WHO WAS SUE RYDER?
The first sentence in Sue Ryder's autobiography states "I was born on the 3rd July 1923..." but her birth certificate records 1924. She had mis-stated her age in order to get into the FANY's, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, at the outbreak of war in 1939. She was in fact only 15 years old - incredible!
Sue Ryder was soon seconded to SOE, Special Operations Executive, set up by Winston Churchill to work with the resistance in occupied Europe. She was with the Polish Section of SOE and thus began her long association with her beloved Poland. She met the brave young men and young women who were being trained to go back to their occupied homeland. They knew their chance of survival was slim. She heard from them accounts of the appalling suffering being inflicted on occupied Europe - the concentration and extermination camps, the rounding up of Jews, Priests, intellectuals, Romanys etc.
Imagine the effect of this on a 16/17 year old.
Sue Ryder determined that if she survived the war she would devote her life to the relief of suffering in the name of all those millions who were killed in the two World Wars. Her life's work would be a memorial to them. A Living Memorial. From then on, her whole life was given in the service of others.
Sue Ryder served in Africa, Italy and in Germany itself. At the end of the war in May 1945 she was still only 20 years old. She worked amongst the ruins and chaos, trying to bring relief to a few of the sick, homeless and stateless. As the official relief teams withdrew, Sue Ryder stayed on alone working as best she could.
She began to bring some of the very sick Survivors from the camps to be nursed in England, to her mother’s house in Cavendish, Suffolk. This became the first Sue Ryder Home in Britain.
More homes were opened in the UK and in Poland; prisoners were visited in Allied jails; a Holiday Scheme for groups of Survivors from the camps was established in Denmark and then in England. Homes were now being opened in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
In 1956 Sue Ryder was "ambushed" into appearing on This Is Your Life, much to her annoyance, but it meant she then became known nationally.
She drove herself on all her journeys round Britain and across Europe, often in a Land Rover or truck, through the snows of Central Europe, doing her own repairs as necessary.
In 1959 Sue Ryder married Group Captain Leonard Cheshire and thus began a marvellous partnership between two of the most amazing people of the 20th century.
Sue continued to visit the prisons in Germany up until the last year of her life. She died in 2000 and by then there were more than 80 homes across the world in Poland, Britain, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, India, Albania, Italy and Malawi. Unbelievable! All supported by over 500 shops in Britain, all of which she tried to visit each year!
All Sue Ryder's work was based on Faith. Each day started very early in the morning on her knees in the Chapel and each day ended there. Those who knew her will remember the small, frail person whose eyes shone with the inextinguishable love of God and for humanity.
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Sue Ryder Prayer Fellowship (Parmoor) Ltd. Company Reg. No. 7320054
St. Katharine's, Parmoor, Frieth, Henley-on-Thames, RG96NN
Charity Reg. No. 1140727