Supporting our soldiers

8th February 2021

On Thursday 4, The Royal Hospital was proud to add its name to the growing list of organisations which have signed the Armed Forces Covenant. The signing took place during a virtual ceremony between The Governor, General Sir Adrian Bradshaw KCB OBE DL and the Rt. Hon Johnny Mercer MP, Minister for Defence People and Veterans. The Hospital was also pleased to have Chief of General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith KCB CBE ADC Gen present for the ceremony.

Reaffirming our commitment

General Sir Adrian remarked at the signing:

 The Royal Hospital is incredibly proud of its military heritage and although we have supported Army veterans and employed ex-military staff over the past 300 years, we are pleased to be demonstrating our continued commitment to the Armed Forces by signing the Covenant.

The Governor, General Sir Adrian Bradshaw and Pensioners witness the signing of the Armed Forces Covenant

Chief of General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith also offered some words of support:

On behalf of the British Army I would like to thank the Minister and the Governor and applaud the Armed Forces Covenant and the pledges they signed today. They underwrite all of our responsibility, recognised by the Government, to support the whole Army community – especially our veterans and their families. I think, during this extraordinary crease in our country’s history, we are reminded that our veterans continue to make a significant contribution to the life of our Nation. Thank you all for your support and contribution to the Covenant, to the deserving veterans and their families and the unique community at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. It couldn’t be more important. It’s not just our Army – it’s our Nation’s Army – and it’s made of flesh and blood and beating hearts. 

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said:

I'm delighted The Royal Hospital has joined the thousands of businesses, charities and public organisations who have pledged to support veterans, service personnel and their families by signing the Armed Forces Covenant.

The Royal Hospital not only sets the standard for veteran care in this country, it also utilises the exemplary skills of our Armed Forces by providing employment for former service personnel, military spouses and reservists.

This year, we're going even further to help ensure our forces community is treated with the fairness and respect they deserve by bringing the Covenant into law through the Armed Forces Bill.

Royal Hospital Chelsea chose 4 February - an auspicious date for the ceremony - which marked 329 years since the first Pensioners were admitted to the Hospital in 1692. Since that time, the Hospital has come a long way from the rudimentary care afforded to those first Pensioners. Now, the Hospital sees itself not only as a great place for Army veterans to live out their retirement, but also as a preferred employer for Service leavers, reservists and other Service personnel, including military spouses, who would like to continue working in a quasi-military institution. 

Care Assistant Terri standing in Figure Court at the Royal Hospital Chelsea

Care Assistant Terri Pitts served with the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps for 25 years and saw two operational tours – in the Gulf War in 1990, and in Operation Herrick in 2013 in Afghanistan.

Terri said, ahead of the signing:

I decided to join the Royal Hospital Chelsea as I have cared for soldiers and I wanted to care for veterans. We also have very strong links with the British Army and Ministry of Defence and there are a lot of ex-serving soldiers here as well. I’m very proud to work here - it’s a unique place to work - and I’m very happy we’re able to sign the Armed Forces Covenant. 

Our family 

The signing by the Royal Hospital is very timely given last week’s introduction of The Armed Forces Bill 2021 – which intends to strengthen existing provisions for Armed Forces personnel in the areas of healthcare, education, and housing for example, aiming to reduce barriers to employment sometimes faced by ex-Service personnel. 

General Sir Adrian said:

We often refer to the Army ‘family’ at the Royal Hospital.  We have a unique community where staff are deeply committed to the welfare of the Pensioners, in whatever position they hold – from Governor to Gardener, from Chaplain to care worker. Some roles at the Hospital require a military background but we also strive to employ ex-Service personnel across the board.

The Hospital has several positions for veterans and serving reservists; including the Quartermaster, three company Captains, and the Regimental Sergeant Major position and is proud to employ veterans such as Terri and others in roles throughout the Hospital. 


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View the archive

Brompton Cemetery Seed Sowing
Sowing wildflowers in memory of past Chelsea Pensioners

On 6 May, Chelsea Pensioners and members of the Royal Hospital’s grounds team joined representatives from the Royal Parks, the Royal Parks Guild and the Friends of Brompton Cemetery to sow a patch of wildflower seeds in Brompton Cemetery as part of the Battlefields and Butterflies initiative.

Chelsea Pensioner Centenarians
100 years old and still going strong

Recent research backs up the anecdote that Chelsea Pensioners not only live considerably longer than their peers outside (by over five years, on average), but that their lifetimes once they come to the Royal Hospital are extending, year on year. This strongly suggests that the care and community here contribute to greater longevity – as well as improving quality of life. 


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