Wonderful scenes at the Airborne Museum in Arnhem yesterday. Great cab ride with Julian the driver. In the back were veterans Danny McCrudden, who sang The Good Life on the way, and Ernie Davies, my friend and photographer Matt, and me. As we approached Arnhem, it was as if the whole town had come out to meet the convoy. Danny had tears in his eyes. The museum had laid on quite an event, complete with bagpipe players, the local medical team dressed in military costume and a huge crowd of gorgeous children, all carrying flowers for the veterans. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many smiling men and women in their 80’s and 90’s, overcome by the extraordinary Dutch hospitality and the children wanting to shake their hands. Wonderful speeches of heartfelt thanks for the veterans for Dutch freedom; this is still obviously felt very sincerely even so long after WWII. As we prepared to leave, this time with cabbie David Webb, a 6 year old girl and and a 7 year old boy got in the back, just to sit on the back set with the veterans. They couldn’t speak English, but just seemed happy to sit quietly and be with them, especially in a cab, which was great fun.
Later on, the veterans departed to take part in the Dutch National Liberation parade in Waginigen, attended by hundreds of thousands of people. From one crazy British convoy to another, the veterans were actually in the parade, sitting in vintage London buses. I doubt 160 WWII veterans have taken part in such a parade, in such a way, ever before in the world, or will ever again. A once-in-a-lifetime experience for the veterans. And all of this has been made to happen by a great charity and 80 fantastic cabbies, all giving their time and services for free.
Somehow the whole day has made me reflect on how we feel about not only veterans, but all older people, in Britain.