"What a fantastic, uplifting visit: one of my best for a long time" said Chelsea Pensioner Alan Lee after the visit to Tedworth House
on Wednesday afternoon. Chelsea Pensioner Marjorie Cole also had a wonderful time and met many old friends and made several new ones during the visit. She said "I had a marvellous time and really enjoyed getting to know some of the residents at Tedworth where you can see they are so well looked after by the magnificent staff who work there".
|Chelsea Pensioner Marjorie Cole|
Ten Chelsea Pensioners along with Rupert and Michelle Lucas toured Tedworth House meeting many staff and residents. We played indoor bowls, curling, tennis-ball darts and Jenga with our hosts before enjoying a relaxing drink and a delicious evening meal with them. After supper we all listened to a fascinating introductory lecture on Bats given by Dr Dani Linton from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
It was with some sadness and very fond memories that we headed back to the Royal Hospital Chelsea having had an outstanding visit.
is one of four Recovery Centres run by Help for Heroes which form part of the Defence Recovery Capability. Why not make a donation
to support their work?
Labels: Chelsea Pensioners, Help for Heroes, Royal Hospital Chelsea, Tedworth House
turning in the Arrivals Hall of Lisbon airport on Friday 8th November when a
Chelsea Pensioner walked through in his scarlet uniform. Chelsea Pensioner Brian Cumming MBE had arrived
from London to take part in Remembrance ceremonies, both Portuguese and
of Saturday 9th it was off to the fort at Belém, headquarters of
Portugal´s Liga dos Combatentes. This
organisation is Portugal´s equivalent to The Royal British Legion and actually
predates it. For its main Ceremony of
Remembrance delegates arrive from all over Portugal and members representing
all their Armed Forces are on parade.
|Brian Cumming MBE with General Joaquim Chito Rodrigues|
arrival Brian was received by General Joaquim Chito Rodrigues, President of the
Liga and presented him with a Fraternal letter from the Governor of the Royal
Hospital Chelsea, the home of the Chelsea Pensioners. General Chito in turn presented Brian with a
signed book and a commemorative medal before taking him out on to the parade
ground. As the various dignitaries
arrived, the troops on parade presented arms and were then inspected by the
General Chief of Staff. Speeches ensued,
medals and decorations were presented and then it was time to lay the wreaths in
memory of the fallen.
by the Lisbon representative of The Royal British Legion lay his wreath, and it was a
proud moment seeing this gentleman in scarlet marching up to do so. With the wreath laying completed, the march past began and it was
impressive that there were so many standards carried emanating from so many
different parts of Portugal.
|Brian with Mark Hanmer from the Royal British Legion |
and Carol Mason from the Royal Hospital Chelsea
At the end
of it all, despite the many high ranking officers, dignitaries, ministers and
others being present, everyone wanted to photograph or be photographed with the
afternoon programme saw Brian going to tea with the residents of The British
Retirement Home in São Pedro do Estoril.
He gave them a short talk on life at the Royal Hospital Chelsea and how
he came to be part of it all and then made time to speak to everyone present
individually. The residents greatly enjoyed having him there and apparently spoke about his scarlet uniform for
was the day for the British Service of Remembrance at St. George´s Anglican
Church in Lisbon, which is always very well attended and included diplomats,
members of different Armed Forces serving with NATO, Portuguese delegates, and of course many members of the local community. Fortunately again it was dry
and sunny as everyone gathered round the Memorial Cross for the laying of
wreaths before the Church service. 11 wreaths were laid, Brian laid his on behalf of the Royal Hospital
Chelsea. Two minutes silence were observed and buglers from the Exército played
their versions of the Last Post and
Reveille. An uplifting service then took place in the church where the Chaplain
had several assistants and the Church of Scotland Minister gave the
Sermon. It was particularly nice that
six young children were asked to give readings which they did beautifully.
|British Service of Remembrance at |
St. George's Anglican Church, Lisbon
|Brian laying a wreath at the British Service of Remembrance|
in the sunshine, Brian was approached by
the Chefe of the Bombeiros Voluntários de Lisboa to lay their wreath on the
grave of Darlaston Shore, an Englishman who was a founder of their organisation
and is buried at St. George´s. In the
meantime, Colonel Faustino Hilário, representing the Liga dos Combatentes, was
so impressed that a Chelsea Pensioner had come over to Lisbon that he promptly
took off his Liga tie and presented it to Brian as a memento!
