Minutes of the Annual General Meeting 4th November 2019 in Byfield Village Hall’s Meeting Room
A.The Act of Remembrance & Chairman’s Opening Remarks: In opening the meeting, Joy gave a tribute to Russ who passed away on 21st October. ‘Russ was a uniquely dignified presence, he was never intrusive, never forceful, always delicate and diplomatic in his management of the Branch. He always brought his incisive mind to bear with a breadth of local issues. Russ was a community servant whose ability to form meaningful relationships with us all in his very civilised uniquely English manner; this was his most conspicuous gift. I am grateful that he set such an unobtrusive servant hearted example to us all’
A.1 Joy explained that while this was the AGM, a number of non AGM items would be discussed at the end of the AGM business.
A.1 Minutes of the last Annual General Meeting 6th November 2018: All members agreed they were a true record and they were signed-off by Joy.
B. Matters arising: There were no matters arising from last year’s AGM's Minutes.
C.2020 National Conference Southport: There were no motions to submitted for that conference, which takes place in May next year.
C.1 County Conference, 11th January 2020: Chris, Joy and Alan would be attending.
C.2 President’s and Chairman’s Combined Address: Note. This was written by Terry, based on last year’s format, and agreed with Russ during his early days in hospital.
It’s been a year of change, the major one being my inability to continue as your Chairman. As you all know, my health took a sudden turn for the worse mid-summer and I have been largely incapacitated for the past dozen weeks or so. This means that I will be unable to continue working as your Chairman, although I hope to remain your President for a bit longer. Prior to that unfortunate turn of events we’ve had an interesting time and since I’ve been out of circulation, I’m pleased to say our team has kept everything running smoothly; thanks to all of them for that
All that included an extremely successful 2018/19 Poppy Appeal year, which broke all previous records and topped £12,700; not bad for a very rural area in the wilds of south west Northamptonshire. John and his collectors must be congratulated for their hard work in achieving that. Yes, last year, the centennial anniversary of the end of the First World War, was special, and the increase in our “take” was probably assisted by the amount of national publicity that generated. However, we did our thing too, and we all had an excellent commemorative Remembrance Sunday, coincidentally that year on the 11th November. A full report of that day, including a video (thanks to Colin for that), can be found entitled “The War’s Over” on our Event’s Past Web-site pages. The whole village of Byfield rallied around for that event with everyone doing their bit, including attending the event; the VH visibly swelled. Other villages weren’t excluded either, everyone was welcome and many attended.
Having run a different poster recruiting programme for the last three years, without much, if any success, this year we decided to attend every fête and function in our District. To support that, using Branch funds we purchased our own royal-blue 3x3m gazebo, with sides, and the RBL “poppy logo” on one section of the roof. Due to local contacts, we obtained a very good deal for that purchase; suffice to say, others have bought similar for much more. We’ve now used that over seven separate days this summer, attending six local events, all of which are recorded on our Web-site under the “Fêtes & Fundraisers” sub-pages of our “Events Past” page. Here I must thank the usual few, and they are “few”, who are those that put themselves out to help our Branch, they made all this happen. We also include our barbeque in those events, as that raised £450 for the Branch; we are very grateful to Joy for the use of her beautiful garden once more, sadly, probably for the last time, as Joy intends to move house soon. I must also thank Laurie & Allison for their continued success in organising our raffles, this year at both our BBQ and our last quiz. All those activities have also been mentioned in the Minutes of respective meetings, so you all should be fully informed.
Although all that effort only realised three new Members, and, tis true, half a dozen others who Terry is still courting, it did raise our profile in the area and swell our coffers by another couple of hundred pounds worth of donations. We must however do better next year. We have a few ideas for something to attract more punters to our stall but any suggestions will be seriously considered.
What of our Membership? Well, we now number 74, five more than last year but although we are keeping pace with those that have sadly had to leave us, we are not sitting on our laurels. Sadly, our old stalwart Dougie Hodson passed away early this year. Dougie’s family came from all points of the compass and he had a lovely send-off; there was a good attendance by Branch Members too.
We still have our “free lunch” incentive for any Member who gets someone to sign-up; at the moment, John has earned the most victuals under that scheme. Our Web-site, now mustering 147 pages plus the Minutes of all our Meetings since December 2015, is truly a digital record of everything we do but it is still only a recruiting tool, as is our Facebook social media presence. We think we’ve proved now that the only way to recruit into the RBL is by face-to-face contact, hence our attendance at fêtes and festivals this year.
In addition to our gazebo we now have three large canvas banners to display therein, and elsewhere if appropriate e.g. at our forthcoming quiz. Those show in as few words as possible “Where does the money go”. On those, we cover what we do with donations made to our Branch e.g. supporting the RBL’s Battle Back Centre at Lilleshall, and their Galanos House care home in Southam with contributions to help their efforts; what donations to the Poppy Appeal are used for (to support the Royal British Legion as a whole); and what the RBL does: provides those not otherwise supported by Government with welfare services for physical and mental wellbeing, care and independent living, local community connections, financial and employment support and expert guidance. In addition, the RBL runs six care homes, e.g. Galanos House, four respite centres helping the helpers and their families and of course, the Battle Back centre in Lilleshall, up in Shropshire.
