Reminiscence and Resource Centre

Lorry Driver’s trip to France - 1956

An interesting cross-section of France and it’s people was encountered by driver Harry Child when he drove a lorry containing equipment from Bata Development and East Tilbury for the Bata Research Conference at Hellocaourt.

It was a new diesel lorry, which had not been on the road for long, and Harry, who had never before driven on the Continent, covered 360 miles each way between Calais and Hellocourt.

“Contrary to what I had been told to expect”, he said, “I found French road-users especially lorry drivers, very courteous. they certainly drove fast, but they had complete control of their vehicles, and there was no hint of danger.

“I drove from London to Dover on the outward journey, and Mr D Thorogood of Bata Development, was with me. A representative from Hellocourt met us at Calais, and acted as pilot to the factory. We went through St Omer, Rheims, Bar-le-Duc and Nancy, turning off the main Strasbourg Road at Luneville. Up to the last-mentioned point, the road was excellent, but, from Luneville to Hellocourt, it was narrow and winding.

“We stayed overnight the first day at St. Omer, and the second night at Bar-le-Duc, in each case in good hotels, with prompt service and plenty of well-cooked food. There was no language difficulty as our guide acted as interpreter when necessary, and quite a number of the French people, particularly in the hotels, spike English.
“We say the sights of Rheims, including its magnificent cathedral, and of Nancy, where one of the chief spectacles is the training in a big park, of dogs for police work.

After unloading the equipment, Harry stayed at the Bata chateau at Hellocourt - corresponding with the Bata Hotel, but two miles from the factory. It has, he said, an excellent canteen. And there is a Bata Farm, like the one at East Tilbury.
Leaving the lorry, he returned to England by train to Paris and Dunkirk, traveling by the the boat-ferry from the latter place.

“French trains are clean and comfortable,” he said, “and they, like cars and other road vehicles, move fast, but one feels completely confident them.

“On the way to France again, to collect the equipment and the lorry, I was accompanied by Mr W Richardson of Bata Development. This time we flew from London Airport to Paris, and went to Nancy by train, where we were met by a car.

“We left with the lorry and equipment and arrived at East Tilbury on the Monday evening, using the same route in France and crossing the ferry at Gravesend.

“Altogether, it was a great experience, the country looked much the same as in England, and so did the houses. Signposts are placed just below the driver’s eye level, and are much bigger and clearer than those here. This is a great help. The people are friendly, and do their best to make one comfortable. I noticed, however, that food and clothes are considerably higher price than they are in England. "

HARRY CHILD