Unveiling of Luton War Memorial

Event date

10th December 1922



The Luton News , 14th December 1922

Source Date

1922-12-14 00:00:00
Entity info.
Luton War Memorial unveiling

Four years had passed since the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the Armistice had brought an end to the most horrific conflict in human history. Now it was time for Lady Ludlow (the former Lady Wernher) to unveil a magnificent memorial to the town's 1,284 sons who gave their lives for their country.

And two years had passed since Sir Reginald Blomfield's design for the memorial had been chosen by Luton War Memorial Committee as the town's tribute to the fallen. It was about 35ft high and built of Portland stone, atopped by Sir Hamo Thornycroft's draped figure offering the olive branch of peace in one hand and the winged figure of Victory in the other. Both men attended the ceremony.

The cost of the war memorial was around £4,100, rather more than had been given by public subscription.

Said The Luton News in a whole page devoted to the event: "Sunday, December 10th, 1922, will be regarded in the history of Luton in this an succeeding generations as the day of recognition of the men who sacrificed all they could - life itself - in the Great War.

"On this day was unveiled a worthy memorial to those 1,284 men in the presence of nearly 20,000 relatives, friends and townsfolk. No more suitable site could have been selected for such a glorious emblem, for on it converge four roads along which will daily pass thousands of men and women to their toil.

"To the people of this town the memorial will be a reverent symbol of the gallantry and devotion to duty of their lost sons. No wonder then that people assembled in their thousands to pay tribute to these heroes."

The newspaper reported that crowds had begun to assemble long before the unveiling ceremony was due to start at 2.30 pm. An area had been reserved for relatives of the men, ex-servicemen and civic dignitaries who paraded from the Public Library opposite.

The Luton News report continued: "At the hour of the service, which commenced a few minutes before 2.30, the large area from the entrance to Upper George Street to Wellington Street and Bute Street, and to Williamson Street and a part of Manchester Street, was thronged with a deeply reverent body of worshippers. The intervals of silence which marked the ceremony were moments of great inspiration, and no one could have failed to be impressed by the beautiful simplicity of it all.

"Hearts were united in sympathy and prayer. Eyes were wet with tears at the memory of those awful years not happily passed; of the suffering endued by the absence of loved ones ere they fell on foreign soil. But the most distressing moment of all associated with this heart-rending ceremony was during Chopin's Marche Funébre, as played by Luton Red Cross Band. Each bar seemed to be charged with a wonderful meaning, and a message. There were not many dry eyes in that vast assembly, especially during the playing of the air by the cornet soloist.

"Lady Ludlow, whose strength had been taxed to the uttermost in the performance of her trying duty, gave way to grief and had to rest awhile on the memorial base. The air was charged with emotion. With a courage that must have been the admiration of all her ladyship regained her composure, and again took her place by the Mayor, Councillor Murry Barford, as he was about to deliver his address.

"Feelings again leapt beyond the bounds of control as the wailing notes of the Last Post were sounded. As the last of these died away, and the band struck the first chord of the National Anthem, bowed heads were bravely raised, the attention which the national song commands was proudly observed in a real spirit of hope, and those whose eyes had so lately been dimmed with tears gave voice with patriotic fervour and dulled that aching sorrow for it to repose in the heart of the spiritual.

"So ended a memorable service which has left its indelible impression on all those who were on the day proud partakers of this sorrow and joy - sorrow in the loss of loved ones, joy in the knowledge that they who died for King and country have won the victor's crown with honour and eternal glory."

During the ceremony the Mayor had presented Lady Ludlow with a bound copy of the Roll of Honour, containing the names of the 1,284 fall, including that of her 19-year-old son Alexander Pigott Wernher, a second lieutenant in the 1st Welsh Guards, who was killed in action on September 10th, 1916. (Lady Ludlow, who had remarried after the death of her husband Sir Julius Wernher, had already presented the Luton Hoo Memorial Park in Tennyson Road to the people of Luton on June 12th, 1920, in memory of her son.)

She said: "I hold it a great privilege to have been invited to unveil this memorial to our gallant dead. Although I am here as a bereaved mother, I feel that in a way I stand for all the yearning and sorrow and heartbreak which has brought on you people of Luton. Whatever the nature of your bereavement there is the same link of sorrow between us, and I feel a pride which is mingled with sadness that you should deem me worthy to represent you today."

Those commemorated on the memorial and their comrades had "held back the would-be invaders of our island home. They saved us from the heel of a crushing ambition that would have left our beloved Britain to languish in the chains of oppression, and would have shattered our Empire".

Lady Ludlow had unveiled the war memorial by grasping a bunch of white ribbon at the end of a cord that when pulled caused the Union Jacks covering the monument to fall away and reveal the names of the men commemorated.

In his address, the Mayor said the monument had been erected upon the exact spot where many of the men bade farewell to the town of their birth or their adoption.

The slideshow, below, shows the crowds at the ceremony, the sounding of the Last Post and a Luton News illustration containing images, from the left, of Lady Ludlow, Mayor Murry Barford, Sir Hamro Thornycroft and Sir Reginald Blomfield.

[Source: The Luton News, Thursday, December 14th, 1922]

Event Place

Author: Deejaya

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