Monday, November 03, 2014

Lest We Forget. Raise A Glass For One Of Our Own.

On 22nd & 23rd of January 1879, a tiny Garrison of British Troops fought a long and prolific battle.

     B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot

Under the charge of Lieutenant John Chard, Royal Engineers, the defence of Natal Province, in South Africa was to create a historic etching in British Battle History.
That battle was to be known as The Battle Of Rorke's Drift.
Much has been written about this fierce and dreadful skirmish. When 4000 brave and focussed Zulu warriors attacked the British Garrison armed with only spears and a cowhide shield each, the chances of survival for the British Contingent looked slim.
Miraculously, over the course of the next two days, the British Troops had just about done enough to thwart further attack by the Zulus, but only just.
When you realise that a huge portion of fatalities from both sides, were from bayonet wounds, one can begin to imagine how terrifyingly and horrific the reality of extreme face to face battle was.
Indeed, it is reported that due to the last ten hours of the battle being almost constant, only 900 rounds of ammunition were left, from the 20,000 that the Garrison was holding. Every man left, had wounds of some kind or another.
Some months after the Battle of Rorke's Drift, Her Majesty Queen Victoria personally awarded 11 Victoria Cross Medals in recognition of this incredibly brave defence.
Among the 11, to be awarded this prestigious honour, was Private Frederick Hitch, one of our own.......a Licensed London Taxi Driver.

He received his medal from Queen Victoria in Person while recuperating at a Military Hospital in Southampton.
Fred had played a very important part in the Rorke's Drift field, and sustained extremely severe wounds in his efforts to hold the Zulus back. His wounds were so severe in fact, that he was discharged from the army, where he became a London Cabby.
Not much is written to what happened or where his wife and family of eight children were by 1913. Sadly though, poor Fred collapsed and died alone, at his house in Cranbrook Road, Chiswick.
One can only wonder what his state of mind was, after witnessing a real fight for life in that South African Province.
Fred's monumental grave in the centre of St Nicholas's Churchyard in Chiswick, has done our trade hero proud. Funded by voluntary subscription and draped in a stone Union Flag and his helmet, it really is a lasting and fitting tribute to an exceptionally brave man.
Sadly, and as we all know, Fred is one of many, who has given so much for all of us.

There are many ex-servicemen and women in our own London Taxi ranks, all with stories and accounts of the true peril, heartache and pain of what war and conflict really do signify.
The truly poignant rows of bleached white headstones of the French poppy fields, bear witness to the horror and unimaginable terror that soldiers of all nationalities suffered.
Many many years later, our country, indeed our world, is still a very precarious and volatile place. Our young men and women continue to give their loyalty and service, to protect our shores from the evil and harm that some people cast upon us.
As a former Guardsman, I attend the Cenotaph each and every year. I don't enjoy it. I don't like it there, but wouldn't miss it for the world.
To me, it is a place of  National symbolic pilgrimage. A revered and special place where the loss, the bloodshed, the memories and the pain are universally felt in sombre silence, by all who stand there.
Jim, would you allow me to portray my personal thanks and special mention, and I know I speak for many, to our trade colleague Mike Hughes. 

Mike organises the Poppy Cab operation each year, to enable our war veterans and our younger seriously injured servicemen and women to visit the special place of the Cenotaph. Naturally, Mike enlists a whole army of help from our very own London Taxi Driver Ranks, picking up and delivering our veterans to and from the home counties and train stations. To all of these wonderful people who lose a day's earnings as a result, I salute you all.

This logistical masterpiece takes Mike most of the year to organise, and he donates thousands of hours of his time to make it happen. It is extremely appreciated by the British Legion and allows the general public another view of our trade that not all are aware of.

Mike Hughes is a very private and modest man, but what he manages to organise year after year, is a magnificent gesture and show of appreciation from our London Cab Trade. Fred Hitch would be well proud.
In 1914, and aghast at the huge loss of life at the start of World War One, English Poet, Robert Laurence Binyon wrote his chilling and well known poem " For The Fallen".
The contents of it, are as haunting, moving and poignant today, as they were in 1914.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain. 

I always find this week in November a very sad and confusing week for myself personally. As I drive around the Capital and witness the rows and rows of tiny crosses in Westminster Cathedral and beyond, I cannot help but wonder and worry about how much sadness, irreversible heartache, outrageous waste and  what tremendous bravery has been given by so many, in a volatile world that seems to have no lack of appetite for war and conflict.
On a good day, I sometimes kid myself that one day it will all end, and people and countries will realise that such merciless waste of life is futile. And on other days, I realise that war will always shroud and curse the security and happiness of everyone, everywhere and that tenacious defence is imperative.
I shall raise a glass for our British Armed Forces on the 11th November, both living and dead, and not forgetting of course, London Taxi Driver and National Hero, Private Frederick Hitch. V.C.
Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me,
On thy bosom let me rest,
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.
When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
To all colleagues who have either served in our military themselves, had family serving , been injured, or worse still, lost a family member as a result of war or conflict, may God give you the strength, courage and pride in recognition of your terribly painful losses.
In morose times like these, I am proud to belong to a trade and profession, that has so much pedigree, so much iconic pride and a history of so much loyalty to our country and our capital.
Stay safe all. God bless and Be Lucky.

8829 Semtex.

If you would like to volunteer you can still contact Mike
To register please send
Name, Location (to match up with veterans)
Driver or Marshal, TX or Vito (drivers)
Knowledge boy/girl or family member (marshals) 
tel no and email address

SMS message : 07973 430022
New for 2014, our own Twitter account @PoppyCabs2014


Anonymous said...

Thanks. What a great story

Mike Hughes said...


You are a swine. I've got a soaking wet handkerchief.

How on earth you can put me in the same message as someone who had a Victoria Cross I just don't know. I just do a small part - the trade are the real heroes, honouring those who come to commorate their colleagues who gave everything for us all. I am proud to help.

Keep strong my old mucker and when you falter we'll be there to catch you.