Worksop branch of the Royal British Legion marks centenary
For 100 years the Worksop branch of the Royal British Legion has been a beacon of hope for the Armed Forces community.
The charity that provides financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces and their families has a proud history in the town.
To mark the centenary Worksop Branch and Civil Members recreated the moment from 100 years ago when veterans from four organisations, brought together by Earl Haig and Sir Frederick Lister, laid wreaths as a symbol of unity and formed the British Legion.
In Worksop wreaths were laid at the Victoria Cross (VC) Memorial of Sergeant William Henry Johnson VC in the Memorial Garden opposite the Cenotaph. Sgt Johnson VC was Worksop's first British Legion Chairman way back before the Royal Ascent.
The Worksop branch has enjoyed many milestone moments over the years including being awarded the Bassetlaw District Council Freedom of the District award. The Freedom of the District is the highest award that the Council can bestow.
But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the branch.
Back in 2014 the future of the branch hung in the balance as dwindling membership meant it was on the brink of closure.
The Guardian threw its weight behind a campaign dedicated to saving the branch and it has since gone from strength to strength, becoming a runner up for ‘Most Improved Branch’ award in the Jellicoe Cup competition.
Instrumental in the survival of the branch was Councillor Sybil Fielding and husband Raymond who after hearing of the plight of the branch joined and set about recruiting new members.
Councillor Fielding who was amongst four stalwarts in the region to receive the Centenary Award for her work with the RBL said: “In 2013/14 I was chairman of the district council and became aware that numbers at the Worksop branch had dwindled so my husband Ray and I decided to join and work with the branch.
"It’s been a wonderful team effort to increase branch membership. We can't take credit for it, it was a group effort along with support from long standing members and the support of the Guardian who helped us to publicise the appeal for new members.
"At the time members were doing their level best and it was just a case of us all coming together to try and increase membership.
"During my time we have set up the Festival of Remembrance and the Armed Forces Day.
"We are a very proactive branch and we welcome veterans and those who haven’t served in the forces. As Covid restrictions ease we are looking forward to being able to meet up again at our monthly meetings in person.”
Councillor Fielding is now optimistic about the future of the branch.
She added: “It is about ensuring that we work with the youth and continue to support our veterans. RBL is a custodian of remembrance and unless we pass this onto future generations things will be forgotten.”
Mr Fielding, former secretary of the Worksop branch and vice chairman of the county added: “We are very much about remembrance and supporting the work of the RBL who spend £1.6 million pounds per week supporting veterans.
"We have made really good progress in Worksop and have great support from the community, last year we raised £40,000 with the poppy appeal in Worksop.
“It’s all about engaging with the community and being part of the community and to take things forward and ensure our future within Nottinghamshire. We need to also make sure we are encouraging younger people to get involved.”
Current Worksop branch secretary Grant Cullen said: "Before becoming a member I was under the impression that it was for ex forces or people associated with the military but when I found out I was able to go along and join without that affiliation I was happy to become a member.
"The Worksop branch owes a very deep debt of gratitude to Sybill and Ray Fielding and those who battled on to keep the branch alive long enough to pull in new members. We’re a very active group and are looking forward to working more closely with the younger generation in Worksop.”
Membership is open to everyone. If you have an interest in the objectives of the Legion and want to help and support those who have served and their families, you are welcome to join. Men and women of all ages are welcome, whether they have served in the Armed Forces or not.
The Worksop branch meets at 7.30pm on the last thursday of every month at Kilton Forest Golf Club.
To find out more visit branches.britishlegion.org.uk/branches/worksop