Chairman's Blog: 2019 Review



Last year was by far the busiest and most varied in our history. A year punctuated by historic and landmark anniversaries, ones which contained sombre, but also many uplifting moments.


Twelve unforgettable months that brought us widespread media attention. There were many highlights, some of which are included below.


January


Taxi Charity AGM



The charity kickstarted its year on 8 January with the AGM, held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. This meeting was attended by all committee members, and the busy year ahead was discussed in detail.



February


London Ex-Boxers Association Annual Award Luncheon


On 17 February, five veterans joined Taxi Charity supporters and committee members at the London Ex-Boxers Association Annual Award Luncheon at the Grand Connaught Rooms. In recent years we have formed a close relationship with LEBA who continue to support us and we look forward to working with them in the coming years.


Collectors & Supporters Lunch, RAF Club



Our annual Collectors & Supporters Lunch was held on 21 February at the RAF Club in Piccadilly. This is our opportunity to thank our veteran collectors for their hard work and also our supporters for their generous donations and various fundraising initiatives. Read more...



March


D-Day Darlings Concert



On 1 March, Britain’s Got Talent finalists, The D-Day Darlings, invited veterans to a special concert at the Union Chapel in Highbury. The occasion was to perform their recently released debut album, I’ll Remember You.


The Taxi Charity, had previously organised transportation for veterans to appear with The D-Day Darlings at both the semi-final and final stages of BGT.


It was a magical night for the veterans, transporting them back to the 1940s. And there wasn't a dry eye in the house when the veterans were invited on stage to join the Darlings for their final song of the evening: a wonderful rendition of We’ll Meet Again. Read more...


North Cheam Veterans Lunch


On 6 March, veterans enjoyed a London-themed lunch at North Cheam Sports & Social Club and afterwards were entertained by the club’s regular band. The free event was hosted by our generous supporters, Tony and Sue Millard.


Normandy Recce Trips



Several planning trips to Normandy were required, particularly as the date of our D-Day 75 trip got closer. During our recce trip from 5 to 7 March, we travelled to Normandy with WWII veterans Bill Gladden, Frank Pendergast and Fred Glover to attend a press conference at Pegasus Bridge Museum to publicise our forthcoming trip. On our final day, the veterans took part in a Q&A session with the pupils from College St Louis in Cabourg. View more photos...



April


Variety Show


On 7 April, veterans were invited to the Charing Cross Theatre for a Taxis Talent Show, organised by committee member Frances Wyhowska. An afternoon of variety and fun was enjoyed by all, and part of the proceeds benefitted the Taxi Charity.


Many thanks to special guest star Maureen Lipman CBE, Frances Wyhowska, Vaughan Williams, Jon Cox, Joe Cartwright and Grant Davis (editor of The Badge newspaper), who compered the event.


Navy veterans trip to Portsmouth



Over the last year, we have formed a close working partnership with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC). During April, the RNRMC invited 18 Royal Navy veterans to Portsmouth for a three-day visit of the city and surrounding area.


Highlights of the trip included lunch at Whale Island in the Wardroom of HMS Excellent, a visit to the Historic Dockyard and a tour of Southwick House, the former D-Day headquarters and the original D-Day Map Room. Read more...



May


Golf Day Fundraiser



On 3 May, our annual fundraising golf day was held at Cuddington Golf Club, Surrey, which raised just over £10,000. Veterans were invited to join the golf teams during the day and later enjoyed an evening meal with the players. Once again, this event was successfully organised by committee member Dennis Hayes.


Netherlands - Dutch Liberation Commemorations

For many World War II veterans, our visit to the Netherlands during early May (2 - 6 May) to mark the anniversary of Dutch Liberation is the highlight of their year. On this occasion, we escorted 35 veterans.


Our five-day stay began with a visit to the Dutch Royal Marine Barracks in Rotterdam. Our itinerary included opportunities for veterans to pay respects to their fallen comrades, with visits to war cemeteries at Arnhem-Oosterbeek, Heteren and Reichswald Forest in Germany.


Since 2012, the Taxi Charity has been bringing veterans to Wageningen to enjoy the nation’s Liberation Day celebrations and participate in its centrepiece event - the Liberation Parade.


Our veterans were granted special permission to be carried in two 16-seater golf buggies and two London taxis, and led the parade which contained a wide variety of military vehicles.


The convoy slowly wound its way along the 5 km route whilst our veterans waved to the cheering crowds lining the streets. Many onlookers handed veterans flowers and thanked them for liberating their country. It was a remarkable and uplifting occasion. Read more...


Berlin Airlift 70th Anniversary



Later that month (10 - 13 May), we took six RAF veterans to Berlin to attend an anniversary service at Tempelhof Memorial Park to mark 70 years since the end of the Berlin Airlift. This was followed by a reception with the Mayor of Berlin and VIP guests from the six nations who supported the Airlift.


