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NAAFISupporting the British Armeed Forces; past, present and future

History

NAAFI has seen many changes since 1921, with conflicts around the world having a direct impact on the size and locations of our business. Take a look at how rapidly we have responded to these events, moving with the times and 'Serving the Services' wherever we are needed.

 
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1915

Before NAAFI

The Expeditionary Force Canteens are set up to feed and support troops overseas.

The Expeditionary Force Canteens are set up to feed and support troops overseas.

The Navy and Army Canteen Board was formed in 1918 to manage the process at home.

 
 
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1921

NAAFI Is Born

EFC and NACB combine and NAAFI, the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes is created by the Government to run recreational establishments needed by the Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families.

EFC and NACB combine and NAAFI, the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes is created by the Government to run recreational establishments needed by the Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families.

In the first year of trading NAAFI sells £8.3 million worth of product, £190 million in today's terms.

 
 
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1928

Growing Fast

Just 7 years old, NAAFI is already operating in Bermuda, Ceylon, Germany, Gibraltar, Iraq, Jamaica, China, Malta and the Middle East.

Just 7 years old, NAAFI is already operating in Bermuda, Ceylon, Germany, Gibraltar, Iraq, Jamaica, China, Malta and the Middle East.

 
 
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1938

Global Reach

NAAFI has now extended its services into Hong Kong, Shanghai, Jamaica, Egypt, Kenya, Palestine, Transjordan, Sudan, Singapore and Trinidad.

NAAFI has now extended its services into Hong Kong, Shanghai, Jamaica, Egypt, Kenya, Palestine, Transjordan, Sudan, Singapore and Trinidad.

 
 
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1939

War

It's all hands to the pump as NAAFI employees rise from 8,000 to a peak of 110,000 and trading establishments from 1,350 to nearly 10,000, including 800 canteens on seagoing ships and 900 mobile canteens to support the war effort.

It's all hands to the pump as NAAFI employees rise from 8,000 to a peak of 110,000 and trading establishments from 1,350 to nearly 10,000, including 800 canteens on seagoing ships and 900 mobile canteens to support the war effort.

Sales of tea rockets to 3.5 million cups per day and cigarettes to a staggering 24 million per day!

 
 
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1942

That's Entertainment

NAAFI employs over 4,000 artists to entertain troops.

NAAFI employs over 4,000 artists to entertain troops.

 
 
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1944

D-Day

On the move again, NAAFI feeds the half a million troops that land in France during the course of a single week.

On the move again, NAAFI feeds the half a million troops that land in France during the course of a single week.

NAAFI packs are issued to every soldier involved and include cigarettes, tobacco, matches, toothpaste, shaving soap, soap, razor blades, cubes of meat extract, cocoa, milk tablets, chewing gum, letter cards and pencils.

 
 
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1945

Scaling Down

NAAFI again rescale its operations. After selling an incredible 130 trillion cigarettes during the war (24 million per day!) canteens begin to close at a rate of 200 per week. 110,000 staff quickly falls to 65,000 by 1947.

NAAFI again rescale its operations. After selling an incredible 130 trillion cigarettes during the war (24 million per day!) canteens begin to close at a rate of 200 per week. 110,000 staff quickly falls to 65,000 by 1947.

 
 
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1946

A Fresh Start

First NAAFI built town club opened in Portsmouth by 19-year old heir to the throne, Princess Elizabeth.

First NAAFI built town club opened in Portsmouth by 19-year old heir to the throne, Princess Elizabeth.

This was the first in the building programme to add restaurants, lounges, bars, reading and writing rooms, music and television rooms, games rooms and ballrooms to military and naval centres.

 
 
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1950

NAAFI Abroad

In the years following WWII many different skirmishes break out across the world.

In the years following WWII many different skirmishes break out across the world.

NAAFI uses its hard won experience to support Forces with a complete canteen service on the move.

 
 
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1955

On The Move

NAAFI moves its HQ to Rheindahlen near Mönchengladbach, home of the British Army of the Rhine, supporting more than 400 canteens, clubs and shops through Germany including Summit House in Berlin.

NAAFI moves its HQ to Rheindahlen near Mönchengladbach, home of the British Army of the Rhine, supporting more than 400 canteens, clubs and shops through Germany including Summit House in Berlin.

NAAFI still resides in Rheindahlen today.

 
 
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1960

The Winds Of Change

By the start of the sixties NAAFI is no longer the simple grocer and victualler of the Armed Forces.

By the start of the sixties NAAFI is no longer the simple grocer and victualler of the Armed Forces.

With a more commercial outlook now required the organisation streamlines still further whilst several revues give NAAFI the green light to continue serving, even in times of peace.

 
 
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1966

Still Improving

NAAFI opens its first shopping arcade at the RAF station in Marham, Norfolk.

NAAFI opens its first shopping arcade at the RAF station in Marham, Norfolk.

Services include a food hall, butcher's shop, patisserie and greengrocer, clothing department, branch of Lloyds bank, dry cleaning, hairdressers and a NAAFI operating petrol station.

 
 
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1971

50 Years Young

NAAFI celebrates its 50th anniversary. The day before NAAFI officially bury the 'Char & Wad' image at a ceremony at the Tower of London.

NAAFI celebrates its 50th anniversary. The day before NAAFI officially bury the 'Char & Wad' image at a ceremony at the Tower of London.

 
 
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1972

Expanding

One-stop shopping complex at Rheindahlen opens with a 14,000 sq ft. food hall.

One-stop shopping complex at Rheindahlen opens with a 14,000 sq ft. food hall.

Food and drink is now complemented with a home and living department selling gifts, durables, sports goods and clothing. Even Mrs Thatcher visits in 1977.

 
 
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1982

The Falklands

NAAFI's most urgent task since the Suez crisis begins on 2nd April 1982.

NAAFI's most urgent task since the Suez crisis begins on 2nd April 1982.

Working around the clock, NAAFI supplies the fleet and 25,000 personnel with food and drink for messing and ships canteens.

 
 
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1990

The Gulf War

No sooner has the Iron Curtain been lifted and the Berlin wall dismantled than a new dictator emerges to challenge world order.

No sooner has the Iron Curtain been lifted and the Berlin wall dismantled than a new dictator emerges to challenge world order.

NAAFI mobilises again to support troops for the 1st Gulf War.

 
 
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Present

Today we operate many outlets around the world providing convenience and a 'taste of home' to our Forces overseas. As well as our traditional retail, catering and leisure offer, we also provide outlets in areas that are not commercially advantageous so we can deliver home essentials and services that would otherwise not be available.

Today we operate many outlets around the world providing convenience and a 'taste of home' to our Forces overseas. As well as our traditional retail, catering and leisure offer, we also provide outlets in areas that are not commercially advantagous so we can deliver home essentials and services that would otherwise not be available.

 
 
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Future

As you can see, since 1921 we have actively supported Britain's Armed Forces in campaigns all around the world, providing an important link to home for the men and women who continue to bravely represent our country.

As you can see, since 1921 we have actively supported Britain's Armed Forces in campaigns all around the world, providing an important link to home for the men and women who continue to bravely represent our country.

As a trusted, experienced and committed British service provider, we will continue to work in partnership with our customer wherever there is a need, ensuring we are on their side, by their side, whenever they need us. We are proud of our military history and will continue to be at the forefront of developing welfare provison for the benefit of the British Armed Forces.

To the men and women serving in the British Armed Forces - it is a privilege to serve with you.