Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie, has launched the 2018 Wings Appeal on behalf of the Carrickfergus RAFA branch.
Mrs Christie urged people to be "particularly generous" in marking a century of the Royal Air Force service, whilst remembering what was probably the most important battle of the 20th Century for these islands – the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940.
She added: “A huge swathe of southern County Antrim is looked after, from a welfare perspective, by the Carrickfergus Branch of RAFA, which is why the branch members work so hard to raise charitable donations during the annual Wings Appeal campaign.
"When one thinks that the branch embraces Islandmagee, through Whitehead to Ballycarry, Ballyclare, Greenisland, Monkstown, Glengormley and Newtownabbey, it demonstrates the commitment of those you see collecting at the various supermarkets, and other businesses in order to fund their welfare help and support to an ageing veteran population.”
Wing Commander Noel Williams, Wings Appeal organiser and branch vice chairman said: “The RAF has been offering protection to the UK and many other countries for 100 years; moreover, the RAF Association has, during its own 75 years of existence, played an important part in providing welfare support and relief for a large number of veterans who were in the Service.
"Nationally we respond each year to over 23,000 calls for help, and the number is sadly steadily rising, as those who are eligible become older. Indeed, well over half of those who qualify for help are now aged over 90 with many in their late 90s.
“In our own branch we have members in their 90s; one member, who was a wartime aircraft electrician is approaching 98 and another, who was a Lancaster Bomber rear gunner is approaching 95.”
The World War II generation, the majority of whom are enduring ailments and disabilities, are increasingly relying on the welfare services the RAF Association provides, said branch welfare officer Joe Corr. "This generation fought for the freedom we enjoy today, so the RAF Association is asking residents from across south Antrim and beyond, in this the 100th anniversary year of the RAF, to assist those who gave a huge portion of their ‘yesterday’ so that we could have a ‘secure tomorrow’, and accordingly to ‘give as they gave’ wherever you see a RAFA tin or a stall," he added.
And it is not just the veterans of the Second World War who need help. Branch president, Maureen Irwin said: "There are many who are very much younger and were engaged in operations in the numerous conflicts which have taken place since 1945. The role played in Korea, the Falklands, the two Gulf Wars, together with the additional operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, have highlighted once more the many sacrifices our armed forces heroes are called upon to make, and of course many are paying a terrible price for their devotion to duty and country."
Branch chairman, Colin Murphy added: “This has been a very busy year for everyone with the RAF100 commemorations taking place and it’s not over yet.
"We still have ongoing Wings Appeal events, which for us will go on to mid-October, with our Battle of Britain ‘Act of Remembrance’ in Joymount Church on Sunday, September 9 at 11am to come. We must not forget that this year’s Remembrance Day Service will be especially poignant taking place as it does on Armistice Day exactly 100 years to the day from the first one in 1918.
"Before that the RAF Central Band will be gracing the Waterfront Hall in Belfast for a special concert. Tickets are available at Waterfront.co.uk or you can call the Box Office on 028 9033 4400."