The road trip to Holland began on May 2nd 2012 with a send-off attended by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and comedian Al Murray. 80London Black Taxis collected veterans from all over country, ultimately meeting in Harwich for a ferry to the Hook of Holland. The taxis then drove in convoy through Holland to reach their destination. The Dutch people had never have seen anything like it. The trip was 18 months in the planning, taking an inordinate amount of organisation and dedication on the part of the charity, the London Taxi Benevolent Association for the War Disabled, who worked in collaboration with the Market Garden Foundation in The Netherlands. During this time, a crack team of veterans patiently stood in tube stations, shopping centres and at football matches across London collecting money for the trip.
The charity organised the trip to enable the veterans to take part in the Dutch Liberation celebrations. The trip involved a number of visits and events: a visit to the Bronbeek Veterans’ Home in Arnhem, where the veterans were welcomed by the Mayor of Arnhem, a Wreath Laying Service in Oosterbeek, a full British Remembrance Service in Groesbeek and the Dutch National Liberation Service at Rhenen, attended by the Dutch Royal family. A highlight of the trip was the National Liberation Parade in Wageningen, in which the British veterans took part – in four vintage London buses!
The Dutch people welcomed the British veterans like visiting dignitaries. During a visit to the Oosterkeen Airborne Museum as guests of the Mayor of Renkum, a hundred local school children met them to exchange gifts. The Dutch have always shown their gratitude and affection to the British, who, with the American, Canadian and Polish armies, fought for the liberation of The Netherlands. Nowhere is this bond more beautifully illustrated than by the schoolchildren of Arnhem and Oosterbeek, who at the age of 8 are given the responsibility of tending a grave in the Commonwealth War Cemetery. The grave is passed to them from an older child and becomes theirs for the following four years.
Many thanks to Ross at Junction 44 for the illustration.