We can never predict the future, but I am lucky enough to see that even when I have left the RAF I will be in a fairly good position. I will have done over 25 years. I will have built up a fairly good pension. I will have squirrelled away some cash to be able to put down a sizable deposit on a house and then my new wife is in the same position…she will have done nearly 20 years in the Army, and similarly will have a nice lump sum and a pension.
But there are people who are not so lucky. They may not have given so much time to the country, but still have served. Whether that is 4 years in the Second World War, or two years National Service in the 1950’s, or 10 years worth of work in the 1970’s. These people have still given their all, often in horrible places around the world, often in terrible conditions, often away from home, family, loved ones. Often they will have seen some terrible things. Bomber Command Missions. Indian Partition. Suez riots. Malay Insurgents. Northern Ireland bombs.
The nation looks after these people, and they get by. But their life is a struggle. Illnesses, infirmities and just old age takes a toll. Their mobility is reduced, their income is gobbled up by the expenses of modern living. Their worlds shrink.
I knew that such people existed. I knew they were out there. But I didn’t have any of their stories made real to me. Until the other day. I was invited by the RAF Benevolent Fund to sit in and see one of their Grants Committee Meetings, looking only at cases dealing with ex-service personel – it wouldn’t be right for me to hear about cases of people still serving. Four people at a table being addressed by members of the RAFBF Welfare Team who wheel in and present story after story of heartbreak, pain and suffering.
A 92 year old former Bomb Aimers wife, who himself had given 22 years starting in 1942, with dementia needing 24 hour live-in care. A 84 year old former SAC who lives in unheated mobile home facing the North Sea. A 55 year old former Cpl, unemployed, ill, living on her own in a house with a broken boiler. A 76 year old ex-SAC whose house had been flooded out and was now living with concrete floors, bare walls and no curtains.
Each one of these stories breaks your heart. All people needing help. All people given help by the RAF Benevolent Fund. Each one of these received a grant, a loan or some sort of help. But I want to bring your attention to that last case there – the SAC whose house was flooded.
Having lived alone for 15 years, his bungalow was inundated by a flood from a leak in a frozen water main. To make matters worse, due to a fault, the water company was unable to turn the water off and the damage was terrible. Carpets, curtains, furniture, wall paper and paint destroyed. Yes, he had insurance, but for some reason they wouldn’t pay out, and without any savings and getting by on just the State Retirement Pension, he was given an emergency crisis loan. The Water Company paid for repairs to the fabric of the building, but not for the furniture and carpets.
Left living in an empty shell of a house, he started to struggle making the payments for the Crisis Loan and started to scrimp on eating and heating his house. He came to the Fund asking for a grant to buy some carpets and curtains. Of course the Fund agreed. He was given just a grant that will not just buy him some new soft furnishings and shut out the cold, but will also give him a bit of dignity back.
It broke my heart listening to his story and I just wanted to help him. He gave 10 years of his life to the RAF and I wanted him to be proud and happy again. I am proud and happy to be in the RAF and I wanted him to share that feeling one more time. Maybe not by putting on a blue uniform and a beret again, but by knowing that the RAF still cares about him, that people who support the RAF still care about him. That YOU and I care about him.
He might live alone, but he is not without a family. The RAF family is there to help and support him, to make sure that he doesn’t fall through the gaps of the modern world, and he fades away, his service and his dedication forgotten. The RAF Benevolent Fund makes payments in excess of £9 Million each year for welfare cases. What I didn’t hear about that day was the millions more spent each year on projects and grants to those still serving in the RAF – work like relationship counselling, money advice services, financial grants and other things like play parks and games areas for children. Only good work comes out of the building.
But this work can only continue with your help and support.
Times are hard, and many people are struggling, but any donation you give to the RAFBF goes directly to helping not just ex-service men and women, but also those who are still serving, who have suffered a major trauma, either as a result of military service or just as a result of the trials that life throws at us.
Some of us are lucky enough to be able to cope with these things. Some of us are not. But for those who have served the country in the RAF who are not able to cope, there is always going to be the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund there to help them. Please help them to help the members of the RAF family who are in desperate need by clicking here to visit the RAFBF’s donation page.