The Burma Star Association exists to relieve need, hardship or distress among men and women who served in HM and Allied Forces or the Nursing Services in the Burma Campaign of the 1939-45 war or are otherwise entitled to be holders of the Burma Star or Pacific Star with Burma Clasp and for their widows, widowers or dependants.
The Future of the Association.
Over the years, approximately 56,000 Burma Star holders – or holders of the Pacific Star with ‘Burma clasp’ – joined the Association. Nevertheless, the Association’s benevolence work encompasses all veterans, whether or not they joined the Association, together with their widows or widowers. The record cards have recently been digitised and will very soon be available to view on our new website.
Although the records indicate that Association membership now stands at some 1,700, the actual figure is certainly lower, since the office is often not informed of members’ deaths. In theory, there are 32 Association branches although many of these are inactive, without having formally closed.
Furthermore, the last four months has seen the deaths of key Association officers, most notably our President, Viscount Slim, and our Vice Chairman, Vic Knibb. You will recall that, only two years ago, we reduced the quorum of voting members at the AGM from 20 to 10.
As well as dwindling and increasingly immobile numbers, the Trustees are also extremely conscious of the fact that the Association’s overheads now exceed welfare distributions, a gap that can only widen.
Against that background, your Trustees are extremely keen that the Association should plan ahead in order to close at a time of its own choosing. VJ Day was commemorated by the Government, under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence, in 2005, 2010 and 2015. There is every prospect that there will be commemorations – quite possibly for the last time – on 15 August next year. Our proposal is that the Burma Star Association should therefore seize the opportunity to close ‘on a high’, on an anniversary of national significance. In perhaps his most-quoted line, T S Eliot wrote in The Hollow Men: ‘Not with a bang but a whimper.’ A bang would be altogether better …
In accordance with Section 18 – Closures and Winding-up of the Association’s Constitution (2014 Revision) – the Trustees have the authority to close the Association: ‘When the Trustees consider that the number of existing and potential beneficiaries qualifying for relief in accordance with clause 3 hereof is so small that the separate administration of the Association is no longer justifiable … and transfer its assets … to another charity … with priority for the benefit of persons who are at the time of the winding-up beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries of the Association.’
In 2005, the Burma Star Memorial Fund was established in order to perpetuate the memory of those who fought so gallantly with the ‘Forgotten Army’ in Burma. As well as creating and maintaining a memorial garden and grove here, at the National Memorial Arboretum, the Memorial Fund Steering Group has been working hard on an ambitious campaign to raise funds to support post-graduate students at University College London.
Selection is currently taking place for the first scholar, who will be studying Engineering for International Development, a subject of particular relevance to the Burma Campaign. Future students will seek solutions to the continuing threat posed by epidemic diseases.
Through its carefully-phrased Trust Deed, the Memorial Fund is able to assume the Association’s vital benevolence role, thus enabling the transfer of the Association’s remaining funds to the Memorial Fund.
On 3 April 2019, after very careful consideration, the Trustees therefore agreed that the Association should close on 15 August 2020, the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day.
It is expected that the Annual Wreath Layings in London will be held on 4th September 2019, depending on the approval of the Metropolitan Police.