A grandfather was stunned when he was reunited with a wallet he lost as a student in a French bar – 55 YEARS ago.
Bill Leech was an 18-year-old French Language student at Grenoble University in 1960 when he mislaid the brown leather wallet containing his ID and driving licence.
He was eating lunch with pals at a ski resort in Chamrousse when he accidentally knocked the wallet off the bar with his elbow as he dashed back to the slopes.
Bill only realised it was missing later that day but when he returned to the bar there was no sign of the wallet so he believed it had been stolen or he’d dropped it in the snow.
Incredibly, more than half-a-century later the wallet was discovered after the entire wooden bar was moved to a different watering hole 77 miles away.
A carpenter found the wallet wedged in a cavity in the side of the bar and he contacted a Welsh woman he knew in Grenoble to see if she could help track Bill down.
The woman, Sally Monro (corr), looked through the contents and after searching Google found a man with the same name was chairman of a parish council in Warwickshire.
She called Bill, now 73, in August this year and discovered he was the owner and they arranged for him to fly over to collect it in person.
Bill, who is chairman of Henley Parish Council, used the opportunity to re-visit his old stomping ground when he travelled back to Grenoble last week.
The granddad-of-two said yesterday (Fri): “I was supposed to be studying French but in reality it turned out to be more about studying skiing.
“During one of my skiing trips to Chamrousse – about 12 miles from Grenoble – I lost my wallet which contained my student’s union card, my old English driver’s licence and my Lambretta 125 scooter registration documents.
“Fortunately I didn’t lose my ski pass so I was able to carry on skiing.
“I lost it but I didn’t know where. It turns out I put it on a ledge while I was sitting at a bar in a ski resort and it fell down a crack in the fittings.
“I must have knocked it with my elbow, I was probably keen to get back out skiing.
“I didn’t think too much of it at the time. There was no money in there and nothing of vital importance. I was able to replace most of the documents when I came back to the UK.
“I was required to carry identification papers by French law so I had to replace them pretty quickly. But it wasn’t much of an inconvenience.
“Recently, the resort was sold and the old bar was taken out and moved 77 miles to Vassieux-en-Vecors to be renovated and refitted by owners of another pub.
“As the carpenter was doing the remodelling he found the wallet. It was in perfect condition and completely untouched.
“He told his sister about it and she told her neighbour, a 46-year-old Welsh lady called Sally Monro.
“She moved over there after she married a German man and had three children.
“It took her ten minutes to find me online and she called my mobile number which is on the parish council website.
“She said: ‘Do you know the wallet you lost all those years ago has been found?’
“I said ‘good heavens’.
“She said to give her my address and she’d post it to me but I immediately said I would go to Grenoble to get it myself.
“I met her there last week and she introduced me to the carpenter who found the wallet, Maurice Martin, and his sister Agnes Francoise.
“They’re both in their 70s and survived the German raids on Grenoble during the Second World War.
“He gave me back my wallet. It was all very friendly and hospitable.
“It brought back memories, 55 years is a very long time. The time I spent in Grenoble was great, it was just one big holiday.
“My family are fascinated by the story. It has stimulated me to go back on a skiing holiday in the French Alps and I hope to take the family along with me.”
Bill – who has two children and used to be a managing director for a car radio manufacturer – added: “The following day Maurice gave me a tour around Vassieux, which was a stronghold of the French Resistance in the Vecors mountains.
“It is a high valley which can only be entered by a very few narrow gorges. The Resistance held out there for years after the Germans occupied the rest of the country.
“But in July 1944 they penetrated their defences using gliders to airlift paratroopers in.
“The SS razed the town to the ground. Everyone was just about butchered and Maurice and Agnes were the only children at their primary school to survive the massacre.
“Their mother took them into the forest for eight days with a cow and they existed solely on the cow’s milk while they made their escape off the plateau.
“It was a very special meeting and I was really humbled by their stories.
“I’ll make sure the wallet is kept in a very safe place from now on.”