1940s

  • The Second World War poses one of the Fund’s biggest challenges

    The Second World War brought tragedy and hardship and posed one of the Fund's biggest challenges. The Fund worked tirelessly throughout the war years to continue supporting its existing beneficiaries in their usual work, as well as meet an increase in demand for their services as a result of war. Public appeals, whether broadcast or print, were crucial.

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    Ports in the UK and overseas saw an influx of British seamen in need of shelter, food and clothing. Widows and dependants of deceased Navy officers found themselves homeless. Many new entries to orphanages were children who lost their parents in the war. Coastal community mourned fishermen killed by enemy action while working. However, thanks to improved cooperation between maritime charities, the shipping industry and the government, the conflict had proved a step forward in terms of the Fund's role and reach.

  • 29 December 1940

    The Fund’s headquarters is destroyed during the Blitz

    For many charitable institutions, the war literally came to them. Many institutions evacuated the people in their care to safer temporary premises elsewhere. Premises were bombed and in some cases destroyed. The Fund itself came under fire.

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    Trinity House in London, the Fund's headquarters and official address since 1917, where two of the Fund's inaugural meetings were held, was destroyed in the Blitz in 1940, to be later faithfully restored in 1953.

  • As the war continued, the cost of living rose, with disastrous effects for those already struggling to survive on meagre incomes, such as seafarers' widows.

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  • The Fund faces post-war decline in public donations

    There was a real concern among the Fund's member charities that, as seen after the First World War, public support for the Fund would diminish significantly. Indeed, in October 1945, a mere month after the Second World War had ended, the General Council noted 'the emotion of war has acted as a stimulant to collection and that stimulant has now gone'.

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    Fortunately, the Fund had entered the late 1940s with an increased public profile, which together with regular fundraising appeals, helped it to weather the expected post-war decline in public donations and to maintain grants at a fairly consistent level amid difficult economic conditions.

  • In 1944, the basic rate of pay for an ordinary Royal Navy seaman is 2s 9d per day. A loaf of bread costs 1d and a pint of beer is 6d.

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  • 1948

    The Merchant Navy Welfare Board is established

    Following the setup of the wartime Seamen's Welfare Board in 1940 by Ernest Bevin, then Minister of Labour, and with Gerald Hickson, then Chief Executive of the Fund, appointed as its member, the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) was established, bringing together the last five years of work for the welfare of seafarers.

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    The war propelled seamens' welfare onto the government agenda, as the provision of food, accommodation and welfare services for the increased numbers of seafarers coming into port areas was beyond the resources of the voluntary organisations. The newly established Board was mainly concerned with port residential and non-residential premises for serving seafarers. To encourage cooperation with this new body and to ensure balanced and efficient services and fundraising for seafarers, the Fund pledged to consult with the MNWB before making any public appeals for funds or establishing any new or improved welfare facilities.

  • Colonial merchant seamen crewed British ships, shovelling coal below decks. Their death toll was high, with 5,000 of the 15,000 colonial seamen perishing.

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  • May 1948

    The Fund moves to its new Chesham Street headquarters

    The Fund's headquarters and London and Home Counties offices were moved to 1 Chesham Street in London, following the destruction of Trinity House in 1940.

  • The International Maritime Organisation, founded in 1948, is responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of the marine pollution.

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