HRH The Countess of Wessex was guest of honour at a special carol concert at The Royal Hospital Chelsea tonight as the British Army and the Chelsea Pensioners celebrated 75 years of service support by the Army Benevolent Fund (ABF).
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity was founded in 1944 and is the Army’s national charity, helping thousands of soldiers, veterans and their families each year.
At the service in the glorious 1691 Wren Chapel in the heart of the Royal Hospital, which is the British Army's parish church, Commander Home Command Lieutenant General Ty Urch, and HRH The Countess of Wessex led soldiers drawn from the full range of ranks and diversity in today’s Army, in a traditional service of eight lessons and carols.
The candlelit service was supported by pipers from the London Scottish Regiment, a Fanfare Team from the Band of the Coldstream Guards, Troopers from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and the choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
On Christmas Day this year over 3,000 British Army soldiers will be deployed in more than 20 countries on 32 different operations and short-term training teams around the world, and nearly 10,000 soldiers are on very short notice to respond to overseas contingencies and on duty. Many of those abroad for Christmas will be able to watch highlights of tonight’s service as a film will be broadcast to deployed troops on Christmas Day.
“We must spare a thought for all those soldiers who won’t be with their families this Christmas and those families for whom there will be a gap on the sofa and an empty space at the table” said The Chief of the General Staff, Sir Mark Carleton-Smith. “The Soldiers’ Charity is an essential element of the support network that sustains our families, our regiments and our fighting spirit and for the past 75 years its supporters have unstintingly assisted our soldiers and their families when needed”.
Among those who gave readings was Captain Laurence Hall from the Adjutant General’s Corps. His first posting was to 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards and he was amongst those selected to respond to the Salisbury Novichok poisonings in 2018.
HRH The Countess of Wessex read the final lesson from John Chapter 1, verses 1-14.