Saturday, June 13, 2015

From the SAS To The Gurkhas: The Story of Sir Christopher Lee


Christopher Lee, the most prolific actor in motion picture history, the on-screen legend that was, passed away in hospital after a lengthy battle with heart problems.

Known and forever remembered as an icon of the silver screen, his past achievements in front of the camera cement his place in Hollywood and British film industry folklore. Some of his greatest accomplishments, however, were collected not on stage, but on the battlefield during World War II.

 Little known facts about Sir Lee's service for the Army and RAF will escape many major news broadcasters and tabloids around the world today, but his distinguished career in the British military and the Special Air Service, will be recognized. 

"I was attached to the SAS from time to time but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let's just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read in to that what they like."

Christopher Lee first enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1940, where he worked as an intelligence officer specializing in decoding German ciphers. He was then posted to North Africa where he was based with the precursor of the SAS, the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG). 

While leapfrogging from Egypt across Tobruk to Benghazi, Lee moved behind enemy lines from base to base sabotaging Luftwaffe planes and airfields along the way. After the Axis surrender in 1943, Lee was seconded to the Army during an officer swap scheme, where he officiated the Gurkhas of the 8th Indian Infantry Division during The Battle of Monte Cassino.

When pressed by an eager interviewer on his SAS past, he leaned forward and whispered: 
“Can you keep a secret?”
“Yes!” the interviewer replied, breathless with excitement. 

“So can I.” replied a smiling Lee, sitting back in his chair.

After working with the LRDG, Lee was assigned to the Special Operations Executive, conducting espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe against the Axis powers. For the final few months of his service, Lee, fluent in several languages including French and German, was tasked with tracking down Nazi war criminals alongside the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects. Of his time within the organisation, Lee said "We were given dossiers of what they'd done and told to find them, interrogate them as much as we could and hand them over to the appropriate authority." Lee then retired from the RAF in 1946 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. 
"I've seen many men die right in front of me - so many in fact that I've become almost hardened to it. Having seen the worst that human beings can do to each other, the results of torture, mutilation and seeing someone blown to pieces by a bomb, you develop a kind of shell. But you had to. You had to. Otherwise we would never have won."
Although his service records remain classified and Lee himself was reluctant to discuss anything about his service, after his retirement he'd been individually decorated for battlefield bravery by the Czech, Yugoslav, British, and Polish governments. He was also on personal terms with Josip Broz Tito, presumably after their mutual involvement with the Partisan resistence movement (widely cited as the most effective resistance movement in occupied Europe).


Tall and talented: 10 reasons why Sir Christopher Lee is a legend:

  • Christopher Lee was Ian Fleming's cousin, serving alongside him during the war. 
  • At 6'5'' tall, Sir Christopher's imposing stature made him one of the tallest actors in the world.
  • He was introduced to Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the assassins of Grigori Rasputin, whom Lee was to play many years later.
  • Fluent in six languages including French and German.
  • Participated in more on-screen sword fights than any actor in history
  • He was a descendent of Charlemagne 
  • Christopher Lee released a heavy metal hardcore symphonic power metal concept album about Charlemagne when he was 88 years old.
  • He volunteered to fight for Finland in the Winter War prior to WW2.
  • Saw the Nazi concentration camps first-hand
  • He was an opera singer.


Operation Mincemeat..... by Semtex

 Military operations, shrouded in logistical secrecy, have won and lost many of our armed conflicts and wars. Some of them have been notoriously unsuccessful resulting in huge casualty and loss of life, such as Operation Market Garden, in which many allied lives were lost in a raid with disastrous field intelligence.

Others, have been equally massive in success as well,  and allowed the twists and turns of strategic war planning, to go in Britain's favour.

One of those hugely ultra successful operations, was codenamed, Operation Mincemeat.

