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15 October 2014
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Tour De France 1940

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > World > France

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Anthony, Frederick and Edith Ward
Location of story: 
France (Paris to Bayonne)
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

In 1940 I was in Paris. I was 7 years old. My father worked for Huntley and Palmer, as an original member of the team that opened the factory in 1926.

The British had left France via Dunkirk 27 May-4 June. The factory was closed and all the British employees left Paris on the 11 June, in an assortment of vehicles, heading away from the advancing Germans. It was at the last moment but we had to go south or south-west as fast as possible.

My father, mother and I were somehow separated from the rest of our convoy. Of course there were about 14 million others going in our direction (including the retreating French army). The journey was horrendous. The roads were clogged with people, vehicles, horses, wagons, etc.

Every day we were dive-bombed, machine-gunned and forever in and out of our car into ditches. I can still hear the dreadful sirens of the Stukas, I remember the dead in ditches and in carts. Fortunately we picked up two French soldiers who stood on the running boards of the car. They were trying to re-join their unit and we made some distance because the refugees thought we were government officials. At one time my father picked me up when we were being “Stuka’d” and ran for shelter. The blast lifted him off the ground but he landed on his feet and we found shelter.

We arrived at Bordeaux and rejoined the rest of the Huntley and Palmer people. The lights of the city were ablaze at night and we had an encounter with some drunken French sailors who thought we were Nazi sympathisers or fifth columnists.
We could not get a ship to England from Bordeaux so we went further south to Bayonne which was very near to neutral Spain. My father reasoned it would be better to be interned in Spain if we failed to get a ship from Bayonne.

However, we sailed on a Dutch liner “QueenWilhelmina” and I was given a huge doorstep sandwich of corned beef. I can safely say it was the finest meal I’d ever had. We landed at Plymouth on 22 June 1940 after eleven days of which I can still remember as plain as the blue skies of France that summer.

I thought my war was over but I had another five years of air-raids, rationing and blackouts!!

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