In 1919 a lady named Marta Cunningham, a well-known singer in her day, had heard that there were perhaps a handful of soldiers wounded in WWI still in a Ministry of Pensions Hospital in London. She called on the Matron and asked if she had a few lonely patients who would like to come out for tea. The Matron looked surprised and replied that there were in fact 600 injured patients lying in the hospital.
Marta was deeply moved by what she saw: “Listless men who took no notice of my coming or of my going. Were these really the enthusiastic young men who went to a nation’s rescue?” She discovered that there were thousands of wounded and lonely servicemen still in hospitals up and down the country. Marta soon set about persuading her friends to invite these men out for afternoon tea and entertainment to alleviate the tedium of their lives and to give them something to which they could look forward.
During one of these early invitations one injured soldier said: “We don’t want no charity Miss, we are forgotten by everybody and we’d better stop
so.” But, undeterred, on 12th August 1920 Marta formed the “NOT FORGOTTEN” Association for the ‘comfort, cheer and entertainment’ of the war wounded and within a year some 10,000 men had been entertained.
Thanks to the generosity of other charities and the public, as well as the firm backing of the Royal Family, hospital visits and tea concerts were followed by outings, drives and gifts such as fruit, chocolate and cigarettes
Whilst the aims of the Association have remained much the same throughout its history, it has adapted to meet the changing needs of the serving wounded and veterans with disabilities. WWII brought a huge increase in the number of disabled service men and women and a renewed need for the charity’s work. This new generation of the injured and sick were there to be helped alongside the ‘Boys of the Old Brigade’ who required care as never before.
In the 1960s the number of veterans eligible for the charity’s assistance dwindled. That situation changed dramatically with the deployment of our
Armed Forces in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. As a result the need for our unique work grows no less.
Although records were lost in a fire following an air raid in 1941, we can be reasonably confident that since its formation about one million serving and ex-service men and women have benefited from The Not Forgotten Association’s activities.
Throughout its history, the charity has been privileged to enjoy Royal Patronage. This tradition dates back to 1921 when our first Royal Patron HRH The Princess Mary invited 600 seriously wounded servicemen for afternoon tea. After her death in 1965 she was succeeded by HRH The Duchess of Kent who remained Patron until 2000 when HRH The Princess Royal took over the role which she continues to fulfil today.