New book tells story of Norfolk’s East Coast Truckers’ convoy

It is the convoy of smiles. An annual event which has touched the hearts of the people of Norfolk for more than a quarter of a century.

And it is one of the rare occasions when people gather on the side of the road, on bridges and seek out viewing spots to wait patiently and then wave at lorries sounding their horns.

They may even cause the odd delay but nobody minds that – this is the East Coast Truckers Convoy with their precious cargo of children.

More than 1,700 trucks have carried more than 1,700 boys and girls a total of 12,000 miles since the convoys started 25 years ago.

This wonderful, and now world famous, event has become part of our lives, but who are these truckers and how did it all come about?

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The story is told in a new book, written by the founder, Glenn Johnson, and others, and edited by the Norfolk author and historian Sheila Hutchinson.

Glenn and his friends have a raw passion about the charity set up to help children with special needs. Now there are other events, such as Christmas parties, for the youngsters and they help them and their families in many different ways.

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But it is the convoy that links all these truckers and their supporters together and it has become a Sunday in August which thousands of people look forward to.

As chairman Rob Billman says: 'This book is a snapshot of 25 years of blood, sweat, tears and laughter.

'It is based on the accounts and memories of one man and is enhanced by the experiences shared by others.'

Mr Billman points out that since the forming of the charity they have put together more outings for disadvantaged children, provided more specialist equipment and delivered more smiles than anyone could have imagined.

It was the controversial CB (citizen band) radios which brought the truckers together in the first place. The group was formed following a meeting at the old Norfolk Dumpling on the Norwich Market site.

The first charity event was a sponsored pull of an HGV round Norwich ring road. Money raised paid for portable colour TVs at the maternity unit at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

Various other events took place before the first convoy proper on Sunday, August 29, 1986, when 22 highly-polished trucks, along with their equally polished owners and families, jammed into a small cul-de-sac to take youngsters from Repton House, off St Faith's Road, Norwich, to a new venue for the day – Pleasurewood Hills. The following year, the size of the convoy had doubled and it had permission to leave from the old car park on Castle Plain – now Castle Mall.

'Try to imagine organising that lot every year – and with such precious young passengers on board,' says Mr Johnson. 'I have prided myself on selecting a format which would have seen us, on the day of the convoy, as absolute professionals,' he adds.

'The trucks must be presented clean, polished and roadworthy and, with a few exceptions, the trucks are a credit to the drivers, the convoy and the trucking industry,' he says.

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