Cabbie speaks of Taxi Charity support to younger war veterans alongside “Waterloo Uncovered” charity
Dave Hemstead, 60, from Morden, has been a London cabbie for 19 years and has been volunteering for the Taxi Charity for over 15 years. Many who know about the iconic Taxi Charity, understand the amazing work they do in supporting WWII veterans, but not all know that they also work alongside the Waterloo Uncovered charity, offering up free rides to veterans from many other conflicts of war.
The Waterloo Uncovered project had its origins in the shared experience of two men, Mark Evans and Charlie Foinette. Both had studied archaeology together and both subsequently served as officers in the Coldstream Guards – a regimental connection that was to prove key in opening this closely protected battlefield to archaeological exploration.
Upon leaving the Army, Mark was encouraged to revisit archaeology as a means of working through the mental legacy of his own experiences in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Charlie, still serving with the battalion, took his men on a tour of Hougoumont Farm on the battlefield of Waterloo.
Hougoumont is ‘sacred ground’ to the regiment: the walled compound of farm buildings, gardens and orchards served as a fortress out in front of the allied line and became the scene of a dramatic “battle-within-a-battle”. It's one of the Coldstream Guards' proudest battle honours.
Mark and Charlie made two important realisations: that little archaeological work had taken place on the battlefield; and that being part of a team working through the processes of an archaeological dig has the potential to help people with their recovery and rehabilitation.
Building on the regimental connection, and with the cooperation of Project Hougoumont who maintain the site, the first group of archaeologists, VSMP, and experts in an assortment of specialisms began their explorations in the year of the battle’s bi-centenary, 2015. Since then, participants have made important new discoveries about the battle – and about themselves.
Dave Hemstead, recently ferried Matt Weston a triple amputee to Belgium to participate in a dig. Here he tells us about his experience and the great work done by both charities.
Dave said: “The support the Taxi charity gives to WWII veterans is very well documented, but less well known is that they support veterans from all conflicts, and I have been very lucky to take a younger veteran to Waterloo Uncovered.
“Waterloo Uncovered is a fabulous UK charity that combines world‐class archaeology on the battlefield of Waterloo with veteran care and recovery. They approached the Taxi Charity to see if there was a cabby who would be happy to volunteer to take Matt Weston, a triple amputee, and his wheelchair over on the ferry to Belgium to participate in the 2018 dig and support his care requirements while on the continent.
“Having researched the charity, I jumped at the chance and have been lucky enough to go to the Waterloo Uncovered annual dig in Belgium twice with Matt. British field archaeologist Phil Harding, from the Ch 4 TV series Time Team takes part in the dig. He is an interesting character whose passion for archaeology is infectious. He is real advocate for how this adventure into the past is helping the wellbeing of the veterans and serving personnel who attend.
“Matt and I have really got to know each other very well and I was delighted when he joined the Taxi Charity at their Christmas party in 2019. The interaction between the older and younger guests, including many serving personnel is always a treat to see.
“The COVID restrictions led to the Waterloo Uncovered digs in 2020 and 2021 being cancelled but I really hope that next year I will be able to return to the site with Matt.”