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WWII veteran Connie Bateman finds a new home, TAXI

Connie, who was a Combined Ops WREN, moves to Royal Star & Garter.

The Taxi Charity has been supporting veterans and their loved ones since 1948 and part of this ongoing care is to support older veterans as they move into care homes across the country. TAXI talks with Goolistan Cooper from Royal Star & Garter and Dick Goodwin from the Taxi Charity about WWII veteran Connie Bateman who has recently moved to live at Royal Star & Garter.

Tell me about Connie?

Dick: Connie Bateman has been a regular on our Taxi Charity trips for the last ten years. She used to regularly visit the Netherlands and stay with a Dutch family with her husband Bill who was in the Reconnaissance Regiment of the 1st Airborne during Operation Market Garden. After Bill’s death, some of her many friends in the Netherlands told us about Connie, who was a Combined Ops WREN, and we invited her to join the charity trips. She is a real character and despite her travelling abroad many times, I remember vividly the year I received a panicked phone call from the cabbie who was picking her up to take her to the ferry, that she couldn’t find her passport.

In December 2021, Connie moved to live at the Royal Star & Garter in Surbiton, and we are working closely with the home to ensure we can put everything in place so that Connie will be able to join us on our May trip to the Netherlands.

Hi Goolistan, how has Connie settled in?

Goolistan: Connie has settled in very nicely and has made many friends at the home. She is looking forward to more of the better weather and going on day trips and outings with other residents. She is also looking forward to friends coming to visit her when the guidelines allow. Her granddaughter said she looks very well each time she visits her.

Do all the residents have their own rooms?

Goolistan: All residents at Royal Star & Garter have their own comfortable, spacious rooms, which are adapted to enable independence. Each one has an ensuite bathroom with walk-in shower, and overhead tracking hoist to help move people with mobility difficulties easily. Rooms in dementia care houses have dementia-friendly furniture - glass-door wardrobes so residents can clearly see their clothing, and drawers with gaps at the front to help residents see inside or open them.

What do residents love about living at Royal Star & Garter?

Goolistan: Royal Star & Garter provides loving, compassionate care to veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia. Each of our three homes has an in-house physiotherapy room, and our Wellbeing Programme offers a range of daily activities, including outings, arts and crafts, cookery, gardening and music, seven days a week. All this helps boost the mental and physical wellbeing of residents, and helps them lead happy, engaged, and fulfilled lives.

What does it mean to you, to support these veterans?

Goolistan: Royal Star & Garter was established in 1916 to care for severely injured young men returning from the battlegrounds of the First World War, and over the past 106 years has evolved to meet the needs of veterans living with disabilities. We provide award-winning person-centred care for remarkable people – ranging from WWII to Gulf War veterans. It is a privilege to care for people who served and made sacrifices for their country.

What does the Taxi Charity mean to Connie?

Goolistan: Connie really appreciates The Taxi Charity enabling her to visit the Netherlands. Connie’s husband, Bill, was one of 10,000 in Holland in 1944 who participated in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the bridge at Arnhem, and one of only 2,000 who made it home alive. The couple began attending the commemoration service for the Battle of Arnhem every year and Connie continued to do so after Bill died 30 years ago. Connie’s daughter said, “It was a pilgrimage for them. They reached out to the Dutch people about their wartime experiences, and they loved her in return and welcomed her and my stepdad, who had helped liberate Holland, into their homes.”

Dick, I think you should jump in here…

Dick: Connie is such a lovely lady, and we are delighted that she has settled in so well at the Royal Star & Garter. Many of the older veterans that we support move into care homes or closer to their family but wherever they are in the country, the charity will continue to support them and arrange for them to join us. We invited Connie to our Christmas party at Millwall in December and she loved being with us and meeting up with lots of the friends she has made over the years. We are delighted that Connie wants to join us on our visit to the Netherlands for Dutch liberation in May to continue the long-held tradition of her visiting the Arnhem area to remember those who were lost. She is well known for bringing a lot of luggage, so I hope we have enough room in the cab to accommodate it all and that she remembers her passport!


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