Thursday, 14 February 2013

What is a Chelsea Pensioner?

We have decided to start a blog to give you lovely people a bit more insight into what happens behind our gates (and also to remind you that they do open - so come in and look around!).

I thought a suitable subject for our first blog would be to explain 'What is a Chelsea Pensioner?'

A lot of people see the Chelsea Pensioners around London (and other parts of the world) looking resplendent in their scarlet coats. But they don't understand who or what they are. Hopefully we can help with that.

The main misconception about Chelsea Pensioners is that they all served in World War I and II. Not true. We are currently home to veterans who served in Korea, the Falklands, Cyprus and Ireland and, through an extensive modernisation programme, we are preparing ourselves to receive soldiers from the current campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq when they retire.

A Chelsea Pensioner is:

  • Over 65 years of age
  • A former soldier or non-commissioned officer of the British Army or a former officer of the British Army who served in the ranks for at least 12 years or was awarded a disablement pension while serving in the ranks
  • Able to live independently on the Long Wards (which is sheltered accommodation) on arrival to the Royal Hospital Chelsea
  • Free of any financial obligation to support a spouse or family   

If the individual fits this criteria, they visit the Royal Hospital Chelsea [RHC] for a four day stay, where they get a taste of what life is like for a Chelsea Pensioner. If they like it here and it is felt that they will fit in with the ethos of the RHC, they are invited to become a Chelsea Pensioner. They are allocated their own berth and are measured up for their Blues (more casual uniform) and Scarlets (the famous uniform that they wear on parade).

These men and women (since 2009) come to the RHC for a number of reasons, but often because they have lost a partner and crave the comradeship that many experienced whilst serving in the Army.

As well as living with like minded people at the RHC, a Chelsea Pensioner is invited to lots of interesting activities on and off-site, is supported by full medical care and catering services and are free of financial worries. They also have their own Club with a bar, lounges and restaurant and there are allotments for the green fingered.

If a Chelsea Pensioner becomes unwell, they move into the Infirmary, which is a state of the art care home with nursing and a GP medical centre. As well as receiving excellent care here there are also a wide range of activities for those who wish to participate.

Hopefully this helps you to understand a bit more about what Chelsea Pensioners are - but if you have any further questions please do email us at, comment on the blog, tweet us @RHChelsea or have a look at our website here:

You can support the Chelsea Pensioners in a variety of ways including making a donation on our justgiving page here:

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