History of the Royal British Legion
The British Legion was formed on 15 May 1921, bringing
together four national organisations of ex-Service men that had established
themselves after the Great War of 1914-1918. The main purpose of the Legion was
straightforward: to care for those who had suffered as a result of service in
the Armed Forces in the Great War, whether through their own service or through
that of a husband, father or son. The suffering took many forms: the effect of
a war wound on a man's ability to earn a living and support his family; or a
war widow's struggle to give her children an education. But even those who had come through the war
relatively unscathed struggled with employment. As a result of the war,
Britain's economy plummeted and in 1921 there were 2 million unemployed. Over
six million men had served in the war - 725,000 never returned. Of those who came back, 1.75 million had
suffered some kind of disability and half of these were permanently disabled.
To this figure then had to be added those who depended on those who had gone to
war - the wives and children, widows and orphans as well as the parents who had
lost sons in the war, on whom they were often financially dependent.
situation so moved Lance Bombardier Tom Lister, a Lancastrian, that he decided
that if the Government was either unable or unwilling to do anything to improve
the lives of ex-Service men, he would do something about it himself. This
eventually led to the formation of The British Legion. When the Legion's leaders looked around them
in 1921, not only did they see a gigantic task in front of them looking after
those who had suffered in the recent war, they also sought to prevent further
sacrifice by reminding the nation of the human cost of war and to work actively
for peace. By the time of the Legion's
formation in 1921, the tradition of an annual Two Minute Silence in memory of
the dead had been established. The first ever Poppy Appeal was held that year
with the first Poppy Day on 11 November 1921.
The Legion was granted "Royal" status in 1971, and extended
its membership to serving members of Her Majesty's Forces, as well as
ex-Service personnel, in 1981. Now, anyone can become a member of The Royal
British Legion. We welcome men and women of all ages, whether they have served
in the Armed Forces or not.
The Royal British Legion. Registered Charity No 219279.
199 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1AA. Tel: (0)20 3207 2100