The First World War
In 1915, Queen Mary expressed concern for the future of these injured war veterans. She charged the British Red Cross Society with the task of finding a ‘permanent haven’ for them and bought the Star & Garter Hotel in Richmond. The Star & Garter Home opened its doors on 14 January 1916, to care for the severely disabled young men returning from the battlegrounds of the First World War.
The early Home
Within days of opening, the Home had reached capacity. The men were accommodated in the annexe of the old Star & Garter hotel. It was apparent that the hotel was unsuitable for use as a hospital and it was more cost-effective to tear it down and build a purpose-built Home. Sir Edwin Cooper R.A. was appointed architect and charged with creating a ‘beautiful building’ to accommodate 200 men.
The seaside branch
In July 1919, Enbrook House, near Sandgate, Kent, was bought as a respite home for the veterans. It became known as ‘The Seaside Branch’ and the residents from Richmond, now numbering 70, were moved there while the new Home was being built. The Sandgate Home was closed in 1940 due to threat of invasion.
The new Richmond building
In summer 1924, Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary paid their inaugural visit to the Home and, as Patron of the Home, Queen Mary received the deeds. The new Richmond Home welcomed residents back from Sandgate in October 1924. It was now officially known as the ‘Star & Garter Home for Disabled Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’.
The Second World War
During World War II, the Home took in a new generation of injured soldiers, sailors and airmen. These young men looked to staff and their older peers for guidance in facing a life of disability. In addition to nursing and therapeutic care, the Charity offered training in skills such as crafts and finance to promote independence and meaningful occupation. In 1945, a visit from Group Captain Douglas Bader DSO DFC who was himself disabled, was warmly received by the residents.
The first ‘Paralympic Games’
In the late 1940s, a special paraplegic ward was established at the Home under the direction of Dr Ludwig Guttmann, consultant at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Guttmann used pioneering techniques to promote residents’ mobility, recommending sports which could be played from a wheelchair, such as archery. In 1948, Guttmann launched the Stoke Mandeville Games with an archery competition between Stoke Mandeville and the Star & Garter team. This was the first recorded competition between disabled athletes and was the forerunner to the Paralympic Games.
Her Majesty The Queen became the Home’s new Patron in July 1953, following the death of Her Majesty Queen Mary. Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra became the Home’s new President in July 1964, following the death of Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke. In 2014, the Princess celebrated 50 years as President.
In 1969 the colonnade was enclosed so that the residents could enjoy the gardens under shelter. In 1971 a Hydrotherapy pool funded by the RAF was built in the basement. The wards and single rooms were refurbished and modernised, to add built in wardrobes and electric razor sockets in 1976. In 1994 the wards were modernised again and some adapted into single and twin rooms. It was becoming clear that the Home was difficult to adapt to modern standards.
From 1986, the first women were welcomed as residents to the Home. Women such as Nancy Wake, Special Operations Executive, and Bevis Shergold, Intelligence Corps and Olympic Medalist, were residents.
In 1916, the average age of the young ex-Servicemen was 22. A century later, the average age is now 88, and there is a need for 24-hour nursing, respite and specialist dementia care. The Richmond Home could no longer facilitate the levels of accommodation and care required in the 21st century. The Richmond building was sold in November 2014.
Our Homes today
The charity embarked on a development programme to build three new state-of-the-art care homes and a new generation of modern, award-winning Homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe, now provide care appropriate for today’s veterans.
Our Centenary 2016
The Charity celebrated its Centenary on 14 January 2016. Both Homes and residents celebrated with parties and Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra visited the Surbiton Home to mark the milestone. In the words of First World War veteran Horace Ham, who was a resident with the Charity until his death in 1995: “I only hope, just as the Home was here for me when I needed it, it will be here in years to come for brave Servicemen and women.”
The Royal Star & Garter Homes is committed to a programme of innovation to raise the standards of care for all veterans. We are launching three new models of care that will allow us to touch more lives than ever: day care services within our existing Homes; high-quality home care services in the local areas around our Homes; and bespoke residential services for younger disabled veterans.
Get the Centenary book
We are very grateful to The Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting The Royal Star & Garter Homes Centenary Book, enabling the Charity to share its rich heritage with the public.