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500 Not Out, TAXI!

For the five hundredth edition, TAXI spoke to five veterans whose combined age is 500 about what London cabbies mean to them.

Volunteer London Cabbies form lifelong friendships with the veterans they support – TAXI talked to five WWII veterans, three aged 102, one who is 99 and a youngster of only 95, to ask what these cabbies mean to them.

Ray Whitwell, 102

“Unlike most of the veterans supported by the Taxi Charity who live in the Southeast, I live in North Yorkshire. But my location is no problem for my regular driver Seb Philp. On the anniversary of D-Day in June this year, the charity was spending the weekend in the Hilton at East Midlands, going on a steam train on the Saturday and then watching the live opening of the new British Normandy Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum on the Sunday. Seb knew this was something that I wouldn’t want to miss so he drove from London to the hotel and then he drove up to North Yorkshire to pick me and my daughter up. After a marvellous weekend he got back in his cab and drove us all the way home again. Seb has become a great friend and I am so grateful for everything he does for me and the other veterans.”

Ron Johnson, 99

“I have only great things to say about the Taxi Charity volunteer cabbies. The drivers always take such care of us old boys, every step of the way, I’m looked after so well. I’ve been with the charity to Arnhem and Normandy on their organised trips many times. My regular driver is Peter Carey who is a super guy. Only this week he came from his home in London to pick me up from my home near Swindon to attend veteran Mike Brown’s commemoration service in Tring. Peter is now a great friend and a very caring companion on the charity trips.”

Major Edwin ‘Ted’ Hunt MVO, 102

“Cabbie Mike Hughes is my regular driver for charity events, but he also helps me get me from A to B at other times of the year. When I went to get my Coronavirus injections, he took me to the village hall and brought me home again on both occasions. He even organised for me to safely commemorate D-Day at the local war memorial in the middle of the pandemic for which I am eternally grateful. I constantly tease him about his Welsh heritage and his bad jokes, but he is an incredibly generous man who I am proud to call a friend.”

Jeff Haward MM, 102

“For many years, my regular driver was my good friend and fellow Kent resident, cabbie Gary Mankelow. More recently, Covid has meant that I haven’t been out with the charity as much. My last trip with them was to a lovely pub in Faversham for lunch with two other veterans to meet with an ITV film crew for a piece about Remembrance Sunday. My driver that day was charity volunteer Gillian Concannon, and she really did look after me and my carer Doreen. Nothing was too much trouble for her – from getting me and my wheelchair into the taxi, making sure we were both comfortable, keeping us entertained on the journey to Faversham, fetching me drinks from the bar and ensuring we got home safely. These cabbies are a truly amazing bunch of boys and girls.”

Harry Rawlins, 95

“I have been involved with the Taxi Charity for three or four years and have met so many great volunteer cabbies. My first trip was to Normandy and my driver was Karl James. I can’t tell you how well I was looked after, and that excellent care has continued with every volunteer cabbie who has been my driver since. Ron Geraghty drove me on a trip to Holland, where I was in the war. He is such a good chap. As I get older, I’m getting ‘dodderier’, and nothing was too much trouble for him. Recently I have received amazing support from cabbie Ian Parsons, the Chairman of the charity, and his wife Anne. They often take me out for lunch, spoiled me on my birthday and incredibly gave up their own day together to take me out on Christmas Day last year. During the pandemic they formed a bubble with me, phoned me regularly and arranged online shopping and I couldn’t be in better hands – they are a real lifeline. The Taxi Charity is so very important to me, and I wrote this poem about them.”

It was well worth being shot at to

join this happy band

The Taxi Drivers Charity the finest

in the land

It’s for military veterans who’ve

come back from the wars

They’d been fighting overseas to

keep them from our shores

Some of these old veterans are

getting old and frail

But with their berets and medals

they still tell their tale

They’re taken to old battlefields to

remember former friends

They pause and reflect on how

suddenly life ends

With zimmer frames, rollators and

walking sticks they go

The taxi drivers caring hand will

regulate the flow

So, here’s to all the taxi drivers and

the helpers too

It’s almost a tradition and it’s all

thanks to you


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