The second major phase in The Beatles’ story was about to begin. On 16 August 1960 they embarked on the journey from Liverpool to Hamburg, Germany.
The five members of The Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best – along with manager Allan Williams, his wife Beryl, her brother Barry Chang and friend Lord Woodbine, set off from the Jacaranda club in Williams’ green Austin van.
They stopped off in London to pick up a 10th passenger, Herr Steiner, an Austrian working in the Heaven and Hell coffee shop on Old Compton Street, who was to be the Hamburg promoter Bruno Koschmider’s interpreter. They then caught the ferry from Harwich to the Netherlands.
It was cramped. The van didn’t even have seats; we had to sit on our amplifiers. We drove down to Harwich and got the boat to the Hook of Holland. Driving through Holland, I remember we stopped at Arnhem where all the people had parachuted out to their deaths (another little Winston Churchill trick). There were thousands of white crosses in the cemetery.
The party ended up in Arnhem after Williams took a wrong turning. While there they were photographed at the war memorial, spent time wandering around the city, and John Lennon stole a harmonica from a local shop.
At Arnhem there was time to get out and walk around and stretch our legs. We also went to see the Arnhem war memorial. There are photographs of us sitting in front of it. Seeing the war graves and all the rest of it was quite moving, to me anyway.
It quietened us down a bit. I think it was the aura of the place, the peace and tranquility that came through to us.
We didn’t stay together as a party so while Allan went off to do what he wanted to do, we broke up and did our own thing and had a walkabout.
We had time to kill so we went round the town centre and into a music shop, and when we came out they were all laughing their heads off. I said: ‘What’s the joke, lads?’, and John pulled out a mouth organ – he’d stolen a bloody mouth organ! I thought, ‘Christ, we’re never even going to get to Hamburg, we’ll all be in jail.’ The first time abroad and he had the audacity to rob a shop!
From the Netherlands the party made its way to Hamburg, arriving in the early evening of 17 August 1960.