In relation to that we are pleased to have been able to donate five hundred pounds every half year for some years now to the Battle Back centre and another five hundred pounds to Galanos House. And speaking of Galanos House, we did our usual Christmas run, together with the RBL’s Rider’s Branch, who organise that party, taking sacks of small gifts to the residents there.
That young Buck (Richard) once more came to Byfield’s Holy Cross Church with his ensemble and gave us a lovely brass concert attended by about fifty people, all the £255 of donations were very generously given to the Branch. We did offer to reimburse the family for the first-rate refreshments afterwards but they would hear none of it, so once again, we are in their debt.
We are also indebted to Byfield Parish Council for a smart new metal bench depicting a WW1 scene that has been purchased and installed by them for all who pass by to rest upon. It’s outside Byfield’s churchyard entrance opposite The Brightwell; and thanks to them also for the steps up to it subsequently placed there. They’ve also had the bench by Byfield’s War Memorial cleaned-up ready for judging in this year’s competition; Alan has entered all our District’s villages’ War memorials this year, judging takes place during October and November but of course, we don’t know exactly when.
Earlier I mentioned our forthcoming Quiz. Although I won’t be able to put that together this year, Alan advised me that the event is well in hand, with the PTA and WI taking an interest. Last year (2018) we had what was probably our most successful quiz evening ever with 24 teams participating. That and the associated raffle, raised £885 for our Branch funds.
Our Christmas Dinner last year saw us back in Badby, just slightly over our northern border. The Windmill once again did us proud but we can’t go back this year because passing by a couple of weeks ago, one of our Members saw that it was closed and awaiting new management (or maybe a change of use). A new venue will be chosen soon and will no doubt be discussed later this evening.
Our so-called “twin” in New Zealand, Templeton (near Christchurch) Returned Services Association, has been particularly silent this year and although Joy’s dad is still a member there, as he’s now a nonagenarian, he doesn’t get out much, so hasn’t been able to comment. We’ll continue to feed them information about anything we do that’s relevant to them however, and maybe they’ll wake-up in the New Year.
On that score we can’t say we have much contact with other RBL Branches locally either, maybe that’s something your new Chairman can initiate. We have visited Daventry’s “Pop-in” presence once but as that’s held at the same time as our committee meetings (to give more time to our speakers, when we have one at a Branch meeting), we’ve only been once. As your new Chairman may not be able to attend such meetings in “office hours”, that may change of course.
Daventry’s (and the RBL’s) idea of that is to provide help to any ex-service person who “pops in”. I don’t think they’ve had many “pop-in” and maybe to encourage people to do that they’ve now re-named it their monthly “veteran’s breakfast club”, ’cos you can buy a breakfast at the venue. We also attended Daventry’s Merchant Navy Day service, which was well received, especially as its about as far from the sea you can get in England. Early last month we were represented at the 75th anniversary memorial service for eleven US aircrew who died when three of their B-17’s collided over Woodend, near Blakesley; that was arranged by Towcester Branch and was also attended by our County Chairman.
Ahhh, County, well, we’ve attended two training courses at County HQ this year, one for recruitment and the other on how to run a branch. I’ll leave you to question the participants on how they fared at those sessions.
But we may have a wider audience than Northants, and just one town in NZ because I hope those of you using electronic mail have seen the article about our Branch in the RBL’s e-Magazine (August edition), which goes out internationally to all Members opted-in for e-mail. That was all about interaction with young people, which we continue to do. As an example, last year, the schools produced posters for our centennial, this year we have instituted a Christmas Card Competition, which all six junior schools in the District are enthusiastic about. The theme is “Peace, and what our armed forces do to promote that” i.e. what do they do when they are not fighting wars; something the RBL is keen for youngsters to know.
And then there was our National Conference, which provided some drama I understand, although we didn’t attend. On a more practical note, the one (now ratified) resolution that affects us directly was that we are no longer required to have a Vice Chair to be compliant and that there is now no limit on the number of Branch officers we can appoint.
We have only had one trip out this year, to support our Member Chris at a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas. Chris attended a dedication there for recent fallen comrades in his old unit, the Alem Hamza Battery RA; he paraded our Standard at the event.
Our monthly lunches continue and are well supported by Members, spouses and friends. It’s a good time for airing views unofficially and for getting a feel for the general mood of the Branch. I’m pleased to say that seems very positive at the moment.
At our Life Member Les Jones’ suggestion, we have also started a programme of regularly contacting all our Branch Members who have achieved the good old age of eighty, and beyond. That has been welcomed by all those contacted by ‘phone (mostly) and by the odd visit where necessary and appropriate. After all, it’s really what we are here for…
Our Meetings haven’t been boring because so far this year we have had seven “speakers”, as follows:
In January Byfield Scouts gave us a scintillating presentation on their expedition to Kenya, which we supported.
February had Richard Woodcock telling us all about Castro’s Cuba and how “History would absolve him” (and Che).
