OUR FORMER PRESIDENT
Harry Joel MBE (1924 - 2018)
World War II
Henry Nathaniel Joel was born in Broadwick Street in London's Soho in 1924.
At the outbreak of WWII, Harry felt he had to do something to help his country. He was too young to join the armed forces but was young and fit and he knew he could help somewhere.
Harry jumped at the chance of joining the Home Guard and became a bicycle messenger, working from HQ in Clapton.
In 1943, at 19 years of age, Harry was called up to join the Royal Navy and was very soon in basic training in North Wales.
After this he was posted to Chatham and then on to Gillingham Royal Naval Hospital as Medical Berth Attendant.
After a short while at Gillingham he was given orders to join his ship, HMS Dittany, and Harry sailed by troopship to Nova Scotia. During the journey across the Atlantic and disregarding the U Boat menace, Harry became deeply involved in his work as the troopship was carrying seriously injured troops away for care and convalescence.
Joining his ship in Nova Scotia, Harry discovered that he was in charge of a two berth sick bay and that HMS Dittany was to sail back across the Atlantic to Gibraltar and go on U Boat Detection and Destroying duties. Harry's ship was responsible for sinking at least one enemy submarine and after picking up enemy survivors, those who required it, were put into his charge for treatment.
Harry was then posted to the Royal Naval Hospital at Trincamalee, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Here wounded and seriously injured troops were brought from the vicious fighting in the Far East. Thankfully, WWII was drawing to a close but Harry stayed in Ceylon until he was posted back to Chatham and finally demobbed in 1946.
After The War
Harry then joined the Merchant Navy as a Medical Officer serving with the Anglo Saxon Petroleum Company, journeying again across the Atlantic, but this time on calmer waters.
In 1948 Harry met Frances, the lady who was to become his wife; marrying in 1951, they remained blissfully happy. Harry recalls his dear wife and says that behind every successful man is the love and support of a truly wonderful woman.
After a stint at his mum and dad's pub, Harry passed out as a London cab driver in 1955. Harry loved the job and never refused to take a fare as he always believed that the small jobs could bring about a big job and he worked that way throughout his career.
The Taxi Charity
Harry had known about the LTBAFWD even before he became a cabbie as his dad was great friends with Stan Davies, the first Hononary Chairman. Harry asked Stan if he could help and he was soon involved in the thick of the organisation.
Harry knew that the LTBAFWD needed the support of the cab trade. Harry set about organising ways of achieving exposure and good publicity for the LTBAFWD to a largely unbeknown world by highlighting the plight of our war disabled veterans and demonstrating to a grateful public how their help and support for these heroes could make life that much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Harry's tireless work was noted by many cab drivers who volunteered in droves to help, and very soon a waiting list had to be implemented.
His guidance to the committee was exemplary, with royalty, stars of stage and screen and sportsmen and women all ready to help where and when they could. He carried the mantle of Hononary Chairman until being made Life Long President in 2006.
Harry was also on the Board of Governors of the Royal Star & Garter Home in Richmond and was awarded an MBE in 1981.
Retiring from cab driving in 2000, Harry is still to this day guiding the LTBAFWD to achieve the aims and wishes so commendably initiated by those London taxi drivers who wanted to put their effort into making the lives of war disabled men and women that much more enjoyable.
When asked about his ceaseless work for the LTBAFWD Harry immediately referred to his dear late wife Frances, and his daughter Lee and his grandchildren Alex, Ben and Natalie and said, "They are my life, but as long as there is conflict and war around this world, there is a need for organisations such as the LTBAFWD and the work we do".