Colin Thackeray is an 89-year old Chelsea Pensioner, a resident of a retirement and nursing home for former British Army personnel located in London. The Royal Hospital Chelsea is a 350-year old institution founded by King Charles II as a home for veterans modeled on a similar institution in Paris. Today, there are about 300 residents, all of whom sign over their army pensions in return for board, lodging, clothing, and medical care. All residents must be over the age of 65, many are disabled or have fallen on hard times, and none of them may have financial obligations of support to dependent family members.
Colin was born in 1930. He joined the Army at the age of 15, saying that he was “running a bit wild” and that the Army really was his “saviour.” Two weeks after his wedding in 1950, the young groom was sent to Korea (it’s called the “forgotten war” in Britain, too), and he spent his years on active duty in East and Southeast Asia.
Last night, the 25-year British Army veteran, with backing by a chorus of his friends from the Hospital, won 2019’s Britain’s Got Talent. He has announced that he’ll donate a substantial portion of his £250,000 prize money to the Hospital, and the rest to his children and grandchildren. And he’s said that for him, the greatest prize (“I’ll die happy”) is the opportunity to perform for the Queen and other members of the Royal Family at a charity concert in November of this year.
He dedicated his winning performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Love Changes Everything to his late wife, Joan, saying “we were like one person, really. It was like losing your right arm.”