Steve’s account can be related to many night drivers that were with us throughout the day.
Many, including myself stayed overnight. There was time in the early hours of the morning that one felt so tired that nothing else mattered.
Full English breakfast fixed all that. Two drivers playing pool at Camley St. Cafe told me that they too worked overnight and are just waiting to do the shuttle. I had a few extra signs printed so I gave them one each to display in their taxis.
Then I drove to Embankment, Nothumberland Ave. and Trafalgar Sq. where I spoke to Traffic cops. They didn’t know about Taxis providing this service but said they will assist when Taxis wants to set down. Good stuff.
I arrived at Union Jack Club at 7.00am and not wanting to be idle I put on UCG jacket, displayed Free Shuttle Service sigh and informed Security at reception that I am there. There did not know anything about it so I had to explain it several times.
There were people going out already so I offered to take them.
The journeys that the Veterans and Families had to make that day were going to be more varied than just the Cenotaph.
So at 7.00am the first family, veteran’s widow, her brother both 80-90 years old, her 2 children around 60+years old were setting out for the day.
We were going to HMS Belfast. Their plan was to see the Battle Ship first from all around. This was great, I could provide this flexible service they needed. Quick stop on London Bridge for a front view, back to Tower Bridge via Lower Thames Street for the great view of the Thames, Ship and Tower Bridge. Quick drive around to Guoman Hotel near St. Katharine’s Pier for my favorite view of Tower Bridge. After this quick and exiting tour we went to the final destination HMS Belfast for the familie’s more somber occasion.
Back again to union Jack Club where I parked outside and displayed Free Shuttle Service sigh to face the people coming down the stairs.
Soon taxis started to arrive and our marshals Frankie3 and cabgeeza had their hands full. Large number of taxis had to be safely parked to provide an efficient rolling rank. People to be greeted, escorted and assisted to get into the cabs. In the narrow road all went smoothly.
Non of the people coming out expected to be greeted by this smart group of taxi drivers with vehicles ready to take them. In one word, marvelous.
Traffic Warden from Lambeth appeared on the scene and started telling us that we shouldn’t be doing this. I think he meant parking. I was filming all and will have to review the film to be sure what he meant. Cabgeeza in his very diplomatic and polite way told him what to do with himself.
I will put the film into public domain shortly.
Just as well that we had so many willing drivers.
Our small rush Hour was starting and the people were coming out. All were greeted in the most polite manner and invited to take advantage of Free Shuttle Service. There was a lot of surprise and I have seen a grown man in advanced years shedding a tear while shaking my hand.
My first trip took me to Whitehall That meant driving over Waterloo Bridge and Strand to Trafalgar Sq. to set down by Whitehall near cordoned off area. All wend smoothly and the police at this end moved cones to give us a few yards of extra space for setting down taxis.
I drove back to Waterloo station where there was line of taxis marshaled by Dizzy, givati and leewd19.
We had to wait for train to arrive. While waiting, some working drivers were pulling in behind us. I explained to them why we were there and send them to the working rank. One driver said he would join us. I felt it was specially good of him as he only worked Sundays part time. He gave to the others the only day he worked.
Soon the train arrived and we were getting veterans and their families coming out of the station. Some went strait to Waterloo taxi rank, rushing to get a taxi with the full knowledge that Tfl suspended underground trains on this day.
In the years to come the knowledge that they can come and take a FREE TAXI provided by taxi drivers giving up their time (unpaid), will give the people more easy time to get to the Service at Cenotaphs any other places on this day.
My trip took an elderly couple to the The Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey to pay tribute to all the brave Service men and women who have served in our Armed Forces since World War I.
With Westminster Bridge closed the police let me in to drive over the bridge and set down opposite Victoria Embankment. Well done to the Police.
After this I returned to the Union Jack Club to see the street full of taxis. A young lady was looking down Sandell St. not quite sure what taxis are doing there. She did see The Free Shuttle Service sign there so she came over to me because I was displaying the same sign. She wanted to go to Royal Marine Reserve – 2 Old Jamaica Road, SE16, that were having the service there. I explained what we were doing and drove her there. She was late due to having travel difficulty this Sunday. Her husband was on parade there. She said that her father was also in the Navy and many other members of her family were in the Forces. She was more than overjoyed.
Returning to UJC I was informed that we were done for the morning and could take a short break.
It was 11.00 and we observed two minute silence to mark Remembrance Sunday.
Reawakening coffee and a second breakfast had us on our way to Westminster Bridge where a marshaled Rank was in operation to take servicemen and their families back.
The rank had now a lot more drivers, men and women (I saw coopse1 behind me) that I saw in the morning. We were all on one big rank.
It soon became evident that many would not be returning strait to train stations or to their hotels.
My passengers, a war widow and her daughter were going to Fortnum & Mason. It was to be a lunch, a rare treat for the elderly lady at this famous Store. Although we were stuck in traffic for ages, there was a happy atmosphere in the taxi throughout. Even that the lady was in tears telling me about her husband, her happiness on this day was uppermost.
We arrived at Fortnum & Mason and after helping them out and wishing them good day we said our goodbyes.
For me too it was time to go home and take a rest.
It has bee a wonderful day, the day, that we taxi driver will repeat every year.