At The Seafarers' Charity 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.


His Majesty The King recognises the splendid service which the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets have rendered to the Empire for many centuries, both in peace and in war. His Majesty, after taking ministerial advice, has asked H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to assume the title of 'Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets'. - the ‘London Gazette’ announcement of 14th February 1928, which instituted the appointment of Master and renamed the Mercantile Marine.


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.


The Second World War breaks out. On 3rd September, Britain declares war on Germany and 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.


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


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


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


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


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.


A trust, holding nearly £3m, is 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, go to King George's Fund for Sailors.


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.


King George’s Fund for Sailors adopts 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 launches the Merchant Navy Fund to exclusively support Merchant Navy seafarers.


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.


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.


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.


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 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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