The visit to Berlin was a completely new venture for our charity, and included a visit to the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie. Read more...



June


Normandy D-Day 75



6 June 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, and our week-long trip to Normandy (3 - 8 June) was the culmination of over a year’s planning and preparation. For this historic visit, our 32-taxi convoy transported thirty-five World War II veterans - most of whom fought in Normandy - plus carers, medics, mechanics, special guests and drivers.


Road closures and high levels of security provided some challenging moments. However, our motorcycle escort ensured we kept to our planned itinerary.


The many highlights included a reception at Caen Town Hall on 4 June, hosted by the Mayor, followed by lunch and entertainment, after which pupils from a local primary school handed out thank-you gifts to the veterans.


The next day we attended a Remembrance Service at Pegasus Bridge Museum. This was followed by the presentation of Legion d’Honneur medals, and later that afternoon at Sannerville we watched a mass parachute drop.


On 6 June, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we attended a remembrance service at Ranville Cemetery and later had lunch inside the village hall at Amfreville. To the delight of all, we were later joined by over 200 children from the local school who sang to the veterans and lined the street as our convoy of taxis left.


On our final day, we travelled to Sword Beach, where the veterans were welcomed by the local mayor and after lunch had a Q&A session with INSA college students. Read more...


Worthing



Every year since its formation in 1948, the Taxi Charity has organised a summer day trip to Worthing, including a much welcome en-route break for refreshments laid on by the villagers of South Holmwood.


18 June saw over 100 taxis transport veterans once again to the village and then onward to Worthing Pier for lunch and musical entertainment in the Pavilion.


We were very happy, our patron, Lady Suzy Johns, was among the special guests able to join us for this, our 71st trip. View photo gallery...


Hever Castle



On 22 June, the Taxi Charity transported over 30 veterans to Hever Castle as part of the Home Front event. Home Guard re-enactors and members of the public lined the route to greet our veterans. Following refreshments, everyone was treated to a performance of war time songs by The Fifinellas, which quickly developed into an enthusiastic singalong. Read more...



July


Fundraising Skydive



On 9 July at Old Sarum Aerodrome, Taxi Charity committee wives, Anne Parsons and Susy Goodwin, completed their long-awaited tandem skydives with The Red Devils.


The jump was postponed from the original date of 1 May due to low cloud and high winds, resulting in a ten-week delay. However, the extra time allowed them to gain further funds and they have raised, in total, a staggering £7,000. Read more...


Waterloo Uncovered



In July, we were pleased to once again join forces with Waterloo Uncovered. With help from professional archaeologists and historians, this wonderful charity organises archaeological digs around the battlefield site of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo.


The charity involves British veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other battle-related injuries. Archaeology offers a real vocational experience and has been proven to help recovery from injury. A number of those who have participated in the excavations have carried on with archaeology or been inspired back into education, helping support their recovery, welfare and return to civilian life


For the past two years the Taxi Charity has supported Waterloo Uncovered by escorting veterans from London to Belgium in taxis and we look forward to working with them again in the future. Visit waterloouncovered.com...



August


Jeff & George's Joint 100th Birthday Party



We hosted a very special lunch at the Union Jack Club on 15 August to celebrate World War II veterans Jeff Haward and George Parsons' 100th birthdays. They were joined by fellow veterans, family members, friends and their volunteer taxi drivers. We were delighted our patron, Vice-Admiral Sir Adrian Johns, was able to join us for this special day.


Our guests also included photographer Glyn Dewis, who 3945 Portraits Project seeks to capture portraits of as many of our remaining UK-based WWII veterans as is feasibly possible.


Furthermore, in 2020, he will be actively fundraising for the Taxi Charity and the Veterans’ Charity. We thank Glyn for choosing us and wish him well with his various ventures.


Our double century party attracted plenty of media attention too, including ITV News and Forces TV.


"The Taxi Charity is the best there is," said Jeff Haward during an interview with Forces TV. "The way they look after the veterans. They take us on all sorts of trips, including France and the Netherlands. It’s lovely. They really look after us."



September


Flying Day


The Flying Day we participate in at Damyn’s Hall Aerodrome offers a chance for younger veterans to enjoy flying experiences. On 17 September, 22 veterans took 28 flights in five planes. As with Waterloo Uncovered, this was the second year of our involvement as we search for events that will be of greater interest and more suited to younger veterans.


Wandeltocht



Since 2016, the Taxi Charity has escorted veterans to Oosterbeek, near Arnhem, to attend Wandeltocht, the annual Airborne March – the largest one-day march in the world. Attracting some 35,000 participants, the registration fees help Allied soldiers and their surviving dependants participate in the Arnhem commemorations later in September.


