Today HRH The Duke of York KG reviewed the Chelsea Pensioners at the 323rd annual Founder's Day Parade, which commemorates King Charles II founding of the army veterans' home the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1681.
At the start of the parade, witnessed by His Royal Highness, the French Ambassador HE Sylvie Bermann awarded the Légion d'honneur to 19 Chelsea Pensioners who served on D-Day and beyond for the liberation of France.
HE Sylvie Bermann said: “I am very honoured to be awarding the veterans of the Royal Hospital Chelsea with the Légion d’honneur today, on behalf of the French President François Hollande. Living as we do in a Europe at peace, we must not stop remembering the heroes of June 1944 and later, those men and women who came from across the Channel to liberate France.
“In presenting the Chelsea Pensioners with France’s highest honour today, we demonstrate our immense respect and gratitude to them for the role they played in securing our freedom over 70 years ago.”
The Royal Hospital Chelsea offers a home and the very highest standards of care to around 300 retired soldiers of the British Army during their advanced years, 88 of whom are World War II veterans.
In his address to the Chelsea Pensioners, HRH The Duke of York said: "You are the epitome of what we would classify as service to the crown…The lifelong service that you have given should never ever be forgotten. Thank you."
The Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea General Sir Redmond Watt KCB KCVO CBE DL thanked HE Sylvie Bermann and the President of France for the honour that has been bestowed on the Pensioners.
He said: “The presentation of the Légion d’honneur to the Pensioners today is something we will always remember. It was a special moment in the history of this remarkable institution that we will remember with pride because it reminds us of the dedication and courage of all the British soldiers who fought in France in the Second World War, many of whom were later to become Pensioners of the Royal Hospital.”
The Royal Hospital Chelsea’s Founder's Day, also known as Oak Apple Day, is always held on a day close the birthday of King Charles II (29 May) and the date of his restoration as King in 1660. The Oak reference commemorates the escape of the future King Charles II after the Battle of Worcester (1651) when he hid in an oak tree to avoid capture by the Parliamentary forces, and is expressed today through all members of the Parade wearing oak leaves.
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