About Us

Naval & Military Bible Society was founded in 1779 by George Cussons and John Davies, Lay Wesleyan Methodists, supported by the Christian philanthropist, John Thornton. The Society was initially called The Bible Society. In 1804 – when The British and Foreign Bible Society was founded – the name was changed to Naval and Military Bible Society, with Air Force added in 1961. The name reverted to Naval & Military Bible Society in June 2017, to reflect our work with seafarers and military personnel of all types and countries.    
The Society’s declared aim and mission statement were recorded with the date ‘8th of November 1779’ on the front page of its first Minute Book:    
“For purchasing Bibles to be distributed among British Soldiers and Seamen of the Navy, to spread abroad (by the blessing of God) Christian knowledge and reformation of manners.”    
William Wilberforce, the slavery abolitionist MP, Henry Thornton, Lord Palmerston and Rowland Hill are among a distinguished list of early Vice-Presidents and council members. In his active support of the Society, William Wilberforce was joined by other key figures in the Slave Trade Abolition Movement, including John Newton, Thomas Clarkson, Zachary Macaulay and Granville Sharp.    
The Duke of Wellington became the Society’s President in 1816 and remained a council member for 36 years until his death.    
The Society’s first Minute Book records that Bibles were granted to soldiers in the Guards and to Royal Navy officers onboard the Victory. Described as the world’s first mission to seamen, the Society has also supplied merchant sailors of every nationality since 1820 through seafarers’ missions.    
Records show that by the 1860s, from its humble beginnings, the number of Bibles and Scripture portions it had distributed now exceeded one million.    
The Society continued to supply Britain’s forces throughout the world including during campaigns in the Crimea, India, Afghanistan, China, Egypt and South Africa, but by the end of the 19th century its support base was declining. In 1910 it was entrusted to Scripture Gift Mission, under whose care it began to thrive again, such that many millions of Scriptures were distributed to Allied Forces in both World Wars. In 2004, the Society again became an independent charity and moved to its present office in Portsmouth.    
Naval & Military Bible Society is directed by a Board of Trustees, which is advised by serving members and chaplains of the three Armed Forces and Merchant Seafarers Missions, under the chairmanship of  The Reverend Simon Springett Royal Naval Reserve. Vice-Presidents are The Venerable Ray Pentland CB, The Reverend Jonathan Woodhouse CB, The Reverend Bernard Clarke MBE and The Reverend Tim Wilkinson QHC RN. The Executive Director is Lieutenant Commander Matthew Thomas SBStJ RN.    
The Society continues to fulfil its mission statement distributing Bibles and booklets at home and abroad.    
Naval & Military Bible Society reports to the Charity Commission can be found here.    
Naval & Military Bible Society reports to Companies House can be found here.    
The archived documents of the Society are held in the British Library. The following link can be used to view what is held:    
Naval & Military Bible Society archives in the British Library    

The staff email addresses have changed (…@navalmilitarybiblesociety.org)

Naval & Military Bible Society is a charity (Registered No: 1102593) and Company Limited by Guarantee (Registered No: 5021052), established in 1779 for the purpose of providing Bibles, New Testaments to British Soldiers. The purpose has expanded to include all military forces and merchant seafarers, globally, and we also provide a wider range of Christian media.



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