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Royal Air Forces Association
Key people
Former name Comrades of the Royal Air Forces

The Royal Air Forces Association (RAF Association or RAFA),is the largest single Service membership organisation and the longest standing registered service charity that provides welfare support to the RAF Family - providing friendship, help and support to current and former members of the Royal Air Force and their dependants. 

Receiving no government contributions, the RAF Association is completely funded by the generosity of their members and through vital donations from their supporters in the general public and businesses. The Association exists in the recognition that RAF personnel and their immediate families dedicate their lives to their country, and to ensure that such a sacrifice do not result in suffering, poverty or loneliness. Whether it’s an injured airman fighting to get back on his feet, a young child missing their parent away on overseas operations, or a World War II veteran needing a shoulder to lean on, the RAF Association is there to help all generations of RAF Service personnel and their families.

The RAF Association currently has a membership of over 65,500 includes serving RAF personnel, veterans and non-service individuals who want to show their support for the work they do. With a UK-wide caseworker network of over 540 volunteer Welfare Officers undertaking over 68,000 welfare contacts annually, help ranges from simply providing conversation and friendship to preparing and submitting application forms for financial assistance.

70th Anniversary[edit | edit source]

The RAF Association celebrates its 70th Anniversary in 2013, making it one of the longest standing Service charities.

The early welfare work of the Association started with its charitable work in the 1930s by helping unemployed members in need through benevolent schemes and the distribution of Christmas hampers, continuing through to the Association’s formation in 1943.

The foundations of the charity’s present structure were laid during the remaining wartime years, and the Association was fully prepared for the consequences of demobilisation, which began in 1945. Welfare officers, employment officials and legal advisers were appointed at National Headquarters and at local branch levels. At the Air Ministry’s invitation, officials attended Release Centres to inform demobilised Air Personnel how the Association could help them.

The work of the RAF Association has stayed relevant and it continues to help those who have served for at least a day in the RAF from its beginnings through to the present day.

History[edit | edit source]

In 1929, in the Sergeants’ Mess at RAF Andover, three men named Vernon Goodhand, Joe Pearce and Warrant Officer Bartlett met to discuss the formation of a single organisation dedicated to the welfare of serving and ex-serving RAF personnel: one which would replace the many smaller organisations that had grown to keep former servicemen in touch since the end of the First World War.

By 1930 a provisional committee had been formed called "Comrades of the Royal Air Forces Association" and the first general meeting of the new organisation took place at the Queen’s Hotel, Leicester Square, London. Air Ministry support for the Comrades came in 1933 when the Air Council officially recognised the organisation and Lord Trenchard accepted the Presidency.

Throughout the early thirties the new Association made rapid progress, establishing benevolent schemes and distributing Christmas hampers to unemployed members.Then, in 1936, King George VI gave his patronage – and the Association has been honoured with Royal patronage ever since.

Following the outbreak of war in 1939, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force reformed, and the Women’s Royal Air Force Old Comrades Association (created in 1919) opened its membership to all ranks of the new female air service. In 1941, the two Old Comrades organisations for airmen and airwomen merged, resulting in a combined membership of nearly 20,000.

By 1943, with more than a million serving in the RAF, the organisation’s name was changed to the Royal Air Forces Association. A National Council, under the chairmanship of Air Chief Marshal Sir John Steel was formed to replace the Central committee of CRAFA.

The foundations of the charity’s present structure were laid during the remaining wartime years, and the Association was fully prepared for the consequences of demobilisation, which began in 1945.

Welfare officers, employment officials and legal advisers were appointed at National Headquarters and at local branch levels. At the Air Ministry’s invitation officials attended Release Centres to inform demobilised Air Personnel how the Association could help them.

In 1947 membership reached a peak with around 200,000 members and some 565 branches throughout the UK and in some overseas territories.

During this time, membership enrolment reached as many as 10,000 a month and, with the danger that the organisation might have become oversubscribed, the decision was made to distribute most of the administrative work over nine separate areas, each with its own HQ.

The Association has continued to maintain its Royal links and HM the Queen currently acts as Patron. We were also honoured and proud to have the Duke of Edinburgh as President in 1954 and 67, and the Prince of Wales in 1986.   

At the start of the 21st Century it was clear that the Association needed to adapt to an ever-changing society and its welfare needs. The RAF Association underwent a complete reorganisation and Central Headquarters relocated to the heart of the country in Leicester, and in the process amalgamated the Association’s Areas into five.

In recent times the Association has continued to be at the forefront of providing support to the RAF family. As well as continuing to help those who served in World War II, we have given assistance to vast numbers of Service personnel including veterans of the conflicts in Korea, The Falklands and The Middle East, and those affected by the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan.

