This article published in the Eastbourne Gazette gives an interesting (if flowery and perhaps over patriotic) personal account of how a couple from Eastbourne made their way home from Switzerland in late August 1914.
On a side note I loved the expression – “In times of difficulty everyone can find opportunities of usefulness.” Perhaps a little nudge to prick the conscience of many a reader!
Back From Champery.
Mr and Mrs A.L. Franklin’s Return.
No modern Xenophon will be needed to tell the story of the return, not of 10,000 Greeks, but of a like number of English tourists, who found themselves in Switzerland at the beginning of August, when their means of returning was for a time more or less completely cut off. Some who hastened homewards with the utmost precipitation have already narrated their experiences. Others, whose engagements admitted of their prolonging their stay, were sagacious enough to accept the advice of the English Consuls and thereby avoided many risks and hardships.
Instead of spending three weeks abroad as they intended, Mr. and Mrs. A.L. Franklin (Miller Down, 54, Upperton Road) were away from Eastbourne five weeks. It was on the 26th July that they arrived at Champery, a place in Switzerland close to the French frontier and within three hours of Cal-de-conx, where the Swiss soldiers were guarding the frontier and could be seen coming down with their mules in order to convey provisions to military posts high up on the mountains.
Mr and Mrs Franklin journeyed to Switzerland to see their son Leslie (aged sixteen) who is staying in the house of a major in the Swiss army. In times of difficulty everyone can find opportunities of usefulness. Mr L. Franklin it seems has been busily engaged in cycling backwards and forwards to the post office, where he has been of service to tourists who required assistance in sending telegrams all of which have to written in French.
Hotelkeepers Reduce Their Tariffs
Mr A.L Franklin (who is a member of the firm of Miller and Franklin, Terminus Road) and Mrs Franklin returned to Eastbourne on Thursday Evening and on the following day the former gave a representative of this journal a very concise account of his homeward journey with his wife. Their son remained in Switzerland.
“After the declaration of war,” said Mr Franklin, “We sent a notification to the British Consul at Berne to the effect that we should like to return to England as soon as travelling was safe. We were advised to be as patient as possible, to wait as long as we could and to send particulars as to the destination, age and birthplace. In return we had passports forwarded to us and we were requested to form a committee and range ourselves in groups of five, if possible. A solicitor from Salisbury, who went to see the Consul, exchanged the whole of our return tickets for through tickets. Finally, it was arranged that we should leave Champery by early train, where a special trains would be awaiting us.”
“The additional time we spent in Switzerland was not disturbed by any alarming incidents, Provisions were plentiful and fruit was cheap. The only food that went up in price – as far as I could see – was potatoes. The hotel-keepers were anxious for us to stay in Switzerland and voluntarily reduced their charges by two francs per day.
900 Passengers from Montreux.
“We left Montreux at 9.30am on Tuesday morning, August 25th. All the passengers- over 900 in number - were counselled to take provisions for three days and this was a necessary precaution as all, we could get on the journey was coffee. Before we left Montreuz water was being sold at the rate of three bottles for a franc. After that supply was exhausted there was a rush to fill the bottles at the taps, the journey to Paris which occupied 31 hours instead of 11 or 12 hours.”
“On reaching Geneva we changed onto another train. An English gentleman with a megaphone instructed us to walk two abreast to the other station, the approach to which was lined by soldiers with fixed bayonets. We found place in a special train with numbered carriages and we were informed that a number of gentlemen would accompany us (by arrangement with the Consul) as far as Dieppe.
“At last the train was in motion and the first large town at which we halted was Lyons, where we had a splendid reception from the French troops, who cheered heartily. In response, we sang the Marseilles and the French people sang the National Anthem. When the train left there was renewed cheering and the French officers and men waved their caps to bid us farewell.
“Owing to the congestion of traffic on the main line we had to make a detour of about 200 miles. The next stopping place was Montargis, where we saw a number of French wounded from Mulhausen, including one poor man who was stated to have had both his hands cut off by the Germans after he was wounded. We also saw a German lady who had been arrested as a spy.
A German Spy Shot.
“A few miles south of Paris we ran into a station where there was great excitement; and on enquiry we found that a German spy, who had been loitering about for days had attempted to blow up a bridge. He was pursued by French soldiers, plunged into the Seine and was shot by a soldier.”
“On our arrival at Paris, we halted an hour, and were taken from one platform to the other. We saw a large number of French troops, including some from Savoy. The ladies gave the troops chocolates and the gentlemen gave them cigars, cigarettes and money.”
“It was remarkable to see the way in which the soldiers divided the gifts. The recipients instead of putting as many as they could into their won pockets distributed them among their own comrades.”
“There were thousands of people, including French troops, to see our train start. The National Anthem was sung and for a good mile out of Paris people were seen at the windows waving their hands and in some cases, the Union Jack. The passengers in their turn displayed the French and Belgian flags.
From Dieppe to Folkstone.
“The train did not pass through Rouen but proceeded to Dieppe by another route.”
“Leaving the train at Dieppe, we went to the quay and spent the night on the ‘Paris’ one of the fastest channel boats.”
“We reached Folkstone at 1pm on Thursday and proceeded to Charing Cross. Fortunately Mrs. Franklin and I caught a train to Eastbourne via Tunbridge Wells and 6pm.
“I should like to express the warmest thanks to the British Consul at Montreux and Berne, for their excellent arrangements for the return journey.”