August 2014 – As lights went out across the UK in a vigil to mark the Centenary of the start of the First World War, a group of staff and residents from The Royal Star & Garter Homes attended ‘A Solemn Commemoration’ at Westminster Abbey.
This moment in history holds particular significance for The Royal Star & Garter Homes as the Charity was established to care for the severely injured young servicemen who returned from the battlefields of Europe. As Britain’s military hospitals became overwhelmed with wounded troops, an independent charity was set up and, in 1916, The Royal Star & Garter Home on Richmond Hill opened its doors to 65 residents, providing a “permanent haven for paralysed and severely disabled men of the King’s Forces.”
One such resident was Horace Hannan, who was resident at the Richmond Home between 1990 and 1993. Horace was underage when he enlisted in the Army in 1915. He survived the Battles of Loos, Ypres and the Somme before being sent home with a shrapnel wound in his back after the Battle of Guillemont in August 1916.
Horace survived but many servicemen did not return and military search parties visited the Battlefields of the Somme and other sites in 1920, exhuming unidentified bodies of soldiers. A body was selected by Brigadier General L.J. Wyatt, General Officer Commanding troops in France and Flanders. That soldier became the ‘Unknown Warrior’. Horace Hannan witnessed the burial of the Unknown Warrior in 1920 at Westminster Abbey.
The sacrifice of all of those who served was remembered at Westminster Abbey, when lights were extinguished and a single candle lit the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
“The service was very moving and when the lights went out, apart from the candle at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, I thought of all those brave men who didn’t make it back. The Star & Garter Home was there for the ones that did.” John Jenner, RAF Veteran and resident at The Royal Star & Garter Homes – Surbiton
Heather Robinson, Activities & Welfare Manager, also attended the service and said: “It was an amazing event – dignified, beautiful and very humbling to think of the link our Home has with those who were preparing 100 years ago to fight for the nation.”
As residents at the Abbey, and at the Homes in Solihull and Surbiton, joined in special services of remembrance, we commemorate those who served, whose stories reinforce the Charity’s mission to care for the nation’s military family.