George to join the Chelsea set

“It's not a bad end for an old soldier,” says 85-year-old George Bayliss contemplating life in a pensioners' home. But for the second world war veteran from Beccles, it is not just any home he will be going into.

"It's not a bad end for an old soldier," says 85-year-old George Bayliss contemplating life in a pensioners' home.

But for the second world war veteran from Beccles, it is not just any home he will be going into.

In September, the former soldier will become one of the few OAPs chosen to live at the Royal Chelsea Hospital in London as a Chelsea pensioner.

He get his own room, meals, allotment - if he wants it - as well as the freedom to roam the historic London grounds.

He will also get the Chelsea Flower Show in his back garden once a year, and be given the honour of wearing the famous Chelsea pensioner's scarlet coat and black tricorne hat.

"It is wonderful," he says. "There are 300 old soldiers in there, you get a room all of your own and the food it is out of this world - all served by young girls," he adds grinning.

Most Read

He said: "You can have an allotment, play bowls, go to the museum, there is a lovely church, there's all sorts of things you can do. And everything is free, you only have to give up your war pension."

Mr Bayliss made the decision to try for a place as a Chelsea pensioner after losing his wife, Dorothy, four years ago.

He said: "After I lost my wife, because you can't go in unless you are single, I thought I just sit here in my bungalow day after day on my own. I knew all about the Chelsea pensioners so I applied.

"To begin with, they let you try it out for four days to see if you like it. I made one or two friends straight away. And one man in there is 102, he has been there 17 years.

"After being alone for so long I am finally going to be with other people like me."

Mr Bayliss served with the 2nd battalion of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire regiment in the British army between 1938 and 1946. During the second world war he served in north Africa and Italy, clearing mines and barbed wire from the battlefields ahead of the advancing troops.

But in 1944 his frontline career was drawn to a rapid end after his jeep ran over a mine at Bratinoro, near Rimini.

He said: "I can remember it as if it was yesterday. The back of the jeep was completely blown off and I was blown 15 yards through the air. I didn't break any bones but I lost my hearing and my trousers were practically blown off my legs. My legs were full of bits of grit.

"I went back as far as Naples and I was drafted in to look after the Italians. I never went back to the line again, no matter how hard I tried to get back to my company."

But Mr Bayliss shrugged off suggestions he was a war hero.

"I was never a hero," he said. "I was just a private doing my job."