In April 2006, The Royal Hospital Chelsea opened their doors and welcomed a film crew from the BBC, allowing them to take a step into the wonderful world of the Chelsea Pensioners and to create a dramatic documentary series detailing their lives, personal experiences and the day-to-day running of one of the best old folk's homes in the country.
Because of its popularity when shown the first time in April and May 2007, the eight 30 minute weekly episodes are often repeated in the UK and abroad.
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'Always A Soldier' - Wednesday 8th July
101-year-old Bill Swingler is the oldest Chelsea Pensioner. Each new pensioner has to find their own way of fitting back into an army way of life at The Royal Hospital Chelsea. After 58 years of marriage, recently widowed 79-year-old Len Tough is brought to The Royal Hospital Chelsea by his two daughters for a four day trial. Len will discover if he is to be accepted into the ranks of the men in scarlet and 101-year-old Bill reveals the secret of his long life.
'New Boys' - Wednesday 15th July
Every year fifty old soldiers die at The Royal Hospital Chelsea, making room for new men to join the ranks of the Chelsea Pensioners. 90-year-old Wally Hilling, a former Japanese Prisoner of War and Bill Brierley, aged 76, leave family, friends and homes to live instead in a 9 foot square windowless berth and become uniform wearing Chelsea Pensioners. How will they handle the transition from civvy to new recruit for the first time in half a century?
'On Parade' - Wednesday 22nd July
All leave is cancelled as all 300 Chelsea Pensioners at The Royal Hospital Chelsea are ordered to the parade ground for one very special day when Her Majesty the Queen takes the salute on Founder's Day. But in the hottest June since records began how will the massed ranks of the Pensioners cope?
'Comrades In Arms' - Wednesday 29th July
Frank Chambers, aged 90, and Joe Britton, aged 95, first became mates as Royal Fusiliers in India in 1936 - then lost touch. After nearly seventy years they meet again as Chelsea Pensioners and rekindle their friendship. Dougie Huxley, aged 86, and Don Smith met on their first day as new recruits at The Royal Hospital Chelsea and became inseperable. Is their past as soldiers the reason their bonds of friendship are so strong?
'Soldiering On' - Wednesday 5th August
The Royal Hospital Chelsea needs to raise serious money to pay for maintaining its Grade 1 listed building and construction of a new £25 million Infirmary. The Hospital becomes the backdrop to a Bollywood movie and a period drama, but the old soldiers also need to rely on friends in high places to fund a long-term survival plan. Increasingly infirm Chelsea Pensioner 'Windy' Gale needs nursing care and is moving berth and clearing out 60 years of memories.
'Ladies In Waiting' - Wednesday 12th August
Women are coming to The Royal Hospital Chelsea. It's a case of when, not if. But is this all male bastion prepared for the first women in scarlet? Ex-Regimental Sergeant Major Agnes Doig (aged 75), Second World War girl-gunner Barbara Wetherall (aged 81) and Warrant Officer Winifred Phillips (aged 80) visit - and put the Hospital and the men through their paces to see if life at The Royal Hospital Chelsea could be for them.
'Not Forgotten' - Wednesday 19th August
At The Royal Hospital Chelsea, Armistice Day approaches. Memories of the wars the men fought remain vivid and painful. To honour their fallen comrades a dozen Chelsea Pensioners hope to be passed fit enough to walk down the steps of the Royal Albert Hall's Festival of Remembrance and to march past the Cenotaph. But at the Hospital, the poppy collection box is stolen, the culprit is caught on CCTV. If they catch him, what style of justice will he receive at the hands of the old soldiers?
'Changing The Guard' - Wednesday 26th August
The Royal Hospital Chelsea has been told it needs to shape up for the 21st Century. But how do a group of old soldiers, whose average age is 83, cope with the changes? From cyber cafes and a gym, to revolutionary discussions about whether to have en-suite bathrooms in the Grade 1 listed berths, the Pensioners make clear their views to the modernising new top brass. Arnhem veteran Vic Massingham, aged 81, is unfazed by the upheaval, determined only to retain his bowls club crown.
'Chelsea Pensioners: GIRLS ALLOWED' - Wednesday 2nd September
For over three centuries the Royal Hospital Chelsea has been an all-male institution. Following on from the success of the series, this update film charts the arrival of the first female veterans to join the ranks of the Chelsea pensioners - anti aircraft gunner Dorothy Hughes (aged 85) and Warrant Officer Winifred Phillips (aged 82). Are the 320 old boys ready for such a dramatic change?
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