Old  black and white image of Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal collectors

Our history

The Royal British Legion has been supporting Service men and women, ex-serving personnel and their families since 1921.

And we're not going anywhere.

The British Legion was formed on 15 May 1921, bringing together four national organisations of ex-Servicemen that had established themselves after the First World War:

  • The National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers
  • The British National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers
  • The Comrades of The Great War
  • The Officers' Association

The amalgamation of these diverse bodies can be attributed largely to two men: Field Marshal Earl Haig and Tom Lister of The Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers. Lord Haig served as the President of The Royal British Legion until his death.

Royal British Legion paper poppies with leaves

By 1921, the tradition of a Two Minute Silence had been established.

The first ever Poppy Appeal was also held that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and raised over £106,000; a considerable amount at the time. This money was used to help WW1 veterans with employment and housing.
Read the story of the poppy

As a result of the war, Britain's economy plummeted and in 1921 there were two million people unemployed.

Over six million men had served in the war. Of those who came back, 1.75 million had suffered some kind of disability and half of these were permanently disabled.

Then there were those who depended on those who had gone to war – the wives and children, widows, and orphans, as well as the parents who had lost sons in the war, on whom they were often financially dependent.

The Royal British Legion was established to care for those who had suffered as a result of service during the First World War. And we've been helping the Armed Forces community and their families ever since.

Poppy Appeal volunteer holding baby

Today we're at the heart of a national network looking after our Armed Forces community.

RBL is here to help serving and ex-serving personnel all year round, every day of the week. Our support starts after seven days of service and continues through life, long after service is over.
Find out how we can help

100 years of supporting the Armed Forces community

In our centenary year, we are firmly focused on our future. By building on a century of work we’ll make sure we are a charity fit for the next 100.
Read more about our centenary

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