As usual, the Dutch hospitality meant veterans were looked after impeccably throughout their stay and the occasion evoked similar reactions to the Liberation Day Parade, with marchers in their thousands waving and cheering the veterans as they passed by their private viewing area.


75th Anniversary of Battle of Arnhem



This year marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem and the Taxi Charity made a special effort to ensure we escorted as many veterans who participated in Operation Market Garden as possible.


Many events had been organised to mark this historic occasion. Veterans were guests of honour at a ceremony on Ginkel Heath and watched a parachute display by the Red Devils followed by a mass parachute drop.


Our veterans attended a commemorative service at Eusebius Church in Arnhem followed by an evening concert of reflection and celebration beside the historic John Frost Bridge.

With record crowds estimated at 12,000 persons, they also attended the annual Airborne Memorial Service at Arnhem-Oosterbeek War Cemetery.


At an evening Reception at the Hartenstein Airborne Museum, hosted by UK Ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Wilson CMG, and the Colonel Commandant of The Parachute Regiment, Lt. Gen. Sir John Lorimer KCB DSO MBE, the veterans were introduced to HRH The Prince of Wales.


Taxi Charity vice president Dick Goodwin and I were also honoured to meet HRH, which provided us with the opportunity to speak about the work of the Taxi Charity.




October


3945 Portraits Project



Photographer Glyn Dewis is honouring our surviving World War II veterans by photographing as many of them as possible. On 19 October, the Taxi Charity transported several WWII veterans to join Glyn for the official opening of his 3945 Portraits Project Exhibition at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock.


As well as providing each veteran with a classic, timeless portrait for them and their family to treasure, Glyn is producing a book containing his collection of portraits which will be published next year.


Glyn also aims to raise £50,000 when he embarks on a sponsored skydive this summer, the proceeds of which will be split equally between the Taxi Charity and the Veterans’ Charity. Visit www.3945portraits.com.



November


Veterans interviewed at Imperial War Museum



On 1 November, veterans joined the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity at the Imperial War Museum. They were there to participate in a short film, produced by the RNRMC, concerning the plight of many veterans who live alone and are left isolated. They also wanted to include in their documentary the strong relationship between the veterans and our volunteer London taxi drivers.


Loneliness within the veteran community is certainly something the Taxi Charity is aware of, and we realise the importance of the social gatherings we organise for them. Read more...


Knightsbridge Barracks



On 20 November, volunteer drivers escorted veterans to Knightsbridge Barracks, home of the Household Cavalry. The veterans and drivers were invited to watch the departure of the Queen’s Guard, and then visited the saddlery and the farrier. View more photos...



December


RNRMC Carol Service


On 2 December, I joined Royal Navy veterans at St Martin-in-the-Fields for the Admiralty Service and afterwards enjoyed refreshments in the cavernous Crypt below. The event was organised by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.


Veterans Christmas Lunch at Millwall FC



On 5 December, we held our annual veterans Christmas lunch at Millwall FC. This large venue enables us to invite our many sponsors and supporters including representatives from various taxi trade organisations to join the veterans in the festivities.


Highlights of the day included a giant cheque (in every sense) for £18,000 which was presented to the Taxi Charity from the Cabbies Do Kilimanjaro team, Christmas carols sung by pupils from a local school, which delighted all 260 guests in attendance, and the presentation of the Dutch Liberation Medal to WWII veteran Tom Schaffer by our special guest Lieutenant Colonel Rob Arts. Read more...


ABF Carol Service


On 10 December, my wife, Anne, and I joined veterans to attend the Army Carol Service in the Chapel of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. After the service we were honoured to meet HRH The Countess of Wessex at a reception in the Great Hall. The ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, who this year marked their 75th anniversary, organised the event.


Final Collection of 2019



2019 was another very busy year for our veteran collectors, who have become a familiar sight at London’s mainline and underground stations. With medals gleaming, they employ their wit and charm to gently persuade the public to part with a few coins – and sometimes notes! They have been doing so since our collections began 2011, and the funds they raise remain by far our largest source of revenue.


So, I would like to express our thanks and gratitude to them all for their hard work and dedication.


Joining them at Liverpool Street Station on 23 December for the final collection of the year – and providing some additional Christmas cheer – were Anne Parsons and Susy Goodwin. These ladies regularly provide help and support at Taxi Charity events and I know the veterans enjoy their company as much as Anne and Susy enjoy theirs.


What many are unaware of is the incredible amount of work Anne and Susy do behind-the-scenes for our charity…


There are, of course, many people and organisations who deserve our thanks and gratitude – too many to list here. On this occasion, however, on behalf of everyone on the Taxi Charity committee, I would like to extend an extra special thank you to Anne and Susy for all they have done, and continue to do, for our wonderful charity.




Taxi Charity

For Military Veterans

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