The First World War led to the birth of nearly 18,000 charities, of which around 10 exist today. Blesma is one.
Forty thousand Service men lost limbs or eyes during the First World War – and lived to return to a “land fit for heroes”. They were swiftly disillusioned. Amputation techniques were in their infancy, artificial limbs primitive and, with mass unemployment the order of the day, 90% of the nation’s war limbless could not find work.
During this period the limbless gathered together in groups determined if society would not help them, they would help themselves. So the Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association was born and grew, finally achieving national status in 1932 as the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association – Blesma.
Since it's creation Blesma has lobbied successive governments to achieve improvements in pensions, in standards of artificial limbs and in the provision of suitable motor transport and employment opportunities. Residential homes have been opened, wide ranging health and well-being services initiated, sporting activities undertaken and innovative research commissioned, all helped by the ceaseless fund-raising activities of devoted members and supporters.
Since 1932, we have been the only national Armed Forces Charity that supports limbless veterans for the duration of their lives. Modern medicine transforms the physical injury, but it is a complicated process to treat the emotional trauma and related lifelong health problems.