Royal Air Forces Association appeals for cash to house veterans

July 26, 2021

The Royal Air Forces Association needs to raise around £500,000 to create 26 additional apartments so that more RAF veterans can relive the camaraderie they knew while serving their country.

The apartments will be provided through the transformation of the charity’s former Rothbury House Hotel, Northumberland, which closed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many years, the hotel provided respite breaks for veterans and their spouses.

A planning application has been submitted for alterations that would see the new accommodation provided in two phases, with renovations – costing around £500,000 – starting in the summer. The first stage of the planning process is complete, with permission being granted for a change of use.

The RAF Association’s Director of Welfare and Policy, Rory O’Connor, said research had revealed an overwhelming need for more good quality affordable retirement accommodation for veterans.

He said:

“We estimate that almost 40% of RAF veterans are living alone, and we know that, tragically, isolation and loneliness is a huge problem among this group.

“Using the Association’s many years’ experience of running retirement complexes, we believe we can offer more accommodation where people with a shared experience can find a sense of belonging.

“The current design of Rothbury House lends itself to retirement living. All of its bedrooms, over four storeys, are en-suite and have level-entry access through wide corridors serviced by two lifts.”

Rothbury House shares a site with existing RAF Association retirement accommodation – at Lord Tedder and Malcolm Courts. When the transformation is complete, all of the site’s residents will be able to use communal facilities, including a dining room, lounges and extensive gardens, at the house. Daily meals will also be provided.

Widow Ruth Birch (90) is one of the site’s existing residents. Her life has been transformed by being close to other members of the retired RAF community.

Ruth and her late husband, Bill – a Second World War Air Bomber, who helped to drop vital supplies into the Netherlands during Operation Manna – waited six years for a flat to become available at Lord Tedder Court.

On moving in, in 2012, the couple were able to make friends with other residents – something that turned out to be a lifeline for Ruth when Bill died seven years later.

Ruth said:

“The atmosphere here in the complex is very friendly, so nobody needs to feel alone. It will be lovely if Rothbury House can be developed into more independent living accommodation to grow our community.”

To donate to the RAF Association’s Building Futures appeal, please visit www.buildingfutures.rafa.org.uk or call 0800 018 2361.

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