This year, NAAFI is celebrating 100 years of supporting the British armed forces and their families around the world.

The company was officially formed by the government on 9 December 1920 to create a canteen and welfare service for the services. By the Second World War, there were 110,000 employees and around 10,000 outlets.

NAAFI not only operated on war fronts, but also in armed forces communities in the UK. This included putting on shows for the troops, with big names like Spike Milligan working for its entertainments branch.

Post-war NAAFI was scaled down and by 1947 there were 65,000 employees. During the 1950s and 1960s the company expanded its offer to include secure hotels and holiday camps in places like Egypt so that military families could relax safely in their downtime.

Until the 1990s, NAAFI operated large-scale distribution and warehousing locations across the globe, as well as a tea factory; bottling plants for soft drinks, water and wine; bakeries and butchers. This meant high-quality, fresh produce was available for forces families wherever they were.

Some may also remember when shopping overseas was more difficult and, as a result, NAAFI sold Marks & Spencer’s clothing, Clarks’ shoes, domestic appliances, electrical equipment and gifts.

Today, NAAFI operates in Germany, Gibraltar, Brunei, the South Atlantic Islands, and on-board HM Ships. It’s still committed to ‘serving the services’ by providing a taste of home to forces families.

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