The Royal British Legion,
sometimes referred to as simply The Legion, is the
Kingdom's leading charity providing financial, social
and emotional support to millions who have served or who are
currently serving in the British
Armed Forces, and their dependents.
The British Legion was founded in 1921 as a voice for the ex-Service
community as a merger of four
organisations: the Comrades of
the Great War
, the National Association of Discharged Sailors
and Soldiers, the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized
Sailors and Soldiers and the Officers' Association. It was granted
a Royal Charter
on 29 May 1971 to mark
its fiftieth anniversary which gives the Legion the privilege of
the prefix 'Royal'.
Earl Haig, commander of the
Battle of the Somme and Passchendaele was one of the founders of the Legion, and was
President until his death.
Perhaps known best for the annual Poppy
and Remembrance services, including the Festival of Remembrance
, the Legion
was born as a campaigning organisation and has been active behind
the scenes in promoting the welfare and interests of the Services
and ex-Service community for 86 years.
The Legion fight nearly 36,000 ongoing War Disablement Pension
cases for war veterans and make around 300,000 welfare and
friendship visits every year.
Ongoing Legion campaigns include calls for more research into:
and compensation for
its victims; upgrading of War Pensions; the extension of endowment
mortgage compensation for personnel serving overseas; and better
support for Service personnel resettling into civilian life. In
2007, the Legion launched the Honour
campaign urging the Government to honour the
office is based next to Guy's Hospital and Borough tube station.
The Legion organises a fund-raising drive each year in the weeks
before Remembrance Sunday
which artificial poppies
, meant to be worn on
clothing, are offered to the public in return for a charitable
. Over the course of the preceding year a
team of around 50 people, the majority of them disabled and
ex-Service connected – work all year round producing millions of
poppies at the factory in Richmond.
However, pin badge poppies are increasingly being worn, and prove
to be extremely popular, with locations often selling out of the
pin badges very quickly. The idea of poppies dates back to the poem
Fields about the First
World War, after which the Legion was founded.
are worn until Remembrance Day
remember the fallen of the First World War, and implicitly of all
The Poppy Appeal has a higher profile than any other charity appeal
in the UK, with the poppies ubiquitous from late October until
mid-November every year and worn by the general public,
politicians, the Royal Family, and others in public life. It has
also become increasingly common to see poppies on cars, lorries and
other forms of public transport, such as aeroplanes, buses and
trams. Many Magazines and newspapers also display the poppy on
their publications (usually on the cover page), and some Twitter
users are adding poppies to their avatars
as a Twibbon
some have criticised the level of compulsion associated with the
Since 1933, there has been a White Poppy
run by the Peace Pledge Union
which is seen as an alternative by anti-war activists.
Scotland, a separate
charity, the Earl Haig Fund
Scotland (often using the name 'Poppies Scotland'), run the
poppy appeal in association with the Royal British Legion.
Until a few years ago the wording on the black button in the centre
of the poppy, even outside of Scotland, was "HAIG FUND". Poppies in
England and Scotland now bear the words "POPPY APPEAL" on their
Festival of Remembrance
The Legion organises the Festival of Remembrance
Saturday preceding Remembrance
. The Festival, held in the Royal Albert
Hall, London, has
acquired a status approaching that of a state event such as
Trooping the Colour.
Originally featuring composer John
's World Requiem
includes military displays by current members of the armed forces,
choral performances, and prayers. It culminates with the parading
of Legion branch banners down the aisles and onto the floor of the
hall, and the release of poppy petals from the roof.
The event is run twice; the first, afternoon event is open to any
member of the public. The evening event is the more prestigious;
tickets are only available to members of the Legion and their
families, and senior members of the Royal Family
, Prince Philip
, the Prince of Wales
, the Duke of York
and the Earl of Wessex
as well as
other, less well-known, members of the royal family such as the
Duke of Kent) are in attendance. In 2007, the second half of the
evening event was aired live on BBC Radio
. BBC One
showed the event an hour
Most parts of the Festival are of a formal, thought-provoking, and
solemn nature. In recent years, lighter sketches have been
included, for example depicting civilian life during wartime, in an
attempt to attract viewers from generations born after the Second World War
Honour the Covenant Campaign
Honour the Covenant
a campaign launched by The Royal British Legion in September 2007,
which calls on the UK
to honour the Military
. The campaign aims to seek public support for the
issues identified by the Legion and to encourage their Members of Parliament
to act to ensure
that Government policy is changed.
The campaign accuses the Government of failing to meet its
commitments under the Covenant. The Legion highlighted the case of
a 23-year-old paratrooper
, injured in
battle, who was awarded £152,150 despite injuries requiring care
for the rest of his life. It also criticised the practice of
treating soldiers in wards alongside civilian patients. In his
conference speech that October, Conservative Party
leader David Cameron
referred to the Covenant and
said "Mr. Brown
, I believe your
government has broken it."
Responding to the Royal British Legion's campaign, the Secretary of State for Health
announced in November 2007
that armed forces veterans would get priority treatment on the
National Health Service
those injured would be treated immediately in hospital rather than
go through waiting lists. Prescription charges would also be
tight budget settlement for the Ministry of Defence in 2007 saw
five former Chiefs of the Defence Staff launch personal criticism
Minister Gordon Brown in a simultaneous House of Lords debate.
In upholding the claim of six Gurkha
for the right to settle in Britain at the end of their service, Mr
Justice Blake's judgement in September 2008 recited the Military
Covenant before observing that granting them residence in Britain
"would, in my judgement, be a vindication and an enhancement of
The Legion sponsors a website - civvystreet
which assists Service leavers and members of the ex-Service
community and their dependents with information, advice and
guidance (IAG) on resettlement, learning and work. Services are
provided by partner organisations who are qualified in providing
specialist services. Opportunities for funding may also be
available to those who qualify for assistance. The website have
been designed to give a single gateway to the services and support
that our partners provide for resettlement, learning and
There are over 50 Legion band
around the world, each run and funded independently. They include
full concert show bands, brass ensembles, pipe and drum bands,
marching carnival bands and youth bands.
Band of the Royal British Legion
is the Legion's flagship band.
In existence since 1944, the band was recognised as the Legion's
premier band in 1983 and gained its title of "The Central Band of
the Royal British Legion" three years later.
British Legion has an extensive network of Social Clubs called Legion Halls throughout the
Kingdom; sometimes these are known as United Services or
The Royal British Legion also has
branches in the Republic of Ireland, and spread around the world,
mostly in mainland Europe, but also in America, and Azerbaijan
amongst other world nations.
The Royal British Legion has an official membership magazine
, which is free to all Legion members as part of
their annual subscription.
Anyone can join the Legion, it is no longer required to have served
in the military.
Notes and references
- "'Royal' British Legion wants higher pensions",
31 May 1971
- A time to remember, but should we wear a more
'Christian' white poppy or a 'PC' red?
- Mark Townsend, "Army inquest backlog grows: Widows must wait
longer for results because coroner has yet to receive promised
funds", The Observer, 9 September 2007, p. 2.
- " Cameron speech in full", BBC News Online, 3
- Matthew Taylor, Richard Norton-Taylor, "Priority NHS treatment
promised to war veterans", The Guardian, 23 November 2007,
- Alex Barker, "Brown under attack over armed forces",
Financial Times, 23 November 2007, p. 2.
- Paragraph 72, Limbu & Ors, R (on the application of) v
Secretary of State for the Home Department & Ors 2008 EWHC 2261 (Admin) (30 September 2008).