Harrogate veteran who leads mercy missions to danger zones is to receive the MBE from the King

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A veteran Harrogate humanitarian who has overcome jail cells, danger zones and a heart attack to lead mercy missions across the world in a second-hand ambulance has been recognised in The King’s Birthday Honours List.

Charles John Shackleton, who has been taking aid abroad since 1990 in a series of old ambulances, receives an MBE for services to fundraising and the provision of humanitarian aid and medical equipment to Eastern Europe.

The founder of Aid to Eastern Europe charity, the remarkable Mr Shackleton first started his voluntary work in 1990 when he saw TV news reports about the desperate plight of children after the fall of Ceaușescu.

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For seven years, this cheerful but determined individual travelled to Romanian orphanages to install showers and toilets in what was then a poor country after the end of Communism.

Flashback to humanitarian mission in 2008 - Harrogate's John Shackleton, who has been taking aid abroad since 1990 in a series of old ambulances, is to receives an MBE for services to fundraising and the provision of humanitarian aid and medical equipment to Eastern Europe. (Picture Simon Hulme)Flashback to humanitarian mission in 2008 - Harrogate's John Shackleton, who has been taking aid abroad since 1990 in a series of old ambulances, is to receives an MBE for services to fundraising and the provision of humanitarian aid and medical equipment to Eastern Europe. (Picture Simon Hulme)
Flashback to humanitarian mission in 2008 - Harrogate's John Shackleton, who has been taking aid abroad since 1990 in a series of old ambulances, is to receives an MBE for services to fundraising and the provision of humanitarian aid and medical equipment to Eastern Europe. (Picture Simon Hulme)

At one point he ran out of volunteers, as he used to go for three weeks at a time, but carried on virtually on his own after buying an old St John’s Ambulance.

At another point his luck ran out and he ended up in a foreign jail cell for a few days far from home.

Last year at the age of 85, the intrepid Mr Shackleton took much-needed supplies to Georgia – despite recovering from a heart attack.

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Speaking at the time he said: “I had a heart attack, which I’m mending from very quickly, but I lost a lot of weight and, as I’m struggling to put it back on.

"It’s also becoming difficult to chop the wood I sell to fund the ambulances.”

John’s humanitarian adventures have seen him overcome borders, risky passport controls, dodgy roads and war zones to deliver medical equipment and humanitarian supplies to Eastern Europe and beyond via the charity he founded – Aid to Eastern Europe.

In 48 separate trips over the course of more than 30 years, John has delivered ambulances, minibuses and three fire engines to Russia, Armenia, Poland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Romania, Moldavia, Transylvania, Latvia, Bohemia, Transnistria Ukraine and Negorno Karabakh.

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Among the charity organisations he has helped are Red Cross, Caritas, Feed the Children and Mother Theresa Organisation, Kosovo.

John Shackleton said: “The work of the fund would not be possible without the generous support of many people who have provided time, money, articles for sale, medical equipment and services.”

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