A war veteran and former Witham resident has spoken of his pride after being accepted to join the iconic Chelsea Pensioners.

Fred Boomer-Hawkins, 73, is one of just 300 people to live at the Royal Hospital Chelsea home in London where residents wear the famous red uniforms and act as the visible faces of the UK’s veteran community.

Mr Boomer-Hawkins spent more than 20 years in the Royal Green Jackets and fought in Malaysia before moving to Witham, where he and late wife Lysbeth spent 22 years and became big parts of the town’s community.

When Lysbeth, or Lys as she was known, died in August 2015 Mr Boomer-Hawkins decided he wanted a change in his life, and so applied to join the pensioners.

He said: “I have a lovely room with everything I need here including three hot meals a day.

““There is plenty of companionship which is really nice.

“Where I was living before not a lot of the neighbours were my age.

“I was quite lonely but since I have been here I have made loads of friends.”

Mr Boomer - Hawkins hopes that one day he will be able to join the team which shows tourists around the famous home.

He already chaperones other veterans to hospital, and has already got himself a part-time job in a museum during his first few weeks there.

“Although there are 300 people here I feel I know most people already,” he said.

“Everybody says hello and good morning and everybody is interested in talking to you.

“There is a lot of regimental banter as well, which is good fun.”

The criteria for joining the Royal Hospital Chelsea are you must have served more than 12 years in the forces, be over the age of 65 and have no dependents to support financially.

The pensioners go through an interview process for the prestigious honour of joining and go on to represent the Armed Forces at memorial and public events across the country.

“I feel very very proud when I wear the scarlet,” said Mr Boomer-Hawkins.

“Recently they were doing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, it was a nice day so I started walking down there as it is close.

“It took me an hour to get there because people kept stopping me to take photographs.

“I was asking people if they knew why I was wearing it, most of them didn’t so I told them. I am passing on a bit of history at the same time.”

Although he has left his Witham home, Mr Boomer-Hawkins has three children and two step children living in and around the area and plans to return regularly. He said: “I am a member of the Royal British Legion in Witham and I will probably be coming back.

“They host a party after Remembrance Day so I am hoping to attend that in my Scarletts.”