Lyndon Thomas is one of the earliest beneficiaries of The Fire Fighters Charity and says he has spent over 70 years feeling grateful for the support he and his family received when he was a little boy.
This fact is made even more extraordinary by the knowledge that had events unfurled the way they did just a couple of years earlier, the Charity would not have existed to have been able to help him.
Having been originally established in London in 1940, the Fire Service National Benevolent Fund (as we used to be known) was nationalised in 1943 to offer support to firefighters and their families. Just a few years later, Lyndon and his family benefitted from our care.
“When they were setting up separate fire services around the country, my father – who had been a police fire officer before the war – became a full time Chief Officer of the Llanelly Brigade in South Wales,” explains Lyndon.
“He, my mother and older brother moved into a fire station in a little village called Bryn in Carmarthenshire. This was significant for me, as I was born around that time, so the fire station was my very first home! I don’t remember any of it, but I am sure it’s in my blood.”
A few years later and after the birth of his third son, Lyndon’s father, Sidney, contracted tuberculosis and was forced to leave the fire service.
“He was taken off to a sanitorium a long way away from where we were living,” says Lyndon. “It was incredibly difficult for my mother, who spent all her time travelling there and back by bus every day, with three young boys. I’ve no idea how she coped, especially when he died not long after. But we received an allowance from the Benevolent Fund, which kept us alive, as it gave us money to spend on food and travel etc.”
Lyndon and his family benefitted from a regular support grant that alleviated some of the pressures on his mother following his father’s diagnosis and death. As far as Lyndon knows, she continued to receive that support until the day she died.
Lyndon also credits the financial stability provided by the Charity with his ability to seek out higher education: “There’s no way Mum would have been able to support us during the 50s while I studied for a university degree without that income,” he says. “I went on to study electronics and pursued a career in IT, something I am sure that wouldn’t have been possible without the Benevolent Fund. They were undoubtedly a life-changing force in my life at the time.”
Although desperately needed, income wasn’t the only source of support the Benevolent Fund offered Lyndon’s family. It also meant they maintained a connection to the fire service, despite their father no longer being around.
“I remember they were continually checking on us to make sure we were okay in the years after my father died,” he says. “My mother had moved in with elderly relatives by this point, but we would still have fire officers coming to the house each year to make sure all was well. They were a key part of my life growing up, and we’d still be invited to Christmas parties at the local fire service. We were still made to feel part of the family, which I think is quite amazing really.”
Here is where the support Lyndon received from the Charity came to an end. But he has never forgotten the support he received. And earlier this year, he decided it was time to say thank you.
“I’d promised myself for a long time that I wanted to give something back in some way small way,” he says. “I’ve had a different life thanks to the Charity and I wanted to say thank you. So I decided to donate £100, which offered me a way to reconnect.
“In a sense, the fire service has always been a part of my life, even though it was an invisible part for most of my adult life. It’s just the fact it has always been in my thoughts and I’ve always been so grateful for what the Ben Fund did for us. How different my life would have been without their help. This is just my chance to say thank you.”
We can only be there with for the people who rely on us with your help. We rely entirely on donations to enable to us to continue to provide this support to you and your loved ones through all stages of your career and retirement. If you’d like to make a donation to the Charity, become a regular donor or find out other ways you can support us, you can find out more here.