I have studied many of our military operations, both successful and unsuccessful. The criteria of the successful ones, always seemed to have meticulous planning, a sound strategy, reliable logistics and troops who were capable, focussed and resolute.
Operation Mincemeat however, had all of the above, and was without doubt one of, if not THE most important wartime strategies, that turned the conflict in our favour. Interestingly though, even though it had all of the above ingredients within the structure of it, one thing sticks out way beyond any of the other qualities..............DECEPTION !
When used to it's most potent resourcefulness, Deception can be more lethal than the heaviest of field guns.
Taxi Leaks isn't the correct platform for me to write about the amazing twists and turns of Op Mincemeat, it is easily researched on the internet anyway. 
(See Editorial Extra Content Below)

There is a lot of speculation buzzing around within our shelters at present. The latest being that our actual Prime Minister could be involved in giving Uber a favourable passage.

I, of course don't know the truthful origins of these claims, but I would doubt, and more importantly, hope, that David Cameron wouldn't be as naïve as to risk his professional reputation and indeed his Parliamentary position and future inevitable Knighthood, by colluding with a private company, even though that company are worth billions of dollars. I read with interest the relationship Cameron has with Steve Hilton and Rachel Whetstone, but even then, David Cameron is well advised and guided, and will be made well aware of the pitfalls of being suspected or involved with corporate companies.
However, stranger things have happened at sea, one only has to refer to Tony Blair, and until we can ascertain for definite, nothing is beyond doubt, when it involves the murky workings of Uber. 
One thing that does appear to be beyond reasonable doubt though, is that there seems to be a pungent scent of deception wafting around the initial paperwork, concerning Uber's original application for an Operators Licence.

I have looked at the criteria in detail. Uber's current operating procedures, simply don't comply with the stringent requirements of TFL's PHV Operator's demands.

Furthermore, Uber's method of ascertaining their requested fare structure, is via use of a mobile phone app measuring time and motion................and therefore finding a way to use the exact same data that a meter does, but doing away with an official calibrated taxi meter, as used, licensed and approved in all London Taxis.
I wonder if I had put an application in to TFL, using the same methods of operation as Uber, but with 6 grand in the bank...............if I would have been given free passage to operate my business ?
What are Uber ? Are they a Technology business, or a transport business ? Apparently, the answer to that question depends who's asking it.
Do Uber employ drivers, or are their drivers self employed ? Where are Uber's London Offices, whereby a TFL Officer could go into their office and inspect their records of fares and transport ? What is their London manned landline telephone number ?
I would assume that all of the questions that I ask, and others, have been answered concisely and accepted in full by TFL, otherwise failure to adhere to the TFL Operators Licence application criteria, would have been refused from the outset by TFL's Licensing Officers.............................wouldn't it ?
What person at TFL is responsible for actually stamping the licence and gives it the signature of approval ? Who is that person ?
Another question that concerns me is, Uber have been banned in many countries across the world. Why is this ? What is it that these other government departments have been concerned with ? What issues have worried these countries so much as to make them ban Uber, but has been of no concern whatsoever to TFL  Licensing Officers in London ?

Anyone on here ever been ferretting ? I have. To catch the rabbit, you have to put a purse net over every hole of the warren, before putting the ferret down one of the holes. When you do, the rabbits fearing for their future......... bolt. They run up through the escape holes of the complex catacombs, only to be caught in the purse nets, which, as their name suggests, draw closed tight, trapping the rabbit in the net until it can be despatched.

I have often been in a position, whereby this ancient survival skill has prevented me from starving in days past, and to prevent us starving further in these modern times, and hopefully very soon, the London Taxi Trade ferret is going to have a proper sniff of them murky old holes. We are busy pegging the last of the purse nets in place now, and having bets which rabbit from the warren of deception, will bolt first !
This Uber mob who have rode like a Roman Chariot across 350 years of respectable compliance, seem to have no fear with their London Operations and charge their chariot of contempt full pelt at London's handcuffed taxi trade.

I have served alongside our Yankee allies on several occasions. I like them. They are genuine, humorous and dedicated. But maybe their corporate representatives and phoney taxi service contingent, have arrogantly forgotten the guile and strategic expertise of the British, who gave birth to the magnificent Operation Mincemeat, way back in 1943 !

Facing huge logistical barriers from the organised and over confident German High Command, our British Bulldog Spirits were undeterred as we launched our game of brains versus brawn !