March saw David Morse talking about The Warwickshire Home Guard and some of their weird weapons.
At our April meeting Roger Cragg discussed the 200-year development of transport in the West Midlands, including canal, rail and motorway connections.
Our Member Jeremy Wheeler gave us a new insight into D-Day in June, two days before the 75th anniversary of that event.
In July I gave you some stories about my experiences flying the Sea Venom jet night-fighter off aircraft carriers at sea in the fifties.
And for our September meeting Terry told tales of his time in the troopship “Nevasa” (and what he didn’t do as a teenager in Bugis Street, Singapore).
I started with mentioning “change”, well now I must end with more on that. I believe Chris Kiely, our valiant Standard Bearer, for whose efforts we are always grateful, has put his name forward to take my place; I wholeheartedly support that application. AND it is with more regret that I must announce that John Russell BEM, after many years of excellent service, has decided to stand-down as Poppy Appeal Organiser next May. He will be very difficult to replace. Joy too will stand down from her Vice Chairperson’s position at the next AGM, after a period of handover to Chris, both have very good reasons for their departure from their posts, and we wish them well.
It only remains for me to thank you all for your support over the years, making your Branch one of the most dynamic in the County. We always seem to be able to be, proportionally, one of the most successful Branches in Northamptonshire. Long may that continue.
End of quote
Vernon proposed a very sincere vote of thanks to Terry, Joy and Alan for keeping the Branch going during Russ’ absence.
C.3 Secretary’s Report:
The last 12 month’s annual routine of correspondence and minute taking has continued as normal, as did arranging the road closure for Remembrance Sunday.
Another major action was organising the bar for the Quiz Night, buying the best quality wine and beer for lowest possible price which naturally involved some tasting! It was pleasing to find after all the calculations that we achieved the highest profit on record.
Finally I entered all the War Memorials in our District in the Annual County Competition.
This included two internal memorials, one in Hellidon and the other in Boddington which are very impressive in their own right.
End of Quote
C.4 Election of officers: Joy explained that Chris Kiely had put his name forward for the position of Chairman, and there being no other nominees, Terry explained that Russ had earlier proposed from hospital that he be accepted, and seconded by Joy, all were in favour. Joy then proposed that in recognition of John’s sterling service as PAO, he be appointed as President, and seconded by Alan, all were agreed. Joy then explained that she was happy to stay on the Committee until the next AGM to complete a three year term.
President John Russell B.E.M.
Chairman Chris Kiely
Vice Chairman Joy Rees – see note
Secretary Alan Bailey
Treasurer David Bradshaw
Membership Secretary Terry Hoyle
Recruiting Officer Terry Hoyle
Branch Community Support Reps Graham Walker and Alison Hurst
Poppy Appeal Organiser John Russell B.E.M.
Parade Marshall John Russell B.E.M.
Standard Bearer Chris Kiely
Deputy Standard Bearer Not appointed
Memorial Keepers Not appointed as this is the responsibility of the Parish Council
Other as required Vernon Hurst
Chaplain Rev Stevie Cross
Publicity and Web Site Terry Hoyle
Village Hall Representative David Bradshaw
Flag Keepers Terry Hoyle and Rob Crewe
Chris Kiely proposed that these nominations be accepted, and seconded by Terry Hoyle, all were in agreement.
D. Treasurers Report: See hard copy of Minutes for further details.
D1. The Accounts presented to Branch Committee end of July showing a decrease in funds over the year but with some healthy donations to keep the pot topped-up.
D2. John Freeman signed off the accounts 2nd September.
D3. On the proposal of Chris Kiely, and seconded by John Russell, the Accounts were unanimously adopted; with David Bradshaw being thanked for his hard work as Treasurer
D4. Branch Administration Fee. It was proposed from the Chair to follow previous practice and not impose any Branch Administration Fee and, seconded by Terry Hoyle, this was accepted.
D5. End of October figures were presented by David.
D5.1 It was agreed to make a donation of £50 to the Byword.
D5.2 It was also agreed to pay the DACT Annual Affiliation Fee of £30.
E. Poppy Appeal Report: John thanked all those who had supported the Appeal last year, having raised the excellent figure of £12590.17. John formally announced his retirement from PAO after 11 years’ service, and that he had found someone to take his place, the Poppy Collector from Chipping Warden, Tom Smith, an ex-serviceman. John was thanked for his excellent organisation over this lengthy period.
F. Branch Community Support Report: Members have continued to make home and hospital visits when needed, and have introduced a scheme ensuring that all members over the age of 80 are regularly contacted.
G. Membership Report: Despite the sad loss of two of our Members, including our leader of many years, this years recruiting drive had kept pace with those losses. Our membership now numbers 75. Face to face contact has been proven as the only positive way to encourage people to join us. We must therefore continue to encourage such contact.
H. Any Other Business: None
J. Date and Time of next Annual General Meeting: Monday 2nd November 2020 8pm.
THE MEETING THEN CONTINUED WITH OTHER MATTERS BEING DISCUSSED. See separate Minutes for November'19