What Remembrance means to the Chelsea Pensioners

9th November 2023

Remembrance is an important time of year at the Royal Hospital. For those who have served in the Armed Forces it has a special significance, as they remember fallen comrades and the legions of those who lost their lives in previous conflicts.  

From the Royal Hospital to the Royal Albert Hall

Here at the Royal Hospital, we will be marking the occasion with a Drumhead Service on 10 November and a Service of Remembrance for Pensioners and their families in the Wren Chapel on Remembrance Sunday.  

The Chelsea Pensioners will also be representing veterans around the UK and beyond, by attending a range of events. In London, Scarlet-coated Chelsea Pensioners will be remembering the fallen at the Field of Remembrance in Westminster Abbey on the 9 November and at the march past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.

Then, in an event as synonymous with remembrance as the poppy, they will be representing veterans at the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall on 11 November. Their presence, processing down the steps and before an applauding audience to the rousing strains of The Boys from the Old Brigade, is one of the most memorable moments of the service. As former drum major Billy observes, “It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end – you feel six foot tall.”

Chelsea Pensioner Billy Knowles looking at the camera

Billy says that Remembrance has an individual, as well as a shared significance:

For most servicemen, most people, Remembrance is all about remembering those who've gone before, who gave their lives for the country from the first World War, second World War through Korea. For me, it was all about Northern Ireland. People who you lost. 

Representing the veteran community, at home and abroad

The Chelsea Pensioners will also be travelling further afield to mark Remembrance. Scarlet coats and tricornes will be present at services taking place in locations from Cornwall to Cardiff, Paris to the Channel Islands – and many support their own local town at this special time. Our Regimental Sergeant Major Ross Martin says their symbolic significance at these occasions is enormous:

The Pensioners don't just represent the battles and wars that happened previously, they represent the freedom of what we do now. A Scarlet coat represents the future and what was sacrficed for us to be in this position now. The Chelsea Pensioners want to do things to support the Nation at this time.

We asked some of the Chelsea Pensionerswhat Remembrance meant to them. 

“Remembrance is about sacrifice”

Chelsea Pensioner Jan Brodie Murphy in Scarlet uniform

As a soldier I was prepared to give my all and I saw young men and women under my command do the same. Their courage, commitment and bravery shone through. We must ensure that all future generations know and understand what personal sacrifices these men and women gave for us to live today in peace. - Jan 

My grandfather, my father and my three brothers served in the Army. I’m proud to be British, and like my family, wanted to protect our freedom and democratic way of life. We did not ‘give in’ to being bullied, and show the world we would, and will protect our freedom. Whatever the cost. I have great respect for all our Armed Forces, that fought and died, to preserve our freedom and democracy. I honour their sacrifice and revere their memory. I believe we should remember and honour their sacrifice. - Brian

Chelsea Pensioner Peter Turner sat outside in Scarlet uniform

Remembrance is about remembering all of those who have given their ultimate sacrifice so this country can maintain its democratic way of life and the freedoms we have today. Remembrance isn’t just about the Armed Forces, it’s about everybody that has given us that sacrifice for our country – people in the police force, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the ambulance service. Organisations that go out to work every day in this country and put their lives on the line, like the doctors and nurses who supported us through the pandemic. - Peter

“Remembrance is about fallen friends and family”

Remembrance is about memories of the friends I've lost. - Mike

Chelsea Pensioner Barry Harman in scarlet uniform

Both my parents served in the Second World War, both grandads served in the First World War. I’ve got three brothers that have all served in the Army. We like to remember what people have done before us. That’s what it’s all about. It's not about warmongering or anything like that – it’s about memories. It’s about remembering those who have died protecting their country. - Barry

Individual memories for me are vitally important. They are living, they're not dead. During that two minute silence I remember people who I've been involved with who have died, but not with sadness, with tears of joy and thankfulness. I’m thankful I knew them and they've enriched my life and I’m glad they're in a safe space now. - Archie

The people who are not here cannot be forgotten. It must be remembered. - Roy

Remembering, always

The last word goes to Chelsea Pensioner Alan, who expressed his thoughts about Remembrance in verse: 

Always Remember 

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