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RAF veterans care and respite centre celebrates 50th year

A garden party will be held at Princess Marina House on the Sussex coast at Rustington to celebrate 50 years of helping RAF veterans and serving personnel at the care and respite centre.

Originally born out of a desire to support those returning from the Second World War, Princess Marina House now provides respite breaks for older RAF veterans with care needs as well as welfare breaks for serving personnel and their families seeking time away from the pressures of service life.

Princess Marina House bday celebrations

General Manager Shirley Steeples said: "I'd like to thank each and every staff member who have been dedicated to ensuring every one of our guests over the past 50 years enjoyed their stay and left Princess Marina House well rested.

"I'm so proud to have been part of the work the Fund does here, supporting vulnerable veterans and giving them the opportunity to share their stories and meet other like-minded people.

"I watch the weight lift off the shoulders of the serving families who stay at our seaside cottages and apartments and I know we have done a good job."

Princess Marina House was formerly the Newton-Driver Services Club, founded by Ms Henrietta Driver in 1949. She established the home after running an officers' club in London during the war. She recognised a need to provide a different kind of respite once the wear had ended and sold all her possessions to set up the Club in Rustington.

In 1968, the Golden Jubilee year of the RAF Benevolent Fund, Ms Newton-Driver handed the Newton-Driver Services Club over to the Fund. She was a lifelong supporter of the Fund and a year later presented a cheque for £100,000 in memory of her husband who had been killed in 1938.

50 years of princess marina housePrince Philip chats to a group of young Red Cross Nurses during the opening of the Newton Driver Services Club for Convalescent Officers and Ex-Officers of Her Majesty's Services at Rustington, Sussex. (Photo by PNA Rota/Getty Images)

The Fund adapted the Club for use as a care home and in 1969 changed its name to Princess Marina House in memory of its long-serving president who had died the previous year. The House cared for permanent and visiting guests until 1980 when its focus switched from long-term care to respite breaks.

Today, the House provides a daily Lunch Club for Armed Forces veterans in the area, serving 6,240 roast dinners last year, and in 2018, provided respite breaks for more than 1,500 former and serving RAF personnel and their families.

In addition to that, more than 13,000 cups of tea were served along with 884 gin and tonics and 432 pints of beer!

It has an 'outstanding' Care Quality Commission rating and has been voted in the top 20 care homes in the south east for the past three years.

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