Mrs Helen Taylor-Thompson: An Appreciation

Mrs Helen Margaret Taylor-Thompson OBE, Hon.MD (nee Laurie-Walker) who died on 6th September 2020 aged 96 had been a Vice President of the Friends.

She had a fascinating and distinguished career. First as a FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry - Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps) and then aged nineteen she signed the Official Secrets Act. Her role during World War II as part of Winston Churchill’s ‘secret armywas to send coded messages to the SOE (Special Operations Executive).

In 1952 she became a member of the board of the Mildmay Mission Hospital in Hackney. It had been founded as a Christian Mission in the 19th century by Catherine Pennefather following the cholera outbreaks. In 1988 after the merger with the Royal London Hospital Mrs T-T led the campaign to keep the hospital open as Europe's first specialist AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) hospital and became the first chairperson. Diana Princess of Wales visited the hospital many times. Memorably, on February 24th 1989 without wearing gloves, she shook the hands of AIDS patients. Several years later Mrs T-T started the Mildmay Centre in Uganda where over 100,000 people have been cared for.

In 2000, ‘Education Saves Lives’ was also founded and Mrs Taylor-Thompson was its chair too. In 2003 the Charity was launched at 10 Downing Street. It uses interactive DVDs in local languages to educate millions of young people throughout Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and South America how to avoid serious illnesses.

In addition to her many charitable works Mrs Taylor-Thompson was a successful business woman. Towards the end of her life she told the Hackney Gazette that the war had upset her education. She wanted to be a doctor but her mother told her ‘I think business is what you’d be good at’. In 2019 she became a doctor. Her far reaching medical endeavours were recognised by the University of Buckingham which awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Medicine (MD).

Prof Trevor Beedham
President: Friends of the Royal London Hospital