SSAFA and the Queen - Timeline

A timeline of the Queen's relationship with SSAFA from 1946 to the present day.

SSAFA and the Queen - Timeline

A timeline of the Queen's relationship with SSAFA from 1946 to the present day.

The Royal family has traditional links with the SSAFA. Established in 1885, the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Families Association was founded by Major James Gildea to help military families at home. Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra of Wales (the great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II) became the first ever President of SSAFA.

Following the founding of the Royal Air Force in 1918, the then Queen Alexandra suggested the organisation should change its name to the Soldiers’, Sailors’ & Airmen’s Families Association and in January 1926 the charity was granted a Royal Charter of Incorporation.

Queen Elizabeth II became patron of SSAFA in 1953, with her ascendency to the throne. Her mother Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother continued as patron alongside her daughter until her death in 2002. The Queen Mother had a lifelong interest in the charity, and had even been a SSAFA volunteer long before she became a member of the Royal Family. As a teenager during the First World War, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, as she then was, volunteer and attended branch and fundraising events for the charity.


Princess Elizabeth supports SSAFA's children's homes

Princess Elizabeth sends a gift of honey to SSAFA to be shared amongst our children’s homes in England, Wales, Scotland and North Ireland. The charity had opened its first children’s home in 1941 as a response to the Blitz and by the end of the war was operating 13 such homes, for children orphaned by the war, or whose family were unable to take care of them. By November 1945, SSAFA was running 15 emergency children’s homes caring for 6,000 children a year.


Princess Elizabeth donates wedding gifts to SSAFA

The Philatelic Society gave Princess Elizabeth a wedding gift of stamps, donated by philatelists of the Empire. With HRH’s agreement the stamps were auctioned and the proceeds (£629) given to SSAFA.

Princess Elizabeth gave £500 to SSAFA, part of her wedding present from the British community in Belgian Congo.


Swiss charity provides holiday to SSAFA children in honour of royal marriage

Iris Oldridge and Joyce Parker, two nine year old girls from Hull were amongst a party of 40 children who were sent on a 60-day holiday to Switzerland to convalesce as a gift to Princess Elizabeth on the occasion of her wedding to the Duke.

Don Suisse, a Swiss organisation that provided relief for victims of the Second World War, wrote to SSAFA offering to provide a holiday for 40 children selected by SSAFA, the only condition being that the children were “convalescent or naturally delicate”. With SSAFA providing children’s homes to orphans and young victims of the war, they were well placed to send some of the children in their care. All expenses were covered by Don Suisse including for the four English SSAFA members who travelled with the children and stayed throughout the two month holiday.


The Malta Years

In his first overseas postings since their marriage, the Duke of Edinburgh was sent to Malta in 1949, taking up a new posting as First Lieutenant of the Royal Navy destroyer H.M.S Chequers, which was being refitted in the Grand Harbour at the port of Valletta.

Princess Elizabeth visits her husband a total of four times during his 18 month posting, celebrating her 24th birthday there, as well as announcing her second pregnancy.  During her time on the island she made many visits to the stationed Armed Forces personnel there, including the SSAFA headquarters at the impressive Auberge de Castille in Valetta.


Queen Elizabeth II becomes patron of SSAFA

Her Majesty becomes patron of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity on acceding to the throne in 1952. There was no official ceremony, but correspondence and an entry in our Council Minutes and Annual Report report the event.


Queen Elizabeth II is crowned

In a public message of thanks following her coronation, the Queen paid particular tribute to the Armed Forces, and showed the direct connection between monarch and military by referring to them as hers, a possessive pronoun that both the Queen and those who serve hold on to.

“I want to send a special word of congratulations to the representatives of my naval, military and air forces who were on duty.”

Lord Mountbatten becomes SSAFA President

Lord Mountbatten, Prince Phillip’s uncle, and the Queen’s cousin, becomes SSAFA President, before going on to become First Sea Lord and the Chief of Defence Staff. He serves as SSAFA President until his untimely death in 1979. Lord Mountbatten’s youngest daughter Lady Pamela is a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. She was bridesmaid at the Royal wedding in 1947, and was with Her Majesty and the Duke in Kenya when the announcement of King George VI’s death reached the couple. Lady Pamela had travelled extensively with her father to his various posting during his military career, and had even worked for SSAFA in Malta, when her father was posted out there as Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet.


Tea party for SSAFA children at the palace

War orphans supported by SSAFA have a tea party with the Queen Mother at St. James’ Palace. The event was to mark the 70th anniversary of SSAFA which had throughout the Second World War and beyond provided Children’s Homes to displaced, orphaned or homeless children. At the time of the party in 1955 there were nearly 6,000 war orphans in the UK. In attendance at the tea party was General Sir Reginald Denning, then chairman of SSAFA.

The Queen approves the Africa General Service Medal

The Queen approved the award of the Africa General Service Medal, to those involved in the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya. Not only were members of the fighting force eligible but so too were members of SSAFA, and other charitable organisations including the British Red Cross and the Women’s Voluntary Services.


'Dunkirk' premieres, and proceeds donated to SSAFA

Ealing film Dunkirk premieres at Empire Theatre, Leicester Square, with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh amongst those present. Proceeds from the film were donated to SSAFA. Also in attendance at the film premiere were Dunkirk veterans, especially invited to attend and line the red carpet route, whilst officers were conscripted in to take tickets on the doors.

