1944: The Army Benevolent Fund is established
In 1944, around 3 million British soldiers were at war, notably in France, Italy and Burma, but with the end in sight, the Army Board realised that the State would not be able to provide for all the needs of those who would soon return to civilian life. The Army Benevolent Fund came into being on 15th August 1944. The “Fund for the Soldier” is, as The Times said, “an object none can question” because the soldier is what it is all about. In its first year, the charity was ‘pump-primed’ with the huge sum of £1.5m from the NAAFI’s profits, enabling the charity to make much-needed grants.
Copies of some of the original minutes from the first meeting of the Board of Trustees were discovered in the charity’s archives in 2015. View them online here.
1946: Field Marshal Montgomery launches our first appeal
Since 1944 the charity has helped millions of people and has grown into a national charity that strives to maintain the same respect and trust as the Army it supports. ABF The Soldiers’ Charity has a remarkable record of responding to the needs of soldiers and their families involved in all the campaigns and wars of the last century, with special funds for those who served in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the two Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.
The charity’s 50th Anniversary was marked by a Commemorative Service in June 1994 at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and other members of the Royal Family. The 60th Anniversary was marked by a Service of Thanksgiving in Westminster Cathedral in October 2004, also attended by senior members of the Royal Family.
National events between 2005 and 2007 included the highly successful ‘Music on Fire’ (a Musical Prom with fireworks) at RMA Sandhurst, with audiences of 15,000, achieving national acclaim.
The British Military Tournament at Earls Court was launched in December 2010 and ran for four successive years, attracting huge interest, entertaining tens of thousands of spectators and raising considerable funds in the early years.
Until March 2007, the charity’s Head Office was at 41 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, after which it moved to more modern, open-plan offices in Mountbarrow House in Victoria to co-locate with the Officers’ Association. In 2011, with the expansion of the Head Office, more space was leased in Mountbarrow House and the charity now co-locates with seven other Service charities.
In February 2010, the charity was re-launched and re-branded as ABF The Soldiers’ Charity to communicate its relevance and broaden its appeal, whilst maintaining the same role and values. The Controller became the Chief Executive and the charity underwent an ambitious expansion scheme. The charity subsequently became an Incorporated Charity in March 2012.