Branch of Royal British Legion could ‘close due to lack of members’

The Royal British Legion (RBL) has provided emotional, financial and social support to veterans and their families for almost 100 years.

The charity will celebrate its centenary on May 15, a proud year for its members.

But with member numbers dwindling, branches have begun to close and lose their presence in our towns and villages.

One local branch is at risk of closing if no new members come forward to help.

Middlesbrough is now about to close completely due to lack of members.

“It is at the moment a sub-branch of Guisborough because of its low membership and as such can retain its Standard for ceremonial and funeral services, which it continues to attend with pride.

“But its membership is so low now that it may have to close completely, which is a great shame when we know the large number of ex-service personnel who live in that area,” said Eric Howden BEM, chairman of the Redcar branch.

It costs just £18 per year for a membership with the ex-service charity, and members don’t have to have served in the armed forces to join.

Mr Howden said: “Please consider what the Middlesbrough Cenotaph on Remembrance Day will look like without the Standard of its own branch on parade.

“Full training and support will be given to anyone of 18 years and above who with a dozen others could put this branch back on the map.”

While branches have opened over the years in places such as Middlesbrough, Thornaby, Stockton, South Bank, Grangetown, Dormanstown, Saltburn, Boosbeck, Guisborough and Stokesley to name just a few, many have now closed or the surviving clubs have very few members.

New logo for Royal British Legion ahead of its 100th anniversary on May 15
New logo for Royal British Legion ahead of its 100th anniversary on May 15
(Image: Royal British Legion)

The RBL was formed May 15, 1921, and a new logo has been launched this year to celebrate.

Mr Howden described the new logo as: “Rather simple but bold and shows the definite link showing that the legion and the Poppy Appeal are one and the same.”

Every penny raised through the annual Poppy Appeal is spent on welfare, and in recent years prior to the pandemic, £55 million was raised.

“Most of the people associated with Poppy Appeal are volunteers, those that are paid are paid by RBL not the appeal.

“We need people with a little time to spare to help run both branches and the appeal,” Mr Howden said.

As a proud chairman, he wants to help recruit new members to ensure the future of the charity.

For those interested, Mr Howden can be contacted on 07847879864 or email Kimberley.Thornton@rbl.community , the county members support officer.

Mr Howden is also trying to trace relatives or those with information on the founding members of the Redcar branch.

He said: “When founded in 1921, the chairman was Lieut. C.W.L.Heaton, treasurer R.Holder Esq and secretary E.Pearson Ford.

“Branch HQ was Marton House, West Terrace, Redcar.

“If anyone has information on the above people or knows of relatives of the same, please contact me.”

Mr Howden can be contacted at rblredcar@live.co.uk.

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Teesside Live – Redcar and Cleveland