EASTCOTE BRANCH : A SHORT HISTORY
At an inaugural meeting held on 19 May 1947 at the Kerswell Restaurant, Field End Road, Eastcote a handful of ex-servicemen and women unanimously agreed to “accept the Charter of the British Legion” and the Eastcote Branch was formed.
Progress at first was slow. Those with personal aspirations manoeuvred for positions of advantage – the naive organised social events and that for some time constituted the only happenings of note. Major Brew, Chairman and Basil Stuckey, Secretary did most to put the Branch on its feet until a full Executive came into being.
With its gradual growth, the need for a larger meeting place became imperative. In September 1947 St Lawrence Church Hall, Bridle Road, Eastcote became the Branch meeting place with an average attendance of over forty members.
In October 1947 the Branch offered assistance to Mrs Eleanor Cross, the local Poppy Day Organiser. This assistance helped to raise £315-00 for The Earl Haig Benevolent Fund, a big increase on previous years.
On 10 November 1947 the first Service (nowadays called Welfare) Committee was elected.
On 15 December 1947 Group Captain A G W Dore became the first Branch President.
In March 1948 two delegates represented the Branch at higher level British Legion conferences and meetings.
In April 1948 a Branch Standard was purchased and Standard Bearer elected.
By June 1948, only one year after that inaugural meeting, Branch membership had risen to two hundred. All social events were organised by the Branch, there being no associated Club in those days.
September 1948 saw the election of a Finance Sub-Committee, such had been the increase in work load and responsibilities of the Branch. Also in that month the public dedication of the Branch Standard at St Lawrence Church, was held, the event being covered by BBC television.
December 1948 nearly saw the closure of the Branch due to petty differences, clashes of personalities and egos. The Branch Chairman, Vice Chairman and most of the Executive Committee resigned. An Extraordinary General Meeting was called under the auspices of the County Officers. By a narrow margin of votes all vacancies were filled.
The new Branch Chairman was Mr A G (“Bert”) Carr, ably supported by T Latton, G Young, H Fern and “Tubby” Blackwell.
A Permanent Home
Most of 1948 saw the Branch now meeting at the Cavendish building, Field End Road, Eastcote.
For the following few years the Branch Premises Sub-Committee made strenuous efforts to find a more suitable site for a dedicated headquarters building. Eventually in 1953 an offer was accepted from the then Ruislip-Northwood Urban District Council for a lease on part of the land at the junction of Southbourne Gardens and Oak Grove, purchased by the Council solely for community use.
In 1954 a wartime pre-fabricated concrete building in Old Greenford, which had been used as a Baptist Church, was purchased, where it stood, for £130-00. Most of that money had come from the Old Eastcote Village Trust Fund, of which Group Captain Dore was a Trustee.
The building was carefully dismantled and transported by Branch members to its new home.
In July 1955 the first Branch meeting was held at the not yet completed building in Southbourne Gardens.
It took nearly two years to re-erect the building, the members working evenings and weekends. Finance for this work came from various fundraising events and anonymous donors. The only work not done by the members was the laying of the bitumastic floor by a professional builder.
Whilst all this building work was going on, the Branch meetings had been moved to Newnham Primary School, Newnham Avenue, Eastcote. Les Furnell had been elected Branch Treasurer and Freddy Kay Branch Secretary.
In June 1956 the Branch headquarters building was officially opened by Sir Ian Fraser, National President of The British Legion. He also unveiled a photograph of Group Captain Dore who on his death had been succeeded as Branch President by Councillor T G Cross.
1954 saw the formation of the Eastcote British Legion Womens Section.
In September 1956 the Eastcote British Legion Club was formed under the sponsorship of the Eastcote British Legion Branch. In March 1957 the Club was converted into a Limited Company in accordance with British Legion directives.
1958 saw the election of Ron Bigmore as Branch Secretary who with Jimmy Thomas was also sitting on the County Committee.
There were two significant events in 1959. First there was the start of a quarterly newsletter to all members distributed via a system of volunteer road stewards. Secondly there was the first public Remembrance Parade and Service held at the Eastcote War Memorial, Field End Road, Eastcote. This had been organised by Ernie Benham.
1960 saw the Poppy Collection exceed £1,000-00 for the first time.
During the early 1960’s many National and London awards and cups were received and won by Eastcote Branch members.
In 1966 £1,169-00 was spent on improvements to the Branch headquarters building.
In 1967 the Poppy Day collection reached £1,250-00. The quarterly newsletter, now edited by Henry Fordham, had grown to four pages.
In May 1971 The British Legion became The Royal British Legion to commemorate fifty years of service to the serving, ex-service personnel and their dependants.
1977 saw the official opening of the newly built kitchen and snooker areas.
29 September 1984 saw the official opening of the extended Bar area. There were over six hundred members. Branch subscriptions had to be raised to £3-50.
There are far too many names of members to mention here who have unselfishly given their time and energies since 1947 to ensure the continued well being of the Eastcote Branch of the Royal British Legion and then the Club for the present and future generations. We should thank them all.
Jeff Duley – Branch Chairman 2012