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The Stars Turn out in Force for a Chelsea Pensioner Embarking on a 3,000 Mile Road Trip for Charity

Chelsea Pensioners

TUESDAY 25TH MAY – ROYAL HOSPITAL, LONDON The iconic Chelsea Pensioners are a famous slice of London life known for being resident veterans at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, many of them medal-adorned war heroes who served in campaigns in World War II.

Yet far from being resigned to inactivity, on September 24th, one inspirational Chelsea Pensioner, Chris O’Connor is embarking on the 1,500 mile Veterans Banger Rally from London to Gibraltar, in a car costing less than £1,000 to raise money for Back on Track, a charity that has worked hard to change the lives of injured servicemen and women, as well as his home the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Blind Veterans.

Upon hearing the incredible story of Chris O’Connor, several celebrities turned up at the Royal Hospital to show their support for Chris as he unveiled the old banger that he’ll be driving.

There for the jubilant anticipatory send-off were a range of notable showbiz names: Melinda Messenger (model/TV presenter); Danny John Jules (actor); Chris Condu (actor); Robin Windsor (Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer); former children’s TV presenter Tim Vincent; Friederike Krum (opera singer), Carol Harrison (actor) and DJ Munro.

Melinda Messenger
Melinda Messenger

Chris, who joined the army in 1958 aged just 16 before later entering local politics and becoming the Mayor of Calderdale, was also joined by the Royal Hospital’s gifted artist in residence, Richard Graham, and talented actor Rev. Colin Paterson who recently performed at the Globe Theatre, also Ambassadors for Back on Track.


Chris said: “I’ve certainly had a good run, but I know there is more that can be done to leave the world in a better state than I found it. If in my last year I can leave a legacy which tells people ‘You can make a difference to the lives of many if you just try’ then I’ll be happy.

“Driving to Gibraltar in an old banger is just another adventure for me, however more importantly we will be raising money for charity. I’m delighted we can contribute to the funding of life changing initiatives for brave veterans who have put themselves at risk for all our benefit.”


Melinda Messenger said: “We should never forget the noble sacrifices made by our veterans and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more worthy cause than this tough challenge Chris is taking on.”

Mick Rust, Chairman of sponsor PSS Group added: “You could scarcely ask for a more fantastic man to represent Back on Track in this endeavour. Chris and the guys are valued supporters of the charity and it’s amazing to see what tremendous good they can deliver, despite definitely having done more than their bit earlier in life!”


Chris will drive the car to the southernmost tip of Europe where the race ends and then instead of scrapping it as is the norm, he will drive it back to the UK to donate it to Back on Track before being auctioned at the charity’s Dancing with Heroes Ball on 25th November.

Chris’s team is being sponsored by two companies, PSS and Guarding UK, whose generous donations will cover the costs of the race itself. But the intrepid

Chelsea Pensioners
Chelsea Pensioners

will need all the support he can get if he is to reach the fundraising target of £30,000.


Every donation will go towards Back on Track, The Royal Hospital Chelsea’s Veteran Outreach programme and Blind Veterans in memory of Geoff Read, a fellow Chelsea Pensioner who died in 2022.

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TOP PHOTO: Left to right: Robin Windsor, Tim Vincent, Carol Harrison, Rick Graham, WO1 ASM Gary Hoosen The Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) (co-driver for the Rally), Chris O’Connor, Friederike Krum, Rev Colin Paterson, Charlie Condou, Michelle Smith CEO, Guarding UK (sponsor), Michael Rust from PSS (sponsor), DJ Munro.

PHOTO of the three pensioners: Left to right:  Colin Paterson, Chris O’Connor and Rick Graham

Photo credit: @bonniebritainphotography

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