One hundred years ago, the Battle of the Somme bloodied the fields of France. On the first day, 1st July, the British Army lost 60,000 men, of whom 20,000 were killed. Britain’s military hospitals were overwhelmed as the injured men returned.
When Queen Mary expressed concern for the future of these disabled Service men, an independent charity was set up and, in 1916, The Royal Star & Garter Home on Richmond Hill opened its doors to the first residents, providing a “permanent haven for paralysed and severely disabled men of the King’s Forces.” Their average age was 22.
The Royal Star & Garter Homes has been caring for these veterans since 1916. Horace Ham, a veteran of the battles of the Somme and a resident at The Royal Star & Garter Homes in the 1990s, described his experiences at the Somme:
“I first saw action in the trenches on 1st July 1916, Somme. We had ladders up (out of the trenches), they blew a whistle and – up! They set everything they had on us, guns, machine guns, everything. I was one of the lucky ones, I got hit when we went over the top. Fellow next to me was shot through the head by a sniper. I got wounded and Richardson got wounded, the rest got killed.”
Horace was treated for his wounds and returned to France, to fight again at the Battle of Arras. The injuries he sustained there meant that for him the war was over. Horace died at The Royal Star & Garter Homes in 1995, just before his 100th birthday.
The Royal Star & Garter Homes was there one hundred years ago to provide specialist care for our Armed Forces, as we are today.