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From a small nucleus the RNBT has grown into a major naval charity which now spends over £5 million each year to help past and present sailors, Royal Marines and their dependants.
Admiral Jellicoe and the Grand Fleet Fund
The story starts in 1916 with Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (later to become Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe of Scapa), the Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet. He proposed that a charitable fund should be set up to help Royal Naval and Royal Marine personnel and their dependants who might be in need.
A unique feature of Admiral Jellicoe's proposed fund was that the men of the Fleet should be directly involved in running it. He held a meeting in his flagship, HMS IRON DUKE, to discuss his plan with lower deck representatives from each ship under his command. The outcome was the birth of the Grand Fleet Fund, the forerunner of the RNBT.
The first statement of accounts showed a balance of £485, but to this were added the profits from various Fleet funds including the Newspaper Fund and the Bones and Fat Fund. There were also some generous donations. Over the next six years the Grand Fleet Fund was able to give help totalling about £70,000 spread over some 18,000 cases.
Formation of the RNBT in 1922
The Admiralty appreciated the importance of the work carried out by the Grand Fleet Fund and saw the need for this to be given solid foundations so that it could continue into the future. To achieve this the RNBT was incorporated under Royal Charter on 2 May 1922, consolidating the Grand Fleet Fund and several smaller funds into a single organisation. The full title of which is the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust (Grand Fleet and Kindred Funds). Following Jellicoe's principle, a key feature of the new Trust was that, in the main, it was to be administered by serving and ex-serving men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
Funding for the RNBT
The Admiralty gave the RNBT £61,700 which had 'accumulated in various ways during the late war' (WW1). It was also arranged that the RNBT should receive about £150,000 over 15 years from the naval share of the profits of the Navy and Army Canteen Board - the predecessor of NAAFI - which at that time was being liquidated.
A major, long term source of income was established in the following year when it was agreed that a share of the NAAFI Canteen rebate throughout the Navy would be paid to the RNBT. This provided a substantial proportion of the RNBT's income for decades, but that is no longer the case.
The RN School of Motoring and Castaway House
In 1923 the Royal Naval School of Motoring in Portsmouth was given to the RNBT to run. It had been established some years earlier by a group of former Royal Naval Officers known as the Castaways Club. The school continued to operate under the RNBT's management until the 1980s and it is now the site of the RNBT Headquarters - Castaway House.