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31st July 1914 to 2nd August 1914

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Mr H. W. Kingston, a director of Messrs Carruthers Bros, manufacturers of Luton, had an unenviable time in getting back from Paris. He was on a continental business journey, and his first call was Paris.

"The city was very excited on Friday night, the night that M Jaures [Jean Jaures, French Socialist leader] was assassinated," he said, "and the boulevards around the offices of Le Matin were absolutely cleared by the authorities.

"I was staying at a German hotel, and when I got down on Saturday morning to breakfast, I found that nearly all the waiters, who were Germans, had fled in the night.

"My next move on my business journey was to go to Germany and, thinking that the trouble might blow over, I went to the station - the Gare du Nord - to make inquiries at the information office. They could tell me nothing beyond advising me to get away by the first train to either of the ports for England. So I rushed back to the hotel, packed my bag and returned to the station.

"There was only one ticket office for three countries - England, Holland and Switzerland - and there were quite 500 people waiting in a queue for tickets. Of course, it was impossible for them to get their tickets in time to catch the train.

"Seeing this, I took a local ticket and that enabled me to get through the barrier. The only drawback was that I had to leave my heavy luggage behind, as I had no ticket with which to register it for England, but other people who managed to get through tickets were apparently in the same plight, for there were enormous piles of luggage left behind. I left mine behind in the care of a man. Some day I may see it again, perhaps.

"Because of the crush, I had taken a first class ticket and was pushed into a train that was supposed to leave for Calais. It was crowded with people of all nationalities. There were a lot of Russians on board, and about a dozen blacks were standing up in the corridor with us.

"After we got in, the officials came along the platform and said that there would be another train put on to relieve this one, so we (Mr Kingston was accompanied by Mr W. Morgan, of the same firm) alighted and went to that.

"The journey was an exceedingly tedious business. Instead of getting to Boulogne in three hours it took seven. We stopped at every station. Military orders were being handed out and we kept picking up soldiers. A lot of the military got out at Amiens. The scenes between the wives and children and the soldiers as they left were most affecting.

"It was impossible to get any food on the journey because the stops at the station were brief. The result was that I had no food after breakfast until I got to Boulogne.

"There was a great scramble to get on the boat, and it brought across 1,200 people on that trip, and had to return again to fetch 500 who were left behind. We could not get to London in time for the last train to Luton, so we had to stay in London until Sunday."

Speaking of the relations between nationalities, Mr Kingston said that the French were exceedingly cordial towards the English, but he could say very little as regarded the Germans, for they nearly all went in the night. Some of the hotels and business houses were so depleted of their staffs by the recall of Germans that they had to close.

As far as his firm's continental business was concerned, it was absolutely at a standstill, as no correspondence could be got through.

 

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