A great friend, a trusted mentor, a bon vivant
and a sharply-dressed gent
It is a year, almost to the day, since I last saw Roy. It was my last day at London Ambulance Service. Not trusting even our CEO do to the job, Roy delayed one of his early chemo sessions to give the official farewell speech at my leaving do in the boardroom.
As usual, he held the audience in the palm of his hand while he spoke off the cuff, regaling us with tall tales, most of which had Roy in the starring role. He loved the limelight and he was a natural showman. He would have loved the big fuss being made of him today.
At work Roy was no less of a superstar. When Roy said he was passionate about patients, you believed him. He broke all the rules over the years, in the name of better patient care. He often exasperated the rest of us who followed along behind, tidying up after him, and doing the necessary paperwork. But you could never question his motives.He knew more about excellent patient care than anyone, and was known all over London for it. Once we did a survey of hospitals whose contracts we had lost, and asked what they missed about the LAS. One hospital simply replied “Roy Webb”. To many in south-west London, Roy Webb was the LAS.
Last July, we had a managers’ away day which conveniently coincided with Roy’s 60th birthday. Roy turned up in his new Porsche, baseball cap at a rakish angle, grinning from ear to ear. He looked every inch the man who had decided to grow old disgracefully. Roy continued to be the star of the show that evening at a formal dinner in his honour, complete with champagne and birthday cake. Naturally, he lapped up all the attention, and was one of the last to bed.
Two days later was the 7th of July, the London bombings. Roy was the lynchpin of the PTS response. He spent all day running up and down to Gold Control in the boardroom, offering PTS up for anything he thought we could do, then relaying it to us for execution. He was personally responsible for the broad role PTS played on the day, volunteering our ambulances to rescue stranded schoolchildren and elderly people, to get HQ staff home at night and to ferry equipment all over London. He was the one who suggested putting PTS ambulances alongside A&E in the response cells we set up.
He worked over 14 hours straight that day, finally leaving for home at almost eleven o’clock at night. It was for these actions, and many more like them, that Roy was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.
Outside work, he was a great friend. Most of all I will remember Roy’s tremendous support when my own father died: Roy was in constant contact, sending me daily, sometimes hourly, text messages, helping to get me through the tough days.
I will always remember Roy’s infectious laugh – he somehow managed to sound roguish and sheepish at the same time.
I will also remember Roy Webb, the Michael Caine impersonator – recently Roy chose a Mini as his new car just so he could pretend he was starring in a remake of The Italian Job. His favourite line was “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” and he worked it into every conversation. He even took a photo of it at Buckingham Palace the day he got his MBE.
I will remember Roy as the ultimate sharp-dressed gentleman, his taste in clothing getting more and more expensive and exquisite as the years progressed. He wasn't above doing what it took to hide the baldness, though.
But most of all I will remember Roy’s resolutely upbeat and optimistic take on life. He wrote to me a few months ago telling me how he was getting on. He quoted his doctor who had said “Roy, you know I can’t make you better” to which Roy’s response was “But you can make me better than today”.
The Roy Webb Appreciation Society has a worldwide membership. Sue’s daughter Jo, who also lives here in Melbourne, will be lighting a candle for Roy round about now, to commemorate his life. As for the rest of us here who knew and loved Roy, we will be marking the occasion exactly as Roy would have wished. We have booked a table at an expensive restaurant. We will get all dressed up in our designer gear. We will order a ridiculously expensive bottle of red wine. And as the sun sets across the bay, we will raise our glasses and toast the most wonderful bloke in the world.
Goodbye, mate – we will miss you.