The Royal British Legion is the backbone of the British Armed Forces by providing financial, social, emotional, and even moral support to the British Armed Forces community and its members including veterans and families of fallen soldiers. Established in 1921, after WW I, to protect the interests of those who selflessly fought in the war, the Legion laid down the foundations for one of the most powerful organisations on British soil.
Nowadays, the charity organisation is most famous for its annual Poppy Appeal and Remembrance services, which is held to honour the former and present members of the British Armed Forces, but also to promote its rights, interests, and overall well-being.
The Legion’s members are actively involved in fundraising activities for various cases, like their friendship and welfare visits which sum up to 300,000 on an annual basis. They also support nearly 36,000 pension cases for veterans disabled in war and advocate for the improvement of veteran pension funds. They are also dedicated to awareness rising by advocating for thorough research of the Gulf War Syndrome which still affects many returning veterans and workers who participated in the Gulf War from 1990 to 1991.many chronic diseases in the war veterans have been linked to the PTSD which the former soldiers are suffering from.
The Royal British Legion raises its voice for the war victims asking for appropriate compensations, for a larger endowment mortgage and a better integration policy for readjusting to civilian life for British soldiers who serve overseas.
Remembrance Festival and Remembrance Day
Before Remembrance Sunday, the commemoration day to honour British and Commonwealth soldiers which bravely fought in the First and Second World War and other wars, the Legion activists engage in fundraising by offering or selling artificial red poppies meant to be worn on clothing in exchange for a donation to support the causes funded by the Legion.
The red poppy is their registered trademark and serves the purpose of Poppy Appeal fund-raising solely under law. The beautiful red poppies are made of paper and manufactured in Richmond. The recognizable poppies can be found on other products as well, and they can be bought throughout the year. With every poppy product purchase, you make a small donation to the British Army causes.
Remembrance Sunday is preceded by the Festival of Remembrance, just one day before. The Festival is an elegant ceremony where service men and women gather from all parts of the UK, as well as youth uniformed organisations and London Security Services, who all together parade through the Royal Albert Hall. One of the event symbols is also dropping poppy petals from the roof which gives the ceremony an additional touch of sophistication.
The Remembrance Festival consists of two cycles of programmes, whereby the first is public and open to the wide audience, and the second part of the ceremony is a performance for members of the Legion and their families. Members of the Royal family also pay a visit and attend the ceremony. The event opens conveniently in the national spirit with God Save the Queen and ends with it as well.
The event, in national spirit, is formal in nature, but the Legion tries to draw the attention of the British youth to the cause and events, so they include performances of celebrities for the last several years. James Blunt and Jim Radford are just some of the big names that appeared on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall on Remembrance Day. The British teenage band Poppy Girls, which consists of girls who are members, also entertains the youth (and adults) with their show. These girls have even made it into the UK charts and acquired celebrity status. The attendees also get to enjoy performances by the Military Wives choir which pay their respect to fallen soldiers, veterans, and current servicemen and women with their input as well.
Many campaigns are being organized throughout the year that support the causes of the Legion. With an active calendar list with many busy dates, the Legion collects significant sums of money through marathons, races, cycling rides, wine tasting, and of course, the Poppy Walk.
Several UK politicians also actively supported or still support the Legion causes. For example, Tony Blair, the former UK Prime Minister, donated all of his money from his memoirs A Journey, which amounted to over 4.5 million GBP, making it the biggest single donation by now. The donation was used for establishing better conditions for returnee soldiers through their rehabilitation services programme.
The Legion takes great care of its reputation which was proven when they rejected a donation from a British National Party member, Ms Firth, until she did not guarantee that the donation is not just a political means for exploitation.
The Legion has many branches worldwide including mainland Europe, USA, Belize, Hong Kong and a few more. The Royal British Legion is a highly reputed and acknowledged organisation not only within its home country but also beyond the boundaries of the UK.