Category Archives: Founders

Promoting the Possible Canonisation of Leonard Cheshire

The Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia in the United Kingdom where Leonard Cheshire lived, is launching a campaign in early September, 2017 to celebrate the centenary of his birth. It is hoped that the campaign will inspire an ongoing community of prayer and eventual canonisation in a process of discovery leading to possible sainthood.

Leonard visiting Raphael Ryder-Cheshire Home in Dehradun, India

Leonard Cheshire was the most decorated British servicemen in World War II. An RAF pilot, he conducted over 100 bombing missions. He was also the leader of the famous ‘Dambuster Squadron’ (No 617), noted for flying low over the water in sending the skipping bombs towards their target.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1940 (with two bars in 1943 and 1944), the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1941 and the Victoria Cross in 1944. In 1945 he was selected by Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to represent the British Government as an observer at the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in Japan.

After the war, Cheshire set up homes for the sick and disabled and eventually there were 80 homes in Britain and 250 worldwide. In 1957 he contracted TB and was hospitalised for two years. Evidently this period intensified his spirituality and in later years, despite the onset and disability of motor neurone disease, he travelled extensively visiting Ryder-Cheshire homes and campaigning for more support for their activities. He dedicated his life to the relief of suffering.

Leonard and Sue in the textiles work shop at Raphael Ryder-Cheshire Home, Dehradun, India.

By the time of Cheshire’s death in 1992, there were 270 residential homes in 49 countries in the Leonard Cheshire Disability network. In 1948, aged 31, Cheshire became a Roman Catholic while caring for the sick ex-servicemen. In 1959 he married Sue Ryder who had set up her own network of homes for sick, disabled and elderly people. Thus Ryder-Cheshire came into being. Both were later to become peers and Ryder-Cheshire is known worldwide in working for the relief of suffering through its many homes and outreach centres. In Poland where Sue Ryder worked after the war, she is a national heroine with schools and hospitals named in her honour. There is already a groundswell of support for the cause of her canonisation as well.

END OF AN ERA – Singleton Home closes

In February 1979, Leonard Cheshire spoke at the Combined Service Clubs Dinner in Singleton and referred to seeing young physically disabled people in nursing homes before their time, and the need for a group house for the 18 to 35 age group.

Thereon, we formed the Singleton Ryder-Cheshire Support Group (umpteen cake stalls, art shows, etc.) The local community and service clubs were generous.  We sold cards and sponsored Raphael residents.

In April 1985, after years of fund-raising, we purchased “Locksley”, a six bedroom 1890 weatherboard house with a large garden and back lane access, not far from the shopping centre and the RSL Club.  The announcement was made with both Leonard and Sue present.  The house was ramped and renovated to allow total access for someone with up to a T6 paraplegia.  On the 30th November 1985, with neither of our Founders able to attend, we officially opened the home with a pottery exhibition by Sonja Witt, who had run the first Singleton Pre-School in this house.   In 1992, we created a memorial garden on the death of Leonard Cheshire, with Air Marshal Jake Newham, Josephine Collins, Barbara Lewis and Joan Usher in attendance.  In 2000, we unveiled another plaque on the death of Sue Ryder.

Over the years, 75 people have benefited either as long term, short-term, or overnight residents.  Many availed of the local Home Care Service which extended to personal care.  One person, mute and quadriplegic, stayed eight years, and went tandem sky-diving at weekends. There was a period where we partnered with Hunter Carer Respite to give carers a break.  Residents loved the home, the garden, the space, and the comparative independence we offered.  There were nine years when Witmore Enterprises used the facility for Daily Living Skills programs for young adults with developmental disabilities There were three eras of the house being occupied by families in need because of a heavily disabled member, including a young family with a boy with quadriplegia and four other children. For two and a half years, Integrated Living facilitated their community advisory services, occasional overnight respite accommodation and craft, cooking, gardening and education courses for aboriginal groups.

Unfortunately, with the recent NDIS changes to disability pensions, care-giving facilitators can no longer commit to agreements and no occupants were forthcoming.  After 31 years (37 years for our aging committee), we made the huge decision to sell the home.

Leonard Cheshire said “If too many obstacles present, you are on the wrong track of the LP record”. It was time.  The proceeds of sale and all of our funds are being distributed to Ryder-Cheshire projects – Raphael, Klibur Domin, Mt. Gambier home and Nardy House in Bega

By Anne Boyd

For Valour – an account of Leonard Cheshire’s wartime experiences

The Ryder Cheshire Foundation was founded by Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire.  This article about Leonard’s wartime experience is reprinted with kind permission of the editor of the magazine 90 Flypast August 2016.

 With four tours and 102 ‘ops’, many people regard Leonard Cheshire as the RAF’s greatest bomber pilot. Graham Pitchfork profiles an outstanding man.

For Valour.jpg

During his time at Merton College, Oxford. Chester born Leonard Cheshire joined the famous University Air Squadron. Mobilized at the outbreak of war he trained as a bomber pilot, flying with the Whitley-equipped 102 Squadron.

On the night of November 12/13, 1940 his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Cologne, igniting a flare in the bomb bay. A fierce fire was put out by the crew and Cheshire managed to bring the crippled bomber and its wounded crew back to base. He was awarded an immediate DSO, a very rare honour for a pilot officer. Continue reading For Valour – an account of Leonard Cheshire’s wartime experiences