Mexborough & Swinton Times, September 1st, 1939
Got Back Just in Time
Conisborough Couple´s Holiday Curtailed
How France Prepared for War
A Unique experience of being able to see two countries safeguarding their position as a state of war loomed ahead was obtained by a Conisborough couple Mr. and Mrs. John I. Webster, of Sorrento , Park Road, who arrived back in England on Thursday from France within 72 hours of the outbreak of hostilities. Mr. and Mrs. Webster left Conisborough on August 20 th for a fortnight´s train and motor coach tour through France to the Riviera.
Their destination was Nice, and although they achieved their object and had five days there, they had five days of tension.
Mr. Webster told a representative of the “Times” this week that they reached Paris on August 21 st , and remained there until the following day. They could see that matters were “livening up” a little and got into touch with the motor-coach authorities, but they were told that the authorities had received no information and they travelled on to Lyons, where they were informed that no news was yet to hand.
The following day they passed through villages where calling-up notices were being posted and crowds of people were assembling in the squares, apparently discussing the situation. Men standing about in considerable numbers looked as if they had been to sign on.
“We realised that the position was growing serious”, Mr. Webster continued “and we had the experience of travelling away from our native land while for 150 miles, without the slightest break, cars were travelling in the opposite direction head to tail in a race home”
Mrs. Webster here explained that it was a marvellous sight in its way. It lasted for eight hours, and a remarkable feature of it was the number of British cars involved in the dash back. She began to count the number of cars with G.B. plates, and in half an hour had counted 34, and that seemed to be the average. During the trip they saw seven crashes, two of them serious.
Asked to Stand By
Mr. Webster said that on August 25 th notices were posted of the requisitioning of mules and horses, and on that day they received notice to stand by and wait for coaches from Paris for the return journey.
On August 26 th they saw garage floors being covered with straw for the accommodation of troops. During their stay in Nice they went to Monte Carlo for a day, but there were very few people gambling. At Nice, however, the promenade was crowded with large numbers of day trippers who had come from the neighbouring districts.
Another interesting sight was motor vehicles pulled up in the square having their ordinary registration numbers painted out and army numbers substituted.
At Cannes they had another day visit and there were still a few English and American visitors.
Mr. Webster said that when he went to change some money at a bank, no exchange rate had come through, and he received four francs to the £ less that the day before.
On Tuesday of last week the coaches arrived for the return journey, and they set off the same day, but not over the Route Napoleon (by the way of Aix-les-Bains) as had been originally planned. They travelled instead, by way of Lyons. The traffic, however was very “easy”, but by that time there were plenty of people in uniform. Windows were being removed from the Cathedral at Lyons, and last Wednesday they passed one convoy of 80 empty motor coaches on the road to Paris.
Paris was blacked out, but the theatres were open, and on Thursday they crossed to London.
“What impressed me most”, Mr Webster declared “was that France did not intend to be caught napping. I was also impressed by the determination of the people”.