Finest Hour 186, Fourth Quarter 2019
On 13 November, Jennie Churchill, great-granddaughter of Sir Winston, presented on behalf of the International Churchill Society unique silver medallions to forty-five veterans of the Second World War who are residents at the Royal Hospital Chelsea (RHC). Additionally, the RHC was presented with the Society’s annual Winston S. Churchill Leadership Award.
Founded by King Charles II in 1682, the RHC is a retirement and nursing home for some 300 veterans of the British Army. Established as an alms house, the ancient sense of the word hospital, the RHC sits on a sixty-six acre site in central London, with buildings designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the same architect responsible for St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Any man or woman who is over the age of sixty-five and served as a regular soldier may apply to become a Chelsea Pensioner, as the residents are known, if they have found themselves in a time of need and are “of good character.” Pensioners are easily distinguished by their famous scarlet coats, which they wear for many occasions.
The RHC is an independent charity and relies partly upon donations to cover day-to-day running costs to provide care and accommodation for the veterans. In accepting the Leadership Award on behalf of all of the staff and administrators, Governor of the RHC General Sir Adrian Bradshaw said: “This is a very meaningful and appropriate recognition from the International Churchill Society to honour all those here at the Royal Hospital Chelsea who have served their country during the Second World War. I am delighted that both the ICS and the RHC are represented on this commemorative medallion. We at the Royal Hospital are honoured to receive the Winston S. Churchill Leadership Award in recognition of all that we do on behalf of our British Army veterans.”
The medallions were designed and hand-produced by seasoned British silversmith Christopher Hamilton. On the obverse side is the emblem of the RHC with the individually engraved name of the recipient. On the reverse side is the ICS emblem of Sir Winston. The veterans were very proud of their medallions and spent the evening showing them to many of the 120 attendees while sharing their personal stories.
The medallions were presented by Jennie Churchill in the Great Hall of the Royal Hospital prior to a reception attended by many supportive dignitaries, including Members of Parliament and military personnel past and present. After making the individual presentations, Jennie stated, “It is an absolute privilege to present these medallions to such worthy recipients and to present the Royal Hospital with this much deserved Leadership award. My family are immensely proud that ICS should choose to recognise such dedication and duty, and I am truly honoured to play a role and be part of it.”
A relationship with the RHC has been built through ICS Chairman Laurence Geller CBE, who is pioneering specialist treatment in dementia care through his Loveday care home sites in and around London, including Chelsea. As Chancellor of West London University, Geller has also supported the establishment of courses at all levels for people to prepare for careers in dementia care.
Geller said: “I have dedicated a great deal of my life to improving care for the elderly, which is also exemplified by the amazing work done here by the RHC. I am delighted that my own organisation is cooperating daily with the RHC to improve the lives of the Chelsea Pensioners who live with dementia, a disease for which there is no known cure yet can be contracted by one in three people.”
In conclusion, Geller observed: “2019 marks the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. These medallions are just a small but heartfelt recognition for those who were prepared to give the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and democracy. What this generation did for all of us vindicates all that we should be doing for them today. We owe it to them to make every day better.”