October 2013 – The Royal Star & Garter Homes was honoured to welcome the President of the Charity, Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, to the official opening of its new, state-of-the-art Home in Surbiton, Surrey.
The Princess was greeted by a fanfare from the Surbiton Royal British Legion Youth Marching Band’s Fanfare Team. Vice Admiral Sir John Dunt, the Chairman of Governors, and the Mayor of Kingston-upon-Thames, Councillor Penny Sheltone then welcomed Princess Alexandra to the Surbiton Home. Her Royal Highness was escorted to the main hall, where she was introduced to a number of dignitaries, including the Charity’s Vice President, Marshal of the Royal Air Force the Lord Craig of Radley.
Donald Lowe, a resident at the Surbiton Home, presented the Princess with a posy. Donald served in the Royal Air Force as an aircraft mechanic and was posted to Singapore and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). There, he established a radio station for the troops and taught himself to play brass instruments so that he could join the RAF Band. He still loves big band music today. Donald said of meeting Princess Alexandra: “I was really proud to welcome the Princess to our new Home.”
Princess Alexandra took a tour and spent time talking to guests, residents and staff, before unveiling a plaque to mark the official opening of the Home. The Princess remarked on how her grandmother, Queen Mary, who opened the Richmond Home in 1924, would have been delighted with the new Surbiton Home.
The residents moved from the Richmond Home into their new Surbiton Home last August and quickly settled in, thanks to careful planning by care staff and support from families and volunteers. Surbiton is the second Home to be built as part of the Charity’s modernisation plan, with 63 specially equipped en-suite rooms. Of these, 26 form a specialist dementia unit, named after Tom Lister, one of the founders of The Royal British Legion, in recognition of their generous donation of £2.05 million in support of the dementia care wing.
Chris Simpkins, the Director General of The Royal British Legion, commented on the event: “The Legion is enormously proud to have been able to provide funding towards a state-of-the-art dementia wing for this wonderful new Royal Star & Garter Home. The £2.05 million external grant is one of the largest we have made, and it recognises both The Royal Star & Garter’s important work and this growing veterans’ need.”
The Charity also received a wonderful donation towards the Surbiton Home of £700,000 as part of a larger grant from the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. Air Commodore Paul Hughesdon, of the RAFBF, remarked on the Home’s official opening: “As the RAF’s leading welfare charity, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund has been delighted to work alongside The Royal Star & Garter Homes on this project and we have watched the creation of this new Home with great excitement. Our total investment of £2 million, in both the Surbiton and the Solihull Home, represents a major part of our strategy, giving older members of the RAF family access to The Royal Star & Garter Homes’ excellent level of care, with a particular focus on dementia care – an area in which The Royal Star & Garter Homes are world leaders. The opening of this new Home is a wonderful step forward, and I have no doubt that all those who use this facility will experience the highest level of care and support.”