In 1989 the National Executive of the RBL decided to form a central branch to provide a membership option for individuals who either did not wish to be, or could not be, members of local Branches and would be known as the St James’s Branch.
The first ten members were from the National Council. The first President was General Sir Edward Burgess. HRH the Duke of York accepted an invitation to become the first Branch President in 1991. The Branch’s Standard was dedicated at a service in St James’s Church, Piccadilly on 22 April 1992. The Branch has no premises of its own and operates as a ‘virtual organisation’. The Branch has always been co-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.
Many St James’s members are unable to, or chose not to, be actively involved with either Branch management or with centrally organised events but take considerable pride in being Legion supporters and advocates, this is, especially, the case for the cohort of members that are currently serving in the armed forces across the globe. That pride is reflected in the high retention rates of Branch members.
The Branch’s Subscription fees have enabled the Branch to contribute over £300,000 to Legion Welfare funds, through the St James’s Benevolence Scheme and we will continue to contribute up to £40,000 annually. Various Legion projects have also benefited from the large contributions that we have made including £100,000 to BattleBack, £50,000 to the National Memorial Arboretum, £50,000 to the Legion’s Admiral Nurses, £50,000 to the Blast Injury Centre. We have also made major contributions to all the Legion’s homes to help them in their work.
Looking to the future, the Branch is continuing to explore the opportunities of on-line membership and expand it’s use of 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.