13th November 2021: a date etched in our minds for over a year, here is the account of what happened and the 12 hours that were filled with one of the most amazing experiences in my time in the ACF!
The day started (it did not dawn until much later) for most of us in our various homes across north and south east London, Kent and Essex at 4am! For Greater London South East Sector ACF (GLSESACF) the PRO and our minibus driver SI Simon Strange met at Sector HQ Blackheath at 6am for the drive over to 7 Company HQ in Tulse Hill where we rendezvoused with the inimitable and indefatigable Major Konstantinious, OC 7 Company. Over much needed coffee and pastries we met up with our 12 cadets from 74 and 71 detachments ready to embark on the trip into the City of London.
Only slightly late and impeded by road closures but helped by our orange vehicle sticker we met up with Lt Katehis and Mitch and Kate from Regional Command PR Team at the bus which we were now able to get the first site of! We were also joined by former Commandant Col Simon Ettinghausen who in his role as marshal was able to assist us with some final queries. When SI Knight and his cadets and colleagues Julie and Callum from COLNES ACF arrived we were all set and awaiting the 11am start of the parade.
The view from the top deck of the bus was already amazing and awe inspiring as we waited at London Wall, this was taste of what was to come. We had our friends from YOU London behind us and SI Knight had provided staff and cadets to walk with them as well. The plan was for half of the cadets to ride the top deck of the bus with staff and the other half to march along the sides with staff, these groups would then swap over for the return leg of the parade after lunch.
At 11am sharp the parade moved off and away from London Wall; nothing could have prepared us for the experience of being atop the bus and being cheered and waved at by literally thousands of people! This was an experience like no other as well as affording a unique view of the City of London from high above the crowds. Highlights included passing the Mansion House where we saluted the new Lord Mayor, the Aldermen and Councillors of the City of London. Here the 33 London Borough Mayors were assembled and we were greeted with gusto by our friend Cllr James Hunt, Mayor of Bexley, a great friend and supporter of the ACF!
We stopped for lunch just outside the City boundaries and after hearing of a few possible glitches caused by protesters at the front of the parade and putting in place some possible contingencies such as everyone being aboard the bus including our YOU London colleagues we moved off for the second half of the parade slightly behind schedule. However the fantastic planning of our hosts enabled us to carry on with no changes with the other half of our party walking alongside the bus and distributing merchandise to the crowds while the morning walkers got to ride on the bus!
We finished the parade at 3pm and due to some great planning by our minibus driver SI Simon Strange we only had a 2 minute walk to Wood Street where he had secured a parking space. However the reality kicked in that the day that we had spent nearly 2 years planning for was over and we had to bid goodbye to our COLNES colleagues who had become firm friends in the course of the day! So the end of the day was tinged with elation, relief and sadness but overwhelmingly satisfaction at a job well done.
All that remained was a return to home stations, from whence we had departed in the dark and thanks to winter time, we returned 12 hours later in the dark as well! This was a memorable day like no other and a massive thank you to all involved; one thing is for sure the adults working on the day and most importantly the cadets participating will never forget the experience of riding on a big green open top bus with their designs on the side on the Lord Mayor's Parade. They can now go home and see it all on BBC1! It does not end their either as Cadets Taylor-Gentles and Law's designs will be presented to them in frames and also hung in the cadet gallery at CTC HQ in Frimley Park for all to see forever!