Event date

1st August 1914 to 4th August 1914

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Mr William Weatherhead, an engineer of Dumfries Street, who, with Messrs R. Starke, W. Boyson and W. Breed, went to Ostend on Saturday, had an exciting experience. Rumours were current on Sunday that all English visitors would have to return on the Monday. Visitors arrived from all parts of the country and Switzerland to depart from Ostend for home on Monday.

On the quay, said Mr Weatherhead in the course of a chat with a (Luton) News representative, people were met who had been turned out of the hotels at Bruges at 2.30 in the morning. Two gentlemen from this place appeared in pyjamas and overcoats, whilst numerous other visitors were encountered who had left all their baggage at hotels.

"People literally fought for the boats, and many hundreds were left behind. Ladies' dresses and hats were torn and crushed in the rush for places. Many of the visitors came out on Steam Navigation Company's tickets, and as all the boats were withdrawn, they had to buy tickets from the Belgian State Railway Companies to travel on their boats. The offices were besieged on Monday and Tuesday.

Mr Weatherhead and his companions failed to get a boat on Monday, and in order to be certain of a boat on the Tuesday they arrived on the quay early in the morning. Mr Weatherhead had assured a lady visitor at the hotel that he would do his best to get her on the boat, and although the party fought hard from the first they were unsuccessful in getting on board.

With a hard fight they succeeded in catching the next, which left at 10.30. Although this boat was supposed to carry only 800 passengers, Mr Weatherhead was told that there were something like 1,200 on board. Even before the boat left the harbour all food, minerals and other beverages had been consumed, and not even water could be obtained. Many of the passengers had spent the night on the quay in order to catch the boat.

Everywhere mobilisation scenes were witnessed. The hotel keepers were in a panic because all their visitors had left and their staffs departed for active service. All visitors were informed that they would have to leave the country by the Prefect of Police through the English Consul.

Money could not be changed without the greatest difficulty, and only 20 francs instead of 25 could be obtained for an English sovereign. Paper money was absolutely useless.

When the boat arrived at Dover it was signalled not to land its passengers. It then proceeded to Folkestone and, after three-quarters of an hour, the passengers were able to land. Mr Weatherhead and his companions arrived in Luton late on Tuesday night.

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