A Standard Bearer preparing for a Remembrance parade

RBL branches sit at the heart of communities and today there are approximately 2,500 across the UK.

Discover the stories behind our branches, from the challenges they have faced and the achievements they have accomplished to the dedicated members and how they serve their communities.

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LGBTQ+ & Allies Branch

In 2018 the LGBTQ+ & Allies Branch of the Royal British Legion was formed.  This was a momentous day, as it was the first branch of a veterans’ organisation aimed specifically at the LGBTQ+ community.  Not wanting the branch to be totally exclusive, it also welcomes allies as members of the branch so that partners and family members of LGBTQ+ veterans or those who are supportive of the community can also join.   

The branch was formally launched in January 2019, 19 years after the lifting of the ban on homosexuals in the UK armed forces, and now has 170 members. On the 20th anniversary of the lifting of the ban, the branch laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in London, to honour all servicemen and women who laid down their lives for their country and to remember those servicemen and women who identified as LGBTQ+.

London Pride 2019 marked a momentous occasion for every individual who participated. It gave members, staff and volunteers the opportunity to unite and take part in the Pride Jubilee which marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The newly founded branch was represented with the rainbow flag and Armed Forces personnel, who marched in their hundreds in uniform accompanied by the Central Band. Everyone ended the day feeling elated that the Armed Forces personnel were able to openly experience the parade in their service uniforms.

Why LGBTQ+ community groups are important?
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London Pride 2019

The branch has received a fantastic welcome wherever they have been and is seen as a significant addition to the LGBTQ+ community.

Crownhill branch, Devon

Crownhill branch haig cup and awards

Winning the Haig Cup

The Plymouth Crownhill branch in Devon is a thriving branch of the Royal British Legion. The committee was honoured in 2018 by being awarded the Haig Cup, the highest award given each year at the National Conference.


Crownhill branch armed-forces-day-2017

Part of a community

The branch has enjoyed a fantastic level of support and membership over the year with a current membership of over 1,400. This makes for wonderful social events and community integration.

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Clipstone and Forest Town branch honours the fallen

In 2015, Neil Davidson was elected as Chairman to the Clipstone  and  Forest Town branch. During the Remembrance Service at St Albans Church the following year he noticed several letters were missing from the inscription and names on the war memorial in the church grounds. Neil immediately resolved to refurbish the memorial as a priority.

The community were supportive of the appeal and funds were raised quickly. The branch members pulled together to clean the Memorial before the Stonemason could replace the missing letters and repair it. The local college also made metal railings to go around it to stop the wreaths from blowing away.

A rededication service was held in 2017, which involved the local community and several family members of those named on the memorial. After a short service in St Albans church a wooden Remembrance cross was laid on the memorial for each of the fallen. The branch and local community came together to ensure that we continue to honour those who died.

The National Memorial Arboretum branch

National Memorial Arboretum
As the UK's year-round centre of Remembrance, the Arboretum is home to more than 360 memorials and a whole host of volunteers, many of whom are also members of the branch. Having such a poignant setting for their branch, the team work tirelessly to engage with people all over the world to be a unifying link between the NMA and the Royal British Legion which work together in the endeavour of Remembrance.

National Memorial Arboretum

The National Memorial Arboretum branch meets at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and is currently led by President Andrew Hodson.
Ray and Diane Millington photo

Ray and Diana Millington

Ray and Diana Millington volunteered at the NMA before then joining the branch.

Ian Dudson CBE Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire

Outreach volunteer, George Martin

Outreach volunteer, George Martin makes significant relationships with community groups such as the Men’s Breakfast Club, The Women’s Fellowship, Derbyshire Masonic Order, the local History Society, and St Helen’s church.
Katie Locton Standard Bearer

Military Members

The branch also engages with military visitors to the NMA to ensure that they are aware of what support is available and encouraging Military Membership to the RBL, signing up almost 6,500 Military Members.

