The Army Benevolent Fund was formed on 15th August 1944 to ensure that soldiers returning from World War Two would be taken care of.
In 1944, around three million British soldiers were at war, notably in France, Italy and Burma. The Army Board was determined that these brave servicemen and women would not face the hardships endured by those who fought in World War One, a generation earlier.
1918: ‘A Land Fit For Heroes’
On 11th November 1918, the Armistice was signed in a forest clearing near Paris, ending World War One. Soldiers from across Britain and the Commonwealth began to return home, but Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s promised ‘Land Fit For Heroes’ was a short-lived dream.
Veterans returned home to find a country exhausted by war, with mass unemployment, crippling national debt and no welfare state or NHS to depend on. Meanwhile, in a politically violent and unstable Europe, the ground was being laid for the next war.
1939: War breaks out
When World War Two broke out, there was a better understanding of the challenges to be faced. Men who had served as young officers and soldiers during the last war were determined to ensure support was in place for the next generation of veterans.
1944: A memorandum at Downing Street
By 1944, the tide of the war was beginning to turn. In February, Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet discussed the formation of the Army Benevolent Fund – a national charity for the British Army – to ensure support would be available for soldiers, veterans and their families in peacetime.
1944: The Army Benevolent Fund is formed
The Army Benevolent Fund was established 15th August 1944, with HM King George VI as Patron and Field Marshal Lord Cavan as President. A £1.5m gift from the NAAFI enabled it to begin providing a lifetime of support to soldiers, veterans and their families. In 1946, the charity launched its first appeal, fronted by Field Marshal Montgomery.
“The Fund for the Soldier is an object none can question because the soldier is what it’s all about.”
The Times announces the formation of the Army Benevolent Fund, August 1944.
2010: ABF The Soldiers’ Charity
In 2010, our charity changed its name to ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. We have supported the soldiers and veterans of every conflict since World War Two, with special funds for those who served in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the two Gulf Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2019, the charity celebrated 75 years of service for soldiers, veterans and their families. While there is a British Army, there will always be ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.