Veterans

Chelsea Pensioners Receive Upgraded Scarlet Coats

The coats are a symbol of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and it is the first time they have been altered in any way since the 18th century.

The Chelsea Pensioners have been issued with new, lighter scarlet coats, designed to make a difference during events taking place in the summer.

The veterans are residents at the Royal Hospital Chelsea – a retirement and nursing home for former members of the British Army in west London.

Their older, heavier coats were hot and cumbersome when worn for long periods of time at different events – especially in the warmer summer months.

But the new coats are more agile, lighter and better suited for wear at the more than 500 events the Chelsea Pensioners take part in every year.

Chelsea Pensioner David Coote said the new coats will "be a benefit" for performing in the heat, either at home or abroad.

"I had the experience of going to Malta in the heavy 'scarlet' and at 30 degrees it was a nightmare and I absolutely got drained of fluids as soon as I stepped off the aircraft," he said. 

"So, these will be a benefit for things like that... we'll need the lightweight to just ease the pain of going out and performing in this sort of equipment."

The coats are a symbol of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and it is the first time the iconic uniform has been altered since the 18th Century.

Another Chelsea Pensioner, Tony Judge, said the new coat "will be much more comfortable".

"They've done a very good job with it," he said.

"We suffer during Governor's Parade, [on] the first Thursday in June, and we do suffer if it's a hot day in our coats."

The Chelsea Pensioners are preparing for a pacesticking competition at Sandhurst next month.

The change in the uniform has made a huge difference to the Chelsea Pensioners, who take both their role as the face of the veteran community and the sentiment behind what the coat stands for very seriously.

"Just walking around [Royal Hospital Chelsea], you can feel the history in here, the people who have been before us, the veterans of all the different wars, what we represent here," Mr Judge said.

"When we go out of the hospital, we don't just represent ourselves and the hospital, we represent veterans and the military community as a whole and we take pride in that.

"We take pride in our uniforms just as we took pride when we served in the Army," he added.

It comes as the Chelsea Pensioners prepare for a pacesticking competition, which will take place on 10 June at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

It will be the first time they have taken part competitively against other teams from around the world.

As "the only one" who had competed before, Mr Coote helped train the other Chelsea Pensioners during the coronavirus lockdown. 

"It was quite hard work to start with, but throughout the lockdown we were practising, and everybody in the team was happy as Larry," he said.

"They never got down because of the lockdown and it gave us an aim to get through."