Peace Day at Dunstable

Dunstab le Peace programme

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

A wonderful spirit of camaraderie and happiness prevailed at Dunstable on Saturday, and not even the drizzling rain which set in during the afternoon could affect the cheeriness of the townspeople. They set out with a determination to make the peace celebrations a day of real enjoyment, and with pleasing unanimity of effort a harmonious programme, not marred with a single dissentient voice, was the result. Everybody had a really fine time, and there were no onlookers, for all participated in the day's proceedings in some form or other.

It has been said, one must admit, that Dunstable is rather inclined to be a quiet, sleepy town, and many jokes have been cracked in the county at the expense of the apparently unpretentious and go-as-you-please borough. Saturday, however, proved once again the wisdom of that time-old saying, referring to the unknown depth of still waters.

The town indeed underwent a startling and complete metamorphosis, and it ought to be placed on record that no gayer butterfly has ever emerged from what many have regarded as a sombre caterpillar. The broad High Street was beflagged and festooned with bunting and streamers; practically every house and shop was transformed into a brilliant patchwork of colours, uninteresting lamp posts were prettily camouflaged, and choicer decorations would have been hard to find.

Early morning saw the commencement of events, and half-past six brought with it a rousing reveille, blown all over the town with praiseworthy vigour by representatives from the Boy Scouts and Grammar School Cadets. A little later joy peals were rung from the Priory Church.

Very few were absent from the divine service on The Square which took place at 10am. No crowd in Dunstable has yet exceeded the size of that at the service, and there was no trace of that lack of religious atmosphere which, unfortunately, is so often noticeable in open-air gatherings.

Canon W. W. C. Baker, who conducted the service, said he thought everybody would agree that it was the right and proper thing to hold a divine service of thanksgiving. Following the service, a massed choir numbering between 200 and 300 gave a choral concert, accompanied by an orchestra.

A praiseworthy feature was the punctuality and grouping of the procession, which started at noon from Great Northern Road. It passed along by the Town Hall and then lined up outside the sports ground.

A luncheon for demobilised and serving soldiers was given at 1pm, and about 600 men sat down to an excellent spread. At the invitation of the men, the Mayor (Mr F. T. Garrett) and Canon W. W. WC. Baker (Priory Church), were present.

The Mayor said that he hoped they would look upon this feast as a token of the esteem in which they were held by the townspeople. Everybody was proud of what the men had done and they considered Peace Day was the most suitable time to show their gratitude.

He felt honoured to be their guest and proud of the record of the town. In Peace was well as in war Dunstable had given the county a lead. It had been a nation's fight and now they desired a nation's peace. If they were to progress there must be the same unity amongst them as that displayed in overcoming the military enemy. The commercial war which was falling on them must not be lost by antagonism between classes, or men would have fallen in vain for the country's ideals.

Mr T. Tilcock proposed a hearty vote of thanks to the Mayor, Corporation and the residents for the excellent way in which they had welcomed the returning soldiers. The servicemen had done their bit and nothing could give them greater pleasure than to know that their efforts had been appreciated.

In the afternoon an athletic sports meeting was held on Messrs Waterlow's sports ground, when an excellent and interesting series of events was submitted.

During an interval in the sports programme, the schoolchildren of Dunstable, numbering nearly 1,500, were given a splendid tea in marquees adjoining the sports ground, and the youngsters evidently had a most enjoyable time.

The rain fell rather heavily, but in spite of this there were a good number of dancers, and this went on merrily until the late evening. Then an informal procession, headed by the Dunstable Excelsior Band, went to the Downs and saw an excellent firework display.

A torchlight and lantern procession returned to the Town Hall, and the day's proceedings closed at midnight with tableaux and limelight effects on the balcony.


[Unlike in Luton, the Discharged Soldiers and Sailors Federation did take part in the Dunstable Peace Day procession, with their float “The Better 'Ole”. The Comrades of the Great War also took part, along with a detachment of the Beds Yeomanry. A captured German Howitzer and carriage were included in the parade too.]