YOUNGSTERS from Odiham whose parents serve in the British Armed Forces were invited to meet the popular Chelsea Pensioners as part of a special event.

Lily and Teddy Baker, both aged 5, were invited by the military children’s charity Little Troopers to attend the event, alongside 14 other children, at The Royal Hospital Chelsea to celebrate the fact that April is the Month of the Military Child.

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

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Basingstoke Gazette: Little Troopers at the Royal Hospital

Lily, whose dad serves in the RAF, said: “It was a very exciting day, the pensioners were so friendly and I loved their scarlet coats. They let me try their hats on which was really cool and I had so much fun making my own. Dennis was great at helping us with the treasure hunt to find the special rooms within the hospital, they were so big. Thank you for showing me your home.”

Teddy also got the chance to join in on the day. Teddy's dad Paul Baker is also in the RAF based in Odiham.

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.

Basingstoke Gazette: Five-year-old Teddy Baker meeting a Chelsea Pensioner Five-year-old Teddy Baker meeting a Chelsea Pensioner (Image: Little Trappers)

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.”

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Basingstoke Gazette: Lilly enjoying the day Lilly enjoying the day (Image: Supplied)

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.

Louise Fetigan, founder of Little Troopers, added: “There are tens of thousands of children in the UK whose parents serve in the British Armed Forces and the Month of the Military Child is about recognising the unique experiences these children go through as they grow up in the forces community. Today was a wonderful opportunity to connect military children with some of the iconic Chelsea Pensioners and understand just how much these two generations have in common.

"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.”