Chelsea Pensioners: A Life Served

In an exclusive radio programme recorded at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Richard Hatch and Hal Stewart meet four entertaining and inspiring veterans.

Describing the current state of his libido, 87-year-old retired soldier, Denis Shiels, says he's now got to the stage where he'd rather “have a cup of tea”. But his eyes still sparkle when he recalls the big moments of his life and the woman he was married to for 57 years.

The 30-minute special weaves together the personal stories of Denis, Gordon Sanders ‘Sandy’, who gave his wife a kidney; ladies’ man Ted Roberts, who courted the then reigning Miss Camberwell, and Brian Cunning, who recalls coming under fire from the German Luftwaffe during his childhood.

“Last year I was invited to interview a lovely 89-year-old veteran at the Royal Hospital,” said Richard. “He was the inspiration for this programme and the listening experience I wanted to try and recreate.”

In this unique collection of enlightening and tender tales, the four men talk about military service, their beloved wives, and what it means to wear the iconic scarlet tunic and tricorn hat.

Hal said: “I wanted to paint a picture for the younger audience about what life was like for the often ignored and easily dismissed older generations.

“The insight these four gentlemen gave us was far more than I could ever have hoped. I found myself being transformed back to the 1950s as they reminisced on a broad range of relatable subjects. It was a pleasure to be involved in this project.”

As widowers, all of the veterans struggled to cope with life on their own until moving into the Royal Hospital Chelsea – a place they are now proud to call home and their “last posting”.

Summing up his feelings about becoming a Chelsea Pensioner, Brian said: “The moment I walked though the gates, I knew this is where I needed to be. I am happy that I’m going to be here until that final parade.”