…so said Jim, 89 (pictured here during wartime and below, last week) after tripping over when we arrived back at the Union Jack Club last night. ‘No need to worry’, he said, when I asked if he was ok. He jumped up, brushed himself down and said he was made of rubber. Jim is just one of the wonderful veterans I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with. He’s full of the most incredible stories – too many to recall. Like many of the men and women on this trip, he still has very vivid memories of the war. Some said they didn’t speak about it for decades. Others still don’t want to speak about it now. One of the images that remains with Jim is the piles of children’s shoes on the side of the roads after the liberation of Belsen.
I’ve was so humbled by not only how good-humoured the veterans were on this trip, but also how much stamina they had! They’ve been to Holland and back, travelling around 500 miles in a convoy of Black Cabs. They’ve sailed across the North Sea and back by ferry. They’ve visited their old friends’ graves, sat outside on a chilly evening waiting for the Dutch Royal family at the National Remembrance service, stood on top of an open-top vintage double decker bus in a parade in the rain, laid wreathes at war memorials, waved at cheering crowds, been on National TV, stayed up till late, got up early, met the British Ambassador and shaken hands with hundreds of Dutch people, all in the last 5 days. This would be impressive enough, but is even more so when you consider that the youngest man on the trip was 85, and the oldest will be 95 this year.