Shortcomings in Peace Celebrations

A letter, signed 'Man in the Street' and which was published in The Luton News (June 19th, 1919), drew attention to what he saw as the shortcomings in Luton's planned Peace Celebrations. He wrote:

“In considering our local scheme for the celebration of peace I must confess we seem to be a long way behind other towns.

“I note one town has issued the following public notice - 'During the forthcoming celebrations it is intended to provide entertainments for all widows and orphans and totally disabled ex-soldiers. There will be accommodation to witness the processions and ample refreshments will be provided.'

“Then I see our neighbouring town of Dunstable is providing cold luncheon to all discharged and serving soldiers.

“Then I turn to our own and see we are allowing 400 representatives of those who have served to take part in the procession only, and I am not surprised to hear of the dissatisfaction the scheme has caused.

“Then I note there is a peace banquet, and this is the Mayor's. I have been wondering what I should do if I had the honour to be mayor of a town like Luton in Peace Year. I should desire most of all that whatever I did would be to give credit to those to whom credit is due, and so I should certainly do as our Mayor is doing and give a banquet.

“But, instead of inviting those who can well provide themselves with a banquet, I should send them an invitation to assist me in providing the banquet and I should invite those who are the greatest sufferers from this war: the widows and orphans of those who have given the great sacrifices in helping us to have such a celebration, and those boys who, through serving their country well, have to spend the rest of their days crippled and impaired in health.

“But I am not Mayor and have not such great anticipation, and am only giving the feelings of one of many whom the Mayor represents.”


While local ex-servicemen's groups did not list the Mayor's banquet among their grievances against Luton Town Council, individuals expressed their opinion via newspaper letters columns. One, signed 'An officer's wife whose husband is still abroad' wrote in the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph (July 12th, 1919):

“I trust all the gentlemen attending the Peace Banquet will be past or present members of His Majesty's Forces; men through whom we have been enabled to win this great victory that has brought us peace. I am hoping to hear that the town is presenting these men with the 15 shilling tickets necessary and 'if the accommodation is very limited' then the only fair way is for the tickets to be drawn.”

[The planned banquet was to have been held at the Plait Hall on Monday, July 21st, but failed to attract enough pubic support to go ahead there - the fact that women were to be barred from attending being the most widespread complaint. A small alternative event to be held at the Town Hall on the Monday obviously never took place due to the burning down of the building.]


It is unlikely that Luton members of the DS&S would have accepted even free tickets for the proposed mayoral banquet, since they had voted unanimously on June 30th, 1919, to adhere to a resolution passed by their national Federation to take no part in official civic peace celebrations - “no part whatsoever,” a subsequent advert in the local Press stated. That was a stance adopted by other neighbouring branches of the DS&S.

On July 12th, the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph carried a report of a resolution passed by the St Albans branch: “That this Branch is of the opinion that the problems connected with the re-establishment of discharged and demobilised sailors and soldiers are in such a condition as to make it undesirable that member of the Federation should take part in the official peace celebrations; and they therefore suggest that the funds allocated to provide any entertainment for them should be placed to the War Memorial Funds.”

And the following edition of the Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph carried a report from Leighton Buzzard which said: “As a protest against inadequate pensions, nearly 500 ex-servicemen of Leighton Buzzard have declined to accept the local Peace Committee's invitation to a dinner next Saturday.”


A silly take on the ban on women at the proposed Luton banquet was taken by Andrew Playfair in the National News, as reported in the Tuesday Telegraph (July 15th). He wrote:

A great hubbub has been caused among the ladies of Luton because they have not been invited to the Peace Banquet. Mrs Attwood told the Mayor that while accommodation had been reserved for 500 men, there were not 500 men in the town who had done public work during the war, and when it came to a matter of enjoyment, she did not believe in husbands going alone. It was tantamount, she said, to putting at the bottom of the invitations “No women or dogs admitted”.

I think Mrs Attwood has displayed undue anger, but, on the other hand, the Mayor might have showed a little more tact. Had he invited women and announced that during the banquet white mice would perform on the floor he would have overcome all difficulties and the men would have dined alone.


Happily, returned ex-servicemen were entertained and dined by several churches, clubs and firms to which they belonged.