Looking back at Dunstable during the First World War

Members of the 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Volunteer Regiment marching in High Street North, Dunstable, in 1916.
Members of the 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Volunteer Regiment marching in High Street North, Dunstable, in 1916.

The annual Poppy Appeal collection on behalf of the Royal British Legion is now taking place at many venues in the Dunstable area.

It’s an appropriate time to print a rare local

The badge issued 1915 by Bagshawe and Co of Church Street,Dunstable, to identify its employees.

The badge issued 1915 by Bagshawe and Co of Church Street,Dunstable, to identify its employees.

photograph taken in the town during the First World War.

It shows members of the 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Volunteer Regiment marching in High Street North, Dunstable, in 1916.

In the background is Dunstable Town Hall (now the site of the Santander bank) with its readily recognisable metal balcony. Next to the hall is the Crown public house, and the sign

of the Nag’s Head public house is just-about visible on the West Street corner of the crossroads.

The Volunteer Regiment was the World War One equivalent of the Home Guard and included a Dunstable detachment. Often, its members were unable, for various reasons, to

serve in the regular army, including men involved locally in vital war work. They sometimes found themselves having to explain to townsfolk why they were not fighting at the front. The

badge illustrated here was issued in 1915 by Bagshawe and Co of Church Street, Dunstable, to be worn by employees to avoid being presented with a white feather as an accusation of cowardice.

The badge is kept at Luton Museum at Wardown Park, where the photo by Luton photographer W.H. Cox is also preserved. The picture’s significance for Dunstable has only

recently been recognised.

Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.