I and Chris, our events Trustee met with our previous Padre a few months ago when restrictions were first lifted and we discussed the format for today. His actual words to me were “ Your piece should be light hearted and amusing” I am still unsure how I make the history of the Association amusing but I will do my best. I was in fact reminded of Padre John’s words just 2weeks ago when I was at the National Memorial Arboretum. It was the opening of the Remembrance Glade and it was raining. We were inside a gazebo and seated at small tables . I was sitting with the Chair of the Army Widows’ Association, the Chair of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Widows Association and a lecturer from a local university. When we introduced ourselves to him, his face fell and you could see that he was thinking “ oh no, widows, this is going to be awful” after a very short time though we had him laughing and I hope we changed his view on the weeping widow for all time.
Of course there is a serious side to our Association. For a start it is one of which no one wants to be a full member. To be a full member means your partner has died due to his/her military service.
If we go back in time 50 years to when LauraConnelly refused to pay tax on her war widows pension. It was a very different time. There were no home computers or mobile phones. The country was just getting used to working in decimal currency. I was at university and really enjoying life without many serious thoughts in my head. Laura was so angry about the tax situation that she took on the inland revenue and I can only say “how brave she was” . This was not how widows were meant to behave! Laura contacted a newspaper and as they say “ the rest is history “ .a small group of ladies formed the Association and in 1972 they held their first AGM. There were 14 members and the first Chairman was Jill Gee. By constantly battling, these ladies found partial success in in 1976 when 50% of the tax was removed and then in 1979 the remaining 50% was removed. Well done to Laura and that first group of ladies.
The Association has grown and has achieved more and more for the widows which it represents. It added Remembrance and Caring to its remit of campaigning and it retains those3 pillars today.
I have here one of the first Constitutions and Rules, borrowed from the archive. It is dated 1974 and it states it’s Objects to be:The principal object of the Association is to relieve the suffering and distress of or supply the needs and comforts of women who are the widows of servicemen killed in or as a result of war and who are affected by the wars or acts of aggression to which the War Charities Act 1940 applies and a secondary object is to take such action from time to time as the Committee of the Association shall think fit to improve the economic circumstances of such women generally.