SSAFA: The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association.

The history of SSAFA is the history of the men and women of Britain’s Forces and their families.

The vision and drive of one man stands at the heart of the UK's oldest Armed Forces charity. In 1885, as the Second Expeditionary Force set sail for Egypt, Major James Gildea wrote to The Times appealing for funds and volunteers to look after families left behind. Within three months, SSAFA was born. Since then, they've supported millions of people, and millions more are eligible for help.

Through two World Wars and every subsequent conflict involving Britain, SSAFA has been there for our servicemen and women and their families. The ability to adapt quickly to their needs is still at the heart of everything they do and they are able to provide vital support wherever and whenever it is most needed.

Their lifelong support for the Forces and their families is reflected in everything they do. So if help is needed, they’ll be there - through thick and thin - until the job is done.

SSAFA does whatever it takes to get things done. They provide practical support and assistance to servicemen and women, veterans, and their families, every day of the year.

They understand that the time servicemen and women spend in the Forces can have an impact, now and in the future. But the challenges everyone faces are different, so whatever the problem, they’ll find a way to solve it.


There for them then, here for them now

The Chief Executive of SSAFA is David Murray. Before joining SSAFA, David served in the RAF from 1979 to 2012. As Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff, he provided strategic oversight of worldwide welfare support to serving families. Here are his reflections on World War One.

The recent centenary of the start of World War One was a time to remember all those men and women who played their part in that conflict. The British collective memory of The Great War recalls the death and destruction in the trenches of the Western Front. However, there is another story that should be remembered; that of the Home Front and the families, the women and children left behind by those who went off to fight. In 1914, hundreds of thousands of men walked out of their front doors, often at short notice and many for the last time, to answer the nation's call. Families suddenly found themselves without a father, a husband, a partner, very often the sole breadwinner in the family, leading to fears that wives and children could be left destitute.

And it wasn't long after the outbreak of World War One before the government recognised the practical impact of sending so many young men away to war.  In 1914, SSAFA was the only charity caring for the families of troops sent to the front line. Without a welfare system in place the government turned to SSAFA and asked for help to fill the gap that quickly appeared in support to the servicemen's families.

Within a few weeks SSAFA branches throughout the land were ordered to recruit and the charity grew from 7,000 to 50,000 volunteers in a matter of months. A specific charitable fund was also quickly established. Known as "The National Relief Fund", it struck a chord with the public who were fast to respond and money poured in. Within 15 months a staggering £5million had been raised which enabled SSAFA to assist more than 1 million people in 1914 alone.

Through two World Wars and every subsequent conflict involving Britain, SSAFA has been here for our servicemen and women and their families. Today we still support some 90,000 current and former Forces personnel and their families each year. Many of the challenges of 100 years ago remain unchanged and families continue to need our help on issues ranging from injury, disability and bereavement to housing, finance and transition. The ability to adapt quickly to their needs remains at the heart of everything SSAFA does. We never stand still, so our new services provide vital support wherever and whenever it is most needed. For example, over 900 people are now members of our Family Support Groups which play an important role in supporting those who have been bereaved or are coping with life-changing injury to a loved one. In addition, our pioneering mentoring scheme is providing one-to-one support to those who have had to leave the Forces earlier than planned due to injury or ill health.


The bottom line for us is providing support - support for those who have done or are doing their bit for our country, and their families, making sure that when they are in need, we are there for them. They have made their selfless contribution and the least that we can do is be there for them in return.


There are many ways you can help SSAFA achieve their aims. Click on their website here to read more about how you can help.