POW Bertie Perkins tells his story

While returning POWs frequently had stories of cruelty and near starvation in German hands, L-Cpl Bertie Perkins (266268, Yorkshire Regiment) was one who confessed to “a fairly good time,” although he had sad stories of cruelty to British prisoners working close up to the German lines.

He reached home at 3 Cumberland Street, Luton, on December 2nd, 1918, after arriving back in England at Hull on the SS Porto on November 22nd. He was enjoying two months' leave.

Decorated for sinking a U-boat

L-Cpl Sidney William Barford (pictured), Royal Marines, was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in November 1918 for sinking a German U-boat off the United States coast the previous August. He was serving in the mercantile marine as a gunner to combat submarines.

The incident was not mentioned in British newspapers at the time of the sinking, but an American journal gave a full account of the incident. This account was eventually reproduced in the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph on December 7th, 1918, following the announcement of the award of the DSM.

Victory and a 'bust-up' warning

A Luton soldier who had taken part in the battle of the River Piave in June 1918 that threw the Austrians out of occupied Italy described what he had gone through, and vented his anger on men in Britain who had gone on strike while he and his comrades were fighting. In a letter reproduced in the first edition of the 'N-T-F & Tuesday Telegraph' of December 3rd, 1918, Pte W. H. Darby wrote to his employer, Mr F. C. Bailey, of Williamson Street:

Final curtains for the Biscoteers

Biscoteers 1917

In January 1916, the arrival at the Royal Field Artillery's Biscot Camp of Lieut F. H. Howell saw the formation of the Biscoteers Concert Party. Dressed as pierrots, they used their talents, both musical and comic, to entertain and raise funds. And they became perhaps the most popular entertainment troupe in the town during World War One.

Goodbye to Chaul End munitionettes

Chaul End factory 1933

  • Remains of the Chaul End munition works photographed in 1933.


The following verses, the composition of Lieut Burnham, a member of the staff of Messrs George Kent Ltd, were recited at the victory celebration at Chaul End last week [wrote the N-T-F & Tuesday Telegraph of December 3rd, 1918].


Now, all you girls of Luton,

Vauxhall Motors Fuze Department farewell

Vauxhall factory 1919

On Saturday [November 30th, 1918], the Fuze Department of Vauxhall Motors Ltd ran a very successful farewell evening in the form of a whist drive and dance. It was originally intended to have this on November 2nd, but it had to be postponed on account of the influenza epidemic. As the cessation of hostilities intervened and will mean the closing down of the Department, it now took the form of a farewell evening.

Hewlett & Blondeau factory closure

Hewlett & Blondeau factory

The Omnia Works of Hewlett & Blondeau Ltd at Oak Road, Leagrave, were to close down in the course of a few weeks, wrote the Luton Reporter on September 7th, 1920. On inquiry at the works, the newspaper's representative was informed that no statement could be officially issued on the subject at that stage, as the legal winding up of the concern had yet to take place.

Women and the vote

On December 14, 1918, Britain's voters went to the polls for the first General Election in eight years, or in Luton's case since a by-election in 1911 which saw Cecil Harmsworth narrowly hold the South Bedfordshire seat for the Liberals. But there was one significant change in 1918 from earlier Parliamentary elections – woman - those aged over 30, at least – would have the right to vote. And that more than doubled the number of electorate in the constituency.


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