Last week’s trip to Worthing was all jolly good fun, but it was a lot more than a nostalgia trip. The taxi charity was originally founded in 1948, when many men had returned from World War II injured and unable to get around very easily. So a few London Taxi drivers got together and had the idea of a taxi charity that would help make veterans’ lives more comfortable and enjoyable. Most WWII veterans are of course now quite elderly. As much as the charity continues to help them, it is also passionate about helping veterans of all ages and from all conflicts. So the charity were delighted that three young veterans – in their early 20’s at most – also came to Worthing as guests from Headley Court, the world-class Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey. One had been recovering in the neural unit since his service in Afghanistan was brought to an abrupt end owing to serious injuries.
It’s always wonderful and heart-warming to meet the veterans who survived World War II, now enjoying old age, proudly wearing their medals. They seem like heroes from another time. The war seems pleasingly distant, far away from life today in so many ways. But, for a stark reminder of modern-day conflict, I discovered, there’s nothing like meeting a young man who’s just returned from Afghanistan having been very seriously injured. During his speech in Worthing Municipal Hall, Dickie Hudd asked the three young veterans to stand. The whole room, full of men in their 80’s and 90’s – many who I suppose would have been a similar age when they themselves were soldiers – erupted into spontaneous applause. No doubt meeting these young soldiers gave great cause for reflection and brought back many memories for the older veterans. Perhaps memories of friends who’d been injured or worse, without the benefit of the extraordinary care and facilities at places like Headley Court. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this, or the three young veterans, since.