In 1919 a lady named Marta Cunningham, a well-known singer in her day, had heard that there were perhaps a handful of soldiers wounded in WWI still in a Ministry of Pensions Hospital in London. She called on the Matron and asked if she had a few lonely patients who would like to come out for tea. The Matron looked surprised and replied that there were in fact 600 injured patients lying in the hospital.
Marta was deeply moved by what she saw:
“Listless men who took no notice of my coming or of my going. Were these really the enthusiastic young men who went to a nation’s rescue?”
She discovered that there were thousands of wounded and lonely servicemen still in hospitals up and down the country. Marta soon set about persuading her friends to invite these men out for afternoon tea and entertainment to alleviate the tedium of their lives and to give them something to which they could look forward.
During one of these early invitations one injured soldier said: “We don’t want no charity Miss, we are forgotten by everybody and we’d
better stop so.” But, undeterred, on 12th August 1920 Guardsmen helping patients at the NFA Buckingham Palace Garden Party. Marta formed the “NOT FORGOTTEN” Association for the ‘comfort, cheer and entertainment’ of the war wounded and within a year some 10,000 men had been entertained.
Thanks to the generosity of other charities and the public, as well as the firm backing of the Royal Family, hospital visits and tea concerts were followed by outings, drives and gifts such as fruit, chocolate and cigarettes.
Whilst the aims of the Association have remained much the same throughout its history, it has adapted to meet the changing needs of the serving wounded and veterans with disabilities. WWII brought a huge increase in the number of disabled service men and women and a renewed need for the charity’s work. This new generation of the injured and sick were there to be helped alongside the ‘Boys of the Old Brigade’ who required care as never before.
In the 1960s the number of veterans eligible for our assistance dwindled. However, with the deployment of our Armed Forces in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the need for our work grows no less.
Despite the loss of our records in an air raid in 1941, we can be reasonably confident that about one million men and women have benefitted from our activities since 1920.Whilst the need for our work remains, the Association will continue to ensure that those who have taken a knock for their country will not be forgotten.