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TAXI chats to Brian Heffernan, the new chairman of the Taxi Charity For Military Veterans

Hi Brian, congratulations on your new role. How does it feel?

Brian: I am really honoured to become Chairman. It’s great to give something back and to be part of this truly exceptional charity and I’m really looking forward to taking the charity on its next journey with an amazing committee and supporting cast.

What plans do you have as Chairman?

Brian: Very much business as usual. Ian, the previous Chairman, was a much loved and respected part of the charity and after his tenure, the charity is in a very good place despite the difficulties we faced during the pandemic. I am very fortunate that we are supported by a group of incredible London taxi drivers and many volunteers who give up their time to support veterans. One of my first actions as Chairman has been to ask cab driver Dean Euesden to join the committee and to invite Ben Mayne and Terrence McCarthy to become Charity Advisors. Former police officer, Ben, has an interest in the Second World War and Terrence served with the army for thirty years. Both will be welcome additions to the team.

As Chairman, I am also very aware that we need to look at how we will support veterans over the coming decades. Times change but we will continue to work with veterans from all conflicts, including: WWII, Korea, the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Do people realise that you work with so many different veterans?

Brian: That’s a good point. So many people still think that a veteran is an old person wearing a blazer covered in medals and that is a long way off the variety of veterans we support. We work with veterans of all ages; from all the services and our support includes veterans who might be aged between 18 and 100 or may not have ever seen conflict.

We have recently been abroad with some veterans from the Falklands and Northern Ireland, we had a great day Go-Karting with young men who were being supported by a homeless charity, and we have been supporting younger veterans met through our close association with the Household Cavalry Division.

What do you see as your greatest challenge?

Brian: The greatest will undoubtedly be fundraising. Every charity was affected by the fundraising restrictions forced on us through the Covid-19 pandemic and, having got through that, the country is now facing a cost of living crisis which will see most people having to reassess how they spend any money they may have previously donated. We used to raise much of the money to run the charity through train station collections, but it is now over two-and-a-half years since we were able to do a bucket collection in London and we are still to receive confirmation of when the first post-Covid collection might be.

I understand 2023 is going to be a huge year for the charity?

Brian: It will be a very special year as we will be celebrating our 75th anniversary! Who would have thought back in 1948, when three London cab drivers met in the Bedford Arms in Fulham to discuss how they might be able to support veterans returning from WWII, that their first meeting would lead to a charity that would remain dedicated to the welfare of veterans for 75 years?

They chose to call the charity the ‘London Taxi Benevolent Association for War Disabled’ but I’m very glad that the name was changed to the more modern Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, also commonly known as the Taxi Charity.

We have lots of plans to celebrate our 75th anniversary during 2023 and we hope people will come together to help us mark this important milestone.

What else are you planning?

Brian: 2023 will be important for the charity, but 2024 will also be special because the world will be honouring those who took part in major events of WWII, including D-Day and Operation Market Garden on their 80th anniversaries.

I’ve been volunteering with the charity since 2015; it was a no-brainer to want to get involved because of my love of military history which sparked growing up watching A Bridge too Far with my father. I’ve been fortunate to travel to Normandy and The Netherlands on many occasions, to take veterans back to remember those who didn’t come home and to meet those who were part of the real story behind the film I loved so much.

Over the last seven years, I have sadly been to too many WWII veteran funerals, but God willing there will be veterans who will be able to travel with us in 2024.

One thing I really hope to be able to do with fellow cab drivers during the Arnhem commemorations in September 2024 will be a parachute jump to celebrate the lives of those

veterans we knew, respected and loved; and those who we never got the opportunity to meet.

Is there anything you want to say to our readers?

Brian: Two things. The first: a huge thank you for all you do.

Second: we will be shaking our collection buckets by the barrier at the Heathrow Feeder Park on 7th October. We hope that you will come and see us and please don’t forget to bring your wallets.

Remember, as a London cabbie, this charity and everything it represents is yours too.


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