Monday 11 June 2012

In the Footsteps of the Bradford Pals: France 2012

In the wake of last year’s successful trip to visit the graves of the eleven Bradford footballers who perished in the Great War the bantamspast museum organised a return to the battlefields of France and in particular the Somme region. Last year’s visit to Serre, where the Bradford Pals attacked on that fateful morning of 1 July 1916, was by necessity brief, but many expressed a wish to return and walk in the footsteps of the Bradford Pals. Hence on 31 May a group of City fans found themselves gathered on Bradford Interchange station readying themselves for a trip to France.

Day One
Thursday 31 May

We spoiled ourselves this year and travelled first class on Grand Central’s direct service to London King’s Cross. As the majority of the group travelled together the previous year the miles fairly shot by as we caught up with one another and made new friends among the five who were fresh faces. As we had one hour and forty five minutes to make the short walk from King’s Cross to St. Pancras we had ample time to admire the ongoing transformation of King’s Cross. Although it will never be able to replicate the glamour of St. Pancras, the new departure hall of King’s Cross is a stunning piece of architecture. Another new addition, the Parcel Yard public house (a Fullers pub situated on the upper part of the departure concourse), naturally attracted our attention. I would like to say that this was our first refreshment halt of the day, but it wasn’t as a small number of our gang had decamped to the Turls Green (or Lloyds bar) in Centenary Square at half nine in the morning. It reinforced the feeling that these trips were becoming rail borne versions of the infamous CTC 73 away trips.

It still seems odd that the Eurostar journey to Lille is significantly shorter than the rail journey from Bradford. We raced through the Kent countryside at 186mph, a quick twenty minutes in the Channel Tunnel, and one hour and twenty minutes after leaving London we were in the French city of Lille. A brisk ten minute walk and we were at our hotel in the inner-suburb of Romarin. The bar next door to the hotel was rapidly invaded, but shocked at the 8pm closure, we had to decamp into the city centre. En route some of our party learned that you have validate your tickets before boarding the tram, others learned you had to actually purchase a ticket! Less said the better. A crash course in French menus later and we had all dined and enjoyed the delights of Lille at night.

No comments: