Princess Alexandra visits the Royal Star & Garter Home in Surbiton, Surrey on Wednesday 23rd January. The home is one of three run by the Royal Star & Garter charity across England, the others being in Solihull and High Wycombe. These homes are modern purpose-built accommodation which provide support for military veterans either for long-stay care including nursing and dementia support, or alternatively short-stay care either for respite care for veterans or care for younger disabled members of the Armed Forces whilst a long-term care package is determined.
The Royal Star & Garter Homes started in 1916 after Queen Mary tasked the Red Cross the previous year to find a haven for young disabled soldiers returning from service in World War I. The premises identified for this was the Star & Garter Hotel in Richmond, Surrey from which the charity takes its name. The home quickly filled, and the seaside branch was opened at Enbrook House in Sandgate, Kent the following year. Enbrook House also looked after the residents of the Star & Garter whilst a new purpose-built facility was built in Richmond. This could now house up to 200 veterans and was opened by King George V and Queen Mary in July 1924.
The home was continually updated through generous support from all three services and the charities that support them, the Sandgate Home having shut in 1940 because of the threat of invasion. In 2014, as the charity approached its century, they took the decision to sell the Richmond property and have subsequently replaced it with the three present centres. During the time of the charity’s existence, the average age of ex-service personnel has risen from 22 years old in 1916 to 88 years old nowadays and so dementia care is something which is now paramount.
From the first identification of a need by Queen Mary, the charity has always had support from the Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth II took over as patron on the passing of her grandmother, Queen Mary, in July 1953. Some eleven years later, in 1964, Princess Alexandra became President, and has now held for role for nearly fifty-five years. Hence this is not the first visit the Princess will have made, the Princess also visited in 2016 as part of the centenary celebrations as Royal Central reported.