Centenary timeline

Seafarers UK (formerly King George’s Fund for Sailors) was formed in 1917 to help support seafarers and their families during the First World War. 100 years later, the charity’s mission remains the same, to support seafarers and their families in need. As we celebrate our Centenary, we would like to look back at some of the key facts and highlight just a few of those dedicated individuals who have contributed to our proud story.

  • 1917
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    The formation of our charity

    The formation of our charity happened at a time when Great Britain had come nearest to defeat in the First World War. Public sympathy for those who were fighting and dying at sea, as well as for their dependants, was never higher. There was no shortage of organisations set up to help sailors, but a central body was needed to direct funds to the most worthwhile organisations. This is where our story begins.

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  • 1920s
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    Gaining public support

    The war took a terrible toll on seafarers with many thousands of lives lost at sea, often leaving families behind in desperate need of help. Thousands of survivors needed medical or rehabilitative support. A key focus of the Fund was to ensure continuing public support through fundraising activities and encouraging the take-up of regular subscriptions.

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  • 1930s
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    A lifeline for the seafaring community

    This was an incredibly tough time for Britain’s economy and seafaring community. A significant aim of the Fund’s work was the alleviation of hardship among seafarers and their dependants hit hardest by the the effects of the war. For many, voluntary organisations, such as King George’s Fund for Sailors, were their only lifeline.

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  • 1940s
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    A decade dominated by war

    The Second World War posed one of the charity’s biggest challenges. The Fund worked tirelessly throughout the war years to support its members in their usual work and in dealing with increased demand on their services. But, the conflict had also proved a step forward in terms of the Fund’s role and reach.

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  • 1950s
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    New beginnings, new challenges

    Peace had returned but for many of Britain’s former and serving seafarers and their families the tough times were far from over. The need for help among the Fund’s beneficiaries was stronger than ever. Building and modernisation were a key focus for maritime charities working to best serve the needs of the people in their care. This was not just about war damage repairs but improvements in facilities and the creation of new ones.

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  • 1960s
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    The emergence of a new industry

    The important technological developments have completely transformed the shipping industry. Containerisation, whilst greatly reducing the expense of international trade, had also dramatically changed the character of port cities worldwide, with many dock workers being displaced as a result. A new industry had emerged and with it the need for new skills as investment turned to related vessels, containers, terminals, offices and IT.

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  • 1970s
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    Troubling times for the nation's seafarers

    Rising inflation and living costs from the early 1970s onwards, combined with the oil crisis of 1973 and strike action by British miners put pressure on households of already limited means and risked affecting charity donations. Despite the challenges, the Fund was able to keep its head above water, raising awareness about its beneficiaries and championing the seafarer, whilst continuing to raise money for seafarers and their dependants.

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  • 1980s
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    Increasingly challenging world for seafarers

    The Falklands War along with increasing incidents of terrorism cast a dark cloud over UK homeland security, having a direct impact on the maritime community. The Fund remained focused on fulfilling the present and future needs of its beneficiaries. Its key areas of focus include attending to the needs of an ageing population, raising awareness of its work, boosting national support and promoting legacy giving.

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  • 1990s
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    A changing world

    The sector undergoes further changes with more technologically advanced vessels, yet fewer people aboard, increased port security and containerisation becoming the norm. Given the unique position of the charity of being able to reach across the entire UK maritime community and following the creation of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, the Fund takes an opportunity to examine its own position in the sector.

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  • 2000s
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    Continuing to represent UK maritime community

    Despite some criticism, the Fund adopted a new working name, Seafarers UK. Determined to honour its original objects set in 1917, it preserved its tripartite grants programme across the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets, remaining the only organisation with the mandate to represent and campaign on behalf of the whole UK maritime community.

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  • 2010s
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    A forward-looking modern organisation, Seafarers UK

    The Fund updates its Royal Charter, ensuring its founding principles are in line with modern governance and legal best practice. The charity is universally accepted as representing a forward-looking and uncompromising modern organisation providing finance and leadership in equal measure.

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  • 2017
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    Celebrating 100 Years

    Seafarers UK celebrates its 100th anniversary with a range of commemorative events, including a major conference to set a clear path for the future provision of charitable services to the maritime community.

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