When the outbreak of the pandemic required the Taxi Charity to return early from an event with WWII veterans in The Netherlands in March 2020, they never imagined that it would be another fourteen months before the next event for their veterans.
Taxi spoke with Dick Goodwin, Vice President of the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans about what getting together once again will mean to the Taxi Charity volunteers, cabbies and veterans.
After fourteen months under pandemic restrictions what can the veterans look forward to?
Dick: The weekend of the 5th and 6th of June is the 77th anniversary of the WWII D-Day landings. The charity would normally take a group of WWII veterans to Normandy to mark this important date and remember those that didn’t come back. Last year, we were unable to travel to Normandy and unfortunately this year travel restrictions mean travel is still not possible, so we will be attending a service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Tell us more about the event the veterans will be attending?
Dick: We have been invited to an event on 6th June, hosted by the Normandy Memorial Trust and the Royal British Legion, which will allow WWII veterans and relatives of the Normandy fallen to witness the official opening of the British Normandy Memorial in France. We will watch a live broadcast of the official opening of the newly completed memorial in Ver-sur-Mer, presided over by the British Ambassador to France, Lord Edward Llewellyn, and senior French guests. The Taxi Charity had been invited to the opening of the museum in Normandy, and we know our veterans are so disappointed that for a second year they won’t be able to pay their respects on French soil.
How many veterans will be with you?
Dick: Forty volunteer London black cab drivers, will drive 45 WWII veterans to the event. Joining us will be many D-Day veterans including Marie Scott, who as a 17-year-old WRNS transmitted messages to and from the beaches; Major Ted Hunt, who served with the Royal Engineers and commanded 15 Rhino ferries; and Bill Gladden, 6th Airborne, Recce Regiment who aged 20 flew into Normandy lying prone on the tank that was being transported by the glider.
What will this mean to the veterans?
Dick: I’ll let 101-year-old Major Ted Hunt answer that on my behalf.
Major Ted Hunt: After being locked down or was that locked up, for all this time the thought of being able to go out once again with the Taxi Charity is fantastic. It’s been a long time coming but us oldies have had both our vaccinations and feel so much safer. I’ve spoken to some veterans who will be going to the National Arboretum and we are all looking forward to catching up with each other and spending time with the volunteer London cabbies who always go out of their way to look after us so well.
Do you have anything else planned that weekend?
Dick: We have suggested a few excursions that the veterans and cabbies might like to do on the day before the event. We expect a trip on the steam train from Shackerstone via Market Bosworth to Shenton in Leicestershire, on the Battlefield Line might be a popular choice as it will be a lovely journey down memory lane.