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News > Your Stories > The First Hutchinson Clothier Travel Scholarship

The First Hutchinson Clothier Travel Scholarship

Tony Morris (Class of 1947) shares his memories of his travels undertaken 56 years ago with Ronald Watts (Class of 1948) courtesy of the very first Hutchinson Clothier Travel Scholarship
9 Feb 2022
Written by Rachele Snowden
United Kingdom
Your Stories
Hutchinson Clothier Travel Scholarship
Hutchinson Clothier Travel Scholarship

Hutchinson Clothier Travel Scholarship

Tony Morris (Class of 1947) and Ronald Watts (Class of 1948)

It is quite a challenge to record impressions of a journey made 56 years ago, and this little report will differ greatly from the one we made shortly after our return – a report apparently now lost.

Our trip took place two and a half years after the end of the hostilities. Food and clothing was strictly rationed, as was foreign exchange. Hardly anyone, unless a politician, service man or relief worker had so much as crossed the channel after the war, there were few cars on the roads, damage to building and railways was still widespread: and displaced populations were still on the move.

Our itinerary was Calais - Lille - Brussels - The Hague - Amsterdam - Arnhem - Maastricht - Vaals (German frontier, which we were not allowed to cross) Leige - Luxembourg - the Vosges - Nancy - Paris - Calais. We were met at the Dover youth Hostel and the Hostels were our normal abodes throughout the trip, save for us staying as guest of friends or relations of one or the other of us -  the Major of Dordrecht, a KLM pilot at Schiphol, people in Amsterdam and the mother of my Dutch-mother in law in Limburg. Although £15 went a long way in those days, we could not have completed the trip without their hospitality.

A basic aim of the scholarship was to improve mutual understanding between us British visitors and the people of other nationalities. I think this aim was fulfilled: Youth Hostels are excellent places for nationalities to mix – we learned a lot about the privations of our different Dutch hosts during the war and we were, as representatives of one of the liberating nations, made to feel welcome everywhere. Perhaps the most important ‘contact’, and this had been carefully prepared, was with Ronnie’s German pen friends, at Vaals on the German-Dutch frontier near Aachen. He too had come a long way to meet us, the meeting place being outside the customs shed on the frontier, by courtesy of the local British frontier authorities.

A few ‘cultural’ memories. I tasted (and developed a liking for it) Coca-Cola for the first times in the Netherlands (unavailable or a rarity in the UK). We both became familiar (in France) with cheap plonk. No meat, or practically none, was consumed during the eighth days or so in the Netherlands, where our first task was to acquire ration cards for our cooking in the Hostels. By contrast, we ate any number of eggs, usually in the form of Omelets (in one 24-hour period, staying at a farm in Limburg, we were given 12 eggs, three each for a late lunch, for dinner, for breakfast and the next day’s lunch packet!)

Another ‘cultural’ aspect of the trip was that our linguistic abilities were virtually nil. We were able to get by in France and Francophone Belgium. In Flanders and the Netherlands nearly everyone, young and old, spoke at least some English -  the one exception was at the Limburg farm where our hostess spoke no foreign languages, but (my memory is hazy on this) somebody in the village helped with interpretation.

This was the very first Hutchinson Clothier Travel Scholarship-funded foreign journey. By todays standards or even the standards of a few years later, when much of the continent opened up to tourism, it was a very modest one. But for first- timers abroad, and given the post- war circumstances, it was a great and memorable adventure.

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