A telegram from Sir Winston Churchill was received and read out before the screening that stated: “It is indeed fitting that the premiere of the film of the battle of Dunkirk should benefit SSAFA, I wish this most worthy cause all success.”

After the Queen had met all the high ranking Service officers, officials and film stars she then departed from the schedule of events to talk to the assembled Dunkirk veterans.


'Lawrence of Arabia' premieres

The film premiere of the World War One epic Lawrence of Arabia is attended by the Queen and Prince Philip. The premiere's proceeds are shared between Save the Children and SSAFA; each organisation making £9,300.


'Waterloo' premieres

The film premiere of Waterloo, a film famous for it's battle scenes (thanks to 17,000 soldiers from the Red Army) is attended by The Queen and Prince Philip, this time raising £18,000 for SSAFA.


'Aces High' premieres

The last of the 'SSAFA Film premiers', this film about the Royal Flying Corps is attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, again raising money for SSAFA.


The Queen helps SSAFA celebrate our 100th Anniversary

On 21st November, 1985 The Queen and members of the Royal family, for the first time in history attend two events on the same day for a single charity. First a Centenary Thanksgiving Service at Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen, as patron of SSAFA, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Michael of Kent, as the association’s president, Princess Michael of Kent and Princess Alice, vice-president of the association. Following the service an evening reception at St James’ Palace was held in the presence of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Michael. At this time the charity was dispensing more than £1,500,000 every year in grant aid, with more than 4000 volunteers in Britain dealing with around 40,000 cases each year.

Following the Trooping of the Colour to mark the Queen’s birthday in 1985, a Grand Spectacular was held at the Duke of Yorks’ Headquarters, in London to continue the pagentry of the day and celebrate SSAFA’s centenary. The Bands of the Royal Marines, REME, Royal Yeomanry, Honourable Artillery Company all provided musical entertainment throughout the afternoon and into the early evening, whilst parachute drops, and drill demonstrations from the RAF Queen Colour Squadron thrilled the gathered crowds.

Wedgwood medallions

To mark the 100th anniversary of SSAFA, and the royal family's connection to the charity, renowned British pottery manufacturer Wedgwood presented Prince Michael of Kent, with a Wedgwood Jasper portrait medallion. The 4.5 inch oval medallion, in pale blue and white jasper was modelled by North Staffordshire sculptor Donald Brindley, featuring the Prince’s portrait. 500 limited edition medallion were made, with the Prince being presented with the first copy. A Wedgwood portrait of each of the Prince’s predecessors- Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Earl Mountbatten- were also created and presented to the charity.

Sir Arthur Bryan, the then chairman of Wedgwood, said at the time of the centenary, “bearing in mind Josiah Wedgewood’s own philanthropic interests and concern for others it seems fitting that the portrait medallion should have been produced during the centenary year of SSAFA.”


Queen Elizabeth II visits SSAFA headquarters

Queen Elizabeth II visits SSAFA headquarters, just weeks after the outbreak of the Iraq War. She takes the opportunity to hear directly from Service families and SSAFA representatives about the challenges faced by Armed Forces families. Addressing the children of those deployed, Her Majesty urges them to write to their parents, and advocates putting pen to paper and sending letters if email communications fail.


Queen Elizabeth II opens the new SSAFA Headquarters

SSAFA was honoured when Her Majesty officially opened Queen Elizabeth House, the new home of SSAFA’s central office in the heart of London. During her visit she met beneficiaries, volunteers, and SSAFA employees. Along with Prince Philip and Prince Michael of Kent, as the charity’s president, she spoke to families and service personnel affected by the protracted conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Amongst those she met were Trooper Cayle Royce, who had lost both of his legs in a bomb blast whilst in Afghanistan the year before, and 6 year old Harley Inns whose brother Rifleman Martin Kinggett was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, after providing covering fire during the rescue of an injured colleague.




In honour of our patron Queen Elizabeth II, SSAFA presented a concert at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate Her Majesty’s reign and her patronage. Taking place on Wednesday 16 March, The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – 70 Years was the very first high-profile event to take place in this unprecedented year of celebrations marking the Queen’s seventy years of service.

Hosted by the BBC’s Sophie Raworth the concert featured music performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, conducted by Mike Dixon. Works by Great British composers including Edward Elgar, Benjamin Britten and William Walton took centre stage, with a focus on music played at Her Majesty’s 1953 Coronation and other key moments of the Queen’s reign. Much loved British mezzo-soprano Laura Wright, who is an ambassador for SSAFA’s subsidiary charity Military Wives Choir, also performed and spoke about her encounters with Her Majesty.

Sir Andrew Gregory, Chief Executive of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity took to the stage during the concert to pay tribute to Her Majesty. Speaking ahead of the event Sir Andrew said:

“The Royal Albert Hall is at the heart of the nation; hosting concerts such as The Festival of Remembrance and ‘We’ll Meet Again’ for VE Day 75. It seems only fitting that on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee, SSAFA should present one of the first high-profile events in honour of that magnificent milestone.

“Over Her Majesty’s reign, our country has seen many challenges; and it is a testament to the British people, in face of conflicts, terrorist campaigns and more recently the pandemic, that we rally, and that we have and will continue to overcome adversity. God save The Queen.”

The event was attended by SSAFA President Prince Michael of Kent as well as SSAFA supporters, corporate partners and volunteers, raising a fantastic £4,456.49 in the bucket collection.