When the Gung Ho Germans took the bait and the operation was deemed a monumental success, the message received by code to our Senior Operational Military Command in London, was short and awe-inspiringly sweet.
It read simply " Mincemeat Swallowed Whole." 
To give them their due, Uber have planned a brilliant game so far. They have hunted out and found a licensing body in one of, if not THE greatest cities in the world, who have taken the Uber bait, swallowed whole !

Many other countries, some of whom we have the audacity to accuse of being backward, have fought off Uber and banned them. For some reason though, the dubious app firm from San Fransisco, not only thrive in the favourable climate and licensing conditions of London, but appear to have food, water and the perfect surroundings to burgeon and breed, despite the perils of the risk to London's reputation.
Nobody of course is unbeatable though. If Karma does indeed prevail, the great London Taxi Trade may just be able to prove in time, that Uber's operation has been unfair, unnecessary, unchecked and  unlawful.

Meanwhile though, our boots on the ground will hold back the tide of contempt, until the very last of the purse nets, have been tied. I wonder who will bolt first, when the holes are all covered ? We shall have to wait and see !
Be lucky all.
8829 Semtex

                        Editorial Extra Content:

                >BBC Magazine, Op Mince Meat<



Friday, June 12, 2015

Uber whistleblower Using Fake Documents, Exposes Breach In Driver App

Global minicab firm’s computerised system approves fake insurance papers amid fears such exploitation by drivers may risk passenger safety

Uber have said they will review their systems in the UK, after an investigation raised questions about the robustness of its approval procedures for driver documents.

Drivers have in the past claimed that as Uber expands rapidly, the system has become vulnerable to cheating, by those looking to save money following reductions in Uber’s fares, a claim denied by the minicab firm.

An undercover driver demonstrated that he was able to pick up a paying customer having provided fake insurance paperwork via its computerised system. 

Taxi Leaks has seen evidence that one undercover driver uploaded the back of a cornflake box as an insurance cover note and was accepted. Some drivers fear that breaches in the technology could put customers’ safety at risk.

The regulator Transport for London (TfL) has now launched an investigation into Uber over the breach.

At present, the San Fransisco-based company has 18,000 drivers in London, working through its smartphone app. It has been valued at more than $40bn (£26bn) and has expanded rapidly in cities around the world.

Uber’s driver approval system encourages them to submit renewals of insurance, driving licences and MOT certificates through the internet “to save time and costs of coming in to the office”.

The whistleblower tested Uber’s system after hearing that other drivers may be trying to find loopholes to cut costs. Insurance premiums for new drivers in the UK can cost up to £4,000 ($6,200) a year.

  Fake insurance documents obtained by the Guardian
Fake insurance documents, uploaded and accepted.

The driver uploaded an entirely fabricated insurance policy under the logo of a made-up insurance company, “Freecover”, and Uber approved him to pick up customers.

“Photoshopping is what everyone is talking about,” said another Uber driver on condition of anonymity. “With the fares coming down you have to look at other ways of exploiting the system.”

It was impossible to verify how widespread such attempts to cheat the system are, and Uber said drivers attempting to use fake documents would be reported to the police.

Jo Bertram, strongly denied there was a wider problem with the company’s “very robust” document handling, saying “Public safety is our number one priority. We have no interest in allowing any driver who is not fully licensed and insured on the platform.”

But Uber admitted a member of its staff approved the fake Freecover document even though the insurer on the letterhead does not exist.

  Black cab drivers in London protest
        London cab drivers protest.

Despite admitting to the mistake of approving the Freecover insurance, Uber has de-activated the whistleblower from its system and reported him to TfL and the police.

The driver, who asked not to be named, said Uber appeared to be trying to “shoot the messenger” and said he was acting in the wider public interest. He stressed he had genuine insurance in place when he posted the fake document.

“We have demonstrated you can take a job on a fake document but I had genuine insurance,” he said. “It is absurd and uncalled for.”

Uber said its failure to spot the fake document was “a unique situation triggered by a deliberate attempt to try and cheat the system”. But it said it shouldn’t have happened and the company was taking the situation seriously.

