Finally, after 317 years, we now have two Women Chelsea Pensioners:
“Mrs Dorothy Hughes (85) and Miss Winifred Phillips (82), the first women to become In-Pensioners, were welcomed to the Hospital by the Governor, General the Lord Walker GCB CMG CBE DL, Adjutant Brigadier David Radcliffe OBE, as well as some of the current In-Pensioners, on the 12th of March.
Winifred Phillips trained and qualified as a nurse before joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1948. She enlisted into the Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC) in 1949 whilst serving in Egypt. She completed 22 years’ service with the Colours and retired in 1971 in the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2.
Dorothy Hughes joined the ATS in 1941 and was subsequently posted to 450 Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery in the London Division. In 1945 the Battery was deployed near Dover to defend against V1 rocket attacks. Dorothy later worked with the Army Operational Research Group developing fuses in shells used against V2 rockets and was discharged from the Army in 1946 in the rank of sergeant. After the war, Dorothy worked as a secretary before training as a teacher and eventually retiring in 1982. Dorothy says: “Everyone has been extremely kind and welcoming and I am very excited about the prospect of my new life at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.”
How to be a Chelsea Pensioner:
To be eligible for admission as an In-Pensioner, a candidate must be a former non-commissioned officer or soldier of the British Army who is:
1. In receipt of an Army Service or War Disability Pension for Army Service.
2. Normally 65 years of age or over; exceptionally a candidate may be admitted under this age if he is suffering from a seriously disabling, incurable but not immediately life-threatening condition requiring long-term care
3. Free from any obligation to support a partner or family
Also eligible for admission are any former officers of the British Army who meet the criteria provided they served for at least 12 years in the ranks before obtaining a commission or if they were awarded a disablement pension while serving in the ranks.
Making a trial visit
When an eligible pensioner applies for admission to the Royal Hospital they are invited to come and stay for four days. The visitor arrives on a Monday and returns home on the Thursday. They use these four days to learn about the way of life in the hospital and whether or not it would suit them. Then Hospital also needs to check that life in the hospital will suit the applicant, although it is rare for applicants meeting the criteria for entry to be refused entry.
On their four-day stay applicants stay in hospital accommodation and eat their meals with the other residents. Applicants meet the Medical Officer, Chaplain and The Adjutant with whom they have a lengthy interview. A few of the rules and the rank structure are explained and the applicants are given a guided tour and a potted history of the hospital.”
What’s this silly rule that they must have no family to support? Do they have to disown their husbands and children?