On this day in history : 19th July 1919 – The Luton Peace Day Riots begin – when ex-servicemen, unhappy about the unemployment situation following the end of World War One, burn down the town hall….

The Town Hall in 1897 – Image : Gazman7 CC BY-SA 3.0

Many servicemen, who had fought in the Great War, were angry about the vast amount of money that had been spent on the London Peace Parade to commemorate the anniversary of the end of the War…. They felt the money would have been better spent on helping servicemen find jobs and settle back into normal life….

Across Britain Peace Day had been declared a pubic holiday, in order to allow people to participate in the celebrations – but there were certainly plenty who did not feel like celebrating….

The riot in Luton began after council members read out the King’s proclamation of peace – many in the crowd voiced their disapproval…. To add to the unrest veterans had been refused permission to hold a service…. On the 7th of July 1919 the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Association had asked to hold a drumhead mass in Wardown Park – but this had been rejected by the Tolls and Municipal Buildings Committee….

The unrest erupted into violence…. Protesters broke through the police line and stormed into the town hall…. Clashes followed and many more of the crowd surged into the hall…. Rioting was now in full force and in the furore the town hall was set a blaze….

Firemen were unable to put out the fire and by the next day the town hall was so severely damaged that the remains had to be demolished….

The Luton Peace Riots – bedsarchives.bedford.gov.uk – Public domain

As for the rioting…. By midnight things had calmed down but this was only to be a temporary reprieve, as the next day violence flared up again…. The protests were to last for three days…. Many were arrested and those convicted faced tough sentences, such as hard labour….

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