Residents mourn 91-year-old war veteran who taught thousands of Londoners to drive

Arthur Lui Guidotti with Johnny Schumacher Pic: Johnny Schumacher

A 91-year-old  Second World War veteran, who lived on the same street in Brockley for almost his entire life and taught thousands of south-east Londoners to drive was celebrated by local people following his death last month.

Arthur Lui Guidotti,  who was known locally as Algee, is estimated to have taught over 5000 Londoners how to drive during his 40-year career as a driving instructor in the area. He loved his job so much that he kept the driving sign on his car even when he stopped working, adding “retired” to it.

A Woolwich man, Johnny Schumacher, who  named his son after Guidotti because of the importance of their friendship became very close with Guidotti despite their 60-year age difference. Guidotti became a regular with Schumacher’s friends, who loved listening to his wild stories of the war and his time in India. They celebrated his life with a wake at the Gantry Restuarant and Bar in Brockley, where Schumacher works.

After posting about the funeral on social media, Shumacher was shocked by the outpour of support he received. He said: “When I posted on the South-East London Facebook page, hundreds and hundreds of people commented. It’s like he taught the whole of South-East London to drive.”

(from left to right) Johnny Schumacher, Maria Patelli, Ben Ingle, Arthur Lui Giodotti and Xanthi Ntavou Pic: Johnny Schumacher

Guidotti’s family moved from Camberwell to Wickham Road, Brockley, when he was just one; he only left this address in the next 90 years: once to fight in the Second World War and again to work as a brigadier’s driver in India. He witnessed the transition from horses and buggies to cars on the streets of Brockley, where he eventually became a driving instructor.

His wife died in 1973, leaving him without any immediate family.

Schumacher said Guidotti loved talking about his time in the army. Despite being underage, he managed to sneak in during the chaos of wartime and was soon deployed to the Pacific.

He told stories of desperation in the Burmese jungle, when 100 people were sent in and only ten survived. Guidotti himself smoked his shoelaces because there were no cigarettes; his unit was left stranded in Burma for six months after the war ended, as no one was able to find them to tell them it was over.

Another popular story was from his time in India, where he described his experience of being bathed by a harem at a maharajah’s bathing house. In order to guard the woman from impropriety, a man in regal dress stood over Guidotti with a long sword and oversaw the bath from start to finish.


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