The Charity was founded in 1920 after Havelock Wilson, the founder and president of the National Union of Seamen (NUS) recognised that there was a desperate need to support merchant seafarers. He campaigned and highlighted awareness throughout the country, successfully raising funds with the support of one main benefactor, Mr Henry Radcliffe, who was a shipping company owner.
In 1920 the Henry Radcliffe Convalescent Home was opened by the Duke of York and so the charity was born. The Merchant Seamen's War Memorial Society (as it was known then) was effectively the fundraising arm of the charity and they worked tirelessly to secure funds to run the home. Following World War II the people of South Africa collected a large sum of money and gave it to the NUS with the instructions to build a living memorial to those seamen who gave so much to keep the shipping lanes open during the conflict.
In 1945 the trustees of the charity purchased an additional property in Alfold and planned to turn it into a second convalescent home, however due to the efforts of the Merchant Fleets during WW2, the people of South Africa raised and donated significant funds to the charity. So in addition to the convalescent home the charity also developed a training scheme in horticulture and agriculture for ex-seafarers. This ran successfully until 1993 and thousands of seafarers were retrained into another industry.
Today the charity continues to offer support to seafarers and provides both housing with support, plus holidays, to those in need.