The Club was founded in 1907 by Major Arthur Haggard who had a clear mission: to promote ‘esprit de corps’ within the military, by uniting members of the Armed Forces after he witnessed destitute veterans on London’s streets after returning from the Second Boer War.
The Club hasn’t always been on the prestigious Seymour Street. It was originally named the Veterans Association and located in rooms above the Cittie of Yorke pub in High Holborn (which remains in business today). As the demand for accommodation grew following the two World Wars and the Great Depression, the charity moved to Bedford Row where it was able to offer more (80) bedrooms.
After the sudden death of then President Field Marshal Viscount Allenby in 1936, the Club was renamed in his memory The Allenby (Services) Club. Launching the newly-named Club in October 1936, the Secretary of State for War said:
“You could not have a finer monument to the memory of a finer man.”
In 1940-41, the Club was seriously damaged on six different occasions during the Blitz, and the surrounding area received very heavy damage; a claim for £260 was put forward to the War Damage Commission, and the Club remained determinedly open. The minutes of the Committee of Management’s meeting on 29th September 1942 stated that:
“Monthly income was considerably reduced owing to the lack of entertainments and regimental gatherings, and the fact that so many members were on war service or have been evacuated to the country. The Committee consider the Club should be kept open at all costs to provide amenities for the ex-Servicemen of the last war, many of whom regard it as their home, while at the same time offering hospitality to serving soldiers, including allied forces, who may care to use it while in London.”
In June 1943 the Committee planned a move to a more central site. This was agreed and an appeal was launched to fund it, supported by the Lord Mayor of London. A number of options were considered and the decision was taken to procure the lease for the Connaught Club on Seymour Street (our home to this day) which, during the War, had been used to provide medical care for American forces.
A further name change, to the Victory Ex-Services Club, was effected soon after the end of the Second World War, and, on 29th January 1947, it was decided to open membership to Servicewomen. By September 1948’s formal opening, sufficient funds has been raised to secure the building and complete the necessary refurbishment. After the official opening, Sir Winston Churchill said:
“The Victory Club for ex- Servicemen, given by the nation as a memorial to fallen comrades and as a tribute to those who returned, stands guardian of the common treasures and memories of friendship and brave deeds.”
Today, the VSC is the only military Club in London to offer membership solely to Service and ex-Service personnel of all ranks and their families, maintaining the tradition started in 1907 by Major Arthur Haggard. The current staff is very proud of the tradition they are entrusted with, and determined that it should be maintained. The Club’s two main objectives remain at the heart of its ethos and everything it does:
To provide excellent facilities for military personnel who are tri-service, across all ranks a place to meet and associate with each other
To provide assistance in relieving need, hardship or distress among serving personnel, veterans and their families.