Volunteer London cab drivers from the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans were delighted to offer support to the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, by driving some of their members to the State Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II, on Monday 19 September.
The Taxi Charity chairman, Brian Heffernan, committee member Simon Hawes, and cab drivers Jason Clauson and Jon Southcott were on hand to drive veterans and serving personnel, from the Union Jack Club to both the rehearsals and the funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Heffernan said, “It was an honour and a privilege to offer support to the VC and GC Association. Over four days, we drove the Association members to view Her Majesty’s coffin on Friday, to the funeral rehearsal on Saturday, to a private luncheon in Chelsea on Sunday and then to the State Funeral on Monday. It is certainly a great feeling to think that I played a small part in bringing some of Her Majesty’s highly decorated soldiers to say a final farewell to their Queen.”
Rebecca Maciejewska, Chief Executive of The VC and GC Association, said, "The Victoria Cross (VC) and George Cross (GC) Association is immensely grateful to the Taxi Charity for the way your wonderful, selfless drivers enabled our members to get to rehearsals and to Her late Majesty's funeral itself. Without your help, those more elderly and less mobile would have found it very difficult to take up their late Patron's invitation to attend her funeral. We are very, very thankful."
Among the group of highly decorated men that the Taxi Charity drove to the rehearsal and the funeral were Keith Payne VC AM, DSC (USA), Johnson Beharry VC, Willie Apiata VC, Tony Gledhill GC and Peter Norton GC.
Mr. Keith Payne VC, AM, DSC (USA)
Keith Payne's VC was awarded for his actions during the Vietnam War. In 1969, in Kontum Province, Warrant Officer Payne was Commanding 212th Company of 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion, when the battalion was attacked by a North Vietnamese force of superior strength. Directly exposing himself to the enemy's fire, he temporarily held off the assaults by alternately firing his weapon and running from position to position collecting grenades and throwing them at the assaulting enemy. His sustained and heroic personal efforts in this action were outstanding and undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his soldiers and several of his fellow advisors. Aged 89, he is the last living Australian recipient of the original ‘Imperial’ Victoria Cross.
CSgt Johnson Beharry VC
Johnson Beharry is a soldier in the British Army, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving members of his unit from ambushes on 1st May and again on 11th June in 2004, at Al-Amarah, Iraq . His citation reads: ‘Private Beharry carried out two individual acts of great heroism by which he saved the lives of his comrades. Both were in direct face of the enemy, under intense fire, at great personal risk to himself (one leading to him sustaining very serious injuries). His valour is worthy of the highest recognition.
Willie Apiata VC
Willie Apiata VC was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during a patrol in Afghanistan in 2004. After an attack, and in total disregard of his own safety, he carried a fellow soldier with life-threatening injuries to a position where he would be able to receive medical attention. A subsequent medical assessment confirmed that the wounded Corporal would probably have died of blood loss and shock, had it not been for Lance Corporal Apiata’s selflessly courageous act in carrying him back to the main Troop lines, to receive the immediate treatment he needed.
Tony Gledhill GC
Constable Tony Gledhill chased five suspects in a car, at speeds of up to 80 miles an hour, while the bandits tried to ambush the police vehicle and no less than 15 shots were fired using a sawn-off shotgun and revolvers. After the car crashed into a lorry, the occupants immediately jumped out and one held a pistol to Gledhill’s head before attempting to make his escape with Gledhill holding on the car window and being dragged along the road. The car crashed and Gledhill and fellow officer McFall were able to overpower the man and take his weapon. Both Gledhill and McFall received injuries during the sustained firearm attack and from the early stages knew the risks they ran of being killed or seriously injured.
Major Peter Norton GC
Major Peter Norton received a GC for his bravery in the Al Bayaa District near Baghdad, in 2005. Following an attack on a three-vehicle patrol by a massive command-initiated, improvised explosive device, a team, commanded by Norton, was taken immediately to the scene and faced the complete destruction of a patrol vehicle and the deaths of four United States personnel. With a complete understanding of the potential hazard to himself and knowing that the insurgents had used secondary devices before, Norton went forward alone to confirm whether an improvised explosive device was present. A short while later, an explosion occurred and Norton sustained a traumatic amputation of his left leg and suffered serious blast and fragmentation injuries to his right leg, arms and lower abdomen.
There is a commonly held misconception that the VC is the highest award for bravery and stands alone in that regard. As HM The Queen made clear in September of 2019, the two awards, the VC and the GC, are of equal standing.