Royal British Legion

Great Yarmouth

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The RBL has key dates which help understand why it has developed to what it is today.

The Royal British Legion was formed on 15 May 1921 bringing together four National Organisations of ex-Service men.

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As we all know World War 1 ended on Monday 11th November 1918. The official terms of the cessation of hostilities was enshrined in the Treaty of Versailles which was signed by both sides of the war on Saturday 28th June 1919.

It was the end of this war that saw the birth of the British Legion.

Saturday 14th May 1921

A unity conference was held at Queen's Hall in London. The purpose of this conference was to amalgamate the various ex-servicemens organisations which had been formed during and after the First World War. Agreement to amalgamate under the banner of the British Legion had been reached prior to the conference so the result was a foregone conclusion.

The Prince of Wales was elected Patron, all subsequent Patrons have been the reigning monarch. Earl Haig was elected President, T.S. Lister the Chairman, Colonel Crossfield the Vice Chairman and Major Brunel Cohen M.P. the Treasurer.

The purpose of the Legion was straightforward. To care for those who had suffered as a result of service in the First World War, whether through personal service or through that of a husband, father or son.

Sunday 15th May 1921

Laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph to denote agreement to found the British Legion.

Friday 11th November 1921

First Poppy Appeal launched called the 'Haig Fund'. This first appeal raised £106,000, 90% of the money went to the Benevolent Fund and 10% went towards the administration of the British Legion.

Legion's First Conference 1922

The first conference was held at Whitsun in the Cannon Street Hotel, London.

Disabled Sociey 1922

Major George Howson MC set up 'The Disabled Society' in the Old Kent Road with the sole purpose of producing poppies and thus providing work for wounded ex-Service personnel from World War 1.

Poppy Factory 1925

In 1925 the 'Poppy Factory' (formerly Disabled Society) moved to Richmond, Surrey where it continues to produce poppies, remembrance crosses and wreaths to the present day.

Preston Hall, Maidstone, Kent 1925

The Legion takes over the Preston Hall Tuberculosis Unit. The Unit was expanded to provide suitable work for the patients who were now ex-Services.

Field of Remembrance 1928

Major Howson created the first Field of remembrance in the grounds of St Margaret's Church, Westminster. The centre piece was the battlefield cross taken from the grave of the 'Unknown Warrior' buried in Westminster Abbey.

Silver Jubilee Year 1946

This first full summer of peace was marked by parades, rallies, church services and fetes.

East Coast Floods 1953

The East Coast Floods of 1953 claimed over 300 lives. The emergency services were overwhemed by the scale of the devastation. The British Legion opened its Legion Halls as reception centres for those made homeless and provided help when and where they could.

Poppy Day 1967

Buttonhole poppies were reduced to a single style and the onus was changed from a 'price' for a poppy to a donation. This change was made with the assurance that it would not affect employment at the Poppy Factory.

Saturday 29th May 1971

Fiftieth anniversary of the British Legion marked by a Royal Charter granting the Legion the privilege ot the prefix 'Royal'.

Membership Changes 1972

'Civilians' were allowed to join the Royal British Legion as paying members for the first time. These Associate Members paid half price at first but in 1976 they were paying the full subscription. This resulted in 90,000 new members who were largely Honorary (Civilian) Members before this change.

Pension Changes 1974

The Labour Government announced that the war pension rate would be half the national average wage and would maintain this level. A Royal British Legion campaign to this end had started in 1971. Although war and service pensions have not been mentioned before in these notes they have been a campaigning issue since the inception of the Legion.

Ordinary Membership 1981

The Royal British Legion introduced a single membership class, giving all members equal rights to participate in Branch, County and National decision-making processes of the organisation.

Saturday 11th November 1995

Two minutes silence at 11:00am introduced. It was estimated 50% of the population took part. A later poll recorded that 90% of the population thought it should be repeated, which of course it has been to this day.

June 2011

The Poppy Factory announced a five year plans to help 500 wounded, injured or sick ex-Service men and women into mainstream employment.

Insult to Injury Campaign - Feb 2015

Veterans injured during Service are having to give up most of their compensation to pay for the costs of their social care.

Email your Member of Parliament and ask them to help ensure that no injured veteran has to use their military compensation to pay for their care.