THE ROYAL BRITISH LEGION
Raymond Hirst

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them."

Royal British Legion LogoThese wonderful emotive words were written by Lancaster's own Laurence Binyon, who was born on the 10th of August 1869 at number 1 High Street; and were first used by the British Legion in 1929.

However our story begins before that. The Great War of 1914-1918 was unlike any other before it. The regular army was heavily augmented by volunteers and conscription was introduced for the first time. This rapid expansion culminated in the very heavy casualties of that war and more than two million homes were affected by disablement or death.

After the war there was a housing shortage, the economy was in decline and there were not enough jobs for the returning servicemen. There was mistake and muddle in the awarding of widows and incapacity pensions. Where was the "Land fit for Heroes?" Something needed to be done.

Thus it was that in May 1921 the four organisations that were helping ex-servicemen and their families were dissolved and reformed as one - The British Legion. On the 50th anniversary Her Majesty The Queen granted the British Legion the prefix of "Royal" in its title.

We are one of the largest caring organisations in the country, with seven care and three convalescent homes. Over 300,000 people call on us for help each year. We provide help and advice on pensions, help families visit war grave sites overseas and give holidays for the severely disabled in our care homes. in addition we provide financial assistance, resettlement training, employment and help in finding jobs. We carry out repairs on property and will adapt homes for the disabled to help live a normal lifestyle. We visit the long term sick.

In Lancaster last year we arranged convalescence for five people, bought two electric wheel chairs and built an outside ramp. We installed a telephone, carpeted a house and settled some bills, as well as providing pensions advice and visiting the sick.

We represent the interests of the ex serviceman at the highest levels. Over 15 million people, that is one in four of the total population, are entitled to help from the Royal British Legion, since we care for ex-service people and their dependants whether injured or killed in armed conflict or by accident and they do not have to be members of the British Legion! Because of the ageing population calls for our help are now increasing.

The Royal British Legion is best known for the annual poppy appeal, the Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall and the many remembrance parades held all over the country. As Lawrence Binyon wrote: "We will remember them"

They were the heroes who made the supreme sacrifice so that we may enjoy the freedom of today. We should and must care for their dependants, look after the disabled and the sick and in so doing help to ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain. Sadly our men and women are still involved in armed conflict. There has been only one year since 1945 when a member of the armed forces has not been killed in action. A sobering thought.

We will remember them.

Raymond Hirst
President The Lancaster Branch
The Royal British Legion

Essays Contents