Veterans Aid, the UK’s frontline charity for ex-servicemen and women, in crisis, is celebrating its 90th year of continuous operation.
CEO Dr Hugh Milroy said, “I’m extremely proud to be at the helm of this inspirational organisation in its anniversary year. The charity was founded in February 1932 to deal with the hardship experienced by veterans in the economic aftermath of WW1. Its ethos of ‘hand up’ rather than ‘handout’ was the cornerstone it was built on – and it remains so today.
“It’s hard to believe that what started as a canteen and recreation room for destitute ex-Servicemen 90 years ago, at a rental of £1, has evolved into a charity of international repute. Using 21st Century technology we are now able to reach UK ex-servicemen and women in distress in seconds; reassure them in minutes and get them practical help within hours – wherever they are. And in Welfare to Wellbeing© we’ve developed a model so successful that it is being referenced by veterans organisations worldwide.”
In 1939, while still known as The Embankment Fellowship Centre (EFC), the charity was due to be introduced to VIP guests at a House of Commons dinner, before being promoted through the nation’s cinemas. They would have been treated to the premier of a film called Smith, made by iconic director Anthony Powell at Denham Film Studios. It starred two of the period’s most famous screen stars – Ralph Richardson and Flora Robson – and captured a snapshot of life for veterans in the harsh economic landscape of post WW1 Britain. But another war was looming, and influenza (‘flu) had just been identified as a virus – the screening never took place and the early example of Powell’s genius was lost for many years.
“The clothes and haircuts were different, and the veterans all wore suits, but the underlying causes of crisis among former service personnel in distress were frighteningly similar,” said Hugh Milroy. “In fact, ‘Smith’s story could describe many of the veterans we help today. Richardson’s character was a married ex-serviceman facing destitution and despair through unemployment and debt.
“We have recently experienced another pandemic, throughout which we remained operational, and new economic challenges are looming, but with support Veterans Aid will continue to offer a lifeline to struggling veterans in the decades to come.”