The Royal British legion both nationally and locally celebrates 90 years this year. Redcar Branch is one such local branch who will celebrate its 90th year in 2011. This branch too was formed in 1921 and meetings of the ex service population held its meetings in rooms in local pubs and clubs in the town. After a few years they moved into new premises of their own, a wooden hut/shed adjoining 94 Coatham Road, Redcar at the junction with Lobster Road. This was given to them by the occupier of the house, a local businessman. Some years later, around 1946 following the Second World War he actually gave them the house. It was stipulated that this was for the Ex Service people of the town and it came under the control of the British Legion as it was known then. It was many years later that the title “Royal” was granted. Many other branches had been formed locally over the years, such as Dormanstown, Grangetown, South Bank, Middlesbrough, Guisborough and Boosebeck just to name a few. These branches were very active over the years, some formed their own clubs some continued to meet in other pubs and clubs, but they all had one thing in common, assistance to ex service personnel, their families and dependants. All under the same legion motto, “SERVICE NOT SELF”. It would be remiss of me not to mention that it was infact the ladies, mainly wives of servicemen who actually formed the legion. Ladies continue their work with equal rights in the branches, although they have their own section, which is a very successful organisation. Sadly the Women’s Section in Redcar folded a couple of years ago but this was to the benefit of our Redcar branch itself as the joined the main branch. The local branches that remain active are now part of the Cleveland Group of Royal British Legions which is the only remaining group in East and North Yorkshire of which we are all part of. I had the honour to be elected as Chairman of this group around 4 years ago. We meet in each others venue 3 times a year in order that we can assist each other and up to date with each others activities for the year and hope to help each other. Redcar Branch continued to grow over the years and at one stage had a baiting list of people wishing to be members although not all ex servicemen. I came to live in Redcar in 1971 and being an ex servicemen went to the top of the list but still had to wait. The membership then was in excess of 700, most legion club in the area flourished around
the 1940 to the 1980’s, then started to decline with the legion rules altering and the ex service community getting older, the younger people leaving the forces not joining or wishing to be involved. Redcar Legion was a prime example and over the next few years numbers went down and down and the club had to be sold back to members who were now not ex service, but we were fortunate that the members still wanted the legion to remain within. The branch survived and now although the club was no longer “legion” they continued to support us and although our membership at present only stands at around 50 we are still active and more involved in local events than we have ever been. We continue to provide support and to be there for the benefit of not just our members but any ex service person, their families and dependants and we wholeheartedly support our serving troops. We continue to be the organisers of not just the annual Remembrance Sunday parade and service but many other events associated with the ex service community. We also ensure that the Cenotaph is kept to the required standard and we have been responsible for its restoration, the inclusion of names of those local people killed in action during the Second World War and the numerous conflicts since. We have also been involved in have it illuminated and having the land opposite made into a Garden of Remembrance from what was nothing more than a patch of grass formerly the site of a gentleman’s social club bombed during the war. This land has a history of its own. Many local branches like ours went into decline over the last 10 or more years, with fewer people who were leaving the forces wishing to join. Our memorial service attendance figures were lower, times were changing, clubs and pubs were also feeling the pinch, a sign of changing habits and times, who could tell. We still had good response from the public for our annual poppy appeal but our numbers didn’t increase and have continued that way ever since. On the other front support for us in other ways such as our anniversaries have been great and support for the Poppy Appeal (and we really do need it) and has started to grow and the numbers at our many events including Remembrance Day have increased dramatically over the past three or four years. Other branches are the same, South Bank and Grangetown have gone but support in these areas is still there as both Redcar and Dormanstown give them cover. Redcar is not alone in organising events Dormanstown is very active within the community and have held many successful events over the past few years. Saltburn and Guisborough have also held their own events and all of us support each other and similar charities, such as “Help for Heroes”. We all have one thing in common, supporting our troop, ex service personnel and their families. We have many other ex service organisations working in the area, Merchant
Navy, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, The Green Howards, Royal Artillery, Korean Veterans, and the Combines Services to name a few, if I have missed any, I’m really sorry. We formed the “Redcar and District Group of Ex Service Associations” a few years ago when I was elected its founder chairman a role I continue to be honoured with today. It was formed to bring everyone together so we could help each other with the respective events each is involved with. We have organised many events over the years. My first real event was the 50th Anniversary of VE Day, followed a few months later with VJ Day; we have lost a lot of friends and even associations since then such as the Dunkirk Veterans and Normandy Veterans Associations. We have had many parades and events since then, hopefully all have been a success, but it is the support of the public that helps us continue and I know that in Redcar we could not ask for more. We have new charities and events now such as “Help for Heroes” and “Armed Forces Day”. The latter being introduced not too long ago with its aim and motto being, “To Celebrate our troops, past, present and future”. It is a marvellous title really and it covers everything and we meet our new troops like the cadets forces who without them our celebrations would be a lot less enjoyable because we have a very close relationship with these young people and those who guide and teach them. The Government brought about this day or week and annually each town involved raises its dedicated flag on the Monday (around 20th June) with the local council supporting the associations in organising events which go on throughout the week but mainly on the Saturday of that week. Redcar with support from other branches and associations organise this day. We must not forget that it is not just the aforementioned organisations and branches that support these charities and events but many local clubs, pubs, shop and stores, the list goes on and we really do thank everyone for their continued support, with the cadet forces being at the forefront as without them it would be pointless. This year our 90th is very special and we list some of the events known at the present time and ask that everyone gives us their continued and generous support as we really do need
funds to present such events. ARMED FORCES DAY – flag rising Monday 20th June at 10.30am on the sea Front. With the main event on Saturday 25th June in the High Street from 10.30am with lots going on during the day commencing with morning colours, drill displays by the Cadets Forces, hopefully a display by the Youth Section of the Fire Service. A Climbing Wall and many stalls from numerous charities. We have a flying display over the beach area by a Tiger Moth bi-plane with the lowing of evening colours and a blast of poppies to finish the Day. “Help for Heroes” Race Day – Redcar Racecourse Sunday 17th July which will include a parade of Standards, Veterans and Cadets. July Mid week (Wednesday) – Anniversary Party and Social Evening – Coatham Road Social Club home of Redcar Branch – all welcome – entertainment – bingo raffle etc. War Weekend – Grosmont and Pickering – Saturday and Sunday 15th & 16th October. Grosmont on the Sunday will include a parade of Standards, Veterans and other participants involved with the weekend. This is an event where Redcar Branch assists with the parade. We then go into our normal Remembrance Time events which include social evenings, football match and parades throughout the area. Please support us in all these many ideas, without the public support both physically and financially it would not be worthwhile. We thank everyone who takes part and helps us with these ideas, may we continue for many years ahead and who knows we may still be here to celebrate our centenary.