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International Women’s Day: The Resilient, Industrious ‘International Women’ Now Living at Royal Star & Garter

International Women’s Day takes place today (Friday, 8 March), and Royal Star & Garter is celebrating the dedication and hard work of our female residents throughout their lives.

The charity provides loving, compassionate care to veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia, from Homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe. It has also launched new services reaching out into the community.

To mark International Women’s Day, the charity is turning the spotlight on residents who have lived ‘international’ lives, but now call Royal Star & Garter their home.

Some of these remarkable women include a WWII nurse who trained in North America before caring for badly injured RAF aircrew, and the wives of men who set up home for their families all over the world while their husbands served.

Janet, 101, was born in Shanghai, China, where her father worked at a bank, returning to England aged eight. She now lives at Royal Star & Garter in Surbiton. When war broke out in 1939, she wanted to train as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, but instead moved to New York, where her father was based. Desperate to fulfil her ambitions, she applied for nurse training in Montreal, Canada, in 1941.

Once fully qualified, she returned to England in 1944, where she worked with Sir Archibald McIndoe at Queen Victoria Hospital, in East Grinstead. Under Sir Archibald, Janet and the team at the hospital pioneered new reconstruction techniques for RAF servicemen and victims of German air raids, who had suffered horrific burns.

Janet met Pat in 1938. He served in the Navy during WWII and took part in the D-Day landings. The couple married in 1945 and had two sons.

Ann and Felicia live in Royal Star & Garter’s Solihull and High Wycombe Homes respectively. They were both married to servicemen living overseas, and made great sacrifices to be with their husbands when they were posted abroad, raising young children away from their own families, and having to make friends and build new family homes each time their partners were deployed to another corner of the world. Sacrifices such as these, as well as putting their own careers on hold in order to support their spouse’s service, are common among the partners of Armed Forces personnel.

Ann is a resident at the charity’s Home in Solihull. She was married to Paul, who served in the Navy for over 30 years. During that time, she lived with her husband overseas, and each of her three daughters was born in different countries – Malta, England and New Zealand.

The couple had met in their late teens through Ann’s brother, who knew Paul in the Navy. They were based in America between 1969 and 1972, when Paul was attached to the British Embassy in Washington DC. The couple lived in nearby Arlington. During summer holidays, Ann would help organise road trips with their children, embracing their adopted country and educating the children as they travelled.

Felicia lives with dementia at Royal Star & Garter in High Wycombe. She was born in the South American country of Guyana, which at the time was a British colony known as British Guiana.

In 1951 she married Earnest, who was also from Guyana, and had joined the RAF in 1944. They went on to have four children, and as the family followed Earnest on his postings around the world, including West Germany, England and Singapore, Felicia had to juggle the demands and challenges of being an RAF wife in foreign countries, and raising a young family, while her husband served.

Sadly, Earnest died in 1974, 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.

These remarkable women have, in very different ways, helped support the Armed Forces.