Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A Gift from Luton

Luton Town Hall 1908 [Z1306/75/10/23/11]

Thursday 3rd June 1915: A meeting has been held at Luton Town Hall to discuss setting up a fund to provide parcels for prisoners of war from the Luton area. The idea for the scheme came from Miss Gurney of Henlow Grange. Funds were now being organised in various counties, but it was felt that Luton should have a local committee rather than be part of a county-wide scheme. There was a belief, firmly expressed by the Town Clerk, that Luton men would appreciate a gift sent direct from Luton and provided with Luton men a great deal more than if it came from the county of Bedfordshire as a whole.

The initial proposal was to send fortnightly parcels to men of the Bedfordshire Regiment only, but a strong case was made for sending them to all prisoners from Luton. This amounted to fourteen men in total, eight from the Bedfords and six from other regiments. One of the Bedfordshire Regiment men and one of the others were next-door neighbours, which would make any decision to focus only on those serving with the local regiment particularly difficult. There was some reluctance to duplicate efforts being made elsewhere. The prisoners included men from the wealthy Rifle Brigade, but no information could be found as to whether they were supplying parcels to their own men. Altogether 180 men of the Bedfordshire Regiment were believed to be prisoners, although only 20 to 30 had their homes in the county. Bedford intended to provide parcels for 30 to 40 of these men and it was proposed that Luton should do the same. Agreement was reached that Luton men would be given priority, whatever their regiment, and any remaining funds should be used to send parcels to other men of the Bedfordshire Regiment.

A unanimous decision was taken to set up a committee to organise the provision of parcels. . It was clear from letters arriving that the standard of living for prisoners of war was not high. Whereas nothing could be done for the men who had fallen in battle they could at least help to ease the lot of those who had sacrificed their liberty.  It was suggested that donors should be asked to provide gifts in kind as well as money. A list of useful articles was read to the meeting, with the inclusion of insect powder raising a chuckle. The Post Office would assist by taking parcels up to 11 pounds in weight without charge and the American Express Company would take them from 11 pounds up to 112 pounds

Source: Luton News 4th June 1915

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