Britain's old soldiers need help with fading home

Wed Mar 31, 2010 7:49am EDT
 
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By Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - You'd think old soldiers whose adventures have taken them from Britain's imperial frontiers of the 1930s to the Falklands of the 1980s would have earned themselves a break.

But the 300 or so pensioners living in the Royal Hospital Chelsea can't afford to rest on the laurels they've earned from years of tireless service in the British Army with the future of their 17th century home at stake.

The Chelsea Pensioners -- retired soldiers of the British Army whose distinctive scarlet uniforms and tricorn hats are a colorful addition to nearly every highlight of the British summer season from Ascot to Wimbledon -- aren't just a photogenic national tradition.

The pensioners, their home in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the care they receive at the Royal Hospital are a living covenant between the British nation and those who have served in uniform to defend it.

Royal Hospital Chelsea Development Director David Hellens told Reuters that the Long Wards which have housed pensioners since 1692 are in dire need of renovation.

The hospital's annual grant from the government does not cover maintenance or refurbishment of one of the most important pieces of Wren architecture.

To maintain its buildings, the Royal Hospital has to raise its own funds through appeals and commercial ventures.

"In the past, people had heard of Chelsea Pensioners but they didn't know really who they were or importantly that they live in a 300-year-old building that needs updating and constant maintenance," Hellens said.   Continued...

 
<p>Chelsea Pensioners march past a leaf-covered wall during Remembrance Sunday near the Cenotaph, in central London, in this November 12, 2006 file picture. You'd think old soldiers whose adventures have taken them from Britain's imperial frontiers of the 1930s to the Falklands of the 1980s would have earned themselves a break. But the 300 or so pensioners living in the Royal Hospital Chelsea can't afford to rest on the laurels they've earned from years of tireless service in the British Army with the future of their 17th century home at stake. Picture taken November 12, 2006. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Files</p>