Chelsea Pensioners on Parade: Camilla reviews veterans & remembers COVID victims

Today, The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Royal Hospital Chelsea to review Chelsea Pensioners on Parade.

Camilla was greeted by The Governor, General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, and Lady Bradshaw, who introduced the royal visitor to members of staff from the Health & Wellbeing Department.

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Some 300 veterans live at the hospital, both men and women, who are all former soldiers in the British Army. A number were on parade today in the Royal Hospital’s central courtyard for inspection by the Duchess.

The Royal was told about how health and safety was prioritised when lockdown began, as well as how some of the residents set up a ‘Covid Arms’ pub in the grounds.

Chelsea Pensioner Leo Tighe, 77, a Dublin native who served with the Irish Guards, said: “We are where we are, this is an old folks’ home and people do die.”

“But you’ve got to have a safety valve and basically that’s what these things are, they’re a safety valve to give you a bit of a break from the routine.”

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The Duchess of Cornwall during a visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where she met members of staff and reviewed the Chelsea Pensioners on Parade

Camilla had been due to attend the annual Founder’s Day Parade on 4th June, which was scaled down; the day commemorates Charles II’s founding of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1682. The King set up the hospital to provide a home for ‘the succour and relief of veterans broken by age or war.’ The structure was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, opening 10 years later.

Founder’s Day not only celebrates the establishment of the Hospital, but also Charles II’s escape from the Battle of Worcester in 1651, after the Royalists were defeated, which is also known as Apple Oak Day. A statue of King Charles II can be found at the hospital in Figure Court, decorated in oak leaves.

The Duchess of Cornwall remembered the 10 Chelsea Pensioners who died recently of coronavirus: “I know that you have been through a particularly tough time of late, having lost 10 Pensioners to Covid-19.

“I should like to express my heartfelt sympathy to the families of those who have died, and to each of you as you go through the painful process of adjusting to the gap left by those much-loved friends.”

She spoke of the ‘challenges and sacrifices of military duty’ exemplified in recent times: “Firstly, a few weeks ago, we marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day, a day which some of you might remember. We recalled with gratitude the great victory that our armed forces won for us.

“Then, in a very different context, we turned to a younger generation of servicemen and women as the recent pandemic broke out. Proving themselves your worthy successors, they have helped to build hospitals, establish testing sites, repatriate our citizens, deliver PPE at home and abroad, and develop a track and trace application to help combat the spread of the virus.

“And all the while continuing to assure our defence at home and abroad,” Camilla said.

“In times of war and times of peace, whether seen or unseen, the armed forces support and strengthen our nation, just as each one of you Chelsea Pensioners did throughout your careers.”

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