Event date

10th September 1914

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New recruits

In Park Square, Luton, a crowd of about 3,000 gathered on Thursday evening around the platform from which speeches were made urging eligible men to respond to the appeal for recruits for the Bedfordshire Territorials. While the chief speakers were coming from an earlier meeting in the country, the Luton Red Cross Band played selections.

At about 8.30 the Mayor (Councillor W.J. Primett) arrived, and shortly afterwards the speech-making commenced. Among those supporting the Mayor were Mr Cecil Harmsworth MP, Mr J. O. Hickman, Major E.W. Brighten (5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment), Messr J. W. Green, William Austin, Hugh Cumberland, H. Cumberland Brown, M. Barford, A. A. Gibbs, C. W. Escott and F. W. F. Lathom.

The Mayor referred to Sir John French's graphic description of the part the British force had taken in the war. "It thrills one," said the Mayor, "and we are delighted that we can claim to be Englishmen. The present occasion was an historic one, and the meeting was for the purpose of appealing for recruits.

"Luton is doing nobly, but I hope it will do still better. There are many young men without any encumbrances and I am making a special appeal to them to join the ranks. I am delighted I am

a Bedfordshire man. Since 1688 the Bedfordshire Regiment has been doing noble exploits and it will continue to perform them."

Mr Harmsworth echoed the Mayor's remark that it was an historic occasion, and added that it was a golden opportunity the our young men. He was delighted to see so many young men in the audience who had already put on the King's khaki. He envied them.

During his term as a volunteer there was nothing very exciting about it, nothing to appeal to the imagination. How very much more fortunate were the young men of today. They could put on the King's khaki and enrol themselves at once among the defenders of their country and its liberties.

"Who could doubt that the Germans would much rather have trampled over the fields of England than over Belgium? We came into the war unwillingly - against out best wishes - but we should not see it out to a finish.

He could imagine nothing more unfortunate for Europe, nothing more unhappy for this country, than that this war should result inconclusively and without final vindication of our rights. We have got to bring this war to a glorious and successful finish, and we could not do that only with out Navy; we must have an Army and a big Army.

Mr Harmsworth then turned to a factor of great importance in the recruiting campaign. "This question," he said, "is not only for the young men but for the employer. Let it not be said that when a young man who in a spirit of chivalry goes out to war or serves his country at home in the Territorial forces, comes back to Luton after the war is over and finds his job taken by someone else (hear hear). We have right to ask young men to make sacrifices unless we are prepared to make sacrifices, and I say it is the bounden duty of the State and of the community to see that every man who responds to the call of his country loses nothing in worldly advantage, but rather gains, if it is possible, by the sacrifices he has made" (applause).

Mr Hickman delivered a vigorous five-minute speech, and his declaration that this country had taken a big bite at a German sausage and needed young teeth to masticate it or it would choke us, went well with the crowd, who laughed heartily.

Major Brighten followed with a plain straight-forward statement as to the number of recruits needed, and emphasised the value of an immediate response so that they could get to work on the training.

"Do it now," was the Mayor's final piece of advice and, after the National Anthem, everyone moved to the Corn Exchange to watch the recruits climb the steps and to cheer them.

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New recruits

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