Winner of the Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England (SNINE) Area President’s Trophy 2022.
[Area Branch of the Year]
Representing RAFA in Huddersfield for 77 years.
The team representing the branch at the Civic Dinner at Huddersfield Town Hall on 24 May 2023 . The event was to mark the beginning of the term of office as Mayor of Kirklees for Cllr Cahal Burke, who has chosen our branch to be one of the two beneficiaries for his year-long Charity Appeal.
The Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) is a forward looking organisation and a registered charity – with 65,000 members worldwide – providing friendship with welfare and wellbeing support for serving and veteran RAF personnel and their dependants.
Probably the best way to describe our current activities is to repeat the Annual Trustees Report submitted at our Branch AGM in March 2023:
Now free from restrictions due to COVID, 2022 was a successful year for the Huddersfield Branch. Only a few years after being in a possible closedown situation, this year the branch advanced to one where members’ actions were acknowledged at local, area, and national levels. Within the last 12 months, it has won Scotland, Northern Ireland & Northern England (SNI&NE) Area Awards for Branch Efficiency, Branch Newsletter, and Fundraising; had the caseworker experience of its welfare officer featured in the RAF Association’s Summer Welfare Fundraising Campaign; in December celebrated the inclusion of the same Hon Welfare Officer – Anne Mellor – in the list of seven recipients of a National Presidential Certificate to coincide with HM The King’s New Year’s Honours 2023.
Whilst extremely gratified to be recognised in this way, this does not divert branch members’ attention from the core task of providing camaraderie and welfare support for the RAF family. This manifests itself in giving aid in many forms to local veteran clients and their dependants.
The numbers registered to the branch, which increased two years ago upon incorporation of the closed Barnsley branch, fell below two hundred this year. However, much of this reduction came about in 2022 because of the association’s scrutiny of the status of serving members. Operating RAF aviators currently make up one half of the branch’s registrations. Now stabilised at 170, the branch is slowly attracting new members, a positive development.
The COVID pandemic highlighted the branch’s transition from an essentially fundraising group to one with the primary objective of providing welfare support. In leading the RAF Association’s efforts to contact all members through a ‘Roll Call’ telephone initiative, the branch was able from an early stage to locate and assist previously unidentified clients in need. Examples of the close support extended to veterans and dependants dominated branch welfare activities throughout the periods of restrictions. It is for these still active initiatives that the branch’s Hon Welfare Officer was honoured with a National Presidential Certificate at the end of 2022.
In line with RAF Association aims, the branch expanded the scope of its wellbeing support for members and clients during 2022. In addition to the three popular luncheons organised during the year, attendance at monthly Coffee Mornings continued to increase. Both events are important for maintaining camaraderie, as they allow those members unable to attend monthly branch meetings to still meet up informally and enjoy each other’s company. Group trips were made to RAF Leeming, as well as to the International Bomber Command Centre, this time in commemoration of a recently passed colleague. On a smaller scale, veterans organised lunchtime get-togethers on Mondays, whilst clients were regularly taken out for meals at various locations.
Maintaining ties with clients was the mainstay of the work of the branch’s Hon Welfare Officer Anne Mellor. She telephoned and visited them weekly, backing up calls with assistance in making doctor’s appointments; filling out financial assistance claims; taking them to hospitals; shopping; etc. All clients had her telephone details for urgent contact if required. Member Paul Dodds also contributed with regular much appreciated befriending calls to contacts.
The organisation of internal and external communications became increasingly important to the branch. All branch meetings were organised as hybrid events, where members unable to attend in person could participate remotely via internet connection, for which a Zoom contract had been purchased. Involvement of colleagues in activities was encouraged by providing them with the full minutes of monthly branch meetings, as well as offering an expansive newsletter on a quarterly basis. Copies of both were distributed by email to over forty members, whilst ten or so others without internet received printed copies in the post. Social media played a growing role in communications, where the branch has an informative website and an active Facebook page.
Notwithstanding the general switch of focus to welfare matters, fundraising remained an important – and successful – undertaking for the branch. The branch’s total sent to the Wings Appeal 2022 was £8,262.28. This amount was compiled from various events, including street collections, carnivals, market stalls, collecting tins, collecting jars, and a £2,500.00 legacy contribution. The largest individual fundraiser was the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge carried out by Membership Secretary Nathan Mayer in July, which netted £1,746.84.
In late July 2022 the branch was invited to be one of the two equal beneficiaries of the Mayor of Kirklees’ Charity Appeal to run from May 2023 to May 2024. The Mayor Designate, Cllr Cahal Burke, is an old friend of the branch from the enduring relationships established with the Lindley Community Group, of which he is Chairman. Plans are already well in hand for fundraising events in combination with the other beneficiary, the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Charity.
Overall, prospects are good for an equally successful 2023 for the branch.
We like to think that, although we are relatively small in number, we certainly punch above our weight!
We are delighted to welcome volunteers to help us in our fundraising or welfare work at any time. If you see us out collecting, just come up and talk to us. Alternatively, contact us by email, text or telephone, as listed below.
We hope that, as you read further through the links on our website, you will be interested in perhaps joining us. In the 77 years that our branch has been operating, we have been very lucky in having people who have found great satisfaction in giving freely of their time and talents in supporting the welfare of the RAF family.
We are always pleased to accept new members in our branch, particularly former airmen, airwomen (now all called ‘aviators’) and their dependants. However, please remember that you don’t have to have served in the RAF to participate fully in our activities. As long as you share our aims and values, we would be delighted to welcome you as an associate member. Associate members are highly appreciated in our branch, being central to all our activities.
For further information about membership and how you can play a part in our undertakings, please email us at [email protected] or call or text us on 07369 231172.