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Meet the new residents of Surbiton's Royal Star and Garter
Ex-servicemen and women are settling in to their new surroundings in Surbiton - and they told the Surrey Comet how pleased they are to be here.
Three weeks after their big move from Richmond, the 44 residents of the new Star and Garter home in Upper Brighton Road are beginning to get used to their multi-million pound lodgings.
The Surrey Comet was invited along to meet some of the war veterans, and hear tales of bravery from their days in the armed forces.
And all spoke of their happiness at moving into the purpose-built facility.
The new Star and Garter home in Surbiton is now open
Tom Robinson, 93, was called up in 1940, and helped guard the beaches during the evacuation of Dunkirk.
In 1942, he was posted to Egypt, and later Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, before finally travelling to Italy.
It was there, in 1944, that he was wounded during the battle of Monet Cassino, and had his left leg amputated, as well as his big right toe.
He returned to England, and made a living making artificial limbs for war veterans and amputees – including legendary fighter pilot Douglas Bader.
He still wears the artificial limb he made for himself today.
Tom said: “It’s very nice here.
“There’s lots more room than in Richmond. It’s a really nice place.”
Dorothy Kroeger, 95, served as a nurse in World War II. She worked in India, Cyprus and Egypt for the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS), and helped found the paediatric hospital in Nicosia, Cyprus.
After the war, she demobbed to Rhodesia, where she married her husband John in 1951.
She is a mother of five and has 15 grandchildren.
Dorothy Kroeger with sons David and Peter
Dorothy said: “It’s fantastic. It’s a terrific move they have had to do and it’s really gone as smoothly as it could. “Everybody’s been wonderful.
“I have a beautiful room and I’m very happy here.”
Two of Dorothy's sons, David, 61 and Peter, 59, were visiting their mother when the Comet arrived.
David, who is visiting from Australia, said: “I’m very impressed with it.
"I didn’t see the last place but this is fantastic. The facilities are great and I love all the activities that happen throughout the day."
Peter added: “We moved Dorothy into Richmond a year ago and she took a while to settle but she’s taken a lot less time to settle here.
“She knows the staff, who are all fantastic and the facilities are more like six star, not five star.
“It’s a brilliant place and I think it’s a great reward for all they have done.”
Norman Knowles, 89, was born and grew up in Richmond, and has lived there all his life.
He joined the army aged 18, serving in the infantry, and rose to the rank of Sergeant.
He served in India, Burma and Palestine.
After the war he set up a painting and decorating business.
He has a step daughter who lives in Twickenham and two grown up grandchildren.
He enjoys fishing, and is a keen supporter of Chelsea Football Club. Norman said: “It’s lovely here, it’s much better than Richmond.
“It’s more spacious and modern."
Vi Butler, 99, married William Charles Butler, known as Ben, in 1938.
Ben fought at D-Day, but was eventually killed in action. Vi regularly visited his grave in France.
She never remarried, and raised their two sons, Colin and Bruce, alone.
Bruce died last year, but Vi still regularly chats to Colin and his wife Caroline. She likes to stay up to date with current affairs, and reads the newspapers daily. She said: “It’s a big difference to Richmond, but Richmond was a different century.
“It’s amazing when you see all the different sections -there is so much thought that has gone into it.
“The staff are brilliant and my room is lovely.
“My window looks out onto the garden and at night the lights go on and look like diamonds.
“It looks fantastic.”
Activities and welfare manager Heather Robinson said staff and residents had already been made to feel very welcome in Surbiton.
She said: "It’s a very vibrant atmosphere, and we’ve got residents joining in more than they have ever done before.
“We’ve been sampling the local pubs and had coffee on the Thames, we’ve been getting lots of support from the schools and churches around here, and been inundated with residents offering to volunteer."
Pauline Shaw, director of care and services development, said: "As with all new buildings there's been a few wrinkles to iron out but it's what you expect and everything is going fine.
"Since we arrived it's been a process of moving in and that takes a few weeks.
"Residents are starting to get used to their environment."
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