Wings Appeal[edit | edit source]

The Wings Appeal is the RAF Association’s on-going fundraising campaign that runs throughout the year. It is the fundraising arm of the Association and helps raise the vital funds needed to support serving and ex-RAF personnel and their families, whenever they are need. As the RAF Association does not receive any government funding, we are dependent on the generosity of the public and the selfless hard work of our volunteers who help raise vital funds for the Wings Appeal.

The RAF Association's fundraisers come in many forms; including RAF Association Branch members, members of the serving RAF, ATC cadets, employees of companies who support us and individual members of the public.

The types of activity which volunteers undertake include:

  • Holding charity collections in town centres, supermarkets and other public venues
  • House to House collections
  • Placing collecting tins in public places
  • Running Name Me Claim Me Teddy Bear competitions
  • Manning stalls at public events such as Airshows and Church fairs

Welfare[edit | edit source]

The kind of welfare support provided by the RAF Association is wide-ranging: everything from providing home visits and respite care breaks, to offering advice and, in some circumstances, financial assistance in times of difficulty. 

In a typical year, these are just some of the ways the RAF Association helps Servicemen and women, past and present.

  • Over 65,500 members offering friendship and support
  • Network of over 540 welfare officers make over 68,000 welfare contacts (this figure is made up of 12,000 welfare visits, total of 68,000 contacts)
  • Helping to secure more than £200,000 in pension and compensation claims for those facing financial hardship
  • Provide much needed respite care breaks for around 2,800 people through the Homes from Home
  • Giving 2,500 separated RAF families the chance to enjoy quality time together
  • The RAF Association’s latest innovation Wings Video Mail allows RAF personnel serving in Afghanistan to stay in touch with family and friends by offering them the chance to send one-minute message back to loved ones
  • The Storybook Wings initiative helps to ease the pain of separation for over 500 children with parents serving overseas
  • Assisting around 50 RAF veterans or their widows/widowers to lead safe, independent lives in our sheltered and supported housing
  • Through the RAF Families Federation the RAF Association gives RAF personnel and their families the chance to influence future policy
  • The RAF Association distributes more than £1.2 million in welfare grants to serving and ex-serving personnel

Wings Video Mail[edit | edit source]

Wings Video Mail is the RAF Association’s latest innovation to allow RAF personnel serving in Afghanistan, stay in touch with family and friends, offering a secure, personal way to send a one-minute message free of charge back to the UK.

With MoD policy, real-time visual communication such as video calls and Skype aren't practical on the front line so Wings Video Mail will offer the perfect alternative to all RAF personnel wanting to feel as close to home as they can.

A total of 8 of the distinctive blue, touch screen Video Mail recording booths are located in specific areas across Afghanistan such as Bastion and Kandahar.

Storybook Wings[edit | edit source]

Storybook Wings provides a vital link between these parents and their children. It enables parents to record bedtime stories, along with personal messages, for their children to listen to while they are away, helping to ease the anxiety caused by separation.

The RAF Association provides recording equipment to parents for them to record their chosen stories. Thanks to generous donations received from members and the general public the Association is able to fund the special editing and sound mixing equipment needed by our volunteer editors. Once edited, a soundtrack is added to give each story a really special feel. The completed CD is then sent to the children in a personalised CD cover, and is ready for them to listen to whenever they like.

The RAF Association now supports 35 stations who participate in this growing and popular project, and RAF personnel are also able to record stories while in Theatre, with two recorders in Afghanistan plus another at RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands.

Homes from Home[edit | edit source]

The RAF Association jointly owns and runs three respite care homes situated across the country in some of England's most picturesque locations.The Homes from Home  offer respite short stays and breaks. The fully trained and friendly staff are able to provide specialised care and support for those who need that little extra assistance, with facilities available to cater for a wide variety of needs.Each of the homes provides a warm and friendly environment with plenty of opportunities to meet like-minded people.

rafa YOUTH[edit | edit source]

rafa YOUTH is the RAF Association's youth membership scheme and is aimed at all young people aged 13–17 who love flying, gliding, aviation, the Royal Air Force or who just want to be part of something special.

rafa YOUTH aims to help increase the RAF Association's long term numbers; encourage volunteering, support and increase awareness of the Association’s purpose as well as helping to promote youth development through air-related activities. It is hoped that youth members will continue their membership of the RAF Association as adults when they turn 18 and move on.

All 13 to 17 year olds who are in uniform as Air Cadets, CCF (RAF), GVCAC, Air Scouts and Air Explorer Scouts are eligible to join rafa YOUTH.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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