Our founder

Leonard Cheshire was born in 1917. Like many young men and women at the time, he signed up to fight for his country in the Second World War.

We need to set our sights high, to be satisfied with nothing less than the best, and to commit ourselves totally and unreservedly to participate in the struggle to build a more liveable world.

Leonard Cheshire

Assigne to Bomber Command, Leonard became one of the RAF's youngest commanding officers. His legendary war career included eight months leading No. 617 Squadron - the Dambusters. He became the most highly decorated bomber pilot when awarded the Victoria Cross in 1944.

At the end of the conflict, Leonard realised that he was one of the lucky ones. He had a desire to make the world a better place. Many ventures failed until he received a call from a local hospital. An acquaintance was dying and they asked if they could come and live with him. This started a lifetime of humanitarian work with disabled people. Leonard continued to fight injustice and work towards a society in which everyone is equally valued.

In 1959, Leonard married Sue Ryder and they made their home in the Suffolk village of Cavendish. Both spent much of the year away visiting humanitarian projects around the world. Leonard was admitted to the Order of Merit in 1981, and made a life peer in the House of Lords in 1991. In memory of his time serving RAF Woodhall Spa, Leonard took the title Baron Cheshire of Woodhall in the County of Lincolnshire.

Leonard died from the effects of motor neurone disease on 31 July 1992, at the age of 74.

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Leonard's legacy lives on through our work but we can't do it alone. By donating, you can help us continue to provide valuable services.

We help people to live, learn and work as independently as they choose, whatever their ability.

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