A spokesperson for Uber said "The fake document was checked and approved but it was just a case of human error. The team involved has been spoken to, to ensure our high level of practice is maintained at all times." 

The company said it would reduce the number of insurance companies drivers can use in the UK, to help prevent fraud.

Uber said on Friday it had a “backstop” insurance policy that would cover customers if a driver had an accident without insurance. However, it said, this did not exempt drivers from having their own insurance policy which was required by law and the terms of their private hire licence.

Editorial Comment:

Uber's Jo Bertram stated clearly in the video interview that a driver could not be authorised with fake documents, but after checking, this was indeed the case.

She also said that drivers who bring up concerns would not be penalised in anyway and yet, the undercover driver in this case has now been deactivated from the Uber platform.  

How can anyone believe a word that comes out of this woman's mouth?

We have been informed that Helen Chapman has been officially contacted regarding this very serious issue. We now wait for the reply.


TfL To Sell More PH Licenses, As Government Grant Cut.... By Jim Thomas.

Funding for Transport for London has been cut as part of a £545m programme of asset sales and budget reductions at the DfT ordered by the chancellor, George Osborne.

The lion’s share – £345m – will be met by the Department selling its share in the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership, which owns land north of King’s Cross station. 

The remainder comprises:  

  • £124m of reduced contingency held by the Department

  • £31m grant reduction to TfL 

  • £23m recovered from expected underspend this year in the Cycling City Ambition Programme (the DfT awarded £114m over three years to eight cities last November) 

  • £16m underspend in the Regional Air Connectivity Fund

  • £5m underspend on the Station Commercial Projects Facility

  • £1m underspend on the Sheffield tram-train project

On the Cycling City grant cut, a DfT spokesman said: “The savings announced reflect the funding requested by the participating cities this year.”

Osborne announced £4.5bn of measures to cut public debt. Further cuts will be announced in next month’s Budget.

The blow from the cut in TfLs grant should be softened, by the increased sale in new private hire licenses. Income from new driver and vehicle licence applications could add an approximate £20m to TfLs coffers. 

American smartphone app Über expect to expand their fleet to 42,000 mobiles by the end of March 2016. The company is presently expanding at a rate of 1000 next licenses every month.

Last month, we received reports that the NSL passing station in Coulsdon, was refusing to book Taxis for licensing as they needed to concentrate on clearing the backlog of new Prius, clogging the system.

We have now been informed that after complaints from a local Taxi proprietors, the situation has now reverted back to normal. 

A spokesperson for NSL said the decision not to accept Taxi bookings was made by TfL.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Boris Told Leave Uber Alone By David Cameron


WHY did Boris Johnson, staunch defender of the black cab trade, soften his line on Uber at the London Assembly last month? 

Previously he’d criticised the “excessively bumptious” US private hire firm that, with its technology, was destroying the good old black cab. But then last month Boris said the “free market” and “consumer choice” meant cab drivers would have to accept the rise of Uber. What changed?

Motoring around town last night, we got chatting to our black-cab driver Wayne, who mentioned a conversation that he’d had with his mate Grant. Grant happens to be Grant Davis, chairman of the London Cab Drivers’ Club and a lunch companion of one Boris Johnson, whom he updates on the black cab situation around City Hall.

Over their cheese and pickle last week, Boris apparently told Grant, who told Wayne who told The Londoner, that he’d been personally told by David Cameron to leave Uber alone.

So why this unusual assertion of authority? The chat in the cabbies’ rests is that Dave’s good mate is Steve Hilton. And Steve’s trouble-and-strife Rachel Whetstone, also a family friend, happens to be Uber’s newly appointed UK.

Steve Hilton and Rachel Whetstone linked to David Cameron since 1995.

Another Uber Driver, looking at his SatNav instead of the road!

    Source: Evening Standard 11th June 2015 Page 18 

AddVan In Flash Demo At The Mansion House, harassed By Police.

Last night the UCG joined forces with the LTDA in a highly visable operation, designed to highlight the fact that Uber are playing the system by not paying UK tax. 

