On 31st December The Not Forgotten bade farewell to its outgoing Chairman, Mr David Cowley OBE, who has been the steady hand at the helm of The Not Forgotten for the past eight years and widely involved with the charity for over forty.
As he steps down and hands over the watch, we wanted to pay tribute to a remarkable man and reflect upon the profound impact he has had on the lives of our staff, our partners and our beneficiaries.
David took over as Chairman of The Not Forgotten in 2015, and has seen the charity through eight years of triumph and challenge; from celebrating our Centenary to piloting us calmly through the shock of a global pandemic. He has patiently advised and guided our Trustees, our Chief Executives and our team at HQ, and engaged personally with thousands of veteran beneficiaries.
Under David’s guidance The Not Forgotten has gone from strength to strength, embracing new ways of working and expanding its reach to ever more veterans all over the UK. He has encouraged a culture of positivity and collaboration, inclusivity and camaraderie far beyond the boardroom; veterans, staff, supporters and partners have all been touched by his wisdom and kindness.
A legacy of which Marta Cunningham herself would be proud
David has overseen and helped foster a very special caring community at The Not Forgotten. Beneficiaries and their families feel part of a loyal and supportive family, and David has contributed significantly to this ethos with his approachability and genuine compassion as Chairman. He has given hours and days of his time to supporting The Not Forgotten office team and been spotted at beneficiary events all year round whatever the setting engaging with the veterans and enjoying their company as much as they his.
In 2016 David deployed on a TNF challenge event to Iceland, joining twenty veteran beneficiaries on a three-day trek across Icelandic terrain – a personal challenge but also a defining moment for David in witnessing first-hand the life-changing (and often lifesaving) impact the charity he loves so dearly has on so many people from all walks of life and military backgrounds.
Cementing our legacy and configuring our future.
In 2020 David worked closely with many stakeholders including our Patron HRH the Princess Royal, to appropriately mark the Centenary celebrations of The Not Forgotten, a huge milestone in a distinguished history. At this key moment David reinforced the importance not only of looking back over the past 100 years, but ensuring the charity was configured for the next 100. David has thrived on shaping this, and his guiding emphasis on family, people and impact will drive the charity for years to come.
Of course, TNF’s Centenary brought with it the extra unforeseen shock of a global pandemic hitting the same year. David’s calm leadership at the helm through COVID was vital to the charity carrying on through the challenge of lockdowns. A charity whose mission is to combat isolation and loneliness suddenly had to support its beneficiaries through the most isolating of experiences possible: David’s can-do attitude ensured that while others shut up shop, The Not Forgotten carried on. He motivated the team to rethink and re-set, reaching veterans and delivering events and support despite pandemic restrictions; some initiatives were so successful that they continue to be delivered post-Covid.
Recognition for his tireless commitment
In the New Year’s Honours of 2019 David was appointed an OBE in recognition of his remarkable service to The Not Forgotten for over three decades. In November 2023 he received a ‘Best Heroes’ Award at a star-studded ceremony, and with typical humility said “The heroes are the men and women we look after; not me. But it is a great and unexpected honour”.
This certainly isn’t goodbye...
David may be stepping down from his formal role, but he will continue to volunteer his time and expertise: some inspirational events he intends to spearhead are already in the pipeline. He has engineered a smooth handover to his successor Mr Mark Nicholls, and his fellow Trustees and The Not Forgotten team will of course continue to deliver his vision over the coming years.
To David – thank you. From everyone whose lives have been touched by your tireless commitment, your steadfast leadership, and your inspirational kindness. From beneficiaries to staff, members of the Royal family to volunteers: we are all beneficiaries of your vision and dedication. As you step away from your duties we hope you enjoy spending a little more time with your family and pursuing your own interests, knowing what a huge difference you have made and how much warmth, joy and fulfilment you have brought to so many lives.