Soldier's poetic love for smoky Luton

Luton Electricity Works c1914

  • Luton Electricity Works, a source of power and pollution.

Driver A. Fleet, with the Royal Field Artillery in Salonica, described himself as a Totternhoe boy who had been in training at Beech Hill in Luton. The town obviously created an impression on him as he wrote a poem in which he longed to be back in Luton, even if he did not paint a particularly healthy picture of the place.



What would I like to see? No fear!

Not London, no, nor Windermere,

Nor Paris with its sky so clear -

Give me a look at Luton.


I have it in my mental eye -

Its valleys and its hill so high,

Its smoke-cloud flung against the sky -

The smoke that blackens Luton.


Its small rills that slowly steal

Past rolling-mill and grinding wheel.

Their very names can make me feel,

That I was trained in Luton.


Oh, Leagrave, Warden, Barton Spring,

Flow onward with an endless sing,

And ripple with laughter as they ring,

Men must be free in Luton.


I know each tower and lofty dome,

That's long made Luton air its home,

And where some others, lately come,

Have reared their heads in Luton.


I mark each street and winding lane,

Oh, yes, they're black! Oh, yes, they're plain,

But let me tread them once again,

And Heaven will shine on Luton.


And I can hear as luck mayhap,

The nickerpecker's 'tap, tap, tap,'

The grindstone's hiss, the tiles 'rap, rap,'

As if I was in Luton.


Aye, and the blunt old Luton speech,

As none else to my soul can reach.

It knows not how to beg, beseech,

The tongue that's spoke in Luton.


Could I but see that smoke cap thick,

Meet swarty-breeched Tom and Dick,

And lads who make munitions quick,

I'd know I was in Luton.


But here we are! 'What for?' you say.

To teach the Boche the time of day,

And keep him far enough away

From setting foot in Luton.


* Struma probably refers to a river flowing into the Aegean.

[The Luton News: Thursday, August 16th, 1917]