THE RNBT - THE HISTORY OF ?

As I move around naval archives, learning more and more with each passing or turning of a page, I find that what is currently in the public domain does not always align to what archival records show, and thus could be short or well short of the truth!   One such interesting snippet is in the telling of the RNBT History and how it started and came about. Without the need for you to jump to the RNBT website [well worth a visit though when you have finished here http://www.rnbt.org.uk/ ] below I have printed part of the History sub-page for your convenience.

"History of the RNBT

From a small nucleus the RNBT has grown into a major naval charity which now spends over £4 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.

This consolidated the Grand Fleet Fund and several smaller funds into a single organisation. The full title 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."

Before leaving their history page, the RN Motoring School is well remembered, as was all that geographical area including the Greyhound racing track [going to the dogs was a favourite early evening pass time] and later on, the Mountbatten Centre.

It is not my intention to doubt the historical facts, but as you will see [I hope] several near coincidental steps have been missed out in the story.

Whether there is a vast difference between the words 'SOCIETY' and 'TRUST' [and their meanings, I am not sure about] but both words have been used in naval history for many a long year behind the words 'ROYAL NAVAL BENEVOLENT':  thus RNBS and RNBT. The basic difference notwithstanding the meanings of the 'S' and the 'T' was that the RNBS was 'run' for the benefit of officers and the RNBT for the benefit of ratings. 

The RNBS was started as far back as in the 18th century, in fact in 1789, just as the Napoleonic Naval Wars were about to start, the first being the Glorious First of June [1794] under Lord Howe. It,  like other naval schemes,  was protected under a Royal Charter dating from 1888, and here below, you will see details of the first scheme using a Royal Naval Benevolent 'Scheme'.  The King in this case was George III.

It is no secret that the vast majority of 'schemes' were set up and managed for the betterment of officers and their NOK, even explicitly down to mothers. This applied to virtually everything including the award of medals which few ratings received.

The Grand Fleet Fund, as you can see, was set up under two specific and named ACTS in 1916. As the RNBT page shows, the fund blossomed, until in May 1922 it became known as the RNBT and was protected under a Royal Charter.

http://opencharities.org/charities/207405 = the original RNBS for officers which to this day is still extant. I would however submit that in copying, the 'opencharities.org' webmaster has his dates slightly wrong which should be 1789 and 1888 and not 1739 and 1838 - but almost an academic point of no significance here.

Just like the RNBS is still going after 224 years, so too is the RNBT after 91 years.

My point here is that the kindly old Admiral [Jellicoe] did not manufacture something new, but being cognisant with the provision made for officers by officers [the RNBS, and already with a 133 year advantage <1789 - 1922> over the RNBT], he simply put into place a scheme for ratings managed with the hands-on help of ratings - a scheme long overdue. The year 1916 changed several aspects of the welfare for British forces because in that year we had seen the terrible loss of life at Jutland and on the Somme.

In summary, I think it important for a well rounded naval story, that readers should be aware of the RNBS and the RNBT and how each plays a part in the 21st century navy.

Good sailing.