Embassy kindly invited everyone present at St. George´s back to the Embassy for
a reception, hosted by the Deputy Head of Mission, Joanna Kuenssberg
O´Sullivan. The lovely grounds of the
Residence were the perfect setting for
everyone of all ages to socialise and enjoy the plentiful food and drink. Jo introduced Brian and he entertained
everyone with tales of his life as a Chelsea Pensioner. All in all, it was a memorable day.
being Armistice Day, it was fitting that Brian went to visit a class of 11 year
olds at the International Preparatory School.
They had been studying World War II, the reasons for Remembrance Sunday
and so on, and were full of questions to ask a Chelsea Pensioner - though on
arrival a few younger children thought he might have been Father Christmas come
Lunch by the
sea then it was back to Blighty for an old soldier. He had a marvellous visit, and was
overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality shown to him. Special thanks must go to The Royal British
Club who sponsored his air fare and to Mark Hanmer, the Lisbon representative
of The Royal British Legion who organised his programme.
Labels: Chelsea Pensioner, Liga dos Combatentes, Portugal, Royal British Legion, Royal Hospital Chelsea
One of the busiest times of year at the Royal Hospital Chelsea is the period of Remembrance. As well as participating in high profile events, such as the Festival of Remembrance
and marching on the cenotaph
, the Chelsea Pensioners travel far and wide to attend Remembrance Services across the globe.
Many travel to their home town, whilst others travel to new places such as Bahrain and Portugal. All do so as volunteers and ambassadors for the Royal Hospital Chelsea, remembering those that they have lost along the way.
Below you can see where they travelled this year.
|Chelsea Pensioners attending Remembrance Services 2013|
If you would like to find out more about the Chelsea Pensioners, or to make a donation to to show your support, you can do so here
Labels: Bahrain, Chelsea Pensioner, Chelsea Pensioners, Festival of Remembrance, marching on the cenotaph, Portugal, Remembrance 2013, Royal Hospital Chelsea
Meet Marjorie, a member of a rare club, one of just six female Chelsea Pensioners currently residing at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. As time goes by, the Royal Hospital will see more and more female Chelsea Pensioners, but for now they are an elite club.
Whilst women were critical to the war efforts of the last century - someone had to run the country whilst the men were away after all - it was a rare woman who actually signed up to join the armed forces. Not because they didn't want to but simply because it wasn't in keeping with the times.
Women's primary role was in the home, raising children and caring for families. This makes mavericks of all the female Chelsea Pensioners currently at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
When I asked Marjorie how she would describe herself as a teenager, she replied 'meek but rebellious'. This combination appears to have equipped her well for an unusual life and here's the thing - Marjorie is that first person to tell you that she 'just' ran the kitchen in Malaya, but the last to mention the hurdles she leapt over to get there. This, to me, is the story of a seemingly insurmountable mountain and the climber strong enough to scale it. Marjorie was disadvantaged by her gender (she would never say that by the way) but also by the expectations of some of those closest to her. Watch and learn people. Here is a solid lesson in how to exceed expectations, follow your heart and
have a rather elegant third act.
'I was born in 1944, the youngest of three girls. We didn't have the things we have today but I don't regret it because we had a good upbringing. My mother and father didn't believe in things like Hire Purchase. What you couldn't afford, you did without. You saved for things. I still go by that.
During the war, we were evacuated to the Yorkshire Dales. Father was in the Home Guard - Dad's Army - and when it was over we came back to Hessle. There was a vast amount of damaged bombed buildings and that was our playground actually. It was a Victorian childhood. If we were hurt my mother would go out and buy us a sticky bun when all you really wanted was a cuddle, but we were loved all the same.
I was thinking about my mum, dad and sister when we were at Westminster Abbey recently on procession. I kept myself focused on the front but I was thinking, 'I wish my mum and dad could see me'. And then I thought 'Well, they will. They'll be watching'.
When my two sisters were courting, they had to be in by 11pm. Dad was strict. They wasn't allowed the key to the front door until they got married. I rebelled as I got older. I'd wanted to go into farming but my father was having none of that so I left school and worked in a bakery. I stuck it for two years and then I thought 'I just want to do
something' so I signed up for the army. I was 17 years old and my father said 'you won't last 6 weeks'. I thought 'I'll show him'.
