At The Seafarers' Charity (formerly Seafarers UK) we’ve been improving the lives of seafarers and their families for more than 100 years, starting as the King George’s Fund for Sailors in 1917.

During the turbulent days of the First World War, thousands of lives were lost at sea – many of them young sailors – and the public wanted to support those who were fighting, as well as their dependants. To help direct their hard-earned funds, a central organisation was established: King George’s Fund for Sailors.

Before our official launch as King George’s Fund for Sailors, we saw immediate fundraising success, receiving £207k (over £6.2m today) in donations in our first year, and awarding £55k in grants to 58 maritime charities.

Our early fundraising activities sparked the interest of HM King George V, who was moved by the plight of so many seafarers maimed or lost at sea during the Great War. His support, including a donation of £5,200 in the first year, saw us become the King George’s Fund for Sailors on 5 July 1917.

In 2021, we adopted the working name The Seafarers' Charity, which today better reflects those we help. King George’s Fund for Sailors remains our registered charity name.

Our history timeline

1917

King George V, moved by the plight of so many seafarers, provides an establishing donation of £5,200, and sees us become the King George’s Fund for Sailors on 5 July.

1918

Their Majesties King George and Queen Mary celebrate their Silver Wedding and receive many commemorative gifts, graciously donating the sum of £1,452, gifted by the Ladies’ Section of the Navy League, Durban, to the Fund.

1920

By the end of 1920, a total of £900,000 has been raised by the charity, with £214,000 already allocated to more than 90 individual nautical institutions.

1936

HM King George V, the charity’s first Patron, dies at Sandringham House, aged 70. He is succeeded as Patron later this year by the charity’s then President, who becomes King George VI.

1939

The Second World War breaks out. Two days into the conflict, the passenger liner SS Athenia is the first British ship to be sunk, with 117 lives lost. The Fund worked hard to continue supporting existing beneficiaries, as well as meet an increase in demand for their services.

1940

Trinity House, the Fund’s headquarters and official address since 1917, is destroyed during the Blitz.

1952

HM Queen Elizabeth II becomes Patron of King George’s Fund for Sailors, prior to her coronation on 2 June 1953.

1953

HM The Queen unveils the Second World War extension of the Tower Hill Memorial in London. It commemorates the 36,000 men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who have no grave but the sea.

1967

By the end of 1967, a total of £264,227 has been given in grants by the charity to individual nautical institutions.

1982

The South Atlantic Fund is formed to assist those injured in the Falklands conflict and
their widows and dependants, from which King George’s Fund for Sailors receives valued support for Falklands-related cases.

1990

A trust, holding nearly £3m, is set up for personnel affected by service in the Gulf War, including many members of the Royal Navy.

1997

The funds raised at the launch of the eighteenth James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies in London’s Leicester Square, go to King George's Fund for Sailors.

2004

An earthquake in the Indian Ocean causes a tsunami which leaves millions homeless and more than 230,000 dead. The Fund sets up an emergency fund to assist local fishermen in rebuilding their lives.

2005

King George’s Fund for Sailors adopts the working name, Seafarers UK, to better reflect the needs and diversity of those it helps.

2012

In collaboration with the Merchant Navy Welfare Board, Seafarers UK launches the Merchant Navy Fund to exclusively support Merchant Navy seafarers.

2017

The charity celebrates its 100th anniversary with a range of commemorative events and a major conference to set a clear path for the future provision of charitable services to the maritime community.

2020

The coronavirus pandemic spreads internationally with devastating effects on the maritime community. Port closures, grounded flights and travel restrictions leave 400,000 seafarers stranded on board their ships. Seafarers UK launches the COVID-19 Emergency Fund to help support those affected by the pandemic.

2021

Seafarers UK takes on a new voyage as The Seafarers’ Charity. The new name better reflects our global outlook, and the inclusion of the word ‘charity’ makes what we do, clearer. We also reintroduced the use of ‘King George’s Fund for Sailors’ through a stamp, to celebrate our 104-year heritage.

2021

In collaboration with leading maritime welfare charities and shipping players, The Seafarers’ Charity launches the Seafarers International Relief Fund to provide emergency support to seafarers and their families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with an initial focus on the devastating coronavirus impact in India.

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Our impact

We've been supporting seafarers in need and their families for over 100 years. Although the world has changed in this time, we continue to provide essential support for seafarers.

Our impact

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