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


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


Their Majesties King George and Queen Mary celebrated their Silver Wedding and graciously donated the sum of £1,452, gifted by the Ladies’ Section of the Navy League, Durban, to the Fund.


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


HM King George V, the charity’s first Patron, died at Sandringham House, aged 70. He was succeeded as Patron later that year by the charity’s then President, who became King George VI.


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


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


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


HM The Queen unveiled 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.


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


The South Atlantic Fund was formed to assist those injured in the Falklands conflict as well as
their widows and dependants.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Seafarers UK took 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.


In collaboration with leading maritime welfare charities and shipping players, The Seafarers’ Charity launched the Seafarers International Relief Fund to provide emergency support to seafarers and their families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in India and the Philippines. In 2022, the Fund acted rapidly to begin providing support to seafarers and their families devastated by the crisis in Ukraine.

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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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