Notes from the Editor


“Our Man”

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Fresh Veterans Support Launched In UK-Wide Strategy

A new strategy to support armed forces veterans has been released across the UK for the first time. ‘Strategy for our Veterans’ will include considering adding a new question to the 2021 census to help understand the needs of veterans. Ex-service personnel will be able to declare their military service under plans being proposed. It is thought that information gathered may provide a better understanding of where veterans live and work so they can receive the right support.


The proposal is part of a package of measures being developed to support the veteran community. The plan has been jointly produced by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments. It identifies six areas where support for veterans is most needed over the next decade: community and relationships, employment and skills, health and well-being, finance and debt, housing, and contact with the law. The Veterans’ Gateway, a consortium of organisations and armed forces charities, will trial a new outreach project through its 24/7 helpline service where veterans will be called to check on their well-being.


Newly published research commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and the Forces in Mind Trust has revealed the public’s perceptions of veterans in society. The government said that while ex-service personnel were seen to embody “loyalty and self-discipline”, common misconceptions placed them as “more likely to be institutionalised or suffer from mental health issues”.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“While the vast majority of veterans thrive in civilian life, we have a responsibility to ensure that any who do struggle as a result of their service – whether finding a job, getting on the property ladder or with mental health issues – get the support they need.”

He said the coordination of services across charities, local authorities and business would help ensure “no-one is left behind”.


Notice of AGM

The Branch will hold its Annual General Meeting this year at 1200hrs on the 21st November 2018 at Legion Head Office, 199 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1AA.


If you would like to attend the AGM in person, please email the Branch Secretary at StJames.Secretary@RBL.Community no later than 0900hrs on Friday 16th November 2018 so that adequate catering can be provided.


If you are unable to attend in person, you can still participate through online voting. This year you are being asked to vote to:


  • the nomination of Mrs Helen Owen for Board of Trustees
  • Re-elect the Chairman (Mr Jim Organ), Vice Chairman (Mrs Nova Western) and Secretary (Mr Tod O’Brien)


  • Re-elect the following Committee Members:
  • Mr Mike Dargan
  • Mr Brian Lambert
  • Mrs Helen Owen
  • Mr Harrison Bramhald
  • Elect Mrs Jill Overfield to the Branch Committee


  • Approve the Branch Accounts


Copies of these are available on the Branch website and as a pdf through the voting platform.


You are also being asked to approve the continuation of the Branch Benevolence Scheme and that £40,000 be transferred to the Scheme in year 2019/2020.


The branch would also like to support the following good causes:


  • £20,000 to purchase a buggy for the National Memorial Arboretum that will be wheelchair compatible.


  • £20,000 donation to Bennett House, Northern Ireland to assist in the purchase of a new minibus.


  • £10,000 to support Bravo 22 which helps wounded and injured servicemen and women through the performing arts.



J Organ


How The Budget Boost Will Help Veterans

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has outlined how the extra money announced in the budget will help veterans. Much of the focus is on the mental health needs of former service personnel, with an extra £10 million being spent. The MOD’s been under pressure to do more, after a spate of suicides among veterans. The package of measures includes a new outreach service by the Veterans’ Gateway helpline and support for a new initiative with service charity SSAFA.

16,000 Calls

Under the trial, the Gateway will now proactively call veterans to check in with them to see how they are and to tell them where they can get support, particularly for mental health needs. Since being set up last year, the Veterans’ Gateway has already received over 16,000 calls, signposting ex-forces personnel to the wide range of support available, including the medical care in the NHS.

Support Group

Money is also going to SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) to promote a new support group for bereaved families. This provides specialist help and advice to families who have lost a loved one to suicide, including through the Joint Casualty and Compassion Centre, which provides practical advice to families who are experiencing bereavement.

Increase Awareness

There will also be an increased commitment to studying the causes of death – including suicide – amongst service personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. This follows similar studies for veterans of the Falklands and Gulf conflicts. The MOD is also looking at ways to increase the awareness of veterans’ issues among GPs and the worlds of business, employment, finance and leisure.

One Too Many

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “As we mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, it’s absolutely vital that we remain resolute in our support for those who have served our country so well.

“We must never forget the sacrifices they have made.

“So I am determined that the Ministry of Defence does all that we can to ensure those who struggle after serving their country are properly supported.

“One death through mental health issues is one too many.”