Staple branch established in 1926

Staple Branch 1

Starting the Staple branch

Staple is a very small, historic village in Kent. The RBL Staple branch has never forgotten those who lost their lives in service to their country.
Staple Branch 3

The Lost Sons of Staple

In 2014, the branch wanted villagers to really know the young men who had given their lives in the wars, referred to as “The Lost Sons of Staple”. A Garden of Remembrance was built with a memorial stone and nine smaller stones - for each “Lost Son” - along with nine silver birch trees. Each year a wreath is laid in the garden on Remembrance Day and the garden has become a focal point for the close-knit community. 

Cowden, Hartfield and District Branch

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The Hartfield Branch

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Preparing for War

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The Women’s Section and Cowden Branch join the Legion

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Eric Johnson (BEM)

Standard Bearer Eric Johnson was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 1990 Queen’s Birthday Honours List in recognition of his services to British interests in Belgium.

He was presented with the medal on 9 March during a special ceremony in Brussels. Eric ‘retired’ as a Standard Bearer in March 2001, but was back on duty at the Evere Commemoration at Brussels Cemetery on 30th June that year, after his would-be successor was unfortunately hospitalised.

He continued in the role, receiving a veteran’s badge in commemorations on 8 May 2005 and the Voluntary Service Medal in November 2008 in recognition of more than 50 years of service to the Brussels Branch. The citation read: “Eric sets an example to us all with his enthusiasm, immaculate turn-out, and charming spirit. He always makes time to chat to everyone. In fact, he makes it his job to get to know them, whether a new member, an old member, or even children who turn up to events from time to time. A better representative we couldn’t, and indeed do not, have.”

After 56 years of making the job his own, Eric Johnson made what would be his final appearance as Standard Bearer during the annual commemoration at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Evere, Brussels on 23 June 2012.

*Images: Eric Johnson with Harold Moffat in Liberty Square, Brussels in 1979 | Carrying the standard at the GP90 event in Ypres

Darlington Branch’s Acts of Remembrance

Honouring Edward Henry Pratt

The Darlington branch has paid tribute to forgotten soldiers who lost their lives as a result of war, and ensured that their courage and sacrifice are remembered. In 2014, the branch commemorated Edward Henry Pratt with an official headstone after discovering that he was buried in an unpurchased, unmarked grave in Darlington West Cemetery. 
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Honouring William McMullen

Today, the branch honours people from the local Armed Forces community and commemorates those who lost their lives in service. This is one of the most important aspects of local RBL activity.
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A brief history of The Central Band of The Royal British Legion

In 1944, a group of musicians sat in the bar of the British Legion Club in Epsom. They had all been members of the 56th (Surrey) Battalion, Home Guard which had recently been stood down, bringing four years of comradeship to an end. They resolved to form a new band under the British Legion and were immediately offered the use of an upstairs room at the club for weekly rehearsals. Starting with nothing, it took them 10 years to raise the funds for their uniforms. A second-hand music library was acquired together with some old and battered music stands, and they recruited some demobbed musicians. By 1948 they’d transferred to another Legion branch in Epsom which offered a hall. The Home Secretary, Right Honourable J Chuter Ede, became the band's first President.

In 1949, the band won first prize at the Berkshire and Neighbouring Counties Band Festival at Reading – the first of many grand performances that led to the band’s glittering reputation known by so many today. 1965 saw the beginnings of a 13 year association with West Ham United Football Club where the band provided music for all home matches. One memorable day, as the musicians marched off the field after half time, a disgruntled supporter yelled ”You best stay on mates, you can't do worse than our lot”.

In 1970 the band won a gold medal in the prestigious World Music Contest in Holland, earning them the status of 'Metropolitan Area Band', which was a recognition by the RBL of the important role bands play in publicising the charity’s work. The band visited the famous Abbey Road Studios in 1973 to make its first recording; a compilation of marches, hymns and incidental music designed for use by RBL branches unable to afford a band for formal or ceremonial occasions. A second record was made in 1981 and the band has been a regular visitor to the recording studios ever since.

In 1983, the RBL band was granted the title of the ‘National Band’ which was changed three years later to the Central Band of the Royal British Legion.

