Since going to watch veterans skydive for the Taxi Charity, I have become a supporter of the charity. I am also a Rotarian and, by chance, when entertaining my 'old boys' for lunch one day, the subject of the upcoming visit to Berlin to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Berlin airlift and my longstanding Rotary colleague Bill Lawson, now aged 98, mentioned that he had been in the RAF.
From then on the arrangements were taken in hand and I was given the opportunity of accompanying Bill, as although still in sound frame of mind, with all his marbles intact, Bill is a bit wobbly on his pins.
From the moment of our arrival at Waterloo, and an overnight stay at the Union Jack Club, we were taken in hand and, thanks to the charity, and Dick and Frances who pulled it all together, we were able to enjoy VIP treatment throughout.
On reaching Berlin, four London taxis met us and took us to the British Embassy for tea. The next three days were a hectic round of visiting the main sights, Brandenburg Gate (where we were the main attraction!), Checkpoint Charlie, and the Berlin Wall.
For all of us though, the key highlights were the extent to which we were hosted by the German government. Talk about pull out all the stops! At the main evening reception there was so much military brass present, they could have started up their own band!
The food was really superb and the drink flowed, ensuring a great, if emotional, time was had by all.
The main memorial service was held in the open air at Tegel Airport, and was very moving for all of us who had made the journey. The level of gratitude shown by Berliners towards what had been achieved during the airlift was very humbling.
It was certainly a trip of a lifetime... In another five years, how many veterans will be alive to remember it?