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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Margaret Blaber 1987 – 2001 Evelyn Petters 2003 – ongoing
At the Biennial Conference in April, Evelyn Petters, spoke about the history of our Newsletter, The Red Feather. Here is an excerpt, starting with a letter written in 2001 by the former Editor, the late Margaret Blaber of Adelaide, SA.
“In mid-1987 I received a surprising phone call – would I be interested in organising a Newsletter for the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation? There would be an honorarium. ….. In half an hour a car arrived and I found myself at the home of Dame Roma Mitchell in East Terrace. I was then introduced to Dame Roma, Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder. Wow! I was overawed at being “interviewed”. Leonard offered me a cup of coffee and within a very short time I felt completely at ease. I knew nothing about the Ryder-Cheshire organization, but I did know of Leonard Cheshire and his war time record. It was a most unusual “interview”, more a conversation about what would be involved and an agreement that a monthly honorarium would be paid. It never was. It did not take me long to realise that the honorarium would be an expense that the organisation could ill-afford and the more I learned about Ryder-Cheshire the more I was happy to take on the task on a voluntary basis and did so for the next 15 years ….. (and over 50 issues)”Continue reading The Story of the Red Feather→
Congratulations to our very own Dianne McGrath, President of the Ryder-Cheshire Ballarat Support Group, who was recently recognised by The Zonta Club of Ballarat as one of Ballarat’s Great Women 2016.
Dianne was honoured with this award by her peers during International Women’s Week in March, in recognition of more than 40 years as a primary and tertiary educator, in the Ballarat area, where she continues to work and to contribute in this field even today.
She was also recognised by her peers as a visionary, having decades ago understood and promoted the contribution that Asia and especially China has played in the development of Australia, and the special contribution that Chinese residents have played in the development of Ballarat since the 1850’ s goldfield days.
Her outstanding contribution to education, her leadership and active contribution to many charitable groups, her cultural vision in awakening the Goom Loong, the Chinese Dragon who resides Sovereign Hill Ballarat. and who celebrates his 20th Anniversary this year, and the redevelopment of the Ballarat Chinese Cemetery are just some examples of Dianne’s contribution to Ballarat life.
The presentation also mentioned Dianne’s sense of family, both immediate and extended whom she tends with as much love as she attends to her cottage garden in historical Ballarat. In mentioning Dianne’s extended family, she has also developed an extensive network of close personal relationships with people from all over Australia and Internationally.
The Ballarat Civic Hall is gathering stories for historical records. The Ryder-Cheshire Foundation Victoria Ballarat Support Group was asked to add their story to the collection, as it was back in 1964 that its birth took place when Leonard Cheshire visited Ballarat.
The late Group Captain Lord Leonard Cheshire of Woodhall VC, OM, DSO, DFC and the late Baroness Sue Ryder of Warsaw CMG, OBE. set up the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation in 1959.
Leonard Cheshire was Britain’s most highly decorated WW2 airman. He was a British observer at the atomic bomb raid on Nagasaki. His reaction to the war led him to undertake humanitarian work as his contribution to peace.
Sue Ryder served in the Special Operations Executive in WW2 with responsibilities in Poland. Witnessing the terrible destruction after the war, she set up homes in Eastern Europe to help and sick, homeless, disabled and destitute people especially those from concentration camps.