England, France, Italy, Capri, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, England  

by Motorcycle, May / June 1952

(Eric Cayless 1925 - 1993)

                                                                1950 BSA 650 Golden Flash


30/5/52: (Friday) Leave Leicester to London to Folkestone after work (Stewart & Lloyds Corby, Northants) for saturday am crossing. B&B in Folkestone.

31/05/52 - 03/05/52 (Saturday/Sunday/Monday): Entered France Boulogne & passport stamped. Route taken: Boulogne, Arras, N39 Cambrai, Laon, Reims (Cathedral), St Dizier, Chaumont, Dijon, Genève (lake), Chambery, Grenoble to Castellane via "Route Napoléon", through the Gorges de Verdon, to Marseille.

     Marseille, France, 3rd June 1952


03/06/52 (Tuesday) Marseille, leaving take coastal rte via Bormes & Le Lavandou to Nice. “Corniche Moyenne” to Menton border crossing into Italy at Pont St Louis/ Ponte Luigi. Coastal route to Alassio.

     Nice, France, 3rd June 1952                                        Menton, Ponte Luigi border France/Italy


04/06/52  (Wednesday) Alassio via coastal route to Pisa, then onto Florence (photos of Ponte Vecchio & cathedral). Stay in Florence.

                                                                    Italy 4th June 1952 Beach at Via Reggio, (Pisa)



                    Pisa, 4th June 1952



    Florence, 4th June 1952





05/06/52 (Thursday) Rome: Leave Florence direction Rome via Sienna

06-09/06/52 (Friday to Monday) Rome to Naples, Sorrento (several day stay) at Eden Hotel Sorrento ( http://www.hoteledensorrento.com/fr/index.htm Hotel is still in business!!)

                                   Sorrento, 5th June 1952


                                   07/06/52 (Saturday) Capri visit to find relative separated during WWII, (postcards to England)

                                   Isle of Capri, 7th June 1952




08/06/52 (Sunday) Pompei visit (photos, guide & return ticket for autostrada, Naples Pompei)

     Pompeii, Italy 8th June 1952






08/06 to 10/06/52 (Sunday pm to tuesday) Leave Naples and head North towards Venice.  

10/06/52  (Tuesday) Venice.

                                Venice, 11th June 1952




11/06/52 :(Wednesday) Leave Venice, cut across to Lake Garda and then Lake Como.    

12/06/52 (Thursday) : Leave Italy direction Switzerland, take Simplon & Grimsel Passes (Brig, Andermatt ).


    Simplon Pass, Switzerland, 12th June 1952



   Grimsel Pass, Switzerland, 12th June 1952




Note: BSA clutch finally gives out after the passes in Switzerland. It had been playing up since before Rome. A "temporary" repair is made using the corks from the bottles of  Chianti purchased earlier in Tuscany Italy. The corks are sliced and fitted into the clutch plates. Not perfect but works fine, if ridden carefully.  Motorcycle will finish this trip and come back to England with the Chianti clutch.  Wine not wasted! The now empty straw bound Chianti bottles are strapped to motorcycle saddle bags as souvenirs to hang up on arrival in England!


13/06/52 - 14/06/52 (Friday & Saturday) Andermatt, Switzerland (Oberalp Pass) Chur,  Liechtenstein, Konstanz, Germany (Lake Bodensee).

15/06/52 (Sunday): : Konstanz, Germany to Strasbourg, France

16/06/52 (Monday)  Strasbourg, (climbed cathedral tower....photos & postcard from cathedral), Nancy, St Dizier, to Paris.


                     Strasbourg, France, 16th June 1952



  Paris, France, 17th June, 1952




17/06/52 (Tuesday): Paris to Boulogne. Put motorcycle on boat at Boulogne pm for Folkestone, England. 




After the death of my father in 1993 when clearing through his papers I found many black and white photos in an envelope marked “Italy 1952”. The last time I had seen these photos was as a child. On the back of a few were handwritten dates & places. My fathers old passport shows quite clearly the dates of entry into France then entering Italy and back again into France before leaving via Bolougne s/Mer. I was also lucky enough to find many postcards from Italy and France that he had sent back to relatives in England during this trip. The dates from the postmarks were to give me rough directions as to the date/s my father was in a particular spot. He took this trip with another chap, athough as to now I have been unable to locate him...I believe he also worked at Stewarts & Lloyds in Corby, England where my father was then a test engineer....so if anyone out there knows more........

My fathers sister told me that they were really worried when my father made this trip as his mother became very sick and they thought she would die before his return and as no one knew exactly where he was,  there was no way of contacting him. Back in 1952 it would have been exceptionally difficult to contact someone overseas; made even more difficult as no one really knew what route he had taken or spoke any of the languages.

What impresses me most today about this journey are the logisitics involved behind it, the planning and the execution of a major voyage, especially for 1952 and especially given that Europe was still in the aftermath of WWII. Take a look at any of the old maps published in the 1950’s France....and in fact the maps my father used.  They show bridges still down after being blown up by the retreating German armies. They show major damage to the towns and cities from bombardment. Add to this the fact that petrol was still in short supply and it becomes clear that this was no ordinary motorcycle jaunt. 

Knowing my father this journey would have been planned in the most intricate detail; the generations of engineer in him. Total mileage, fuel cost, accommodation would all have been calculated to within pounds if not shillings. Which brings to mind another observation. For many years after WWII it was impossible to take out large sums of money from the UK. We’re are not talking about large as in modern day large sums but it makes you wonder how they took enough to pay for the entire trip with them. There are still some of the old aluminium coins in the collection that my father picked up in France on this trip. They were issued after the war as France was short on raw materials but aluminium was in abundance and so used for coinage.  

Mileage is another impressive factor. These days with the use of a computer I am able to track very accurately the given mileage for this trip using the roads that my father would have taken. Knowing the amount of miles covered and the amount of days allows a calculation of a rough daily average. He was averaging of three to four hundred miles a day; quite some going, especially when bearing in mind that is a daily average and the condition of the roads back in 1952. These were also the days before mobile phones (Telegraphs were still in use), before GPS units, before most of the autoroutes and motorways and before the days in international breakdown cover too. Motorcycles were kick start only and tires had inner tubes in them. Those were the days!!