History of Combat Stress

We were founded in May 1919, just after the First World War. Our original name was the Ex-Servicemen's Welfare Society and we opened our first "recuperative home" in 1920 on Putney Hill in South West London. 

The beginning of Combat Stress

"The Hon. Organiser reported that she had registered the name as the Ex-Servicemen's Welfare Society".
Executive Committee minutes, 12 May 1919.

When the charity formed, it was ahead of its time.  The prevailing attitude to mental welfare was, by today's standards, primitive, even barbaric.

Those who suffered from mental breakdown during their Service life received little or no sympathy.  Indeed, during the First World War, if it led to failure to obey orders, death by firing squad was always a possibility.

At the end of the War there were thousands of men returning from the front and from sea suffering from shell-shock.  Many were confined in Mental War Hospitals under Martial Law - with the risk of being sent on, without appeal, to asylums.

But the founding mothers of Combat Stress (they were mainly women) believed that these men could be helped to cope with their condition through a rehabilitation programme.  

Work was seen as essential to masculine identity; it provided men with financial security and many doctors believed it to be an excellent form of therapy.  So, for many years, Combat Stress ran employment schemes that created real work opportunities for Veterans.


Combat Stress today 

A lot has changed since then.  Right now, we are working with more than 5,400 Veterans. Unfortunately we have never been busier, and our dedication is just as strong to continue and keep improving our work with ex-Service men and women all over the UK.

We've put milestones from our long history on our Facebook timeline - head over to www.facebook.com/CombatStress to find out more.