A YOUNGSTER from Andover whose dad serves in the British Armed Forces was invited to meet the Chelsea Pensioners as part of a special event.

James Andrews, aged eight, was one of 15 military children invited by the military children’s charity Little Troopers to attend the event at The Royal Hospital Chelsea to celebrate the fact that April is the Month of the Military Child.

James, whose dad Delwyn Andrews is in the army, said: “I had a great day and learnt lots about the Chelsea Pensioners.”

During the day, the children and Pensioners, who all served in the British Army, exchanged stories about military life and gained an understanding of each other’s unique experiences living in the forces community.

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Andover Advertiser: James meeting a Chelsea Pensioner

The event was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, as part of the Hospital’s Soane Stable Yard Project to open up the heritage of the hospital. The Pensioners took great pleasure in touring the children around the grounds and explaining the history behind the institution.

The group then decorated miniature Pensioners’ Tricorne hats with dandelions – the official flower of the military child - symbolising the strength and resilience of military children who often have to move home and school due to their serving parent’s career, as well as spending extended periods separated from their parent due to overseas deployments and other military commitments.

Sir Adrian Bradshaw, Governor of the Royal Hospital, added: “We relish the opportunity to share our rich history and heritage with younger generations. Bringing children and Chelsea Pensioners together to discuss the history of this institution, and to share experiences between generations, helps the young put today’s events and way of life in the context of the past, and perhaps will help them to make better judgements for the future.

"It’s also fun, and resonates particularly with children from military families who already have understanding of what life in the Armed Services entails.”

Louise Fetigan, founder of the charity, Little Troopers said the day was wonderful. 

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Andover Advertiser: Little Troopers at the Royal Hospital

She said: "The children were fascinated to hear the Pensioners memories and tales of military life - many of the Pensioners had their own little troopers who are now grown-up - and the Pensioners were equally interested in the experiences of these modern-day military children. It was a special day that both groups will remember for many years to come.”

Little Troopers is a registered charity supporting service children who have parents serving in the British Armed Forces, both regular or reserve. These children often face unique challenges including frequent house and school moves, as well as regular periods of separation from their serving parent or parents for varying lengths of time due to exercises, training, operations and other service commitments.