned to the Omnia Works for tea, after which, on the proposition of Mr Mitchell, they cheered all who had helped in its preparation, especially Mr Major, who with Messrs Ell and Chandler, was responsible for the very effective decoration of the room.

There was then another procession back to the Park, when all gathered round the illuminated platform which had been erected there to witness the performance by the girls of Norton Road School of the 'Floral Dance'. This was very effective, and the audience heartily applauded the youngsters. Miss D. Smith was accompanist for this item.

Mrs Lye then presented the prizes before a large and enthusiastic crowd, who afterwards cheered her to such a degree that the vocal organs of some – especially the younger generation – seemed to be in considerable peril.

An excellent concert followed in which one of the chief turns was that of Professor Vic Weldon, I.M.C., magician and illusionist, and when this was over limelight dancing proceeded. Messrs H. Henry, F. Gutteridge and F. Smith were MCs, and the Comrades Band supplied the music.

The weather remained fine to the end of the day, and nothing but expressions of satisfaction and pleasure were heard as the company dispersed in the darkness to their homes.