First Class Mail for the Armed Forces Covenant

Ministry of Defence Main Building, Horse Guards Avenue.

The Ministry of Defence and the Post Office have agreed a new partnership to support veterans entering employment, as the company became the 3000th organisation to sign the Armed Forces Covenant.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise from the nation to those who serve or who have served, and their families, that they should be treated fairly and are not disadvantaged in their day-to-day lives. As part of their pledge, the Post Office will encourage ex-service personnel to apply for vacancies, offer bespoke training and support reservists and cadet volunteers with their commitments.


The signing took place at a Service of Remembrance to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, attended by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Group CEO of the Post Office, Paula Vennells.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

The Post Office has a long and distinguished history with the Armed Forces and it is fitting they are the 3000th signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant.

Those who have served our country so courageously deserve the full support of organisations and businesses across the public and private sector.

Today, the Post Office has demonstrated the value that reservist and ex-service personnel can bring to businesses.


From today, the Post Office will work with the MOD’s Career Transition Partnership (CTP) to facilitate employment for former service personnel by advertising their vacancies on the CTP’s website. They will also offer a specialist training programme, commit to hiring a certain number of veterans, and offer paid leave for reservists and time off for any deployment commitments.

Alongside this, they will support the Cadet Force by granting adult volunteers five days paid leave for their annual camp and establish a new Post Office Armed Forces Network for those with links to the military.

Paula Vennells, Group CEO of Post Office, said:

It’s a real honour to sign the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the Post Office at this very special service, recognising the value that our serving personnel, both Regular and Reservists, veterans and military families contribute in the present to our business and our country.

We know that having a diverse workforce brings huge benefits to a business; and our ex-Armed Forces colleagues and those in the Reserves are a unique and vital asset to the Post Office. We want to thank them for their service and to ensure that we continue to create a business in which everyone can thrive and develop as part of the Post Office team.


The signing took place at St Botolph’s-Without-Aldersgate Church in central London – a poignant location as inside the Church is a dedicated memorial and battle flag of the Post Office Rifles, the General Post Office’s own battalion, who served with distinction, earning high praise and a prestigious place in British military history. More than 75,000 General Post Office employees left their roles to fight in the War, with 12,000 joining the Post Office Rifles.

The Armed Forces Covenant was established in 2011, is a whole of government responsibility, and includes signatories from across organisations, businesses and charities. Support is provided in a number of areas, including education, starting a new career and access to healthcare.

Minster for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood added:

Our Armed Forces are one of the most professional forces in the world. Our people are brave, disciplined and natural leaders.

Organisations such as the Post Office can thrive by taking advantage of these transferable skills. I encourage more businesses to sign up.


Drawing on the Past

The mum-of-three, from Northampton, took 12 painstaking weeks to create 637 poignant pencil drawings of those who have died since 2000. She worked from a list from the Ministry of Defence and contacted the families of those killed to complete the project. Sam said: “I did it because these soldiers needed to be remembered.


“I work in a school and I speak to student’s every day and you can see they aren’t wearing the poppy ahead of Remembrance Day. “They just see war as a collection of old grey images, not connected with reality. “I wanted to do something to help them appreciate the sacrifices made by service personnel both past and present. “This is the first time anyone has done anything like this and it’s to show these people were loved and their memories are perpetuated – it’s important to remember them.


“And it’s not just to honour those who have died, it’s to help their family and friends, those that came back with PTSD can see that their comrades are honoured”. “It was all self-funded and many of the families of those that died sent me pictures that were different to those released by the Ministry of Defence.


“When a soldier died the family used to only get 24 hours to provide a statement and a picture, otherwise, a picture that the army had would be used. “The reason that the portraits can be so powerful is that it is the families themselves that have had time to provide the pictures after reflection. “Members of the families would say things like ‘you have caught his eyes’.


“Sometimes the family would send three, four or five pictures so I ended drawing well over 500 sketches and I still had my full-time teaching job to do as well. “I don’t know how I managed to get through it but I started posting the first four pictures on Facebook and I did not think that anyone would be interested. “Then the family of Fusilier Samuel Flint-Broughton got in touch to say he would have been 25 the week I drew it – they put it into a memory box on his birthday for his mother. “At one point I was drawing 27 pictures a day. It was overwhelming to do it over the 12 weeks but I managed to complete it and I’m proud of the finished results.”

Sam’s drawings formed part of a military art exhibition and have now been compiled into two books with the proceeds going to the Royal British Legion.


