Chelsea Pensioner Mike Smith (68) will be swapping his scarlet uniform for a red jumpsuit when he joins two WWII heroes on a charity parachute jump this week.
The intrepid veterans are skydiving on Thursday (August 10, weather permitting) with the Red Devils at Old Sarum airfield, near Salisbury.
Remarkably, this will be Chelsea Pensioner Mike Smith’s 100th parachute jump.
Mike said: “I am very excited to be taking part in this jump as it is 23 years since my last one! This will be an extra special experience to be at the home of the Red Devils Parachute Team and to jump with the WWII Veterans will be an honour.”
Mike completed his first seven parachute jumps at the Joint Services Parachute Centre while he was serving in the Royal Corps of Transport. He has lived at the Royal Hospital Chelsea since January 2016.
Last year, WWII veterans Fred Glover and Ted Pieri parachuted into the Merville Battery in Northern France.
For Fred, this was 72 years after a blighted mission to land within its confines during the D-Day mission.
Fred was a member of ‘A Company’ of the 9th Battalion, tasked with entering the Battery in glider planes. His glider was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed into an orchard outside of the Battery and he was later captured by a German patrol.
The 91-year old great-grandfather will jump again on Thursday with fellow para and Arnhem veteran, Ted Pieri, also 91.
This will be Ted’s third jump in two years to raise money for the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, who will be driving the war heroes in cabs from London to the Wiltshire airfield. He will be jumping alongside his granddaughter, Hayley (27) from Sidcup and London taxi driver and Taxi Charity committee member, Graham Pike.
Dick Goodwin, Vice-President of the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans said: “We’re often out with the vets collecting funds from the public at mainline London train and tube stations to help to support our work, which includes overseas trips, an annual day at the seaside, lunches for the veterans and extraordinary activities like these parachute jumps.
"We are very grateful to Chelsea Hospital for raising money for us and to Ted and Fred for taking to the skies again."
The Taxi Charity for Military Veterans was voted the nation’s favourite voluntary/ charity project in the 2016 National Lottery Awards.
You can see a video about the charity and the award at www.national-lottery.co.uk/life-changing/project-nlas-london-taxis.
To find out more or to donate to support the charity’s work, visit www.taxicharity.org/donations
The Royal Hospital Chelsea is the home of over 300 Chelsea Pensioners, all who are veterans of the British Army. This year, the Chelsea Pensioners are celebrating 325 years of the Hospital’s existence, making it one of the only heritage sites in the country that is still being utilised for its original purpose.
To find out more or to support the Chelsea Pensioners, visit www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk.
The Red Devils, are the official parachute display team of The Parachute Regiment and the British Army.
Notes for Editors
About Fred Glover
Read a full account of Fred’s D-Day memories at www.pegasusarchive.org/normandy/fred_glover.htm
A history of the battle for the Merville Battery can be read at www.1940.co.uk/acatalog/battle-for-merville-battery.html
See a moving clip of Fred from 2015, visiting Holland with the Taxi Charity, on the theme of ‘freedom’:
About Edward ‘Ted’ Pieri
Ted volunteered for the Royal Army Service Corp in 1943. His company, the 252 division was shortly integrated into the 250 Composite Company 1st Airborne division in the same year.
Ted undertook a motorcycle course in Folkestone in 944 and went to Lincoln as a despatch rider. While at Lincoln, Ted volunteered for parachute training and was awarded his wings. Ted undertook logistic support for Arnhem, and was held in reserve after which he returned to Lincoln before supporting the Allies final moments taking place in Norway. From there, he joined a ship going to Java. While travelling through the Suez Canal, the Japanese surrendered. He was redirected to Haifa in Palestine and spent time in Gaza before the 1st Airborne division was disbanded. He joined the 63 Composite Company, 6th Airborne as a despatch rider in various locations before being discharged in 1947.
Watch a video of Ted and Fred's fundraising skydive with the Red Devils last year:
About the Taxi Charity
The Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, also known as the Taxi Charity, was formed in Fulham in 1948. Its mission back then was to help the war disabled, in their homes and hospitals, throughout London and the home counties, by providing entertainment, outings and much needed specialised equipment. To fund outings, the charity seeks donations from the public and organisations, and relies on volunteer London licensed taxi drivers to provide their taxis and time for free. Over the past years, the charity’s events have been honoured with many guests, including HRH Princess Alexandra, HRH Prince Philip, HRH Duchess of Kent, Sir Douglas Bader, Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns and Lady Suzie Johns, Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC and many celebrities of TV, sport and theatre.
Patrons include Dame Vera Lynn and Joanna Lumley.
About the Royal Hospital Chelsea
Royal Hospital Chelsea, home of the Chelsea Pensioners.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea was founded in 1681 by King Charles II to provide a home for ‘the relief of veterans broken by age or war’. Sir Christopher Wren designed the Royal Hospital Chelsea and it was opened in 1692.
Today the Grade I listed site is still home to 290 Chelsea Pensioners, who are all former soldiers of the British Army.
The Royal Hospital aims to provide the Chelsea Pensioners with a home, comradeship and the very highest standards of care during their advanced years, in recognition of their loyal service to the nation. 2017 marks the 325th anniversary of the Royal Hospital opening its doors to the nation’s veterans.
The Chelsea Pensioners
In their distinctive scarlet uniforms, the Chelsea Pensioners have become icons in London and around the world. They are the living embodiment, as well as a visual reminder, of the Nation’s Covenant with its old soldiers.
Current Chelsea Pensioners include veterans from World War II, Korea, Malaya Peninsular, Borneo, The Falklands, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Kenya and Cyprus. Others may not have served in campaigns, but all understand what it means to be a soldier and the potential sacrifice that it entails.
Anyone who is over 65 and has served as a soldier, who has no dependent spouse or family and who is ‘of good character’ can apply to be a Chelsea Pensioner. On being admitted to live at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, they must either surrender their military pension and any War Disability Pension they may have, and / or make a financial contribution dependent on their means.
Rachel Jones, Press Officer for the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans Tel: 07825 568244
Email: email@example.com Taxi Charity: Dick Goodwin 07941 772264 Graham Pike 07760 316878
Emma Pollock, Media and Communications Manager for the Royal Hospital Chelsea Tel: 020 7881 5283