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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
Chelsea war veterans are honoured
Chelsea Pensioners
The hospital has been home to war veterans for more than 300 years
War veterans in Chelsea have been granted the freedom of the borough in recognition of their service.

The title, known as Civic Honours, was conferred on the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a retirement home for some 300 residents known as Chelsea Pensioners.

The busy King's Road was sealed off for a short parade of about 100 pensioners and the band of the Scots Guards.

"They are an enduring and integral part of the borough," said a spokesman for Kensington and Chelsea Council.

Gratitude and admiration

The event began with a brief ceremony in Duke of York Square, in which Mayor Tim Ahern inspected the parade.

He presented Royal Hospital governor Gen Sir Jeremy Mackenzie with an illuminated scroll formally recording the granting of civic honours.

Schoolchildren waving Union flags were among crowds of onlookers cheering as the scarlet-coated pensioners marched to the Old Town Hall.

Sir Jeremy said: "It is a wonderful day. A unique experience because it hasn't happened before in 314 years, so that in itself is very special."

The award confers the right to the Chelsea Pensioners to march through the borough's streets with the Sovereign's Mace at their head.

"This award seeks to underline the gratitude, admiration and pride the Royal Borough has and will continue to have for those who have served and are serving in the British Armed Forces," said the spokesman.

Founded by Charles II in 1682 - the Royal Hospital buildings on the Chelsea Embankment were completed in 1692.

To become a resident, pensioners forego their army pension, and receive board, lodging, clothing and full medical care.


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