The British Legion nationally was formed on 15 May 1921, bringing together four national organisations of ex-Servicemen established themselves in 1918.
St. Andrew’s Hall in St Marys Road, East Molesey, was built in 1900 by Rev Henry Hollingworth, and sometimes used as an infants’ school before it became home to Molesey Royal British Legion; like many clubs around the country EMRBL has suffered as a result of people changing their social habits but the members remain loyal and committed to the task of taking the club forward and offering as much variety to its’ visitors as possible.
For many years EMRBL has hosted its’ traditional christmas lunch for disabled ex service people and guests with veterans coming from homes such as the Royal Cambridge and the Star and Garter to join the team for a special day of food, drink and entertainment. That’s just one of several special events the club organises annually.
The main purpose of the Legion from the outset was straightforward: to care for those who had suffered as a result of service in the Armed Forces during the war, whether through their own service or through that of a husband, father or son. The suffering took many forms: the effect of a war wound on a man’s ability to earn a living and support his family, or a war widow’s struggle to give her children an education.
Even those who had come through the war relatively unscathed struggled with employment. As a result of the war, Britain’s economy plummeted and in 1921 there were two million unemployed. Over six million men had served in the war – 725,000 never returned. Of those who came back, 1.75 million had suffered some kind of disability and half of these were permanently disabled.
Added to this figure were the families 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, who often contributed to the household income.
The situation so moved Lancastrian Lance Bombardier Tom Lister, that he decided that if the government was either unable or unwilling to do anything to improve the lives of ex-Servicemen, he would do something about it himself. This eventually led to the formation of The British Legion.
When the Legion’s leaders looked around them, they saw the gigantic task of looking after those who had suffered in the recent war and also the need to prevent further sacrifice by reminding the nation of the human cost of war and to work actively for peace.
By the time of the Legion’s formation in 1921, the tradition of an annual two minute silence in memory of the dead had been established. The first ever Poppy Appeal was held that year, with the first Poppy Day on 11 November 1921. Molesey’s remembrance days seem to have taken on renewed importance for the people of the town in recent years with increasing numbers attending the service in West Molesey, something the legion are very proud of. The involvement of local groups such as brownies, cubs and scouts is heartwarming and also provides an educational insight for the children who will become our next generation.
The legion was granted ‘Royal’ status in 1971, and extended its’ membership to serving members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, as well as ex-Service personnel, in 1981. At MoleseyRoyal British Legion membership is open to all.