We have had the privilege of caring for many inspirational veterans over the years. Here are the stories of just a few.
In 1997, The Spectator described Denis Hills as ‘that Hero of our time’. He was best known as the man condemned to death by Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin. In 1975, whilst he was teaching in Uganda, Hills spoke out against Amin’s human rights record in his book The White Pumpkin. He was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. Only an intervention from The Queen and then Foreign Secretary James Callaghan saved him. Hills had an extraordinary Second World War record. Serving with the King’s Own Royal Regiment, he saw action in Iraq, Palestine and at Monte Cassino. In 1945, Hills, who spoke Polish, was involved in liaising to avoid the repatriation of 10,000 Ukrainian PoWs who would have been sentenced to death under Stalin. In 1946 he went on to invent a new classification system which allowed 8,000 Russian PoWs to escape Stalin.
Nancy fought in the French Resistance in the Second World War, helping British soldiers to escape occupied France. She was nicknamed ‘The White Mouse’ by the Gestapo for her elusiveness. Back in England, she joined the Special Operations Executive and parachuted back into France in 1944 to fight with French Resistance Fighters against the Nazis. Nancy was one of the most decorated women of the Second World War.
Norman was one of the most famous submarine commanders of the Second World War. He led his crew through depth-charge attacks and sank enemy craft, but his most famous exploit involved launching a corpse, dressed as a Royal Marines officer and carrying false invasion plans, on to the Spanish coast. This mission fooled the enemy and saves thousands of Allied lives.
Charlie Hankins, BEM, epitomised the spirit of the Charity. He was wounded in North Africa, whilst serving with the Black Watch, losing an eye and both legs, and suffered gun shots to the chest. In spite of his injuries and later ill health, Charlie remained an active man and raised thousands of pounds for the Charity through fundraising events such as parachuting and paddling up the Thames from County Hall to Richmond on his adapted tricycle. Perhaps most famously, Charlie undertook to push himself from John O’ Groats to Land’s End in 1986 on his WW2 tricycle. Charlie went on to do the reverse journey in 1990.