TAXI talks to cabbie and Taxi Charity volunteer Danny Shelton about taking a group of veterans to the Not Forgotten centenary event.
TAXI: Hi Danny, please tell TAXI readers a little about yourself?
Danny: I live in Lower Belgravia and been a cabbie for 26 years. I’ve been volunteering for the Taxi Charity since 2017, when I went on my first trip as one of 90 black cabs which took 250 veterans to the Normandy beaches.
TAXI: What was the event in October to which you took veterans?
Danny: Armed Forces charity, The Not Forgotten, was celebrating 100 years at the prestigious Danny House, a spectacular English country house near Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex. The 300 guests were treated to an evening of music, readings, and a fantastic Son et Lumiere light show, projected on to the House.
TAXI: Pretty cool to have a house named after you!
Danny: Isn’t it! It’s my weekend pad! Sadly, it’s only the name that connects us – The name Danny is a corruption of the Saxon, ‘Danehithe’, meaning ‘Valley and Haven’ and the house is sited in a truly beautiful valley. Danny House was famously the location of vital War Cabinet meetings, which helped bring an end to the Great War, so a perfect venue for this centenary event.
TAXI: What is the Not Forgotten?
Danny: They are a charity who aim to combat isolation and loneliness amongst the Armed Forces community through social activities and challenge holidays. Due to the pandemic this event to celebrate their centenary had been rescheduled several times, but it was worth the wait and the veterans had a great time catching up with each other.
TAXI: What does a day volunteering for the Taxi Charity look like?
Danny: Our days are never the same. For this event I picked up WWII Veteran Albert Wiltshire, who was Combined Ops in the Royal Navy, from his home in Rotherhithe and we made our way to the venue for 2pm with blankets, raffle prizes and programmes that I had collected for the Not Forgotten. During the afternoon, the other volunteer cabbies and I, look after the old boys including queueing for their food, fetching them cups of tea, or a drink from the bar, and in October we would usually be making sure they were warm enough, although the weather was so good, we were more worried about the effects of the heat than the cold.
TAXI: Who attended from the Taxi Charity?
Danny: The Taxi Charity arranged for around 15 volunteer cabbies to drive veterans from all over London and the Southeast. I spent most of the afternoon with volunteer cabbies, Simon Hawes, Alan ‘Ossie’ Osborne, Terry ‘Barking Bill’ Ward and veterans, Albert Wiltshire, Nobby Clarke, Dickie Forester, John King and Vic Crofton-Needham. We were also joined by Tony Millard, a great supporter, who does so much for the Taxi Charity.
TAXI: What did the veterans enjoy most?
Danny: We were so lucky with the weather, it was like a summer’s day, the venue was stunning, and the veterans really enjoyed being together in the gorgeous countryside after the last eighteen months of restrictions has kept them apart. There was some great entertainment compered by Channel 4’s Gogglebox stars, Stephen Webb and Daniel Lustig,
but the Swingtime Sweethearts were the veterans’ favourites. They sang a WWII medley including of course the iconic ‘White Cliffs’ and ‘We’ll Meet Again.’ And as the sun went down, we all enjoyed a set of Abba hits from the Not Forgotten entertainment team which got everyone in the crowd up on their feet. You are never sure what these events might be like but this one exceeded all my expectations.
TAXI: What’s next?
Danny: I think the Taxi Charity committee is looking at a variety of different experiences for the veterans and I am looking forward to hearing what’s next. I’ve got the Christmas Party at Millwall pencilled in. Even as an armchair Arsenal supporter I’ll be happy to take Albert to The Den!