For soldiers, for life
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is the British Army’s National Charity, helping soldiers and veterans from every conflict, and their families, in times of need.
We were established in 1944 to ensure that the hardships endured by soldiers in the aftermath of the First World War were never repeated. For nearly 75 years, we have been helping countless people from across the Army family, defining our work through the Army’s own values of courage, loyalty and selflessness.
Last year alone, we spent some £9.5 million on charitable grants and other support to those in need – a 3% increase on the previous year. Of this, a total of £3.4 million was dispersed in grants to individuals, while more than £4 million in charitable grants was awarded to a network of 85 partner charities and delivery organisations, which delivered specialist support on our behalf. To provide independence and dignity for every soldier, veteran and their family is something we are incredibly proud to do.
One such case is that of Andy Garthwaite. Andy joined the Queen’s Royal Lancers at the age of 16. After serving in Iraq, in 2010 he deployed to Afghanistan and, whilst on his second last patrol of the tour, he was searching a compound when his unit came under sustained and heavy fire. As section commander, Andy raced to join the rest of his troop on the roof of the compound, but no sooner had he reached them than a rocket-propelled grenade took off his right arm. A close friend was killed in the same incident. Andy recalls ‘lying on the floor in a lot of pain with my hand on fire. My arm was away from my shoulder just lying there. I was still wearing my glasses and could see my friend’s body beside us. And I thought ‘ouch that hurt, I think I’ve been hit’. Andy is only alive today because his team radioed for a helicopter and within 10 minutes was carrying him to it across an open field, despite continuous enemy fire.
Fast forward to today and, although Andy’s road to recovery has been a long one, he has regained that sense of independence and quality of life he enjoyed while in the Army. While Andy was undergoing his physical rehabilitation – he was fortunate to be among one of only five people in the world fitted with a special, bionic prosthetic arm powered by the brain – he was desperate to remain independent following his medical discharge from the Army, and top of his list was finding a new job. Due to the nerve damage in his remaining hand, he found it extremely difficult to hold a pen to write applications and covering letters. The Soldiers’ Charity stepped in and awarded Andy a grant from the Quick Reaction Fund (QRF) to help pay for an iPad. This enabled him to type with just one hand, making searching and applying for jobs that much easier.
With his search for a potential new career underway, Andy had found that his injury was making some everyday tasks difficult and potentially dangerous. Andy had fallen out of his shower a number of times due to not being able to balance or hold on to anything, so The Soldiers’ Charity once again provided financial assistance to pay for adaptations to his bathroom, installing a wet room thus ensuring Andy could safely carry out his daily routines.
Andy is now working at a property management company in Newcastle, letting and developing property, and has also become a father after having a daughter with his wife last year. Speaking of the help he received from The Soldiers’ Charity, he says: “Having The Soldiers’ Charity behind me, it’s not only given me more independence, it gives me reassurance, just knowing that people are out there, to give support if needed. I think it’s really important that people know about the work of the charity because they are a cushion for our soldiers and veterans who may not have any stability and need help. The charity relieves so much stress; they are simply there to help those in need. The iPad, the wet room were both just a phone call away’.”