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Why We Remember

Some of you may remember Alexandra Doyle, she is the daughter of Director of Care & Service Development, Pauline Shaw and has also worked at The Royal Star & Garter Homes as a member of bank staff, undertaken work experience and also ran the Birmingham half-marathon for the Charity in 2012. Alex also volunteers for the Charity when she has a spare moment. For the past four years Alex has been training to become a Military Nurse. We caught up with Alex and Pauline to ask them about Remembrance and what it means to them.


Alex: I’m now in my final year of University and just about to start my final placement, it will be 12 weeks long and place me on a surgical ward. It’ll mean that I get a wide range of experience and allow me the opportunity to explore the skills needed to become a registered nurse. 


August 4th marked the Centenary of the First World War, but I was working a 12-hour shift that day, so I didn’t get the chance to attend any events. However, in the run up to the day and in the days following, I was able to attend a few of the events which were really moving and interesting: interesting in the sense of seeing the different ways that military services conduct their parades. Coming from a military family myself, I think that’s it’s great that the country has come together to celebrate the Centenary as we should never forget. Remembrance is vital to ensure that history does not repeat itself. The more we can retain moments like this in our memories, the more it can act as a deterrent for future conflicts. I also like to ensure that during Remembrance I spend time thinking about things that may not be so obvious, for example the numerous animals killed during the wars and the number of men who became shell-shocked.


Two years ago I volunteered to attend the Remembrance Service at Westminster Cathedral, which I found to be very interesting, I had never attended a Catholic Remembrance Service before. It was also the first time that I had worn my uniform in public, I felt very proud to be representing the RAF and to be remembering all those who have been before me. This year, I am planning on attending the service with residents from the Surbiton Home. I really enjoy spending time with the residents and speaking to them about their memories. I am always happy to support The Royal Star & Garter Homes and will be proud to attend the ceremony in Surbiton on Sunday.


Pauline: Earlier this year I completed the World War One Battlefields Trek that the Charity ran and found it to be a very poignant experience and one that I will always remember and cherish. The events which took place on the battlefields of the Ypres Salient were horrific. To see row upon row, of crosses and gravestones was truly moving and stayed with me long after I was there. For me, we should never forget, Remembrance is so important. We should continue to consciously remember and pay tribute to those who lost their lives or were injured during the conflict.


My family has been involved with the military for generations now, from my Grandfathers who both served in the Somme during the First World War, to my Father who served in the British Army between 1945 and 1948 in Egypt and Cyprus, and my Father-in-Law who served in the Royal Navy and was on board a Destroyer at port in Japan during the Japanese surrender on September 2nd 1945. Continuing the tradition, my daughter, Alex is now in her final year of a nursing degree with the RAF and I am immensely proud of her and all my relatives that have served and those that continue to serve, which is why I enjoy being with the residents of the Charity. It is something that I truly believe in and value. I have attended acts of Remembrance with residents for 13 years and on each occasion I see the weight of emotion in their eyes, as they remember. On Remembrance Day I will attend the memorial service in Surbiton, alongside my daughter and residents.

Alex’s Grandmother and Pauline’s Mother, Daphne Conway, was a much-loved resident at our Surbiton Home and sadly passed away earlier this year. We asked them if there was a fond memory of Daphne that they would like to share.


Alex: Gran is greatly missed – especially for her sense of humour. She used to love getting photos of me in my uniform and hanging them on her door. She always found my RAF hat rather amusing – as it is kind of triangular in shape and she used to joke that it looked like a pirate hat and enjoyed trying it on herself.

Pauline: I have many memories of my dear mum; she was such a huge part of my life, particularly since she moved into The Royal Star & Garter Homes first in Richmond and then at Surbiton. Last year on November 11th, at our first Remembrance Service in the Surbiton Home, I had the sad honour to read out the names of residents of the Richmond and Surbiton Homes who had passed away during the previous 12 months.  It was not an easy thing to do, to read out the names of the people who I had the privilege to know so well and call my friends.  At the end of the reading, I caught my mum’s eye and she quietly and gently smiled and nodded at me in recognition and pride. This year, I will not feel able to do this, as sadly the list will include the name of my loving mum, who I miss dearly.