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Shoreditch cabbie embarks on historical European roadtrip after hearing from charity’s veterans

PUBLISHED: 14:07 29 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:07 29 September 2020

Sebastian Philp with 100-year-old World War Two veteran Raymond Whitwell. Picture: Sebastian Philp

Sebastian Philp with 100-year-old World War Two veteran Raymond Whitwell. Picture: Sebastian Philp

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A Shoreditch cab driver embarked on an international road trip to learn more about World War Two.

Sebastian Philp in the French Alps on his trip. Picture: Sebastian PhilpSebastian Philp in the French Alps on his trip. Picture: Sebastian Philp

Despite the coronavirus crisis, Sebastian Philp visited numerous sites of historical interest on his European journey in July and August, which saw him cycle from Calais to the French Alps, drive a camper van through Italy and catch a night ferry from Naples to Sicily.

As a volunteer for Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, which funds and facilitates international trips for war veterans, Sebastian wanted to experience the places he had heard about from the charity’s users.

READ MORE: ‘Force of nature’ who saved Shoreditch hospital from closure dies aged 96

He also wanted to find out more about his grandfather, Henry Philp, a footballer who fought in the Italian campaign.

“I knew very little about my grandfather’s part in the war, as he never really talked about it other than to tell us he was a transporter and that he had a rough time and had seen a young kid pick up a grenade and get blown apart in front of him,” said Sebastian.

Sebastian Philp with veteran Bill Gladden. Picture: Sebastian PhilpSebastian Philp with veteran Bill Gladden. Picture: Sebastian Philp

“I do remember vividly that when I was young and on holiday in the French Alps, that my grandfather told me that he had come down the alps on a donkey during the war, so the French Alps had to play their part in the journey.”

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Just two of Sebastian’s destinations were Monte Cassino, where a battle resulted in 55,000 allied deaths, and Anzio, which saw conflict as part of the Italian Campaign.

Sebastian added: “One veteran I have met through the Taxi Charity is John King. John was on HMS Janus, a J-class destroyer.”

On 23 January 1944, when Janus was torpedoed and sank off the Anzio beachhead in western Italy, some 200 people died and only 62 survived.

Sebastian also learned about Operation Huskey, a campaign in which the allies took the island of Sicily from Italy and Germany.

“The battle in Sicily was one of the first operations involving the paras and I am fortunate to know 100-year-old World War Two veteran Raymond Whitwell, who was part of this operation,” Sebastian said.

Sebastian later added: “My tour was steeped in history and I loved every minute.

“My next will be to Crete to learn more about the part this Greek island played in World War Two.”


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