Client Story: Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget is one of our longest standing clients and books more trips each season than any other group.  We asked Chairman Alan Lenton to tell us about the organisation (which was formed almost 92 years ago!) and how the Boat Project contributes to its activities.

From Alan:

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 and we shall all be thinking of those who gave their lives in the conflict, and especially those whose lives were changed forever by the horrific injuries they received.

From August 1914 until many months after the end of WW1, more than 2.6 million British and Commonwealth sick and wounded returned from the battlefields of France.  At the major London railway stations volunteers handed out tea, chocolate and tobacco to the injured in the ambulance troop trains when they arrived. However, it was soon realised that a more structured and long-term commitment to these troops whose lives had been shattered was needed.

At a public meeting in Kingston-upon-Thames in November 1922, it was decided to form the ‘Lest We Forget’ Association and to register it under the War Charities Act.  The Association initially had nineteen branches, all situated in the South East. Now only the Epsom Branch is left to fly the flag.

But it is flying more strongly than ever.  With just a small committee of volunteers, we organize some 60-70 events a year, ranging from seaside trips, narrow boat hire, pub meals, in-house entertainment, Wimbledon tennis, an annual concert and days on the ‘Thames Venturer’ (around 23 trips per year).  These river trips are by far our most popular event and we provide a picnic spread and an afternoon tea for all our guests and crew.

The Homes that we support are Headley Court (Headley), Combat Stress (Leatherhead) the Royal Star & Garter (Surbiton), Care Ashore (Alfold), the Royal Alfred (Banstead), Queen Alexandra Hospital Home (Worthing), Sussexdown (Storrington), Blind Veterans UK (Ovingdean) and Haig Housing (Morden).

Feedback from our groups following trips on the river have included the following comments:

‘We got a lot of pleasure and relaxation from going on the boat. All the comments from our clients are very positive and they talk about their experience for days after.’ (Royal Alfred Seafarers)

‘The value of a day like this for our patients cannot be underestimated within their overall recovery pathway.  Socialising outside of Headley Court allows them to forget about their injuries and rehabilitation for a few hours and the benefits are enormous.’ (Headley Court)

‘We are a diverse group of ex-seafarers.  One of us on his first trip was so impressed by his experience that he became much more communicative and sociable. Everyone appreciated the privilege of travelling on the river in such style and hospitality.’ (Care Ashore)

‘The men who had been on the boat before were delighted a trip was planned whilst they were at Tyrwhitt House.  One said “This trip is the icing on the cake – best therapy ever”.  Another one told me later how much Peter had helped him.  He said he not only trusted me to steer the boat but let me take it through Teddington Lock.  He said it was the best experience ever.  “Thank you Peter for understanding.” One patient was anxious about missing therapy sessions back at Tyrwhitt House but was told by his therapist that the boat was the best therapy he could have.  He entirely agreed at the end of the day.’ (Combat Stress)

We spend about £17,000 per year but our income is far below this and now comes from our reserves and the occasional donation.  If anyone would like to know more or to help, please visit our website Lest We Forget.

Alan Lenton, Chairman

First Published Friends Newsletter, April 2014

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