The AddVan driven by Steve McNamara and Mike Calvey of the LTDA had a secret weapon in the form of Mike Fitz and his legendary drum. 

After hearing that George Osbourne would be with his chums at the mansion house, the idea was to circle the area p, letting everyone know the situation regarding Uber's controversial tax attitude. 

But again, this peaceful demonstration became subject to political harassment. First, police officers told the van to keep moving, but then a shadowy figure in an evening suit told the driver if they came back, he would get the police to stop them. 

Below is the article of today's BBC news webpage. 

Black-cab drivers in London have started a poster campaign aimed at highlighting their struggle with app-based taxi service Uber.

Taxis and billboards across the capital have been daubed with posters claiming that Uber does not pay tax in the UK.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) said the campaign is to "highlight what we are up against".

But Uber said the facts in the posters were "simply wrong" and that it complied with tax rules.

The posters depict Uber's senior vice president of policy and strategy Rachel Whetstone and Prime Minister David Cameron, with whom she is friends, beside a picture of Chancellor George Osborne - claiming that Uber pays no tax in the UK.

A fleet of taxis covered in the posters lined up in protest outside Mansion House in the City of London, where Mr Osborne was speaking on Wednesday night. 

The campaign will initially feature on 250 cabs and three advertising vans as well as being displayed on more than 25 digital sites across London. 

"These ads are not anti-Uber," Steve McNamara, general secretary of the LTDA told the BBC.

"The campaign is designed to highlight that the lobbying arm of Uber, a $50bn US company, has its tentacles embedded deep within Whitehall.

"The irony is that UK tax payers are subsidising Uber, a company that pays no tax in the UK, through tax credits and other DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) benefits paid to Uber drivers earning less than minimum wage."

Uber said in response: "The campaign is simply incorrect. We pay taxes in every country we operate in and comply with all local and international tax laws, this includes the UK." 

"A lot of our growth is driven by referrals from drivers. The drivers recommend the job to their friends because they love working on the Uber platform."

Last year, Uber's tax affairs were referred to HMRC by Transport for London following a complaint from Labour MP Margaret Hodge that it was opting out of the UK tax regime.

Its European head office is in the Netherlands.

Many consumers like the convenience and affordability offered by Uber but cab firms in many cities feel aggrieved that it is not subject to the same stringent regulations as them.

Uber has faced a series of bans in cities across the world. There have also been questions about how adequate its driver checks are and last month, it was the victim of a hacking attack.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

First Reply Re Letters To Demonstrating Drivers From TfL.

I recently copied my MP into an earlier email concerning the level of harassment from TfL directed at the demo starting London Taxi drivers. 

Dear sir or madam
Your department has recently sent out letters to drivers involved in a peaceful demonstration with accusations that they were displaying unauthorised signs. 

While on the demo, with light off and seatbelt on, these vehicles were not inservice and were being used in a social domestic capacity. 

The current law allows both Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles, to be used for social and domestic use. 

While these vehicles are being used for a purpose other than as licensed Taxis of Private Hire Vehicles they should not be limited to what printed material they can carry in or on the vehicle. I am not aware of any restrictions covering social and domestic use.

If I am wrong, could you please direct me to the appropriate regulation or legislation?

Also, it has been pointed out that no photographic evidence accompanied these letters. How can we be sure the right vehicle drivers/owners have been contacted. 

Some drivers who received these letters have said they had no unauthorised signage on the day.

Do you have photographic evidence for all letters sent out?

I await your reply 

James Thomas
Editor Taxi Leaks Taxi Blog.  

Gareth Thomas has always shown an interest in our trade, and will be a candidate for Mayor in 2016.

Dear James Thomas,


Thank you for copying me into your email to TfL (Transport for London) regarding letters sent out to drivers by TfL after a demonstration. I was concerned to read about the matters that you raised. 


I have now written to senior officials at TfL to pass on the issues that you raised, and to ask for their response. I have asked to be copied into any response sent out to you on this matter. I will contact you again when I hear back from them.


I trust this is of some assistance.


Yours sincerely,


Gareth Thomas MP (Harrow West)

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA