On the 77th anniversary of D-Day, volunteer London cab drivers took a large group of WWII veterans to the National Memorial Arboretum to participate in the official opening of the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer.
The Taxi Charity originally planned to take a group of WWII veterans to Normandy to participate in the opening of the new British Memorial, situated in Ver-sur-Mer overlooking Gold Beach, one of the five beaches used by the allies on D-Day in 1944. Unfortunately, pandemic restrictions meant that instead of the charity taking the veterans to the warm sun of Normandy to remember those who did not come home, the veterans sat in the rain at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire watching a live link.
WWII veterans Gilbert Clarke and Ken Hay both spoke during the moving service; John Pinkerton and Tom Schaffer laid a wreath of poppies; and Doug Baldwin received the Légion d’Honneur. All were amongst the group of WWII heroes brought to the event by Taxi Charity volunteer cabbies.
Dick Goodwin, vice president of the Taxi Charity, said: "It was very moving to see the faces of the veterans we support as the new British Normandy Memorial overlooking one of the D-Day beaches in Ver-sur-Mer was officially opened. Under normal circumstances, the Taxi Charity take veterans back to Normandy each year to mark D-Day. Sadly, the pandemic has meant that we have not been able to travel to France for the 76th or 77th anniversaries but we are determined that as soon as we are able, we will take a group of veterans across the channel to pay their respects at the new memorial."
WWII veteran, Roy Maxwell, No4 Commando, who landed at Sword Beach on D-Day, was taken to the event by Taxi Charity volunteer and ex Para, Chris Willmott.
Roy said: "It would have been so wonderful to have been in Normandy with the Taxi Charity today for the opening of the new British Memorial but sadly that was not to be. It is so beautifully sited on a hillside above Gold Beach, proudly facing towards England. I hope that we will be able to go and pay our respects soon."
During the service, WWII veteran, Doug Baldwin, 6th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers, was presented with the Légion d’Honneur, the highest French order of merit, for the part he played in WWII. He went over to Normandy just after D-Day, was captured at Estre and taken POW until the war ended.
About the British Normandy Memorial
The British Normandy Memorial was officially opened on 6 June 2021 on the 77th anniversary of D-Day. The memorial bears the names of 22,442 individuals: British personnel, and those of other nationalities, who were serving in British units, who died while taking part in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.