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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

There to help veterans for the past 90 years

THE Royal British Legion has been providing help and assistance to the ex-service community for 90 years.

On Friday the Ulverston branch, based in Brogden Street, joins the celebrations by hosting an Albert Hall-style Festival of Remembrance.

There will be a muster of legion and military standards and music from Voce and the combined instruments of Ulverston Town Band and the Army Cadet Force Band.

The show starts at 7.30pm in Ulverston Coronation Hall and tickets can be booked through the box office.

As part of the legion’s 90th anniversary celebrations the Memories Page will be taking a closer look at the formation of legion branches in this area on Saturday November 12.

Today we look at the history behind the national formation of the Royal BritishLegion.

The First World War had involved quite unprecedented numbers of young men and women – leaving hundreds of thousands of them with lasting ailments of the body or mind.

In the recession which immediately followed the end of the conflict in 1918 there was a vast number of ex-soldiers without work and war widows struggled to feed and clothe their children.

These people needed someone to fight their corner and a number of organisations were set up.

They included the National Union of Ex-servicemen and The Comrades of the Great War.

A group called The National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers appealed for donations and set up soup kitchens and hostels in empty drill halls for homeless ex-servicemen.

The various groups gradually came together in August 1920 with the figurehead of Field Marshall Earl Haig.

They decided on British Legion as a name and on May 14 in 1921 its constitution was approved with Earl Haig as president.

In 1951 the name changed to Royal British Legion.

Its most famous fund-raising scheme – the Poppy Appeal – was born from a poem by Canadian medical officer Colonel John McCrae.

It noted: “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow;

“Between the crosses, row on row.”

The poem prompted American YMCA worker Moina Michael to wear a poppy in honour of those who had died in the war.

Frenchwoman Anne Guerin made some artificial poppies which she sold to help ex-servicemen and persuaded the British Legion to do the same.

The first official British Legion Poppy Day was on November 11 in 1921.

It raised £106,000

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