As we look forward to attending the Patron's Lunch on 12th June, we also stop and take a look back at our relationship with HM the Queen and the Royal Patronage she gives SASRA
The Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association (SASRA) has a rich history of royal patronage. Much of it is documented in the association’s archives: the first royal patron of SASRA was King George V who then passed the patronage of the organisation on to his son, King George VI. We would like to share with you the association’s history with HM the Queen in particular as we celebrate her 90th birthday and as she honours the organisations of which she has been the Patron through celebrations like the Patron’s Lunch on June 12th 2016.
Our archives show that on the 6th February, 1952, the following telegram was sent to Her Majesty the Queen Mother at Sandringham by Arthur Smith Lieut General, Chairman of SASRA, upon the death of King George VI: “The Council and Staff of The Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association respectfully convey to your Majesty their loyal and heartfelt sympathy in the loss of their beloved King, who for over nine years has been Patron of their Association. They would humbly assure your Majesty of their earnest prayers to Almighty God for your Majesty’s continues comfort and strength, both now and in the days to come”. In honour of our late Patron King George VI, a wreath of golden daffodils with white tulips, carnations and lilies of the valley, was sent to Windsor with an accompanying card from all at SASRA. The following reply was received at SASRA HQ: “I am sincerely grateful for your message. Please assure all those for whom you speak that I deeply value their kindness and sympathy. ELIZABETH R”. In February 1952, it was unanimously agreed during the association’s Council meeting that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II should in due course be invited to become Patron of the Association.
HM the Queen graciously granted her patronage to the Association in light of her imminent coronation. During the following year’s February Council meeting, it was agreed that two full time SASRA Scripture Readers should be employed for work in the Coronation camps which were established in London in 1953. Mr. Weaver said the opportunities for witness were boundless and it seemed that the soldiers were more receptive to talking about the ‘King of kings’ because of the coronation preparations. It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the nation’s new reigning monarch as well as the association’s new patron.
Thanks to HM the Queen’s role as Head of the Commonwealth, some fantastic openings arose during the Commonwealth Games of August 1970. As ASR Innes reported, the authorities and our Patron granted our Scripture Readers permission to visit the soldiers living in the Games’ Village. There were many opportunities to share the Gospel with them and fellowship with some of the Christian athletes was enjoyed. Kip Keino from Kenya, holder of two Olympic Gold Medals, was asked if he had come to win another Gold: “No, I have come to run my best for Jesus. God is my guide, all I do is live a day at a time for Him. I must decrease, He must increase.”
HM the Queen has recognised and honoured a number of SASRA workers for their service over the years. A few mentioned in our archives, but by no means all, are the following. ASR Gerald McClelland, who served in West Berlin, was the recipient of the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in the 1970s. He was an ASR for over 32 years and the signal recognition of an evangelistic ministry in the Forces was a real honour both to him and to SASRA. Another marvellous story of a patron honouring a SASRA worker is that of Frank Kenneth Crofts who went to Buckingham Palace to receive an unsought but very well deserved MBE from HM The Queen. Despite his serious medical condition at this time he was determined to stand to receive his award and not use the wheel chair provided by the Palace. The Lord gave him special strength that day and honoured his desire. When asked by the Queen about his work he replied, “I preach Christ to the Forces”. Frank passed away just weeks after this poignant moment. Our current Scripture Reader to the RAF, ASR Meg Atkinson (see photo), has also received an MBE in recognition of everything she does in her ministry. What a testament to the ministry of SASRA through the years!
HM the Queen graced SASRA with her presence at a Sesquicentennial Thanksgiving Service held in the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks in London on the 25th May 1988.
It was a most memorable evening and the first occasion that the Association had been privileged to have their Royal Patron present alongside a number of serving officers of the Army and Royal Air Force. In the interval between the end of the Service and her arrival at the Reception, Her Majesty signed a Parchment recording the occasion. The framed original still hangs in the entrance hall of SASRA HQ.
In a message received afterwards from Buckingham Palace by SASRA’s President, it was conveyed to him that The Queen had been pleased to be present as Patron at such an important event for the Association and how much she had enjoyed taking part in both the Service and the Reception. During the Service she was presented with a leather bound copy of Colonel Dobbie’s book about SASRA, Sovereign Service, which was eventually placed in the Library at Windsor. You can request your copy of this in-depth history of SASRA by emailing or phoning SASRA HQ.
We are thankful for the journey thus far with HM the Queen Elizabeth II and thank her for her dedication to the organisation and patronage of the association. We look forward to celebrating her 90th birthday at the Patron’s Lunch on June 12th 2016 on the Mall, London. Our Chairman, Col John Lewis, will be hosting our table accompanied by a number of SASRA staff and volunteers.