Wendy Wilkins, who worked for Sandes in the late 1960s and 1970s passed away on 22 November, 2015, in the care home in Falmouth where she had lived since 2010.
Wendy was born Wendola Hezlet in Eltham near London, where her father was a gunner seconded to the Ministry of Munitions. She was educated at the Royal School, Bath, a school for the daughters of army officers. At 18 she accompanied her parents to India, where her father had been appointed Deputy Master General of the Ordnance. There she met and married her first husband, Andrew Parke Hume of the Indian Civil Service. It was in India that Wendy first made her acquaintance with Sandes Homes and spent a summer in the Rhaniket home.
Since 1869 Sandes has been an integral part of the military community. Over the years we have provided homes, centres and other provisions for the soldiers when, where and however it was needed. Each generation of servicemen had a different challenge and Sandes had to adapt to those changing needs and yet be consistent in our care and ministry. In the early years there was a need for Homes where soldiers could find a place to stay.
I recently returned to worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ after being in a backslidden condition for 34 years. Despite an illness that makes my memory very poor, there were two names the Lord has never let me forget. They were Sam and Anna Irons whom I met during my posting in 1981 to Palace Barracks Holywood.
To offer friendship in the warmth of a Christian Home
To lead service personnel and their families to trust in Christ for salvation
To build up believers to Christian maturity
Statement of faith
Each member of the Association and each prospective member of staff shall subscribe to his belief in and acceptance of the following rules of faith and doctrine:
(a) The unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Godhead; (b) the sovereignty of God in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgement; (c) the divine inspiration and infallibility of Holy Scripture, as originally given and its supreme authority in all matters of faith of conduct; (d) the universal sinfulness and guilt of human nature since the fall, rendering man subject to God’s wrath and condemnation; (e) redemption from the guilt, penalty and power of sin only through the sacrificial death (as our representative and substitute) of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God and the justification of the sinner by faith; (f) the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead; (g) the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit to make the death of Christ effective to the individual sinner, granting him repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (h) the indwelling and work of the Holy Spirit in the believer; (i) the one Holy Universal Church, which is the body of Christ and to which all true believers belong; (j) the expectation of the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sandes is a highly respected Christian charity working to support those who serve in Armed Services and their families. The charity was started in 1869 by a young woman, Elise Sandes. She was deeply concerned for the welfare of English soldiers in her home town of Tralee who were scorned by civilian society. Recognising the temptations and loneliness of these men serving away from home, she went against the prejudice of her time offering them friendship and inviting them to meetings in her mother’s home.
She inspired many others to catch her vision. Starting with a coffee room in Tralee the work quickly developed and Sandes Homes were opened throughout Ireland and England. Elise used the phrase a ‘Home from Home’ to summarise her radical vision. The social, emotional and spiritual needs of soldiers were paramount and this was appreciated by the military command who warmly invited Sandes into their establishments. The work followed the Army overseas to South Africa, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Iceland and France. Elise became known as the ‘Mother of the British Army’. Sandes was a sanctuary in the midst of the challenging military environment, where soldiers knew they would be welcome, regardless of rank, beliefs or background. Elise spent her life caring for soldiers and was given a full military funeral upon her death. The headstone on her grave reads ‘For 66 years The Friend of Soldiers’.
Sandes remains faithful to the same vision of providing friendship and support for the military community as a witness and practical expression of the Christian faith. With the changing face of the British Army and Royal Air Force all Sandes Centres are currently based in the UK, three in Northern Ireland (Lisburn, Ballykinler and Holywood) and two in England (Pirbright and Harrogate).
The Centres fulfil a distinctive role being seen as a neutral, non-military space within the army camps. They provide catering and recreational facilities along with quiet areas for people to unwind and relax in a homely atmosphere. Families and personnel of all ranks are welcome in Sandes. Staff offer friendship and a listening ear to soldiers, many of whom are facing incredible pressures. The support of wives and children is also a key focus of the charity.