His Majesty King Charles III accepts Patronage

Posted on Wednesday 8 May 2024

Following the review of the Patronages of The Late Queen, we are delighted and honoured that His Majesty King Charles III has accepted the Patronage of both the Association of Royal Navy Officers and the Royal Navy Benevolent Society for Officers (also known as the Royal Navy Officers’ Charity (RNOC)).  We are extremely thankful for His Majesty’s ongoing support.


Association of Royal Navy Officers

ARNO (the ‘R’ then stood for ‘retired’, but keep reading) started life in 1920 and has been privileged to have had Royal Patronage since 1930.  Its sole aim was recovering retired pay that was withheld from naval officers who had been recalled to service in the 1914-18 War.  So much was achieved in this first year even though the primary objective over retired pay was unsuccessful. It is perhaps worth noting that the association met every two weeks in the offices of Messrs Gieves – now Gieves & Hawkes – (the naval tailors was clearly more favourable to officers in those days!); also that during the year the Officers’ Association was formed and ARNO was asked to merge with them. After consultation with the membership it was decided that although the two organisations could assist each other they would remain separate.

It was subsequently reconstituted as the ARNO we know today on Trafalgar Day in 1925 by the then President, Vice Admiral Wade Caulfeild CBE, to concentrate on ‘welfare activities’ and provide a means of bringing together naval officers after leaving the Service for mutual help. By the end of the first year there were 666 members.  Following the recruitment of a full time Secretary, an office was rented in Piccadilly and the aims of the Association were established. In the main, these were to provide advice on pensions, tax, schools, emigration and employment, and a benevolent fund was also established for members in ‘sore need’ of financial assistance.

By 1930, there were over 2,000 members and throughout the ‘Depression’ years, the role of ARNO as an Employment Register increased in importance, as did the role of the Honorary Officers, who were generally RNR or officers on the retired list. These were often doctors, lawyers and other professionals who were willing to help their brother officers, widows and dependants who had fallen on hard times by providing free services.  The President’s view of ARNO was that of a mutual help or Welfare Association and not a Benevolent Society. In addition, two branches of ARNO were established in Portsmouth and Plymouth. The Admiralty also agreed to help spread the word about ARNO by distribution copies of the Annual Report to the Fleet.

In 1930 the King conferred his patronage on the Association.   In 1933, the charitable funds were separated and the ARNO Charitable Trust  (ARNO (CT)) was formed. Throughout the 1939-45 war years, the role of ARNO expanded to meet the needs of the members. Helping officers find accommodation and even clothes was added to the list of activities and volunteers in the home ports also helped the Secretary with his welfare work.

Admiral Caulfeild died in 1947 having devoted a third of his life to the association, and the recently retired First Sea Lord, Admiral Cunningham, then became President.

A ‘Farewell to ARNO’ a note written by the Admiral shortly before his death reads:

“ARNO, its prosperity, efficiency and above all its good name, has been to me almost everything, and for a long time I had, bottled up in my mind, a farewell message for its Council and members. Now that I am dead this message can be released. The basis on which ARNO was founded – its very essence in fact – was friendliness. It must be a ‘friendly’ society in the best and fullest sense of the word. I do so want to know that there is such an atmosphere about ARNO – that men and women are glad to visit it or be able to write for help. It would be grand to feel that every visitor left our HQ just a little happier than when they arrived. BUT – all this wants some doing. A sympathetic, patient and competent – and of course loyal staff is essential. After a few years in office its individuals really do become, in a small way ‘know-alls’. A few printing errors, whether in names, words or punctuations, are perhaps a trivial matter – yet a smart ship wouldn’t make them, so why ARNO? If she had attained a high standard, why not keep it?  The chief point about the difference between ARNO and the … Soc’ is that ARNO is always open, and it has an Executive able to deal with the mail with urgent applications (financial and otherwise) and each of whom – from their age or rank – can be counted on to give sound advice to those wanting it and who might be a little unwilling or bashful to confide their troubles to one of the staff. I hope, I pray that there will always be amongst retired naval officers a sufficiency of great-hearted unselfish men to keep the ‘Executive’ of ARNO up to scratch, so that there practically always be at least one of the ‘Exec’ available – or if you like on duty – in the Council Room. The thought that ARNO’s Executive may dwindle – perhaps even die out is the one thought that does distress and really worry me. Is all this my swan-song? I’m not sure because I really don’t quite know what a ‘swan-song’ is. Anyhow, GOODBYE to you all – and FLOREAT ARNO – for come what may, I’m sure of this – that a kindly and efficient ARNO is something worth maintaining. It can be done – if the spirit is there.”

