1952 – Bruges (Belgium) Trip

Back Row: Michael Darby, George Kay, Keith Miller, Ken Mellor, Dennis King, Alun Thomas, Roger Kerry, B08, Norman Harvey, Gary Farmer
Standing: A. Michiels (Proprietor), Ellick Ward, Norman Jones, Langstone, Joe Bailey, M06, M07, Kirk, A.E. Prevett, M10, John Hancock, M12, M13, M14, Iain Cotton, G.R. Prevett, ‘Squeaker’ Alliss, David Green, M19, Glyn Hall
Seated on Bench: Tom Parker, Dave Hobby, Dave Orme, Tony Docksey, F05, F06, F07, F08, Tony McGlynn, F10
Seated on Floor: FL01, Brian Bradbury, Bob Fletcher, Proprietress of the hotel with her dog,  Chris Goddard, John Adams.


An account by Bob Fletcher (seated on floor third from left)…

The school trip to Bruges in Belgium was an annual event during the time I attended the Grammar School. Please forgive my lapses in memory but it is over 50 years ago after all when I went – 1952 I believe, when I was 12 and in form 2A. One received an invitation at the beginning of the school year, I believe, and places were allocated on a first come first served basis as far as I remember. The trip took place in the summer, but I can’t remember whether it was during term time or during the summer vacation – I’m sure someone who went on one of the trips will answer that question.

On departure day we met up at Burton railway station, presumably in the morning, carrying our suitcases (or, more likely with the younger ones like myself, the suitcase being carried by a parent) shoes polished, hair combed and probably new clothes bought specially for the trip. We boarded a train to London, presumably changing at Derby. Once in London we travelled on the underground to Charing Cross station (or was it Waterloo?), where we boarded the train for Dover. At Dover we boarded the ferryboat to Ostend and I remember that the sea was very rough, so most of us spent the trip below decks feeling decidedly queasy. No doubt a few were actually seasick. I don’t recall very much else about the sea trip and can’t remember how long it took. At Ostend we boarded a train to Bruges; again I don’t remember much about it or how we got from the station to the hotel. I remember thinking that the railway engines looked different to the ones in England. At the hotel we were allocated rooms but I don’t remember how many to a room or who I shared with.

Whilst in Bruges we went on a trip to Walcheren Island which I think is just over the border in Holland. I took with me on the trip an old Brownie box camera which I left on a stall in the market place whilst making a purchase of some sort of souvenir, so I ended up with no souvenir photographs to show people back home. I don’t recall any other organised trips but I do remember having lots of free time to look around Bruges, which I remember as a quaint town (city?) with its canals and ladies in the streets spinning lace garments. A few of us made friends with a Belgian boy of around our age and he showed us around lots of places including the beautiful cathedral. He even took us to meet his parents. Some of us, despite our age, were smokers and purchased Belgian cigarettes, because they were cheaper than English ones, but the Belgian lad thought we were mad, as he only smoked English ones because of their superior quality.

One day a group of us were smoking in my bedroom, which was at the end of a corridor, when someone heard “Ernie” Ward at the other end of the corridor. The others quickly left to go to their own rooms leaving me to face him alone. I quickly swilled my face and rinsed my mouth out just before “Ernie” entered, sniffed and said “Has someone been smoking in here?” to which I replied “No sir, there’s only me in here, it must be coming in through the window.” Fortunately for me he did not question that stupid remark, but turned round and walked away.

Although my memory of the trip has been dulled by advancing years, I know that I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip abroad as did everyone else who went. It was interesting to find out that although we had a slight understanding of the French language, (but not Flemish which was spoken by many Belgians), most of the Belgian people we came across spoke very good English. I remember a group of us once getting slightly lost and asking, in schoolboy French, an old lady for directions back to the hotel. She started to reply in very fast French, which we could not understand, but once we explained that we were English she gave us the directions in perfect English.

Although it was 1952, there was still a great deal of rationing in England, seemingly more so than in Belgium, for I remember purchasing a bag of sugar to take home for my mum, who was very pleased to receive it. I was very grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to travel abroad, something which they themselves had never done at that time.

My final recollection of the trip is that carrying a suitcase around left me with a blister on the middle finger of my left hand. A few days after returning from the trip I was on my travels again to attend a cadet camp in South Wales. Whilst there, the blister on my finger turned septic and I ended up in the camp hospital where they lanced the finger to remove the poison within the wound. At least I did not have to get up early every morning and go on exercises with the rest of the lads, but spent several days lying or sitting around getting pampered by the orderlies because of my young age.

Because of the time spent in hospital I was unable to finish smoking the packet of cigarettes which I had in my army shirt pocket. I forgot to take them out of the pocket when I got home and next morning was horrified to find that my mum had removed the shirt from my bedroom and had washed it. When she subsequently started ironing it she discovered a mangled pack of cigarettes in the pocket. I don’t remember what punishment I received for that, but believe it was tempered by the fact that I had been in hospital.


Website by Kevin Gallagher