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Obituary: Henry 'Harry' Frederick Rawlins 9 September 1925 - 10 June 2024


WWII veteran, Harry Rawlins, 98, who served with the King's Royal Rifle Corps, died on Monday 10 June 2024 at The Royal Hospital Chelsea. His niece, Angela, and her husband Andrew were at his bedside.


Harry joined the army at the age of 18 and was posted to the King's Royal Rifle Corps. At Operation Market Garden, his unit was part of 8th Armoured Brigade, that advanced through France, Belgium and into the Netherlands. They halted briefly at Nijmegen and watched the drop of the Polish paratroopers.


Harry went via Elst and then onto Arnhem where he was injured. His officer stopped to chat with Harry about his injury and in that brief moment a German sniper took aim and shot the officer in front of him. Harry always felt terribly guilty that this kind gesture by his officer resulted in his death.


In April 1945, Harry took part in an action which displaced the enemy, allowing his unit to take many prisoners. For this he was awarded the Belgium Croix de Guerre with Palm and in 2023 he was delighted to meet the King of Belgium at the Royal Hospital.



He received the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest order of merit in 2015; and in 2022, he was presented with the 'Thank You Liberators' medal which is a sincere token of gratitude towards the veterans who served in the Netherlands during WWII and helped to liberate the country. In 2022, Harry was given the honour of lighting the Flame of Independence in Wageningen.


Harry was an important part of the Taxi Charity family and was a regular on our annual trips to the Netherlands for Dutch Liberation in May and for the Operation Market Garden commemorations in September, and to Normandy for the D-Day commemorations in June. He also enjoyed the visits to Worthing in the summer and attending the Christmas party in December.


Harry’s love for the Taxi Charity is demonstrated by this poem that he penned:


It was well worth being shot at to join this happy band,

The taxi driver’s 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.

Now some of these veterans are getting old and frail,

But with their berets and their medals they still can tell their tale.

They are taken to old battlefields to remember former friends,

There they pause and reflect on how suddenly life ends.

With rollators, Zimmer frames and walking sticks they go,

A taxi driver’s guiding hand to regulate the flow.

So, here’s to the taxi drivers and all their helpers too,

It’s almost a tradition, and it’s all thanks to you.


Harry moved from the home in Edgware that his parents had originally bought in the 1930s, to The Royal Hospital Chelsea in December 2021, and thoroughly enjoyed his time as a Chelsea Pensioner. Harry’s health had not been good recently and he was regularly visited by many of the friends he had made through the Taxi Charity, including volunteers Ian and Anne Parsons, and Dave Hemstead.


Ian Parsons, a London cab driver and a member of Taxi Charity for Military Veterans committee, said: “Harry was an extremely intelligent man who spoke with authority on a wide range of subjects. A voracious reader, Harry was self-taught, having absorbed the information from many hundreds of books he’d read over the years. Conversations with him were both fascinating and illuminating, from knowledge he had accumulated over a lifetime. Military history was undoubtedly his specialist subject. I was always amazed by his ability to simply look at a fellow veteran's row of medals and then be able to tell you where they fought.”


London cab driver and Taxi Charity for Military Veterans volunteer, Dave Hemstead, said: "Dear Harry, I was lucky enough to have you consider me a friend. The many trips we made together were always a joy and never a chore. You talked fondly of your time as a 'Green Jacket' and the way it shaped your life after your war service. My last visit to you in the Royal Hospital Chelsea was a short time before you left us for your 'final RV' in a different place. Harry, you were a gentleman, and thank you for being my friend. Swift and Bold."



Notes

Harry’s story features in Keith Collman’s book, Veterans of Arnhem and Operation Market Garden 1944.


Daily Express, 14 June 2024

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