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International Women’s Day: Sacrifice and support among military partners highlighted in veterans’ care homes

To mark International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8 March, Royal Star & Garter is focussing on three amazing residents in its Homes.

The charity provides loving, compassionate, care to veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia, with Homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe, and previously on International Women’s Day has celebrated the military achievements of its residents.

This year, the charity is looking at the remarkable lives of the partners of servicemen, who now live in Royal Star & Garter’s three Homes.

The partners of Armed Forces personnel often make great personal sacrifices themselves, following their loved ones across the world with a young family, or bearing long periods of separation while simultaneously raising children and earning a living.

Felicia was born in British Guiana, a British colony which is now Guyana, and spent the early part of her life living in a rural part of the country.

Her life changed when she married Earnest in 1951. He had joined the RAF in 1944 when recruiters came to the South American country, and soon after their marriage, Felicia joined her husband in West Germany where he was serving. They had two children, and when they moved next to the north of England, two more followed.

During his long career in the RAF, Felicia supported her husband by moving with him on postings across the world, including Singapore. Sadly, Earnest died in 1974, just three years after demobbing, and aged just 52.

As a working mum, Felicia managed to raise her four children, with financial help and support from the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Felicia is now living with dementia and is a resident at Royal Star & Garter in High Wycombe.

Bet was old enough to join the military during WWII, but her mother’s poor health meant she stayed at home to care for her, sacrificing the chance to serve in the Armed Forces. Nonetheless, Bet was determined to play her part in another way. She worked in the accounts department of a munitions factory, which produced vital products for the war effort, such as parachutes. Recalling enemy air attacks during the War, Bet said: “I had one or two near misses, the munitions factory was hit but I wasn’t in that part when it was struck. When you look back you think about how frightening it all was.

After the War, Bet worked in the accounts section at Twickenham Film Studios, where she would often rub shoulders with Hollywood A-listers. Among them was Elizabeth Taylor. Bet recalled: “We’d all eat together in the canteen, it was great fun. She was truly beautiful and a lovely person too.

Bet has been married three times and widowed twice. All her husbands served in the Armed Forces. She now lives at Royal Star & Garter in Surbiton.

Sue trained as a teacher during WWII and qualified soon after the conflict finished. She started teaching in 1946, and in a career that would span 35 years, she became a headteacher at an infants’ school in the Midlands.

During that time, she taught many hundreds of children. Sue said: “I enjoyed being a teacher. Children are receptive and respond quickly. It’s a very important profession and comes with a lot of responsibility.

Sue lives at Royal Star & Garter in Solihull with her husband Harry, who served in the Navy during WWII.

Royal Star & Garter is welcoming new residents into its Homes. For more information on this, or to work for the charity, go to www.starandgarter.org

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