Afghanistan veteran with medals and child

130 years of supporting the Forces family

This February marks 130 years of supporting our Armed Forces families

26 February 2015

130 years of supporting the Forces family

David Murray is Chief Executive of SSAFA. Before joining SSAFA, David served in the RAF from 1979 to 2012. As Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff, he provided strategic oversight of world-wide welfare support to serving families. Here he takes a moment to talk about the history of SSAFA and the events that led to our formation.

 This February is a very special month for SSAFA – because it marks 130 years of supporting our Armed Forces families.

It’s hard to believe, but before SSAFA was formed, military families had little to no financial assistance or support while soldiers were away. However, as the Second Expeditionary Force set sail to Egypt in February of 1885, Major, later Sir, James Gildea set out to change the way soldiers’ wives and children were viewed and treated. He wrote a powerful letter to The Times newspaper about the plight of military families and appealed to the public for money and volunteers to help the dependents who were left behind.

Sir James Gildea’s letter was the start of a very important development for the UK Armed Forces community. Bringing the wellbeing of military families into public debate made the issue a visible one which could no longer be overlooked. His appeal resonated with the public and people were quick to join the cause. Within months, the charity was born.

Today, military families are still at the heart of everything we do. Through both World Wars and every conflict since, SSAFA has been there to provide serving personnel reassurance that their loved ones will be taken care of.

Over the years, we have adapted to meet the ever changing needs of the Armed Forces community and provide services and support which address the needs and issues that are unique to them.

SSAFA’s 130th is a time for us to celebrate how far we have come, to look back at all the things we have achieved and the people we have helped over the years and, importantly, to remember that for many the struggle is not yet over.

As one of the nation’s longest established military charities, we have been there to support the Armed Forces family through some of the most challenging times in our history. Something we could have not done without the money raised by our amazing supporters.