We did all sorts of basic training to begin with. There were twenty of us in a long wooden hut, all women. In those days we wore khaki, not like the smart uniforms they wear now, and thick stockings and suspenders. We called them bullet-proof stockings because they were like the ones Nora Batty wore. I enjoyed every minute of it. Once I'd finished, I got posted to White Lodge in Richmond Park.
I started out issuing uniforms and bedding to new recruits. After a year I got a bit restless. I wanted to be a physical training instructor so I started the training. I did most of the course and then they decided after my half way assessment that I'd have to do something else. They didn't think I could make it because of my accent. I thought what a load of rubbish. In those days it was like, if your face fitted.
Instead, I became a chef. I worked my way up from basic training and ended up as an A1 instructor. I loved the life of an army chef, I really did. We used to go to dances and get invites everywhere. If you played sport it was great because you got time off to do it. I used to swim for the Army and when we had notice come on orders for all medals will be worn at the Remembrance service in 1961, I went to the RSM and said 'please mam, does that mean swimming medals?' I was as green as a gooseberry back then.
I went to Singapore towards the end of the emergency with Malaya and ran the junior ranks. I just did the managerial work, wrote the menus and organised military dinners and buffets. I went on to run the Officers Mess kitchen in Ireland. We did a big dinner for the Prime Minister in 1972. There was very tight security. And then in 1975 I ended up in Aldershot teaching catering. Men and women came in as raw recruits. Some had never even boiled an egg. It was a satisfying job!
I never really gave much thought to the changes in women's history. We did the same job as the men in a lot of cases. Like here, at the Royal Hospital. There were a few men against women being in the army but we mostly do the same. The jobs for women were limited to begin with: things like cooks, clerks and drivers, stores, ammunitions and medical orderlies. It was later that they brought in jobs specifically for women and now women do everything the men do, like go out to Afghanistan.'
Eventually, after battling with a back injury, Marjorie had to leave the army. Back on civvy street and as the youngest member of her family, she found herself filling a more traditional role. 'I'm like a lot of people', she said. 'The youngest daughter doesn't marry and looks after the parents'. But she has no regrets. 'Dad had died in hospital when Mum was ill and before that, they were both living in a home. When the doctor told me she had a year and a half to live and she didn't want to go back to the home, I said 'I'll look after her'. She used to say 'I have more friends now than I ever had in my life' because she was used to waiting on our father hand and foot and she never had time to even read a book, so I don't regret it'. But it wasn't easy and invariably, eventually Marjorie found herself alone.
Things are different now. There are more single people today than ever before. We are less limited by convention. If we don't want to live alone, we share flats, live in friendship groups, or with extended families. Not quite so straightforward for an older generation and as a sociable person, Marjorie struggled with the concept of life by herself.
'I lived in sheltered accommodation up North. I belonged to the chapel and I did a lot within that. I went to social groups and had friends but when I came back at night, I never saw a soul.'
An answer to her conundrum came unexpectedly.
'We used to have monthly meetings at my WRAC ATS Association and one week, we got this notification from our headquarters that they were planning to take in women at the RHC and the more I thought about it, the more I thought 'that sounds right'. So I got on the telephone. I never thought I would be accepted but they said I'd be the third one* in. I said, I'm not interested in that, as long as I'm there. I have been here exactly 4 years on the 22nd July. No. It's a bit like going to Westminster Abbey. It's something I'd never dreamt of.'
I asked Marjorie, did she feel a little trepidatious about packing up her old life and moving to the city of London to begin a new chapter of her life? 'There was no sense of regret. Oh no. Seeing the little handbook, it said what you could do and it said you're free to come and go as you like. There was a limited strictness for safety, but nothing like when we were in the Army. No.
I feel proud when I put my scarlet coat on. I feel proud to have served and when I am on parade, I am marching for those we've lost and those that are still serving. Six of us were chosen to go to Westminster Abbey for the [Anniversary of the] Coronation recently. It was like living a fairy tale. When we sat there, everyone important was sat by the West door and we saw them all come in, but I was remembering sixty years ago when I was at home. Myself, my two sisters and mother and father listening to [the Coronation] on the wireless because, unless they were very wealthy, no one could afford a television. It was pouring with rain and as we listened to the service on the wireless I crocheted a red, white and blue beret. Later we listened to the firework displays and then we had to wait until we could go to the cinema to watch it on film. I was sat there remembering that and thinking those young children will be doing the same in sixty years' time. It was incredible.
