2015 was a very exciting and busy year for the RAF Benevolent Fund with numerous highlights. Here are just some of the fundraising stories, news and campaigns that took place this year.
January: We featured a guest blog from supporter Eren Nasib who took to the sky to complete a fundraising skydive for our work.
February: A group of 11 men known as the 'April Fools Club' set out on an arduous trek through the Falkland Islands in freezing temperatures, following the historic route taken by the Royal Marines 45 Commando Group in 1982 from San Carlos to Stanley. The group were raising money for our Seaside Apartments Appeal to build two seaside holiday homes for RAF families and raised close to £200,000.
March: 24 March marked the 70th anniversary of Operation Varsity which saw thousands of troops and aircraft disrupt German defences to aid the advance of Allied ground forces during WWII. Flying Officer Bunny Mason took part in the mission and told us more about it in a special blog.
April: We commemorated the 70th anniversary of Operation Manna which saw the RAF carry out food drops over Holland towards the end of WWII. We spoke to former air gunner Warrant Officer Dave Fellowes who took part in the mission and we also highlighted other humanitarian aid efforts by the RAF that included Operation Bushel, which brought famine relief to Ethiopia in the 1980s.
May: We celebrated the 70th anniversary of VE Day with some great blogs from veterans who shared with us their memories of when Victory in Europe was declared. They included a blog from former PoW Jack Lyon who returned home on VE Day after his spending nearly four years in the infamous Stalag Luft III.
June: We had a great blog from Squadron Leader Andy Shaw who with Squadron Leader Jamie Norris embarked on a challenge that would see them cycle 1000 miles through 10 countries in 10 days. They raised over £5,000 for us.
July: This month saw us launch our Battle of Britain 75th anniversary commemorations which continued through to September. On our Battle of Britain website we featured blogs, videos, a timeline highlighting the key moments during the Battle and our Message in the Sky app which gave you the chance to thank 'The Few' for all that they did during WWII. We also held a commemorative gala dinner which was attended by surviving Battle of Britain veterans.
September: Across the UK and abroad, supporters held a Great British Sunday Lunch to raise money for the RAF family. Also in September, 52 cyclists took to the road on Brompton bikes for our brilliant Brompton Bicycle Challenge from Paris to London. More than £50,000 was raised from the challenge.
October: We brought you a special blog marking the end of search and rescue operations by the Sea King helicopter at RAF Chivenor. Chivenor was the last of the RAF's six Search and Rescue bases to hand over responsibility for helicopter Search and Rescue to Bristow Helicopters Ltd.
November: We featured a blog about supporter Colin Burgin-Plews, a former RAF chef, who took part in the People's Run 2 Remember 5km run dressed in an amazing big blue RAF Benevolent Fund dress.
December: HRH The Duke of Kent officially opened our two seaside apartments, Jesters Court and Harlequin House in Rustington, West Sussex, for RAF families.