“The RAF Benevolent Fund’s support inspired me to give back”

Neil Robinson will be commemorating 80 years since his great-uncle’s passing during the milestone D-Day anniversary this year. Inspired by his family background, we spoke to Neil about his great-uncle’s legacy, the emotional support he’s received from the RAF Benevolent Fund and the year-long fundraising challenge he has undertaken to give back.

AS1 Neil Robinson, 36, has been in the air force for 13 years and is currently based at Brize Norton working as an air and space operations specialist with 30 Squadron.

Neil’s great-uncle, Private Douglas Graham Robinson was killed in the Second World War during the Normandy Campaign in 1944, aged 21. His uncle served in the British Army in the 7th Battalion Black Watch in Scotland.

Douglas was killed during Operation Totalize – an offensive launched by Allied troops in the First Canadian Army during the later stages of Operation Overlord, from 8 – 9 August 1944.

This August, Neil will be attending a memorial service for his great-uncle in Le Castelet, France, to commemorate 80 years since his passing in the village where he was killed, and to mark 80 years since the Normandy Campaign.

Neil said:

“It will be a powerful moment for me to lay a wreath in my great-uncle’s memory. I’ve visited his grave before, and it was a lifechanging trip. I was grateful to be able to go there with work. But since then, I’ve been doing loads of research and I really wanted to go to the battlefield where he was killed.

“I think because he was a Robinson, because he looked like me and because of his service in the military, I’ve had this sort of connection with him, even though I didn’t know him. And because I’m in the military myself, I feel like I’m carrying his legacy forward.”

Speaking on the D-Day anniversary Neil said: “It’s important to remember with all the stuff going on in the world right now. It’s crucial that no matter how many years go by, that we remember what happened.”

Neil has a close connection with the Fund, having reached out for support when he was feeling apprehensive about his deployment to Cyprus and how his family would cope with it.

Neil said:

“I deployed last year to Cyprus for four months and that was the first time I had deployed being a father; I found that difficult. I received some Listening and Counselling sessions before I went away and that helped me loads. I was worried about my partner because she’s not in the military.

“I’d been away before, but this was the first time I’d been away as a dad, so I was quite apprehensive and anxious about that. The counselling through the Fund was so helpful.”

Neil continued:

“I felt like I wanted to give something back because of the help I received, that’s why I organised the C130 Challenge for RAF personnel to take part in.”

At the Fund Awards 2024, Neil won the ‘Outstanding Support from an Individual’ award for his involvement in organising the C130 challenge to commemorate the retirement of the iconic RAF C-130 Hercules aircraft in 2023.

The virtual event saw members of the RAF Family challenged by 47 Squadron to run, walk, or cycle 130 miles in 47 days. The fundraising challenge raised over £5000 for the Fund.

Neil said:

“I was pleased to get the award from the Fund. The awards ceremony was a grand occasion. It made me reflect on military life, past and present.”

The RAF Benevolent Fund provides financial, emotional, and practical assistance to serving and retired RAF personnel and their families. This includes grants to help with financial difficulty, mental health support, Airplay youth clubs, and more.

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By @Cobseo 54 years ago

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