Sue Ryder

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The Right Honourable
The Baroness Ryder of Warsaw
Margaret Susan Ryder

(1924-07-03)3 July 1924
Died2 November 2000(2000-11-02) (aged 76)
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England
Other namesMargaret Susan Cheshire
Known forSue Ryder Foundation
TitleBaroness Ryder of Warsaw (suo jure)
Lady Cheshire
Spouse(s)Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire
Park in Warsaw named after Sue Ryder
Plaque at "Sue Ryder Square" in Gdynia, Poland, stating that she was an honorary citizen of the city and that her Foundation had helped fund a cancer ward there

Margaret Susan Cheshire, Baroness Ryder of Warsaw, Lady Cheshire CMG OBE (3 July 1924 – 2 November 2000), best known as Sue Ryder, was a British volunteer with Special Operations Executive in the Second World War, who afterwards led many charitable organisations, notably the charity named in her honour.

Early life[edit]

Margaret Susan Ryder was born in 1924 in Leeds, and educated at Benenden School. When World War II broke out, she volunteered to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, even though she was only 15, and she was soon assigned to the Polish section of the Special Operations Executive. In this role, Ryder's job was to drive SOE agents to the airfield where they would take off for their assignments in Europe. In 1943 she was posted to Tunisia and later to Italy.

Year of birth[edit]

According to her autobiography, Child of My Love, Ryder was born on 3 July 1923. This was repeated by The Daily Telegraph in her obituary in November 2000, adding that "Lady Ryder of Warsaw, better known as Sue Ryder, has died aged 77", as well as by the BBC and many other news sources.[1]

Her birth and death certificates both put the date one year later, on 3 July 1924, as does a plaque unveiled in honour of Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire in Cavendish Church in Suffolk. At the beginning of the war, Ryder volunteered to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, even though she was only 15. To get in, she lied about her age and seems to have maintained the deception for the rest of her life.[2]


After the war was over, Ryder volunteered to do relief work, including some in Poland. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1957.[3] In 1959 Ryder married Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC (later Lord Cheshire), the founder of the major UK charity Leonard Cheshire Disability. Both Cheshire and Ryder were Roman Catholic converts. They received a joint Variety Club Humanitarian Award in 1975. Ryder was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1976.[4]

She was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1956 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the King's Theatre, Hammersmith, London.[5]

Charitable work[edit]

In 1953 she established the Sue Ryder Foundation (later renamed Sue Ryder Care[6] and in 2011 changed to Sue Ryder). The charity in 2011, now named simply Sue Ryder, thus reflects her importance and honours her life's work. Following her relief work in Europe after the Second World War, she first established a home for concentration camp survivors in Cavendish, Suffolk, that later provided nursing care for the elderly and disabled. Sue Ryder Care operates more than 80 homes worldwide, has about 500 high street charity shops and more than 8,000 volunteers. There is a Sue Ryder charity shop as far as the Ascension Islands.

In 1998, Sue Ryder retired as a trustee and severed her links with Sue Ryder Care following a dispute with the other trustees, whom she accused of betraying her guiding principles.[7]

In February 2000, Ryder set up the Bouverie Foundation (since renamed The Lady Ryder of Warsaw Memorial Trust[8]) to continue charitable work according to her ideals. Its work includes providing accommodation in Lourdes for handicapped pilgrims and their carers.

Later life[edit]

Ryder was made a life peer on 31 January 1979, being created Baroness Ryder of Warsaw, of Warsaw in Poland and of Cavendish in the County of Suffolk.[9][10] In the House of Lords, Ryder was involved in debates about defence, drug abuse, housing, medical services, unemployment and race relations.

Ryder continued to speak for Poland and when the Communist rule there collapsed, she arranged lorries of medical and food aid. In 1989 Ryder made an appeal through The Daily Telegraph to obtain more funding and collected £40,000 through the Lady Ryder of Warsaw Appeals Fund.[citation needed]

Ryder was particularly outspoken on rights of homosexuals. In a Lords debate for what became the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, Ryder moved an amendment proposing a 'Restriction on custody of children by homosexuals'. Ryder's Amendment proposed to make it a criminal offence for "any homosexual man or woman, other than the natural parent, to have the care or custody of a child under the age of eighteen" and, where this was the case, for homosexuals to be liable on summary conviction to a maximum of six months imprisonment. Ryder withdrew the amendment when it received limited support from peers.[11]

Her husband was made a life peer in 1991, as Baron Cheshire, as a result of which Ryder obtained the additional title Baroness Cheshire. She died in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in 2000, aged 76.

Memorial to Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder in St Mary's Church, Cavendish


Ryder wrote two autobiographies:

  • And the Morrow is Theirs (1975)
  • Child of My Love (1986)


  1. ^ "Lady Ryder of Warsaw". The Telegraph. 3 November 2000. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  2. ^ "The start of her [Sue Ryder's] work and WWII". Sue Ryder website. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  3. ^ "No. 41089". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 1957. p. 3381.
  4. ^ "No. 46919". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 1976. p. 8017.
  5. ^ "Sue Ryder (1923-2000)". Big Red Book. Retrieved 20 May 2016. Sue Ryder... was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the King's Theatre, Hammersmith
  6. ^ Charity Commission. Sue Ryder Care, registered charity no. 1052076.
  7. ^ "Charity founder Baroness Ryder dies", BBC News, 2 November 2000.
  8. ^ Charity Commission. The Lady Ryder of Warsaw Memorial Trust, registered charity no. 1082295.
  9. ^ "No. 47761". The London Gazette. 2 February 1979. p. 1497.
  10. ^ "No. 47908". The London Gazette. 19 July 1979. p. 9066.
  11. ^ Johnson, P. & Vanderbeck, R.M. (2014). Law, Religion and Homosexuality. Routledge.

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