Herefordshire People:The Army Benevolent Fund

PUBLISHED: 17:12 09 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:49 20 February 2013

The Soldiers Charity

The Soldiers Charity

The Army Benevolent Fund was founded in 1944, towards the end of the Second World War. It grew out of an understanding that when the 4.5 million men and women finally returned from active service to civilian life they would need help - not just to...

The Army Benevolent Fund was founded in 1944, towards the end of the Second World War. It grew out of an understanding that when the 4.5 million men and women finally returned from active service to civilian life they would need help - not just to find alternative employment, but also in some cases to rebuild their lives.

At the time it was hoped that the Second World War was the 'war to end all wars', but since then there has only been one year in which a British soldier has not been killed or wounded in active service. Today, there are over 300,000 ex-Army personnel who are eligible for assistance, and the number continues to grow. In 2007 the ABF set up its Current Operations Fund to provide additional support for soldiers injured whilst serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There can be no finer example of a young soldier needing our support than Corporal Tom Neathway, who received a standing ovation at the Herefordshire ABF Christmas Carol Concert in Hereford Cathedral last December. Tom talked with candour as well as warmth and humour of the shock of losing both legs and an arm whilst on active service in Afghanistan. Tom, who lives in Worcestershire, joined 2 Para seven years ago and has served in Northern Ireland and twice in Iraq.

He was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008 and was injured in July whilst on deployment with his platoon carrying out a routine operation. In spite of several sweeps of a compound for explosive devices, one was hidden behind a sandbag and went off close to Tom. He was transferred to a helicopter to be sent home on a quad bike, which got stuck, and he remembers joking with the driver before losing consciousness. He woke in hospital in the UK and from then on his bed was surrounded by his family, fellow soldiers and friends who helped to keep him going. In October he went to Headley Court to get his new legs fitted and to learn how to walk again. Tom's aim is to return to 2 Para in January 2009 and if possible to active service by 2010.

When you consider that each of Tom's new limbs will cost 30,000 it is easy to understand why the ABF still urgently needs funds.

The carol concert raised in excess of 8000 through ticket sales, sponsorship, and donations. The Herefordshire committee of the ABF plan to make the concert a biannual event, and they hope that Corporal Tom Neathway will be able to come back to the next one to tell us about his long journey back to fitness.

The ABF support comes through grants to individuals as well as to Corps and Regimental Funds. Nobody is turned away. Grants are given to both young and old, to families and children, to widows and widowers as well as to the homeless and sick; here are some examples of the support that ABF gives.

Territorial soldier Jason was stationed with his regiment at Basrah Air Station in Southern Iraq in 2004. On a routine task into Kuwait, the Land Rover he was travelling in crashed, throwing him from the vehicle, and he suffered severe back injuries. Jason had been made redundant from his civilian job before being sent to Iraq and he was left struggling on his return with financial commitments and also living in unsuitable accommodation in a tower block. The ABF stepped in and assisted him with debt relief, and paid his removal costs to a specially adapted home for disabled ex-servicemen in Balham, South London. The fund has also helped provide him with a computer to enable him to learn new work skills.

Arryn's father was in the band of the Dragoon Guards from 1991 to 1997. It should be remembered that bandsman are not just musicians but members of the medical corps as well and do more than their fair share of active service. Arryn was born in 1998 and diagnosed with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy when he was four years old. A 5,000 grant from the ABF helped the family adapt their home to meet his long term needs.

His father says, 'I'd just like to say an extremely huge thank you to the ABF for making such a difference to Arryn's life.'

Herefordshire has been home to the Army for a long time. Not only was Moreton-on-Lugg a large RAOC depot for many years, but in 1960 the Special Air Service took over the Old Bradbury Lines Barracks and has kept Hereford as its home base, moving to its new location in 2000. This bond with the Army was highlighted in 2008, when the Rifles were granted the Freedom of the City with a special service in Hereford Cathedral.

If you wish to know more about the Army Benevolent Fund, please contact the area Secretary for the West Midlands, Colonel Peter Knox OBE, Copthorne Barracks, Shrewsbury, SY3 8LZ Telephone: 01743 262570

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