Chairman's Blog: Veterans' Trip to Normandy for D-Day 75

I have no idea how my predecessors felt when they began their time as chairman of this wonderful charity. However, I doubt the momentous backdrop which accompanied my start in the hot seat will ever be equalled.

Just thirteen days after taking up my new position, I, together with our group arrived in Normandy to begin our week-long trip to participate in the 75th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings (3 - 8 June 2019) .

What an extraordinarily privileged position I found myself in.

For the record, we accompanied 35 WWII veterans, most of whom fought in Normandy.

Our group - which consisted of 120 people in total, including veterans, carers, drivers, medics, mechanics and special guests - was transported in a convoy of 32 taxis and six support vehicles.

And whenever the wheels rolled, the reassuring presence of our motorcycle escort outriders were there to ensure no-one got lost.

We are, as always, indebted to all those who volunteer their services free of charge. Without their generosity of spirit we would have been unable to have achieved what we did.

I thank them all, especially my fellow London taxi drivers, who despite these challenging times for our trade, happily supply their time and vehicles free of charge.

But that said, so many drivers told me how honoured and grateful they were to have played a part in this historic trip.

To have had the opportunity to mark D-Day 75 in Normandy, alongside some of those who fought there, was an extraordinary privilege.

For me, this sentiment was perfectly encapsulated during the Remembrance Service at Ranville Cemetery on 6 June.

As chairman, it was my duty to lay a wreath on behalf of our charity, which I did with veteran Bill Gladden, 75 years to the day - indeed almost to the hour - where Trooper William Gladden and his 6th Airborne comrades’ Hamilcar glider landed in a nearby field.

Bill, being the modest man that he is, had no comprehension of the honour that he had bestowed on me.

We had modern-day heroes to thank too.

For, despite the numerous road closures and high security cordons - put in place to protect world leaders and royalty - we somehow managed to keep to our planned itinerary - all thanks to our magnificent security escort outriders who went the extra mile to make the impossible possible.

And wherever our convoy went, it was greeted by flag-waving children standing alongside adults who clapped and cheered.

As we have done for our last two trips, we spent our final day beside Sword Beach.

It was a pleasant day and our group watched holidaymakers enjoying the beach, flying kites, playing ball whilst locals walked their dogs and chatted to friends.

Several veterans walked onto the beach, whilst others looked on, and no doubt will have been recalling very different scenes whilst watching all the carefree activity.

Throughout the week, as we travelled through the pretty, well-kept villages and towns of Normandy, the veterans saw people going about their daily lives, living and working free and without fear, and you realised this provided them with an enormous sense of peace and contentment.

And in our own, very small way, those of us lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to return them here, can also reflect satisfactorily on a job well done.

To view all our photos from this trip, please go to our Facebook page or visit our Flickr channel.

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