The History of St. James’s Branch
The St James’s Branch was formed in 1989, as a National Branch, to provide a membership option for individuals who either did not wish to be, or could not be, members of local Branches.
The first ten members were from the National Council. The first President was General Sir Edward Burgess. HRH the Duke of York accepted an invite to become Branch President in 1991 and has been our President since then. The Branch’s Standard was presented in the Guards Chapel, London. The Branch has no premises of its own and operates as a ‘virtual organisation’, using facilities within Haig House as required. The Branch has always located alongside the Legion’s Head Office (Haig House) in London and receives some administrative support from the Legion’s Membership Department. In 2005, the Branch became part of the newly formed National Branches District. Given its dispersed, national membership, Branch members can opt to join the Bottisham and St James’s Club, which is situated in Cambridgeshire. While only a few members are able to make use of this thriving Club, the option permits our members to visit other RBL Clubs across the country
Many St James’s members are unable to, or chose not to, be actively involved with either Branch management or with centrally organised events. The membership supports the Legion through subscription and donations and individuals take considerable pride in being Legion supporters and advocates. That pride is reflected in the high retention rates of Branch members.
The Branch’s membership fees contribute over £160,000 annually to the Legion’s general fund. In addition, we have donated £100,000 over the last 3 years to Legion Welfare funds, through the St James’s benevolence scheme. We will continue to contribute £40,000 annually, guaranteed over a 2 year rolling programme, to our Benevolence scheme. Since 2004, the Branch has donated over£200,000 to Legion projects and benevolence – this included a one-off donation of £60,000 to fund a conservatory for the Legion’s Alderson Home in Bridlington. We plan to donate £50,000 to the Legion-sponsored National Memorial Arboretum appeal in 2011 and have set ourselves a target of donating £100,000 to the Legion’s Battle Back Centre in 2012.
Looking to the future, the Branch is keen to explore the opportunities of on-line membership and to use modern social networks to attract and retain more current servicemen and women as members. We would be very happy to hear from members with experience in these areas, who would like to contribute some of their time to support the Royal British Legion.