on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (11th november 1918) the guns fell silent to signify the end of world war 1, 11th november is when we remember all of our soldiers who lost their life at war.
What is the Royal British Legion? It is an organisation that will be celebrating its 90th Anniversary next year and has spent that time assisting all serving, ex-service personnel and their families.
When the soldier, sailor and air corps man was discharged from service in 1918 & 1919 after 4 years hard, soul destroying war – they had been promised that they would be looked after.
Most had given up jobs in factories and on farms to march off to war and were expecting – if fit enough to go back to those jobs. But this did not happen, often their places had been taken by those who did not go to war or by children who were too young to fight and were cheaper to employ.
So many, many found themselves not only unemployed, but because their accommodation had been tied to their jobs, homeless as well. Wives and families had been evicted and were often living in cramped conditions with their families and there was no room for the returning “hero”.
Several small ex-service organisations started up to protest their lot and campaign for what they had been promised, the disabled – of which there were thousands needed help as well. Most had resorted to begging.
In 1921 these small organisations all met in the Royal Albert Hall and agreed to join together to form the British Legion and campaign for the welfare of the ex-service organisation.
Over the years this organisation which is a registered charity has evolved with the time, but still with the ethos of the welfare of the serving and ex-service and their families.
It is also the guardian of remembrance and is at the forefront of the Remembrance Sunday Parades and Services and a few years back headed a campaign for the 11/11 to be remembered as Armistice Day and now 90 percent of the Country stops for the 2 minute silence on the 11th November.
What does it do now?
There are still Branches in most localities; these are the eyes and ears on the ground to offer help where necessary and to arrange local fundraising and parades. When someone needs help, be it an elderly person in need of an electric wheel chair or a family man who because he has no job needing help with school uniform or a youngster coming back from Afghanistan or Iraq who needs a wet room because his disability means he can’t use a bath – the Royal British Legion is there for them – spending up to £70 million a year on their needs.
Also, if a serviceman/woman has been refused a pension that they deserve, the RBL will sponsor a barrister to fight the case through the courts as we will for compensation. If a service person needs help with re-training – a grant can be made available, lost your home because you can’t cope? Come to the RBL and you will be helped.
It was noticed that housing in barracks, both for the single person and the family housing was being neglected, they are now campaigning to have this put right and that should they fall ill after the end of their service that the National Health Service will prioritise their health needs.
The RB also finally got compensation for the Japanese prisoners of war, sadly too late for my father and have also persuaded the government that War Widows’ Pensions should be tax free and have managed to get most war disability pensions to be disregarded when assessing how much council tax has to be paid.
The Royal British Legion, the “Royal” was awarded in 1971, will try to help any serving or ex-service person who has served for 7 days in the armed forces and will help their widows and dependent children up to the age of 18.
To do this the annual Poppy Appeal raises £30 million and the rest is raised by sponsorship, gifts, legacies and corporate gifts.
We also remember all the service dogs as well.