Where there’s a Will……….there’s a question!


Our Man

As many of you know, we occasionally let “Our Man” out on special assignment. Here are his musings from his trip for Remembrance 2018. Editor




The period of remembrance polarises opinion on many topics every year; what side should I wear my poppy, do I have to wear one, can it be white one, is it glorifying war, should we still remember etc? The Royal British Legion’s answer is always reassuringly the same. 


“There is no right or wrong way to wear a poppy. It is a matter of personal choice whether an individual chooses to wear a poppy and also how they choose to wear it. The best way to wear a poppy is to wear it with pride.” After all, choice has always been the by-product of freedom whether it be on a personal level or as a nation choosing to celebrate its customs and traditions in a particular way.



The choice to remember and say thank you was grasped with both hands last weekend as my arrival at RBL Galanos House in Warwickshire demonstrated. Many of you will recall that the committee of our branch, RBL St James’s had agreed to purchase two recumbent static bikes for a fundraising event and to further enhance the fitness and rehabilitation options for all the residents.



I arrived to see the first two riders setting off in the spacious foyer facing the Galanos House Choir singing “Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.” and over the three days I witnessed all manner of joys. The Galanos House Armistice Ride, conceived by the GH Volunteer Team, aimed to complete a distance of 270 miles (as the poppy seed blows) over the three days as part of the RBL ThankYou Campaign and celebrating the launch of the 2018 Poppy Appeal. Equivalent to travelling from GH in Southam, Warwickshire to the Armistice Glade in Compiegne, France; the location where the WW1 Armistice was signed in 1918. 


The success was, as with all things GH, enormous; 47 riders, 540 miles completed and £2,600 (currently) to support the Galanos House Amenities Fund. Well done to you all, the younger riders had reminded me I had an appointment with one of my younger family members, William, to answer some questions he had referring to a school project on Remembrance.

Questions Answered (Hopefully!)


The centenary marking the ending of WWI has, in no small measure, offered up many opportunities to rekindle the interest of the younger generation in Remembrance, its roots and its future. I have tried to answer young Will’s (6 yrs old) questions in the order they were asked; obviously, if any of you wanted to share your thoughts on these topics feel very free.

Q.1 How do they make that many poppies?


Sadly, to my mind anyway, gone are the days when RBL members, along with their families, were part of cottage industry supporting the assembling of poppies at home every Autumn.


Today poppies are made at the Poppy Factory who are proud to say ” Our factory in Richmond employs around 30 wounded, injured and sick veterans to produce the poppies and wreaths for the Royal Family and The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal – something we have been doing since we were founded in 1922.”

The factory makes 36 million poppies every year, however, throughout the year it also supports veterans with and into employment.


The demand for poppies in England was so high that few were reaching Scotland. Earl Haig’s wife established the ‘Lady Haig Poppy Factory’ in Edinburgh in 1926 to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland.


Over 5 million Scottish poppies (which have four petals and no leaf unlike poppies in the rest of the UK) are still made by hand by disabled ex-Servicemen at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory each year and distributed by our sister charity Poppyscotland.

This factory is operated in partnership with Poppyscotland and, like the Poppy Factory in Richmond, also employs ex-service personnel, all disabled, making five million remembrance poppies in Edinburgh each year and 12,000 wreaths.

Q.2 How do we remember soldiers names?


Members of our Armed forces all used to have a Rank and serial number associated with their name. The rank implies the responsibility and special skills of that person whilst the serial number is a way of identifying that person amongst a larger group of service people. These details helped to identify which part of the Army, Navy, Royal Flying Corps and other support services (ie theRed Cross) a serviceman/woman belonged to.


It is usually possible to find out where or what a particular unit was doing on any day during a conflict. Personal diaries from service personnel can often identify individuals more accurately. All units/branches, whenever possible, reported every day on the events they had been involved in. These days, as many of our members know, there is a concerted effort to check and re-check all the available records to make sure no-one is forgotten.

Q.3 Why are Poppies so special? 


Poppies are special to everyone in a different way; they remind us of someone, remind us to remember the past and take the best of it into the future. However, as you will see below a lot of its appeal was arrived at by happenstance.


Bright red Flanders poppies, however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of chaos and destruction. In early May 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now-famous poem called ‘In Flanders Fields‘.