The job I did before I joined the Army in the bakery, it was monotonous, you know? 8-5 every day, 5 days a week, just stood there icing buns. The majority of the people I went to school with were married by eighteen or nineteen years old with children and I didn't want to do that. I wanted to see something of the world. When I look back I think I made the right decision, but especially coming here, after looking after my family, I think I'm getting the reward now.
It's like life really began when I was sixty-five. The atmosphere, the camaraderie is fantastic. No, I love every minute of it. I do have a little laugh to myself about my Dad saying I'd only last six weeks in the army. I often think that. I think, if only you could see me! Bless him.
Labels: Chelsea Pensioner, female, lady, Marjorie Cole, Royal Hospital Chelsea, women in the army
Between 1844 and 1854 a cricket match was staged between 11 one-armed Greenwich Pensioners and 11 one-legged Chelsea Pensioners at the Kennington Oval. A record of the event was taken by Theodor Fontane for his book 'Ein Sommer in London'.
"The end was in sight, the next few minutes would show who would win, Greenwich or Chelsea. The Chelsea men in their long red frock-coats had a lead of three runs but the men from Greenwich in their navy-blue jackets and those tricorne hats which commanded so much respect, were in and a good hit could give their side the victory.
|The Chelsea Pensioners and the Royal Hospital Chelsea|
Many players had cast their hats on the ground and the thin white locks of the old men fluttered in the breeze. Most of them were in their seventies, moss covered heads from Trafalgar (1805) and even from the Battle of the Nile (1798) and anyone there who had lost an arm at Navarino (1827) was just a sly fox.
There they stood, the ancient creators and bearers of British honour, hardly less ready as when they stood on a three-decker as Nelson's famous boarding plank fell into place; and soldier and sailor who had so often stretched out their hands for the laurels of fame together, now stood with blazing eyes facing each other and each seeking fame for himself.
As I said, Greenwich was in and an old man with one arm and one leg* (a complete cripple but a real man) stood with his bat firmly held and not letting his opponent out of his sight, in front of the three stumps of his wicket and parried the flying ball with a steady eye and a firm hand. He had hit the ball three times but it had not gone far enough for him to run the length of the wicket on his peg leg, but luck was with him and with the honour of Greenwich on the fourth hit.
|The Greenwich Pensioners and the Greenwich Hospital|
The ball flew wide over the field and he quickly calculated that he could run three times up and down the wicket, he set out at the double back and forth. But the victory hung by a hair, before he could reach the crease for the third time his opponent (whom he might have underestimated) was nearer the wicket than he was. What to do? Watch, with swift presence of mind the old man flung himself forwards on the ground with his bat in front of him and instantly covered the eight foot gap from the crease. He did not reach it himself but the tip of his bat did.
A storm of applause came from every side, the women on the balcony waved their handkerchiefs and the persistent trumpeter flourished a fanfare - the game was over and Greenwich had won."
* The match was between "11 men with one arm and 11 with one leg" - either side was allowed to field a player with fewer limbs because understandably the chances of the opponents would be increased if they did.
Labels: Chelsea Pensioners, Cricket match, Greenwich Pensioners, one-armed, one-legged
In September 2013 the Royal Hospital Chelsea will be officially unveiling a plaque to commemorate the achievements of Colonel William Carlos in assisting our Founder King Charles II in escaping capture by the Commonwealth soldiers.
|The plaque will be placed in the base of Grinling Gibbon's statue of |
King Charles II in Figure Court at the Royal Hospital Chelsea
Colonel William Carlos served in the Royalist Army during the civil wars. It is believed that he took part in the Battle of Worcester in 1651 and did not leave the battlefield until the Royalists were defeated. At this point he fled to the woods surrounding Boscobel House
and hid in an oak tree.
Whilst escaping from the Commonwealth soldiers, King Charles II was urged by Colonel Carlos to hide with him in the oak tree, where they stayed for over 24 hours. Colonel Carlos sourced food during this time and prevented King Charles
falling from the tree whilst he slept.
The oak tree is still standing in Boscobel Wood today and is referred to as the Royal Oak.
Labels: Boscobel House, Chelsea Pensioner, Colonel Carlos, King Charles II, Royal Hospital Chelsea, Royal Oak