Tragedy strikes as war starts

editorial image

The people of Luton barely had time to register that war had been declared before the first casualties were announced.

The sinking of HMS Amphion on August 6 1914, saw two Lutonians lose their lives.

Percy James Pinnock, born in Old Bedford Road was only 20 when the Amphion was struck by a mine from a German minelayer they had helped sink the previous day.

Ironically the Amphion had rescued 46 of the crew of the Königin Luise as it laid mines off the Thames Estuary.

Percy’s mother and step father, Mr and Mrs Chambers of Boyle Street, Luton, contacted the Admiralty immediately they heard of the sinking.

Six hours later they received a telegram saying he was missing.

“Mr and Mrs Chambers were greatly distressed by the news and hoping almost against hope that their son would be found alive. He was their only son. The following Monday he was reported killed”, reported the Luton News.

Also on board was Private George Stokes, aged 38 who had been born in Guildford Street. He had been planning to leave the services before war was declared.

Hearing the news of his death his wife wrote to his sister in Luton. “I have lost the best of husbands and the children a good father.”

Around 150 men died on the ship.

An appeal went out to the patriotic women from the British Red Cross and the Womens Voluntary Aid detachment for new recruits. A series of lectures were being arranged to enable women to qualify for Red Cross work at The Modern School, Park Square, Luton.

The first practice match by Luton FC was to be held on August 15 due to the exceptional circumstances of the war. All proceeds were to go to the Prince of Wales Fund.

Remarkable scenes of rioting were reported in Dunstable.

The victim of the outrage was Mr Mowse, a grocer of High Street North, Dunstable who was accused of raising his prices too early.

A crowd gathered outside the shop for a while singing patriotic songs, before a brick was hurled through the window, followed by a shower of stones, which were in plentiful supply as the road was being refurfaced.

Police arrived but by this time there were more than 1,000 people in the crowd and not a pane of glass left in the building.

The rioting went on into the night. The paper reported the shop remains boarded up after the incident.

Luton’s mayor Cllr Primmett, cut short a three week motor tour of the Isle of Bute when war was declared but could not get back in time for the departure of the territorials.