McCrae’s poem inspired an American academic, Moina Michael, to make and sell red silk poppies which were brought to England by a French woman, Anna Guérin. The (Royal) British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of these poppies and sold them on 11 November that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and that first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’ raised over £106,000; a considerable amount of money at the time. This was used to help WW1 veterans with employment and housing.

Q.4 How do the Poppies fall from the ceiling at the Festival of Remembrance?


I have tried to find out how this happens with no success. In a way I am pleased. When I was lucky enough to attend the Festival of Remembrance, I was looking forward to witnessing this moment. As the Two Minute Silence started, poppy petals fluttered down from the dark at the Royal Albert Hall. I heard the petals flutter and land on the assembled guard of honour below. Perhaps, a thousand whispers from the past saying “Thank you for remembering us.”?

Q.5 How long did the Poppies take to grow in the battlefields?


The factual answer is “Its seeds need light to grow, so when they’re buried in the earth, they can lay dormant for 80 years or even longer by some accounts, without blooming. Once the soil is disturbed and the seeds come to light, poppies nobody knew existed can then bloom.” My answer would be ” They lay hidden until they had a chance to bloom, showing us that there is still hope and beauty in the world”

Rethink Remembrance


A while ago the Royal British Legion urged us to “Rethink Remembrance”, thanks to some wonderful questions from 6-year-old Will, I now understand what they meant. Thanks Wills, see you soon.





The Wipers Times

Welsh singer Aled Jones is to make a special guest appearance in the charity gala performance of Ian Hislop and Nick Newman‘s play The Wipers Times on Remembrance Sunday 11 November at 6pm at the Arts Theatre, London in support of The Royal British Legion’s Thank You campaign.


He will be performing Silent Night with members of The Wipers Times acting company. The arrangement of Silent Night is taken from Aled’s new album (with Russell Watson) In Harmony which is released on 9th November. There will be other surprise cameo appearances during the show. The evening will also include an introduction, post-show talk and Q & A with Ian and Nick and an exclusive post-show reception. This special performance coincides with the commemoration of the end of WWI.

Thank You

The Royal British Legion has launched a mass movement to say ‘Thank You’ to all who served, sacrificed, and changed our world during the First World War. The charity is calling on mass involvement from the public to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. Many events have been organised in the run-up to 11 November to say ‘Thank You’ to those who put Britain on the path to becoming what it is today.


Ian Hislop and Nick Newman‘s The Wipers Times – a stage adaptation of their award-winning BBC film – tells the true and extraordinary story of the satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Somme, interspersed with comic sketches and spoofs from the vivid imagination of those on the front line. In a bombed out building during the First World War in the Belgian town of Ypres (mispronounced Wipers by British soldiers), two officers discover a printing press and create a newspaper for the troops. Far from being a somber journal about life in the trenches they produced a resolutely cheerful, subversive and very funny newspaper designed to lift the spirits of the men on the frontline.


Defying enemy bombardment, gas attacks and the disapproval of many of the top Brass, The Wipers Times rolled off the press for two years and was an extraordinary tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity. The production originally launched one hundred years after the Battle of the Somme and publication of The Wipers Times.

For tickets to this special performance go to:

The Wipers Times runs at the Arts Theatre until 1 December.


Full list of beaches named for WW1 ‘Pages of the Sea’ commemoration

Artist’s impression of a sand portrait for ‘Pages of the Sea’ (Image © 14-18 NOW)

The final list of beaches for Danny Boyle’s Armistice commission Pages of the Sea has been announced. On 11 November 2018, people are invited to gather on 31 beaches across the UK and in the Republic of Ireland to remember the men and women who left their communities to serve in the First World War.  


The public is invited to beaches at low-tide on the day to take part in a series of community-led events. A large-scale portrait of a casualty from the First World War, designed by sand artists Sand in Your Eye will be drawn into the sand in many locations and washed away as the tide comes in. In addition, the public will be asked to join in by creating silhouettes of people on the beaches, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the conflict. 


Poet Carol Ann Duffy has been invited by Boyle – the stage and film director responsible for the opening ceremony for London’s 2012 Olympic Games – to write a new poem which will read aloud as people gather. Copies of the poem will be available online and at the participating beaches around the UK for those who wish to come together or to offer their own personal contribution. 

The work is the culmination of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for First World War centenary commemoration, and is delivered in conjunction with arts foundations, theatres and other partner organisations across the UK and Ireland. It is supported by the National Lottery and the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

Final list of Beaches



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