YOUR LEGION NEEDS YOU!
The seventy-seventh anniversary of D Day fell on a Sunday this year and it was chosen also as the day on which a monument to the British forces who fought and died in the operation to liberate Normandy was unveiled. I watched the early morning BBC news bulletin and heard the Paris correspondent enthusing about the beauty and scale of this monument which had been constructed with little advanced publicity. Sadly, so many who would have liked to attend the event were prevented from doing so by the current pandemic restrictions and one must feel especially sad for the remaining veterans who actually fought in Normandy all those years ago. They must have mixed emotions as they celebrate the completion of the monument but also remember friends and comrades they lost during those fateful days to establish a bridgehead on the French coast. I hope like so many others to one day visit the monument in France myself and pay my respects and express my gratitude to those who fought and died that I might be free. Whilst I served as an army chaplain in my last posting the headquarters of the Third Division regularly visited Normandy around the D Day commemorations and one thing which struck all of us - including the young soldiers who formed part of our contingent was the gratitude of the French people. Although many thousands of French civilians died during the brutal campaign in Normandy their descendants still retain a sense of deep thankfulness to the British and other allied troops who sacrificed so much in the struggle for liberation.
Although I served many years in the British army I have never been one to gravitate towards reunions or ‘old boy’ gatherings. However, having served I did feel obliged when I arrived in my wife’s home village of Langley to pop my head into the Legion which then met once a month in the Fox and Hounds pub in Clavering. I assumed that many more members would be present but found myself part of a small but dedicated group of Legion members who I later discovered were also the committee! Before I knew it I was also a member of this distinguished body and after serving as Vice Chairman then assumed the mantle of Branch secretary. It is in that capacity that I write this article to draw your attention to the work of the Legion, and make a heartfelt plea to those who support its work and value the service and sacrifice of all who belong to our armed forces to consider being more active than you are at present. I for one was deeply moved this past anniversary of D Day when I recalled not only the sacrifice of those who died in Normandy but all who lost their lives in two World Wars, Korea, Northern Ireland, The Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in the many other places where the armed forces of the Queen have been or are deployed. There may be times when I can’t be bothered to do certain things and that includes a Legion meeting sometimes, but I am always inspired when I am reminded of those who gave their all to ensure my freedom and the freedom of future generations. I am sometimes shamed by my own apathy, because I am not only a former military Padre but also a priest of the Church of England whose life is supposedly dedicated to the service of God and all members of our human family.
If you would like to become a member of the Royal British Legion you don’t have to have served in the military. It is becoming increasingly the norm for many Legion branches to have few or even no ex-military in their membership so please don’t hold back on account of your always
having been a civilian. Currently, we meet every second Tuesday of the month at The Bull pub in Langley at 8 pm. Don’t feel that by merely attending you will be roped in to serve on the committee as I was - I am sure you are not all as easily persuaded! Why not join us for our next meeting or simply offer some ideas of ways in which we can raise awareness of the very valuable work the Legion does in supporting serving military personnel, veterans and their dependants? Please contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01799 550466.
Reverend Paddy Cable Branch Secretary,
Clavering, Newport & District Branch,
The Royal British Legion.