Little did I know when I became part of the London Taxi PR (LTPR) team, that I would find myself acting as a Marshal representing the Licenced London Taxi profession on a very cold, and wet Remembrance Day morning. But that’s exactly what happened, and I can’t tell you how proud I was to have done it, but of the time and effort that the cabbies, representatives, officials and families gave to ensure that all the veterans attending this Sunday’s Remembrance Day parade got to and from their respective destinations, totally free of charge, safely and on time.
I joined the London Taxi PR team in February this year. I’m the PR part of the team and so I had suggested that I might go along on Sunday morning take some pictures and do some social media about the day, so that the news media got to hear about what the profession does for free for the war veterans. Little did I know that when I answered the call from Mike at Poppy Cabs, he had other plans for me!
“Why don’t you act as a Marshal?” he suggested. Seemed like a good idea but then followed the information about the 6.30am briefing, the 5.45am collection and pages of briefing notes and emails. But, knowing what my relatives and countless others did for us and sacrificed so that I am here today, it was the least that I could do. Especially as other members of the LTPR team would also be offering their services.
So, my 5.45am collection was around 5.30ish and a great cabbie called Lee kindly swung by and collected me from Mile End to take me to the briefing somewhere by London Bridge. We met in a small portacabin, and our numbers swelled as time rolled on. Cabbies and their families had come from all over. Some from Ireland, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, virtually everywhere in the UK.
Outside Taxis of all ages, new, old, vintage and classic were assembled. Some decorated with poppies for the day, others looking patriotic and resplendent. All looking spick and span and gleaming, despite the damp, rainy weather, which didn’t wash off their shine.
All those assembled listened to a final briefing for both drivers and marshals before a swig of tea or coffee, some lucky enough to get a bacon roll, (sadly myself and Lee weren’t!) and then off to our destination of Euston Station for a little after 7.30-7.45am.
This was just one of many collection and drop-off destinations, which included Paddington, Marylebone, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street, London Bridge, Waterloo, Victoria main line and coach station and the service clubs of Victory and the Union Jack Club. No mean feat when you consider the operation and logistics needed. Almost a military operation, I thought to myself.
We began to shepherd the war veterans and servicemen and woman as they approached us, fresh from their trains and embarkation at Euston into the waiting taxis, checking their destinations, making sure the drivers knew where they were going, and getting the veterans to share their ride if we could so the Taxis were full before departing.
As one departed, another Taxi would step. All the time we kept the lines moving, the cab drivers efficient and hospitable, chatty as ever in between the lulls.
The veterans, ever appreciative, thanking both ourselves, and the drivers as they stepped inside.
Before we knew it was close to 10am, and time for us to depart down to Westminster Bridge. When we arrived, the Bridge was already filling up of line after line of Taxis on both sides of the Bridge in the designated lanes that we had been assigned, whilst traffic still flowed in between. A fantastic sight and one I will not forget.
We met and chatted with other cabbies, myself and Mickey, another LTPR member who had ferried veterans than walked up and down the lines giving out leaflets about what we do.
And then 11am came. Big Ben chimed, the guns went off and we all observed the 2 minutes silence respectfully. Again, another fantastic and very moving experience to be a part of that. Time moved on, and before we knew it Taxis were starting their return journeys, with the Chelsea Pensioners, easily visible in their bright red uniforms the first to be ferried from the parade. We marshalled again, and the Taxis filled up and moved off once again, streaming over the Bridge, onward with their veterans on board.
Words cannot express how moved I was to be part of that day, to give something back but to see so many people, so many licenced London Taxis, give their time, their services for free so that they could honour those who gave so much. It gets little or no publicity, and I took as many pictures as I could. I tweeted out on social media to as many news outlets as I could to try and get some likes, some retweets. Sadly, there was not one from the media. But there was so many from the profession as I had expected.
This happens every year. It is planned and engineered down to the last detail and time is given oh so generously by those Poppy Cabs.
I want everyone to know that the next time you see a licenced London Taxi just think that they remembered. They will always remember.
I hope that you will too.
With many thanks to all Licenced London Taxi drivers who gave their services on Remembrance Sunday, Mike at Poppy Cabs, my cabbie and fellow marshal Lee who took me under his wing, my fellow LTPR teammate Mickey and anyone else who I met on the day. I salute you all.