Almost a century of support for the RAF Family
As the RAF marks its centenary year, its leading welfare charity the RAF Benevolent Fund celebrates 99 years standing side by side RAF personnel, past and present.
Supporting our brave airmen and airwomen is the core purpose of the charity set up just a year after the RAF’s foundation, by the same visionary Hugh Trenchard, the first Viscount of Trenchard. As the ﬁrst Chief of the Air Staff, Lord Trenchard recognised the need to look after the RAF Family and it’s something the RAF Benevolent Fund has been proud to do for almost a century.
Helping beneficiaries like Duncan Slater, a sergeant in the RAF Regiment, who lost both legs in a bomb blast.
It seemed natural for Duncan to join the RAF – his father and grandfather had both served in the RAF, the latter during the Second World War. Duncan, who hails from the north of Scotland, had served for 13 years when in 2009 he was posted to Afghanistan, a tour which would change his life forever.
Duncan was on routine patrol with the RAF Regiment when an IED exploded, throwing him more than 30ft in the air and leaving virtually every bone in his body broken.
The only unbroken part was his right arm. Duncan spent five months in hospital, four months of which he had to lie flat to avoid paralysis. He eventually made the decision in 2010 to amputate both legs so he could walk without pain.
While getting used to his prosthetic limbs, Duncan needed financial help to extend his home and adapt the bathroom and the Fund was there to help.
Duncan said: "Life would be very different if the RAF Benevolent Fund wasn't there for me and my family. I can't thank them enough."
Despite his injuries Duncan has gone on to complete some incredible feats including the Marathon des Sables and cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats raising money for the RAF Benevolent Fund and other military charities. Having benefitted himself from their support, Duncan was keen to given something back to the forces community.
Senior Aircraftman Kevin Ogilvie, originally from Fife, was similarly inspired when the RAF Benevolent Fund stepped in to help him and his family. Like Duncan, Kevin suffered life-changing injuries in an IED explosion in Afghanistan.
In 2012, Kevin was just 22 when he was on a patrol in Helmand province during his second tour of Afghanistan with 51 Squadron, RAF Regiment when his armoured Jackal vehicle drove over an IED. As the driver Kevin sustained the worst injuries, including seven broken vertebrae, and spent four months recovering in hospital.
During this traumatic time the RAF Benevolent Fund supported the family, paying for Kevin's wife Amie and their daughter Grace, who was just six months old at the time, to stay close by to the spinal unit, where Kevin spent more than three months in rehabilitation.
The Fund also assisted Kevin’s parents, Phillip and Rhona, who lived in Forfar to make regular trips to visit him.
Kevin says: "When I was in hospital I had no idea how badly I was injured, I was knocked out for two weeks but it was a real comfort to have Amie and my family close by.
"Amie was having to make a 40-minute journey back and forth to the hospital every day with our baby until the RAF Benevolent Fund stepped in. Without their support my parents wouldn't have been able to see me every other weekend."
But despite being paralysed from the chest down, with Kevin's ironclad determination coupled with tremendous support from his family, and assistance from the RAF Benevolent Fund, Kevin is looking to the future. In 2015 he and Amie embarked on an ambitious challenge to raise £10,000 for the charity which had stood side by side with him. He did just that with a series of events, including a skydive! His amazing dedication to give something back to the RAF Family won him many accolades, chief among them being named as the winners of the RAF Benevolent Fund Above and Beyond Award that same year.
Airplay is the RAF Benevolent Fund’s flagship youth support programme for RAF families, providing a huge range of facilities, equipment and activities for children and young people.
The scheme was developed in consultation with the RAF after a survey found that keeping young people safely occupied was a big concern for RAF families.
Young people in RAF families face unique challenges – long periods separated from at least one parent, moving around the country to new stations (often in isolated, rural locations with minimal facilities), and having to start at new schools and make new friends on a regular basis.
Airplay is designed to address these issues by giving RAF children access to brand new facilities and a safe, stimulating programme of activities.
Also, by rolling out at all main RAF stations, children and young people will have some much-needed continuity if and when their family relocates.
By giving RAF children and young people the facilities and activities they deserve, the Fund believes Airplay will take some of the strain off RAF personnel and their partners, whether at home or on the front line.
At RAF Lossiemouth, the RAF Benevolent Fund has recently funded the creation of a soft play area, Ben’s Den – named after the Fund’s mascot Ben Elephant. As well as providing funding for the station’s youth workers, the Fund has also provided Parenting classes.
Chloe’s daughters, Florence, five, and Olivia, seven, both attend the Fund’s Youth Club at RAF Lossiemouth. She said: “It is nice that they get to mix with other kids who they see at school and who live in the patch and who they have that common bond with. They have lots of fun! It’s great and the staff are aware of the challenges the kids face.
“My daughter absolutely loves it. She comes back and talks about it all evening.”
Five-year-old Florence adds: “I like Ben Club because I like seeing everybody.”
Lucy, 18, is completing her Duke of Edinburgh Award and volunteers at Airplay as part of the scheme. She said: “I liked coming to Airplay because I could spend time with my friends and it is somewhere to go with my friends where my parents were not.
“Now as a volunteer I just love getting to know the kids and their personalities. It is really fun and I love all the arts and crafts. It is nice to know there is somewhere they can come and they know everything they say here is confidential.”
RAF Benevolent Fund: The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is the RAF’s leading welfare charity. We exist to support current and former members of the RAF, their partners and dependants, whenever they need us. In 2017 we spent £17.6m supporting more than 55,000 members of the RAF Family. For more information visit: www.rafbf.org Twitter: https://twitter.com/RAFBF