Day 4 was supposed to be the highlight of our trip: the liberation day parade in Wageningen. Everyone was looking forward to it.
At 9:30am, our small group of the Market Garden Operation veterans set off to Oosterbeek Airborne Memorial for a 10:00am service. Following the service they were to join the main party at Wageningen for the parade at 3:00pm.
Following breakfast, as the main party were preparing for the parade, we had disastrous news. Big “G” in his infinite wisdom, had decided to throw his celestial spanner in the works!
We heard that very bad weather and a severe storm warning had been issued across the Wageningen area, and the town council was considering cancelling the parade.
Everybody involved, hundreds of people taking part, and a gathering of a hundred thousand visitors expected, were put on standby until midday,when a decision would be made to go ahead or cancel.
At midday, it was decided that the parade was on. The committee got our veterans together, loaded up the three coaches we were using for transportation on this occasion and set off for Wageningen.
We arrived and the weather was indeed wild and windy and decidedly overcast.
We instructed our group to keep an eye on the weather, and if it deteriorated badly, to return to the coaches quickly.
We got our veterans into the viewing stands. Many walked around the parade area with much to see. The committee arranged the lunches and then got on with the details for those who were marching in the parade.
Then at about 1:30pm, the weather changed drastically. The wind picked up, and down came the rain. The wind was howling in gusts, the rain was torrential. I and two other committee members were caught in the open; we were drenched to the skin.
Everybody scattered to what cover was available (very little). We stood under cover for some fifteen minutes with no let up in the weather visible.
At this time it was obvious that we could not allow our veterans to be exposed to these conditions in the parade (even if it went ahead, which looked very doubtful).
The committee discussed the situation and came to the conclusion, very reluctantly, that we had no option but to cancel our participation in the parade.
We could just not risk our ninety year olds getting soaked, possible catching a chill and developing pneumonia. With a great deal of difficulty we rounded up our veterans, loaded them on the coaches and returned to the hotel with heavy hearts and great disappointment for all concerned.
Ironically an hour or so later, at around 2:30pm, the weather did clear a little and a very reduced parade did take place at 3:00pm, but by then our own situation was beyond saving.
All that hard work and endeavour on everybody’s part, let alone the expense, completely washed out.
We arrived back at the hotel mid afternoon feeling very disappointed. The committee arranged some refreshments for the veterans to fill the unexpected gap before the special celebration dinner in the evening.
By dinner time everyone was back in good spirits; an excellent meal was enjoyed by all.
During dinner, a small group of Dutch singers moved around the dining room singing popular songs. After dinner came the formalities. I called upon Mr John Chrisford, National Chairman of the Royal British Legion (RBL), to say a few words. The RBL have been very good to our charity and made a generous donation to our Holland trip. On behalf of the Taxi Charity and the veterans, many thanks to the legion.
Various presentations were made. All the London taxi drivers were presented with an engraved hip flask as a token of the charity's appreciation of all their hard work over many years freely given. Thank you cabbies! You are a great bunch of lads - the best in the world...
Our Events Officer’s wife, Susy Goodwin, was presented with flowers.
All in all, a very enjoyable evening. Afterwards, many of the veterans gathered in the bar and a real sing song session got underway. Many of the lads gave us a song and yours truly sung myself to a standstill. A great evening to end a great trip. Thank you everybody.