NAAFI’s History

The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) has been serving Forces communities across the world for over 100 years.

Where we came from

The British Government established NAAFI on 9th December 1920 by combining the Expeditionary Force Canteens (EFC) and the Navy and Army Canteen Board (NACB) to run the recreational establishments needed by the Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families. NAAFI expanded its operation over the next 17 years, supporting military bases and deployments across the world, from Bermuda and Jamaica, to Singapore and China.


At the outbreak of WWII NAAFI grew exponentially to support the troops on active service, with the number of employees rising from 8,000 to a peak of 110,000 and the number of trading outlets growing from 1,350 to almost 10,000. Tragically, 550 NAAFI employees lost their lives supporting the war effort overseas.

Post War

NAAFI rescaled its operations, closing canteens at a rate of 200 per week and reducing the number of employees to 65,000 by 1947. From the 1950s to the 1980s NAAFI expanded its offer to include hotels and holiday camps for military families.

Up until the 1990s, NAAFI had a large-scale internal logistics and distribution operation with warehousing locations across the globe, as well as a tea factory, bottling plants for soft drinks, water and wine, bakeries, abattoirs and butchers.

Since then, NAAFI has proudly continued to support our British Forces at home and abroad, including the conflicts in The Falklands, NATO obligations during the Bosnian conflict, the two Gulf Wars and Afghanistan amongst many others.

Where we are now

The Royal NAAFI continue to provide a taste of home to UK serving personnel deployed to MoD bases around the world. Whether it’s catering, food, retail and much more, NAAFI are proud to go wherever the Forces are.

More recently in 2022, NAAFI launched brand new cafes on the UK high street, opening their doors to the public for the first time. With locations in Catterick, Scarborough, Lancaster, Winchester and Fareham, the cafes provide a taste of home beyond the Forces, with a wide range of delicious treats available. Find out more here.


NAAFI’s Head Office is now based in Whiteley, Fareham and is just a stone’s throw away from The Bridge Deck, one of five UK-based cafes launched by NAAFI in 2023.

The UK team support all aspects of the global operations including central ordering, marketing, events and commercial buying. NAAFI also have a warehouse in Fareham which is where all products from are distributed from.


NAAFI ensure that even in the most challenging environments, serving personnel can access key welfare facilities and resources, with the capability to deploy exercise and operational support anywhere around the world.

In 2023, NAAFI extended their global support to new locations such as Estonia, Romania and the militarised atoll of Diego Garcia, just south of the equator in the Indian Ocean. Find out more about our locations here.


The NAAFI Fund has supported over 350 projects since launching in 2020, improving the quality of life for Forces communities across the world.

NAAFI have committed to donating a minimum of £10m by 2030, with over £3.5m already distributed throughout a variety of global projects such as refurbishing welfare facilities and new exercise equipment. Find out more about the NAAFI Fund here.

Our Patron

NAAFI has enjoyed a long history of Royal association since King George VI granted his patronage to NAAFI in 1946 followed by Queen Elizabeth II upon her accession to the throne in 1952.

In addition to the Royal connection of the NAAFI patronage, NAAFI provided services in Buckingham Palace for a number of years, as well as on board the Royal Yacht Britannia!

We are proud of our relationship with our Royal Family, in particular our patron, His Majesty King Charles III. Our new Royal patronage was granted in May 2024, in succession of the late Queen Elizabeth II.