Help bring war history to life

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As plans to commemorate the anniversary of the start of World War One gather pace, Luton is preparing for the official launch of its innovative interactive website.

Thanks to lottery funding, the story of Luton and surrounding areas from 1914-18 will be available on one site for the first time.

Stories of those who went to war, many of whom did not come back, and life on the home front, will be developing over the next four years.

A £96,000 lottery grant is funding the Luton Culture project, and projects officer Dave Graves is overseeing the creation of the website which will incorporate the memorabilia and memories of life from 1914-16.

With his own army of volunteers he will be digitising diaries, stories, documents, pictures and much more, and putting them into the context of the age.

It could mean that someone with only a brief knowledge of what their great-grandfather did during the conflict could provide enough information for the volunteers who will also be able to add to those stories with details from the vast archive, including the Luton News from the time, to be able to piece his and his family’s life together to create a living history.

And project organisers at Wardown Park Museum want to hear from people who have family stories to tell.

The website, which has been created with the University of Bedfordshire, allows people to upload their own stories.

Among stories already uncovered are the Luton Town footballers who signed up to the Footballers Battalion in the first few months of the war.

The Luton News of 17th December 1914 describes how “members of the Luton Town football club have come forward splendidly to join the Footballers’ Battalion”.

Among them were Hugh Roberts, Frank Lindley, John Dunn, Robert Frith, TT Wilson, Arthur Wileman, Arthur Roe and Ernest Simms.

All those who went to war are ringed in the above picture.

Arthur Wileman was killed in action in April 1918 at the age of 36 and Roberts, Lindley and Frith all survived but never played for the club again.

The rest returned to play after the war.

Former players Ernest Dodd and Frank Glider were also killed, aged 25 and 19.

Organisers are planning a launch of the project at the Mall Luton on March 28, when they will be highlighting some of the uplifting, often tragic stories which have so far been uncovered.

They are also looking for anyone who lives in Luton or who has stories about Luton and its people that relate to WWI.

To find out more about the website, Luton’s Great War, told by its people today, go to

March 12, 1914 Luton News

An advert for a caretaker for Chapel Street School in Luton received 146 applications.

The job went to Frederick Pipin with a salary of £6 per month.

The Bedfordshire United Temperance Society was going strong at its annual meeting. Members were told one pub chain had surrendered a drinks licence and turned a pub over to become a place of worship.

And four teenagers were fined 2s 6d each for playing street football in High Street South, Dunstable.

And here’s one to send a shiver down the spines of present day utility companies - Dunstable Gas & Water company reduced the price of its gas to 3d per 1000 cubic feet!