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18th September 1914

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King at Luton Hoo headline

A special edition of The Luton News was printed on Friday, September 18th, 1914, following an unannounced visit by King George V to inspect troops at Luton Hoo that day. No Press photographers were present.

His Majesty King George visited Luton Hoo this morning and inspected a representative body of Territorials from the North Midland Brigade, now in training in Luton and district.

There was a considerable amount of secrecy about the arrangements. The news of an intended visit, however, got abroad but the absence of definite information led to a number of rumours.

Yesterday it was reported all over Luton that the King was to visit at Luton Hoo at 10.30 that morning to inspect the troops stationed in the district, but the rumour was incorrect, and our inquiries resulted in the information which we published last evening: "There is no truth in the rumour that His Majesty is coming today". In the afternoon we heard that the visit would probably be next Tuesday.

The date, however, turned out to be today. His Majesty motored from London to Luton Hoo Park. In attendance on him were Major Clive Wigram and Capt Cust RN.

After the troops had been inspected and had marched past, it is understood that the King complimented Sir William Franklin very highly on the smart appearance and soldierly bearing of the troops on the ground.

Of the thousands of men in training in the Luton district, only a small portion could be inspected. Representative contingents were accordingly paraded, and the officers and men who marched to Luton Hoo for the inspection numbered 4,131. They included artillery, infantry and field ambulance.

In visiting Luton Hoo for this inspection this morning, and St Albans later in the day for a similar inspection, His Majesty was only giving further proof of the keen interest he is taking in the Territorial movement. Since the Territorial Force throughout the country was mobilised early in August, His Majesty has paid many of these visits to their training grounds in order to personally see the men who have given up their ordinary vocations and rallied to the colours in the country's hour of need.

For the review, the troops were assembled at the polo ground. This is on the London Road side of the Park, and the entrance to the ground is not very far up the avenue, but people who gathered in the road in the hope of seeing something of the ceremony were not able to see anything of what was going on. From the roadway one could only see the waggons of the Royal Army Medical Corps and just the rear of the troops on parade.

It was not intended, however, that the ceremony should be in any way of a public character and, except for the few who were privileged to have permits and the employees on the estate, who themselves require permits at the present time to obtain access to the Park, there were no spectators.

The goal-posts had been removed, but the planks bounding the playing area remained, and the front lines of the various detachments were drawn up to one of these boundaries. It gave an easy dressing line, and afterwards, when the inspection had concluded, the playing area made a splendid ground for the march past.

Although the day was fairly bright, a strong cold wind made it very chilly waiting about for the inspection to take place. Just as His Majesty arrived on the ground (at about 10.45), clad in khaki like the soldiers he had come from London to see, the sun was making a pretty successful effort to shine boldly through a rift in the clouds.

His Majesty shook hands with General Sir William Franklin, who was in command, and afterwards walked through the lines. He first went to the infantry battalions, and from them to the artillery. Then he went right across the lines to finish his inspection with the Field Ambulance men. The inspection took nearly half-an-hour, during which time some martial music was forthcoming from the band.

After completing the inspection, His Majesty returned to a spot near where his car had drawn up, and from this point only a few yards from where the troops left the ground His Majesty watched them all march past. The march past started about quarter past eleven, and did not conclude until five minutes to twelve.

After this His Majesty shook hands with some of the officers, and by twelve o'clock he had left for St Albans. As he left the grounds he was given a hearty cheer by estate employees who had gathered at the gate. The troops marched past the mansion and out to Luton by the Park Road Lodge.

FOOTNOTE: The Luton News recalled that in December 1878 the late King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) stayed some days at Luton Hoo as the guest of Mrs Gerard Leigh. On December 6 he drove from the Hoo to a pavilion erected in Park Square, where a formal reception was held before he visited the factories of Messrs Vyse and Sons and Messrs John Welch and Sons. He ended his visit at the Plait Halls to view an exhibition about wheat straw used in hat making. The King had said that the previous Royal visit had been 273 years earlier, in 1605, when King James the First placed some Lorraine plaiters under the protection of the then owner of Luton Hoo to introduce the manufacture of straw plait to Luton.

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King at Luton Hoo headline

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