For soldiers, for life: ABF The Soldiers’ Charity at 75
In 2019, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is celebrating 75 years of service as the Army’s national charity
July 1944. Trooper Joseph Connor watches the ramp of the landing craft rattle down into the surf. Ahead, the Normandy coastline rears out of the Channel: shingle; wet, smooth sand and, beyond it, green country retreating into mist.
Joseph is one of millions of British Servicemen currently involved in operations across the globe. As the tide of the war begins to turn, the Army Board turns its attention to the welfare of those soldiers after peace is won. The mandate is clear: to protect the current generation of soldiers and their families from the hardships endured by those returning in 1918. Thus, even as Joseph’s vehicle is plunging into the Normandy shingle, plans are in motion for a national charity for the British Army.
The Army Benevolent Fund – as the charity was then known – was established by Trust Deed on 15 August 1944. From Hobart House in London, it began to direct its grant-giving activities. These vital funds found their way to young soldiers recovering from sickness or injury; to widows and families struggling with traumatic loss; to former soldiers embarking on the next chapter; and to elderly veterans in need of care, comfort and support. For 75 years, the welfare of soldiers, past and present, has been at the heart of everything it does.
Now, 75 years on, Joseph is a sprightly 95-year-old veteran, living independently at home in Glasgow. Back in 2017, The Soldiers’ Charity supported him with a grant for a new tarmac driveway, enabling him to drive his car and mobility scooter right up to his front door. Joseph’s story epitomises the charity’s approach to its work. It is there for soldiers, for life – whenever, wherever they’ve served.
In the past year, The Soldiers’ Charity helped 70,000 people in 68 countries across the globe and funded 92 other charities and organisations to support the Army family at large. The youngest person it helped was two years old; the oldest 102. While there is a British Army, there will be The Soldiers’ Charity.
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