YOU WILL HAVE READ in the Message from my Chairman, Lord Knollys, which opens this Souvenir Programme, that the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund exists for the relief of distress among past and present members of the R.A.F., the W.R.A.F., their families and dependants, and that more than .£560,000 was spent on this work last year.
I believe you will be interested now to read about the kind of assistance the Fund provides. During 1956 the Fund gave financial assistance in the form of grants or loans in 17,000 instances. The amounts spent on each case varied considerably, being governed by one factor only, the need of each applicant. It is worth while stressing, however, that the cost of each case is rising, keeping step with the remorseless increase in the cost of living. While expenditure was 9 per cent, higher in 1956 than during the previous year, the number of awards made was approximately the same.
How is this money spent?
First, let me say a word about education, which continues to require the greatest amount of money and which, evidence proves, is one of the most valuable forms of help that could be given. It is the Fund's policy to provide for children of deceased and disabled officers and airmen the sort of education they would have enjoyed had their fathers lived or not suffered disablement. To that end, more than .£200,000 was expended last year, and since the end of the war the total expenditure on education exceeds .£1,300,000. In addition to placing children at schools of all types, the Fund also maintains its own school at Vanbrugh Castle, Blackheath. I am pleased to tell you that a party of boys from there attended the rehearsal of this concert today, thanks to the kindness of Sir John Barbirolli.
Apart from education, provision of housing and accommodation is a major item of expenditure in resettling widows and families following casualties or death from normal causes, and also in respect of long-service personnel entering civil life after their R.A.F. career.
Other categories include payment of essential debts. The "credit squeeze" has meant that many an ex-officer or airman running a business thanks to a bank overdraft is no longer able to obtain that help, so that in certain cases the Fund has to fill the breach.
Here are some brief—and necessarily anonymous—extracts from the Fund's 1956 case book: "removal expenses for parents of two aircrew, both killed"; "fee for secretarial training for aircrew officer's widow"; "winter clothing for whole family of ex-W.A.A.F. after husband's service in the Suez Canal Zone"; "clearing hire-purchase commitments for ex-flight sergeant forced into a sanatorium by T.B."; "buying a TV set to bring some light into the life of a completely paralysed former corporal."
So it goes on. Here is an account of a Jamaican corporal's son being flown to England for a serious operation not obtainable in the West Indies. Here is a warrant officer, 100 per cent, disabled by severe burns following an aircraft crash, resettled with his wife and two young children in a confectionery business. Here is provision being made for the passage home from India for the widow of a former aircraftman with three young children, plus help provided in buying clothing, beds and bedding for their new home in England.
I hope that in the limited space available to me I have said sufficient to account for the intense pride which we of this Fund feel in our work and to justify the confidence with which we therefore appeal to you—the public and the Service —for support. Only that support can enable us to carry on our work at a level which, though high, is no higher than the courage and the merits of those we serve.
It is with both pride and gratitude that I record the fact that a very high proportion of all ranks of the Service supports the Fund in a most practical manner—by an annual subscription.