TAXI talks to Frans Ammerlaan, founder of The Market Garden Foundation which aims to keep alive the memory of what Great Britain did for the Netherlands during the war...
Hi Frans, please introduce yourself to our readers!
Frans: My name is Frans Ammerlaan, I’m 68 and I live in The Netherlands, five miles south of the Arnhem bridge on the outskirts of Arnhem. I work with the Taxi Charity to facilitate trips for WWII veterans to The Netherlands.
Can you tell me a bit about the Market Garden Foundation?
Frans: The Battle of Arnhem was fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze and Driel between 17th and 26th September 1944. It was part of the allied operation called ‘Market-Garden’ which led to the liberation of many Dutch towns including Eindhoven and Nijmegen.
I founded an organisation called The Market Garden Foundation so that I could keep alive the memory of what Great Britain did for the Netherlands during the war.
The Market Garden Foundation remembers Operation Market-Garden and draws attention to the consequences of the operation and aims to reach as many people worldwide as we can, to honour, to remember and to learn from what happened in 1944.
How did your relationship with The Taxi Charity begin?
Frans: I first met Dick Goodwin, Vice President of the Taxi Charity, in Arnhem in 2004, after a picture he had taken of a young girl in a cemetery had gone viral and a British Para had wanted to find her to give her a Para Teddy bear.
Dick asked me to try to find the girl, and I was successful in tracing her and she was duly presented with the bear.
In 2010, Dick was again visiting Arnhem and asked “What do you think the chances are of bringing cabs over here with a group of veterans?” I thought it was a fabulous idea and knew together we could make it work.
How successful were you in getting cabs over?
Frans: It has been a huge success. The Market Garden Foundation helps the charity to organise, plan and execute all the recces and veterans’ trips to the Netherlands. The first trip was in 2012 when we brought 80 black cabs and 146 WWII veterans and the biggest trip was in 2015 when we had 96 cabs, and 180 veterans.
What do the people of The Netherlands think of the Taxi Charity?
Frans: It’s great to see what a good name the charity has built up here. Many people know about their work with the veterans, and they always receive a great welcome. Personally, I find it an honour to work with the charity. The volunteer cabbies are just wonderful and over the years have become good friends with the people here.
Tell me about the special relationship between the Netherlands and the veterans?
Frans: The veterans are very much loved and treated like royalty by not only those who can remember the war, but also the younger generations who are taught from an early age about what the veterans did for our freedom.
Over the years, hundreds of the veterans have stayed with Dutch host families who welcome them into their homes for the duration of the Taxi Charity visits as a way of showing their deep appreciation. During the pandemic I have often been asked by schools and families to send gifts, postcards, and letters to say that how much we have missed them not being able to visit us and how much we hope that they will return soon to mark Dutch Remembrance Day and Dutch Liberation Day in May, and the anniversary of Operation Market Garden in September.
On 9th October, it was WWII veteran Ron Johnsons 100th birthday and the number of congratulatory messages that have been sent to the UK for him is overwhelming.
Here are a couple of examples:
I wish you a wonderful birthday and a beautiful day with good health and happiness forever. Also, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your service and the sacrifices that you have made on our behalf. Words can’t describe the amount of deepest gratitude. The day you landed in Wolfheze it meant you brought hope to my grandmother. My grandfather was already separated and brought to Germany but managed to survive. My grandmother lived a long and happy life until she passed away last May. I grew up in Wolfheze, now living in Arnhem and about to move to Oosterbeek where I recently bought a house with my girlfriend. We hope to build a family of our own there. What I am trying to say is that I believe that if it weren’t for your choice to fight for our freedom, none of this may even be possible. Therefore, I cannot thank you enough and I really wish you all the best.
Maarten Davidse – Arnhem
My wife and I live in Arnhem and every day we drive over the John Frost Bridge. Whenever we drive over the bridge, we have to think about what happened in September 1944. We owe you and all your comrades 100% thanks for what you have done for us. Many thanks for this. My wife and I wish you a very happy birthday.
Christian & Esther – Arnhem
What else would you like to say?
Frans: The people of the Netherlands will forever be grateful to the brave men and women who liberated us, and we are so very grateful to the amazing cab drivers who bring these veterans to join us to remember and give us the opportunity to thank them in person for their sacrifice.
To find out more about the Market Garden Foundation visit www.marketgarden.com.