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Heroes meet Minister for Veterans' Affairs at Admiralty House

On 21st May, Taxi Charity volunteers took four veterans to meet government minister, Rt Hon Johnny Mercer MP and Akshata Murty, the wife of the current Prime Minister.

Volunteer drivers, Dave Hemstead, Martin Birkbeck and Ian Grey, as well as Colin Mills, the Taxi Charity Chairman, drove veteran Wrens Christian Lamb, 103, Pat Owtram, 100, Marie Scott, 97, and Dorothea Barron, 99, to Admiralty House in Whitehall for the meet and greet.

TAXI asked the drivers who attended for their thoughts about the day.

Colin, tell us about the visit?

Colin Mills: There I was, standing in Admiralty House, surrounded by naval history, and witnessing living history, as four of our Wrens were captivating Ms Murty and the minister with stories from World War II. But my favourite memory of the day was on the journey home, as I was chatting to Dorothea and she was recalling the moment, at Biggin Hill last

year, when she sat in a Spitfire during a Taxi Charity visit. Her daughter, Kati, said that if she ever did that again she would need to wear trousers to protect her modesty when climbing into the plane! Dorothea replied: “I am proud of my legs anyway. We used to wear woollen underwear that came down to your knees, and if it was cold, we used to cut out the gusset, slip it over our head and put our arms into each leg and it was nice and warm.” I don’t think they would do that today!

Dave, what did you make of the day?

Dave Hemstead: It was a very enjoyable day, in splendid surroundings. All the drivers enjoyed taking the veterans and being welcomed as guests to this event. Every member of staff was polite and welcoming, and the four veterans thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. We were served sandwiches, and the lemon drizzle cake was lovely! I had three pieces to make sure! As you can imagine from a Grade I-listed building, we sat in a very special room to ‘take tea’. Akshata Murty and Johnny Mercer were polite and charming, treating the ladies and drivers with the utmost respect. However, the former never gave us the heads up that, the following day, her husband was going to call a General Election! Marie appreciated the doggy bag that they provided, and she enjoyed the sandwiches she had taken with soup later that day.

Martin, how did you find the whole experience?

Martin Birkbeck: It was an absolute pleasure to be involved in this event. I really enjoyed the day overall. The surroundings, the people and food were all great. I have been volunteering for the charity for many years and it continues to amaze me when I hear of all the wonderful opportunities they provide for veterans.

Any other thoughts Ian?

Ian Grey: It was lovely to see the veterans have a nice day out, and the history and architecture of the building was fantastic. The walls were adorned with the most incredible art, one of which was particularly fascinating. It was a painting of Martha Ray, who is best known for her affair with John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, with whom she had nine children. A sign by the painting grimly explained that she was murdered by a jealous suitor at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, in 1779.


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