Admiral Caulfeild’s grandson and great-granddaughter remain Associate Life Members today.

In 1952, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II consented to become Patron and Admiral of the Fleet HRH The Duke of Edinburgh becomes a member.

In 1972, the association was gifted the lease on a flat in Bayswater, dropped the word Retired from the title and it became the Association of Royal Navy Officers. It was hoped that serving officers would then join, prior to retirement.   By the mid 1980’s,. ARNO could see merit in a much closer relationship with the Royal Naval Benevolence Society for Officers (RNBSO). The coming together of a number of similar naval charities under one composite fund (now known as the Royal Navy Officers’ Charity) is well documented in the History of RNBSO, but allied to this was the move of the office of RNBSO to the ARNO Headquarters, the formation of the Royal Navy Officers’ Benevolence Centre and the integration of the administration of the two main organisations under one staff led by Commander Ken Ridley as the Director.

In 2002  the Queen Adelaide Naval Fund (QANF) was amalgamated with the ARNO(CT).    The Queen Adelaide Fund (QAF) had been established in 1850 by public subscription in memory of Queen Adelaide, the widow of King William IV (known as The Sailor King), and its objects were for the relief of unmarried orphan daughters of officers of the RN and RM by education of the young, maintenance of the aged and assistance of those in temporary need, to whose relief the Queen had ministered.    The QAF also included a fund from the legacy of a Mrs Emily Heseltine which she gave to support the orphaned daughters of RM officers.


In 1992 The Queen Adelaide Fund amalgamated with the Admiral of the Fleet Sir Frederick Richards’ Memorial Fund .     This was founded by public subscription in 1915 to perpetuate the memory of the Admiral’s distinguished career culminating as First Sea Lord 1893-1899, its objects were the relief of officers, their widows and children who may be in necessitous circumstances with particular emphasis on education.    This joint fund then became known as the Queen Adelaide Naval Fund, which in turn amalgamated with the ARNO(CT).

Having realised that the ARNO(CT) and RNBSO had very similar aims and shared objectives the two organisations merged in 2007.

In 2024, led by Commander Mike Goldthorpe BEM, ARNO is a 5000+ strong association and growing and has members from the Whole Force, as well as cadet organisations and those with an affiliation to the Royal Navy.


Royal Navy Officers’ Charity

The RNBSO has held a Royal Patronage since 1830, when, on the death of King George IV, King William IV, who had been a professional naval officer, became the Society’s Patron and gave permission for it to be named The Royal Naval Charitable Society. A Royal Charter renamed it in 1838 as the Royal Naval Benevolent Society and in 1996, by a Supplemental Charter, it became the RNBSO with the objective of affording financial assistance to Royal Navy and Royal Marines officers, their widows, children, mothers and sisters, when in need.    In 1997, the Society took over the responsibilities of the RN and RM Special Duties Officers’ Benevolent Fund.

In 2008, the Trustees agreed to adopt the working title of the ‘Royal Navy Officers’ Charity’ (RNOC).

Almost all of its income is generated through investments and the occasional legacy.  During the past four years the charity has awarded over £2 million in grants.  Support is provided to Royal Navy officers and their families across a broad spectrum of need – including support grants, annuities (pensions), disability aids, debt relief, education, home repairs, care home fee top ups, end of life support and much more.   Individual applications are dealt with in a non-judgmental manner and decisions are reached and communicated in days rather than weeks.




The Royal Navy Officers' Charity (RNOC) have supported
officers and their families since 1739