Committee members, volunteers and supporters joined veterans at The Bedford Arms recently, 75 years to the day that the Taxi Charity was formed at this Fulham pub.
According to the minutes from the very first meeting on Friday 27 February 1948, 19 people attended "to discuss the possibility of giving an outing to the war disabled persons, commencing with Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton."
It was decided the charity’s object would be "to raise funds for and organise outings and entertainment for war disabled men and women." The committee also agreed on a temporary name – the Fulham Taxi and Allied Trades Benevolent Association.
At the time, fuel rationing was still in effect, so permission had to be obtained from the Ministry of Fuel and Power to overcome the 20-mile radius limit. It was also necessary to register the Association as a War Charity at the London County Council.
On Monday 14 June 1948, 25 London taxis transported 50 war disabled veterans to Brighton for the day, providing them with a much-needed break from their day-to-day routines. The trip cost £263.
Enough funds were raised to enable a second outing a few weeks later and this time the committee chose Worthing. It proved to be the better location, and every year since then, the Taxi Charity has organised a day trip there (with the exception of 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic).
In 1951, the charity’s name was amended to the West London Taxi and Allied Trades Benevolent Association and in 1956 was renamed the London Taxi Benevolent Association for War Disabled. This name remained until 2015 when we became the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans.
Between 1951 and 1962, the number of veterans taken to Worthing increased from 50 to 120. This involved around 60 taxis and included residents from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Royal Star and Garter in Richmond, St David’s Home in Ealing, St. Dunstan’s for the Blind, Chessington RAF Rehabilitation Centre and the Woolwich Military Hospital. Veterans were also collected by taxi from their homes.
Among the committee members marking our 75th anniversary in February 2023 were Paul Davis, Eddie Hillery and Terry Ward who between them have put in over 100 years of service to the Taxi Charity – a remarkable achievement.
Terry Ward – known to all as Barking Bill – has been involved the longest. He gained his green badge in 1969 and was a volunteer driver for the 1985 Worthing trip. Two years later, Bill participated on the charity’s first ever trip abroad. "That was to Dunkirk," said Bill. "We left on 9 September 1987. Fifty-seven cabbies collected veterans from Royal British Legion Homes and the Royal Hospital Chelsea and we all met at Farthings Corner. There were over 200 people, all told."
Bill continued as a regular volunteer before joining the committee in September 1994 as Transport Officer. During his many years in that position, he has matched together thousands of drivers and veterans. His geographical knowledge is remarkable and people are amazed how he’s usually able to do this without the need of a map. For years, Bill also played an instrumental role obtaining sponsorship from across the cab trade selling advertising space in the charity’s annual diary, which helped fund the Worthing trips and other social events organised by the charity for our veterans.
Bill was also on our first visit to Normandy in June 1994 – as was Paul Davis. "That was my first real involvement with the charity," explained Paul, who has been driving a cab since 1992. "It was a memorable experience right from the start. Seventy-five cabs lined up in Horseguards Parade awaiting the arrival of Her Majesty, The Queen Mother, who was accompanied by our Patron Dame Vera Lynn and Field Marshall Lord Bramall, the Lord Lieutenant of London. They chatted with the drivers and veterans for several minutes before waving off our convoy of cabs. A very proud day for our charity and trade and certainly one I’ll always remember with great fondness."
"We escorted over 150 Normandy veterans on that trip, each driver was responsible for two veterans, and the £60,000 needed was raised through donations and sponsorships. Our four-day visit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day, was a tremendous success and in the November of that year I was invited to join the committee."
Shortly after joining the committee, Paul became Secretary, a position he held until March 2023. He is also the main organiser of our annual Worthing trip and is currently putting together the final touches for this year’s visit.
One veteran who is especially looking forward to Worthing is our former Life President, Eddie Hillery, who recently retired from the committee for health reasons.
Eddie began his National Service with the Army in 1954, and after completing six months as a Wireless Operator with the Royal Signals trained with the Parachute Regiment and was posted to the 16th parachute brigade.
“Fast Eddie’s” introduction to the Taxi Charity was as a volunteer driver.
“I completed the Knowledge and got my badge in 1966,” recalled Eddie. “During the early 1980s, Barking Bill and I often ate at the Pont Street Shelter. Bill was a great advocate of the charity and was always trying to get drivers like me involved. Through the years, as circumstances changed, my appearances at events became more frequent and when the charity started planning ambitious trips to the Netherlands and Normandy, I joined fellow veterans at London’s mainline and underground stations and became a regular collector. Then in 2011, I was invited to become a committee member. The Taxi Charity has given me friendships, comradeship and many happy memories and I hope it continues to thrive and prosper in the future."
And so say all of us.