Since then, the Central Band of the Royal British Legion has gone from strength to strength and 2021 sees it enter its 77th year of music making at the highest level in support of the Royal British Legion. The Band has entertained D-Day veterans on the Boudicca, performed at Bayeux with Rod Stewart and at the Festival of Remembrance, worked with Alfie Boe, Laura Wright, the Bach Choir, Max Bygraves, Liberace and Harry Secombe. All the members of The Central Band are volunteers who readily give their time to support the Royal British Legion. Many past and present players have served in the Armed Forces and are led by RBL’s renowned Director of Music, David Cole.

*Images: Band rehearsing at the St Danstan's College | Central Band | Bandstand at Eastbourne.
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Hessle Royal British Legion Silver Band c1969.

Members

All our members play a vital role in supporting the Royal British Legion. They build relationships and provide support to the Armed Forces community and their families. Members and branches play a vital part in making the RBL's centenary a success - we can’t do this without them!

Help us celebrate our centenary
Hessle Royal British Legion Silver Band c1969.
Captain Noel Blamey R.A.M.C "" "" "" ""

Penryn branch history

In Penryn, Cornwall, the ex-Service community formed one of the first branches of the Comrades of the Great War under the command of Captain Noel Blamey and began helping military families. On 23 August 1921 a meeting was held to change the organisation into a branch of the British Legion.

In 1922 the branch were very active in the community. They erected a war memorial, established a playing field for local children and set up a Distress Committee for ex-servicemen. In November 1922 the branch raised £34.13 (almost £2000 today) at the first Poppy Appeal. By 1925, there was also a Women’s Section.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s the branch headquarters were in the Church Institute at Quay Hill. During this period, the branch - and in particular the Women’s Section - held fundraising events including the Old Age Pensioners Annual Tea & Concert; the Hospital Linen Fund; the Ambulance Fund; the Royal Cornwall Girls Home Fund; and Maternity Bags full of donations to help new parents in the area.

In 1941, the Church Institute was destroyed in an air raid along with all the branch’s records. Eighteen people were killed including the Hon. Secretary. That year the branch raised £108 4s 8d (over £5,000 today) for the Poppy Appeal.

Following the end of the Second World War the branch carried on its community work throughout the 1950s to the present day. Since the loss of the Legion Room at Quay Hill, the branch has had no fixed abode and has met significant challenges over the years. Despite these drawbacks, in 2010 the Penryn branch raised almost £20,000 for the Poppy Appeal - one of the largest amounts in Cornwall.

In the coming year we hope that the branch will be able to build up its membership so that they can carry on the work of its incredible predecessors, and honour those who served and died so what we may live.

*Images: Portrait image of Captain Noel Blamey | Newspaper invite of first Penryn meeting | The Church Institute- now the site of the Memorial Gardens, Penryn | Newspaper article about Penryn celebrating VE and VJ Day in 1945 | The visit of HRH Princess Anne - Penryn's 750th Anniversary of the granting of the Charter Legion branch forms guard of honour the Memorial Gardens on 20 May 1986.

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Branches

Our branches are focal points for social activity, Remembrance, and providing support to the Armed Forces community in all kinds of ways. In local communities they play a vital role in helping hard-to-reach individuals and tackling problems like loneliness and isolation. Help us celebrate 100 years of support from our branches.

Get involved in our centenary
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Storrington branch history

In 1919, following the end of the First World War, Captain George Graham chaired a meeting of 70 veterans to establish the Association of Comrades. They would raise welfare funds to care for the village’s ex-servicemen, widows and their dependants. The meeting concluded with the veterans marching through the village.

In 1920, donations from residents and the Peace Celebrations Committee allowed the Association to purchase ground on which they built a hut, serving as the Association of Comrades’ headquarters. Following an Armistice Day opening with a guard of honour and church parade, the club flourished due to its prolific fundraising events and its role in awarding benefits to the local Armed Forces community. In 1921 it became a prevalent branch of the Royal British Legion, growing from 70 founding members to 401 following the Second World War. The HQ still stands today.

*Images from Storrington branch dinner soiree | An annual Remembrance parade

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