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History and heritage

Lord Trenchard founded the Royal Air Force in 1918, in the last year of the Great War. Once the war had ended, airmen had no charity of their own.

Lord Trenchard

The fledgling RAF had endured 16,000 casualties, leaving 2,600 widows and dependents and 7,500 badly incapacitated men, who often had little or no chance of employment for the rest of their lives.

1919: Foundation

So in 1919 Lord Trenchard set about creating the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Our remit then was to provide direct welfare assistance to those of the extended Royal Air Force family in need or distress.

In our first year our welfare expenditure was £919. The first welfare assistance we gave was a shilling for a night's lodging to give the recipient a chance to seek work.

Other early assistance included money to provide a former airman with tools of his trade and the repair of a pair of working boots.

1923: RAF Memorial completed

We were originally known as the Royal Air Force Memorial Fund as one of our original charitable objects was to raise a memorial to airmen who died in the Great War.

The RAF Memorial was completed in 1923.

1943: Working through the night

During the Second World War the RAF Benevolent Fund was once again there to support the RAF family.

As RAF casualties mounted, our staff worked through the night behind blackout curtains to get grants to families.

We awarded 67,500 grants between 1943 and 1945.

1951: Churchill's radio appeal

In 1951 Winston Churchill appealed on BBC radio on behalf of the RAF Benevolent Fund, and helped raise £26,460. This appeal ensured that help was given to the many RAF families left struggling in the aftermath of the Second World War.

1960: National servicemen welcomed

In 1960 national servicemen and their dependents became eligible for our assistance.

Today all ex-national servicemen and their families are still eligible for this support.

2009: Our 90th anniversary

In 2009 we celebrated 90 years of supporting the men, women and children of the RAF family. Today our work continues. In 1919 we spent £919 on welfare; in 2010 we spent over £20 million and supported over 60,000 people.

2012: Bomber Command Memorial completed

On 28 June 2012, working alongside the Bomber Command Association we unveiled the Bomber Command Memorial. The memorial stands as a fitting tribute to the 55,573 men in Bomber Command who lost their lives during WWII and we are proud to be the memorial's custodians.

2016: Our work continues

We continue to provide a wide range of help to members of the RAF, past, present and future, from support for young people growing up on RAF stations to welfare breaks for RAF families in need of a holiday.

We rely on you for all this to happen, so please consider making a donation to support our work.

0800 169 2942

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