How RAF Benevolent Fund helped one Yorkshireman - but wants to get thousands more back on the radar

WHEN his wife suffered a massive brain haemorrhage, followed by a stroke, which left her paralysed from the neck down, Laurence Carlton had to close their businesses down "literally overnight".

"I went to hospital every single day for 11-and-a-half months," the former RAF technician from Northallerton said.

After a few months he was nearly penniless - but it never occurred to him to seek the help of the RAF Benevolent Fund, until a friend of his suggested it.

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And today Mr Carlton enthusiastically endorses the Fund's new campaign, marking their centenary, to ensure "no veteran is left fighting alone."

The RAF Benevolent Fund was founded in 1919The RAF Benevolent Fund was founded in 1919
The RAF Benevolent Fund was founded in 1919

Flying Scotsman fans urged to stay off tracks as icon gets set for Yorkshire returnThese Yorkshire locations will appear in new Downton Abbey filmThe Fund is encouraging the public to get thousands more RAF veterans and their families back on their radar - and getting the help so many rightly deserve.

Mr Carlton, 56, who spent the last 16 years at RAF Leeming, where he was working on Tornado jet engines, said: "I was really struggling. I'd used up nearly all my savings. Fuel alone was costing £100 a week.

"Then they sent this case worker round called Peter, who is an incredible guy. He has been so helpful over the last four years. They have been brilliant.

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"Even though I was in the airforce for 23 years I would have never thought about it - so there must be people out there who need help but are not thinking about asking."

A crew from 12 Squadron based at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire check their briefing on 23 September 1952A crew from 12 Squadron based at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire check their briefing on 23 September 1952
A crew from 12 Squadron based at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire check their briefing on 23 September 1952

Since 2013 wife Cathryn, a former administrative officer for MAFF (now Defra) "has been through absolutely everything" from kidney stones to sepsis to having to have a mastectomy for breast cancer.

"I was in a very dark place for a couple of years," he admits. "With the help from the RAF Benevolent Fund it has made life more bearable."

As well as help with getting a motability vehicle and buying an electric wheelchair, the Fund stepped in and paid his share for a disabled lift and wet room.

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It meant Cathryn, 54, could get back upstairs to their bedroom from the dining room and could have a proper shower for the first time in two years.

Laurence Carlton and his wife CathrynLaurence Carlton and his wife Cathryn
Laurence Carlton and his wife Cathryn

Just four weeks ago the fund paid for an extra carer so the pair could get away for four days to the Union Jack Club in London.

"It's affected her eyesight, but she can talk and she has her memories and that's a godsend," he said. "Cathryn has been amazing - I don't understand how she does it."

At a launch at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, yesterday more than 1,000 RAF personnel, veterans and their families came together to highlight the charity's search for veterans who may now need support.

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In Yorkshire the charity helped more than 250 people in the past year and spent £570,000, but it is aiming to at least double that number.

It is estimated at least 300,000 former serving members of the RAF need support.

Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, Chief Executive of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “We know they’re out there. Men and women who once served, or did their National Service in the RAF, and now need our help. No veteran should be left fighting alone, whether that be in the face of financial, emotional or health problems.

"We have life-changing support available for all members of the RAF Family.

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“Too many ex-Service people do not seek the support that is rightfully theirs due to misplaced pride, shame or through not knowing support is there.

“So, in our centenary year we are launching a major campaign to get people to think about who they know who may be eligible for and in need of our support.

"They may be your friends, neighbours or relatives. They did their duty – now we, as a society, must do ours before it’s too late.”

The RAF Benevolent Fund was founded in in 1919, one year after the formation of the Royal Air Force.

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In its first year £919 was spent on welfare - with the first being a shilling to cover a night's lodging so the recipient could look for work.

In 2018 the RAFBF spent over £21 million on welfare.

A recent YouGov poll of 2,000 people found that 35 per cent of people living in Yorkshire and the Humber know someone who served, or is currently serving in the RAF.

Of those 35%, over half (53%) are related to former or current RAF personnel.

The RAF Benevolent Fund offers a wide range of support, from financial grants for one-off and day-to-day costs, respite breaks and emotional support.