Thank you to war veteran, Frank Ashleigh (91), and Taxi Charity committee member, Ian Parsons, for appearing on BBC Radio 5 Live on 11 November 2016.
They were interviewed by Emma Barnett as part of an Armistice Day programme talking about individual remembrances. Frank was asked about his story and recounted that having joined up on his 18th Birthday, a year later he volunteered for the Glider Pilot Regiment and became operational in July 1944, when he was paired with Lofty Cummings and the two formed a crew at RAF Hartwell, and in doing so they became very close friends.
Frank was taken prisoner whilst on a patrol in Oosterbeek, Holland and was kept captive for eight months. Lofty was killed in action and every year Frank returns to Arnhem to pay his respects.
He also attends the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey every year before joining the Annual Parade at the Cenotaph. On Armistice Day, Frank will be remembering his pal Lofty, his fellow gliders and all of those who fought in the battle of Arnhem. Frank spoke of the Taxi Charity’s 2015 trip to Arnhem:
“Out of this world. A fantastic experience was had, and the reception from not only the cab drivers who gave up their time, income and costs but from the general public, was absolutely mind boggling, the most fantastic experience one could have.” Ian explained that the charity had a committee of 17 members and some 80 plus volunteer cab drivers who give up their time freely to take the veterans on trips to memorial sites, such as the visit to Arnhem in Holland.
Ian described the Arnhem trip:
“Fabulous, and a sight to see. A convoy of over 80 taxis taking WW2 veterans, with police outriders, and with locals lining the roads for miles to wave on and cheer their Liberators." Ian said that the trips were rewarding experiences for the taxi drivers and that is was an honour to be able to take them to pay their respects to their comrades as well as being a privilege to stand alongside the veterans where they served in the fields of battle.
It's a great interview and well worth a listen. Their segment starts around the 2:40 mark...
You can watch it via the BBC iPlayer (expires 11 Dec 2016):
or via our YouTube clip below:
Note: In the top photo, we love the way Frank is casually looking at his mobile phone whilst he and Ian were receiving instructions in their headphones from the producer!