The SSAFA Christmas Carol Service traditionally heralds the start of the festive season for many in the armed forces and this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it went digital.
Instead of being held at The Royal Military Chapel – the Guards’ Chapel at Wellington Barracks - this special 2020 service was filmed at the Wren Chapel, Royal Hospital Chelsea and you can watch it right here, now 👇
Before the carol service went live on YouTube Lt Gen Sir Gary Coward, military charity SSAFA's National Chairman, spoke to BFBS Radio broadcaster Tim Humphries about the exciting new format and said:
“There’s all of the features of the previous times, but from a different place, but recorded individually … packaged together seamlessly.”
“Very traditional [carol service] and all in the wonderful surrounding of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.”
The Royal Hospital Chelsea is the home of the iconic Chelsea Pensioners, who are all retired soldiers of the British Army. Founded in 1682 by King Charles II for "the relief and succour" of veterans, it admitted its first Chelsea Pensioners in 1692, among whom were some of those injured at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the Royal Hospital is one of the most visually stunning landmarks in London, sitting beside the River Thames opposite Battersea Park.
The annual concert, organised by an independent committee, saw a full order of service including an address from TV host Pam Rhodes, a reading from General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff, music from The Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and the service welcomes the Chelsea Pensioners.
VIDEO CREDIT: Apple and Biscuit
Like many military charities this year, SSAFA’s staff & volunteers - numbering around 5,000 and working across 10 countries - have had to adapt quickly to meet their clients’ needs. Lt Gen Sir Gary Coward has high praise for those “on the ground". He said:
“I take my hat off to all of them who have adapted remarkably well to deal with the environment and continue to service our client base – their needs have not gone away – and in some cases we think they’ve been exacerbated.”
The SSAFA Christmas Carol Service was an opportunity for the charity to raise its profile and raise much-needed funds. He said:
“It’s been remarkable how some of our supporters have still dipped their hands in their pockets.
“Our corporate friends have helped us fund an emergency response fund which we’ve used to go out there quickly & deliver relief to those who need it.”