On 3 September, a group of Taxi Charity volunteers who had brought seven WWII veterans and their carers and families to the Netherlands joined the estimated 32,000 other participants to walk a 15km section of the annual Wandeltocht Airborne March.
Also joining the thousands at Wandeltocht were cab driver Seb Philp and former member of the Parachute Regiment, Chris Willmott, who both volunteer for the charity. Seb and Chris walked the full 40km carrying 35lb British Army ‘bergen’ rucksacks in seven hours 45 minutes as part of their fundraising ‘Market Garden Challenge’ which saw them cycle 115km the previous day on 78-year-old Airborne gearless folding bikes.
Seb said: “We set ourselves this Market Garden Challenge to raise much needed funds for the Taxi Charity. On 2 September, Chris and I cycled 115km on WWII Airborne bikes from Joe’s Bridge (no 9) on the Bocholt-Herentals Canal on the Belgian border to replicate the 'Garden' route taken by XXX (30) Corps. And the following day, we walked the 40km Wandeltocht along the 1st Airborne Division 'Market' route used during Operation Market Garden in September 1944. Throughout our challenge we were honoured to carry the ashes of John Jeffries, who as part of 1st Airborne Division landed on Ginkel Heath on 18 September 1944 as part of Operation Market Garden.”
Dick Goodwin, Vice President of the Taxi Charity, said: “The Taxi Charity was delighted to bring a group of WWII veterans to the Netherlands for five days. With us was Arnhem veteran Bill Larder who had not journeyed back to the Netherlands since WWII. The welcome these WWII veterans receive from the Dutch people is always overwhelming and on his first post-war visit, Bill was very touched. During our stay we have been honoured to attend a reception at the ambassador’s residence in The Hague to meet the British Ambassador Joanna Roper CMG, enjoyed dinner with members of the Wandeltocht Committee and Airborne Commemoration Committee, and visited the Hartenstein Airborne Museum. The most poignant part of our itinerary included a very important visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Oosterbeek to pay our respects to those who didn’t return.”
The Airborne March
The Wandletocht Airborne March is the world's largest one-day commemorative march and is held on the first Saturday of September in Oosterbeek. It is held in remembrance of the Battle of Arnhem 1944 and the route taken by the 1st Airborne Division on the 'Market' route used during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.