|The first Thoresen car
ferries from Southampton to Cherbourg were
small and nowhere near as well equipped as
the modern mini-liners which crossed the channel
by the end of the twentieth century.
were followed by newer Townsend Thoresen ferries
but these were still small in comparison to
the ships which would eventually be introduced.
|The small ferries often
meant an uncomfortable crossing. On a particularly
rough night one winter no vehicles could be
loaded at Le Havre, the ferry left from a
pontoon with just a handful of foot passengers.
|We were not allowed to
leave the lounge area and all food and drink
was brought to us, on paper plates and in
plastic cups. The only safe place to sleep
was on the floor.
introduced the slightly bigger Leopard and
Dragon but the services of both companies
from Southampton were often cancelled. Later
P&O would absorb Townsend Thoresen and
move to Portsmouth.
the problem of reliability, I often travelled
by ferry from Southampton for a weekend in
Cherbourg, Le Havre, Rouen or Paris. But if
I wanted to go anywhere else the only way
was via London and Dover or Folkestone. On
Hants & Dorset we worked six days a week
but every few weeks we had a weekend off.
Because of the way the rota worked this would
mean an afternoon finish on the Friday and
a return to work on the Monday afternoon.
travelling overnight I could be in Brussels
by nine o'clock on Saturday morning and if
I wanted to go further Amsterdam, Cologne
and Strasbourg were easily reachable. I could
then stay Saturday night and did not need
to leave for home until late on Sunday, arriving
home usually about eight on Monday morning.
A few hours sleep and I was back at work again.
sometimes caught a train called the Night
Ferry. It ran from London Victoria to Paris
via Dover and Dunkerque with one sleeping
car going to Brussels, the only passenger
train to cross the channel (freight wagons
also did). I travelled in an ordinary seat
and these coaches did not go on the ferry
but the sleeping cars and luggage vans did.
Getting the carriages on and off the ferry
was very noisy. It was an expensive way to
travel but there was no guarantee of any sleep.
morning, after leaving Dover for London, the
train stopped at a red signal. Hauled by a
small electric loco and reportedly the heaviest
passenger train in Britain, we were stuck.
Eventually another train was brought up to
push us. We passed through commuter stations
with crowded platforms. On arrival at Victoria
the announcement 'The
delayed 22:00 service from Paris has arrived
at platform 2' - welcome to Britain
and British Rail.
At that time you could catch a train in Switzerland
showing London on the destination board. Of
course the train had to stop at the Channel
coast but one day we would be able to go to
London and catch a train to anywhere on the
continent as easily as going anywhere in Britain.
That's what they used to say.