Services Committee

A Prayer for the Armed Forces and Chaplains

Father of us all, whose Son uncovered faith in a soldier under obedience,
keep close to you the serving sons and daughters of this country who put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others.

Be a shield around them and a courage within. Invest them with persistence in duty and a thirst for what is right.

Be the words of their Chaplains and the touch in their hands.  Inspire these pastors to be channels of your grace.

We ask this through Christ our Lord,   Amen.

A Brief History of the Services Committee

At the beginning of the First World War an appeal was made for a Catholic recreation hut for the Forces in Boulogne and the immediate and generous response from members of the public made it possible for the League to open a hut there.  The earliest hut in England, the Westminster Hut, opened in 1916, and was at St Peter’s Hall beside Westminster Cathedral.  This was open 24 hours a day, organised by members of the League, for troops passing through London.  There were many huts opened during WWI and by the end of 1918 the League had 35 huts in England and the war fronts in Europe, all staffed by League members.  When peace came in 1918, the League began the adoption of ruined villages and churches in Europe and the huts in France were donated for use in shattered areas and vestments were provided for use in those churches still standing.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, the Committee obtained permission from the War Office to resume running of the Canteens. League members, now in uniform under the auspices of the Council for Voluntary Welfare Work (CVWW), were in North Africa, Iceland, Malaya, Burma, Singapore and India.  A Services Branch of the Catholic Women’s League was started by the wives of Catholic Servicemen.

In 1973 the last clubs were closed in Germany as they were no longer viable.  The remaining assets of the Clubs were invested and a Committee formed to dispense the income from it to needy ex-servicemen and their families.

A complete account of the Service Committee’s fascinating history can be downloaded here - HISTORY

Today the Committee works to assist present and past Service personnel and their families.  Requests are welcome from any serving, or retired Service person or their dependents.  They do not need to be Catholic, only to have a relative who served, in the Forces.

Requests for assistance are passed to us through the Royal British Legion, SSAFA, Social Services and some St Vincent de Paul groups.  The Committee works closely with the Bishop in Ordinary to Her Majesty’s Forces and the three Principal Chaplains.

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We rely on those who work closely with us, as well as members of the League, to inform us if they are aware of someone connected with the Services in need of Help.  All applications for grants are dealt with confidentially; emergency requests are also dealt with promptly.   Money is primarily only allocated for specific items such as a cooker, washing machine, bed linen.  Other ways we can help:

  • For Lourdes – donations to sponsor participants on the military Pilgrimage
  • Books – for course work for student dependents

Ways we have helped:

  • Crucifixes and prayer cards given for service personnel going to Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Bibles for Merchant Navy Ships through the Mission to Seamen
  • SSAFA – towards the cost of an updated  Services Prayer Book
  • Donation towards the refurbishment of St George’s Chapel in Westminster Cathedral
  • Boxer shorts and flip flops sent to Afghanistan (courtesy of NAAFI) for injured troops not brought back to the UK

On 14th July 2009 a Bench was dedicated at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas by Bishop David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, in recognition of the great work performed by the ladies of the CWL during both World Wars.

The Bench is located on Millennium Avenue, in front of the RAF Benevolent Fund memorial, and hut nearby.  This is close to the Visitor Centre at the Arboretum.

The CWL Bench at the National Memorial Arboretum

CWL Ladies in Uniform WWII

Mobile Canteen Geldrop, Holland, WWII

Westminster Hut WWI