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History of Malmesbury Branch

Welcome to the Malmesbury Branch of The Royal British Legion

EARLY YEARS:

The Royal British legion was formed on Sunday15 May 1921. It was created from the merging of four movements which grew out of The Great War. (WW 1 for our younger readers ) In 1916 The National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers was formed from men who had been discharged as a direct result of receiving a serious wound. Each of these discharged men was given a numbered silver badge inscribed with these words; FOR KING AND EMPIRE - SERVICES RENDERED.Original members

This photo of the '' Silver badge men '' includes a boy wearing his father's badge. The photo will have been taken after 1918 and before 1921 because the original War Memorial ( located in the Abbey to this day) can still be seen mounted on the Tolsey Wall.

Boy Silver Badge

Wearing their silver badges stopped these men from taunts that they were not '' doing their bit ''. They were known as '' Silver badge men ''. This association was supported by the Trade Union movement under the Labour Party. In 1917 The National Federation was formed supported by the Liberal Party; was followed later in the same year by The Comrades of the Great War which was supported by the Conservative Party. The fourth founding movement was The Officers Association. A fifth, a far left organisation which was destined to wither away was named The National Union of Ex-servicemen, sometimes known as the NUX.

The men of Malmesbury were Silver badge men and that was what bound them together. These wounded discharged servicemen called themselves '' The Ivy league '' and had no affiliation to the above mentioned movements. When they became convinced that the newly formed ''Legion'' was going to last, the Malmesbury men, as a body joined on 10 November 1921, parading at the newly dedicated War Memorial as members of the Legion. The Branch was formed.

Armistice Day circa 1925

Armistice day c.1925 at the War Memorial located in the ''Triangle'' Malmesbury.

The War Memorial was dedicated on Sunday 20 March 1921. The Parade taken by Captain Butler, whose military uniform can be seen in the Malmesbury Museum to day. A poignant moment occurred during the special Remembrance Service held in Malmesbury Abbey in 1971, fifty years after the dedication. Eileen, the daughter of Captain Butler, laid a bouquet of flowers in '' Honour of the Living '' and Richard Exton, whose farther had attended the original dedication service, also laid another bouquet to '' Honour the Dead ''.

 

TIME LINE ANECDOTES:

Ingram Street '' Cartmell '' Youth Club.

The Branch owned premises in Ingram Street which was let to Wiltshire Council as The Malmesbury Youth Centre. The Youth Leader was Cyril Cartmell who was also a branch member. Cyril Cartmell had very strict rules. The young members were very well behaved, and those who would not accept the rules were left to kick about the streets.

As landlords, the Branch was responsible for the building which, due to the various skills of many active members transformed the old building into a valuable asset. Another tenant of the building was the Malmesbury Boxing Club. This club was set up by Mr Tony Stallard , who again had strict rules for the boy members, which undoubtedly helped to create the good relations experienced with the neighbours in Ingram Street.

youth Club painting

Derek Tilney with youth Members Mark Seager and Joe Clark.

In January 1980 the Gazette ran an article about the work the Branch was doing helping the youngsters in the Youth Club. The youth members wanted to brighten up the rather dull ground floor room. A planning meeting discovered the various skills available and tasks allocated. The resulting mural covering a complete wall was over 30 feet in length and 10 feet high. A vertical girder was disguised as a palm tree and double doors in the wall became the entrance to a beach hut. These effects were made by cutting sponges to differing stencil shapes to achieve the resulting tree lined sea scape. In an adjoining nook there was a Jungle Path and lurking Tiger.

A new leader appointed after Mr Cartmell's departure, who relaxed the behaviour rules with grievous results. Serious damage to the upper floor, attributed to a '' new style of dancing '' occurred. Noise and many cases of poor late night behaviour complaints were made known by the residents of Ingram street. The youth Club was moved to Tetbury Hill and the Branch was left with crippling repair bills. Fortunately another nearby development was under way and the Branch was able to sell the building for redevelopment.

 

Malmesbury RBL Branch - Cinema Shows.

After WW2  the members of the Branch put on a Christmas Film Show for their children. This became a regular Saturday morning show in the Athelstan Cinema. Since it seated 300 there was a general invitation to all the town's children, no one was turned away. There were no invitations sent out, and the Saturday ''The Film Show'' was simply lodged in everyone's memory.

The Branch paid Mr Mott a flat rate to hire the cinema and arrangements were made to purchase two or three crates of oranges and several boxes of chocolate bars. These items were given out as the children left for home. Many had to be persuaded to accept the oranges but many more had ''a brother at home'' and took two! Throughout,  the local shopkeepers refused to accept any payment for these gifts. Wonderful support. Often some children would be sent with a few coins to pay, this of course was refused, but others would ask for ice cream.

In time the Cinema's front seating was converted to ''bingo stations'' and eventually closed in 1988. The following year the Branch held Christmas Film Show in the Drill Hall on Tetbury Hill; one of the members being the O/C of the Army Cadets. Benches were borrowed from the Junior School and a projector brought in, again on loan. The committee spent hours choosing the films which had to be collected from Swindon railway station. The main disadvantage of the drill hall concerned the daylight streaming in from the roof mounted skylights. The problem was resolved by covering them,  externally,  with tarpaulins held in place with old car tyres! The show next moved to the Town Hall where one of the members, who had served in Army Kinematic Corps was able to make the most of the installed projector. Disney feature films were the main attraction and shipped on three reels. The children loved it when the lights went up as the reels were changed, especially when the sound was out of sync or the take up reel failed to engage properly as the lights went down again.

cinema

Athelstan Cinema ( behind the present site of the Whole Hog public house ) demolished 1993.

 

Fund Raising through the years. Derek Tiney describes one event.

All of the funds built up by my Branch have been the result of many members giving materials and when younger, their time so that the Branch could carry on.

I was Chairman in 1989 at a time when the Branch would enter a Float in the Local Carnival that year I entered a competition held by the local newspaper, to design and build a float for them. My design was chosen and the newspaper agreed to the prize money being donated to the Branch. With the aid of another member Mr Norman Clark we built the float on my drive. The cost of the ''Williams'' Trailer and materials exceeded the original £500 offered. Fortunately the Wiltshire Gazette float won a further £500 prize money at its first outing at the Chippenham Carnival. This money was placed in Branch Funds where it has lain ever since; but I do see the time coming when a few pounds here or there will enable us to cover small losses on other events. That's why we worked our evenings and weekends back in 1989.

Newspaper Float

 

Carnivals, Fêtes and Community Involvement.

Several Branch members were also on the Town Carnival Committee and the Branch had always supported the event in many ways. During Carnival Week a travelling funfair would set up in the Cross Hayes. The arrangement with Rogers Fun Fair was that the carnival committee received ten percent of the takings on the rides and attractions. This was enforced by the Branch placing a member sitting beside each ride operator! On the last night of the carnival it became traditional to hold a confetti fight. The Branch assisted by setting up a booth selling bags of confetti. The mess was amazing!

Treasure Island

 

Branch members would act as stewards for the carnival procession, and manned the car park and entry points to the carnival. We were seen to be trustworthy and could be relied on to provide manpower from dawn to dusk.

The Ball Room

Each year a Fête was held at the Leonard Cheshire home at Kington Langley where the Branch ran a Skittles competition. Capt. Frances would drop off straw bales, some ropes and metal stakes to construct the Ally. Prizes for the best score by children, ladies and gentlemen were provided by the Branch.

Ted Blanchard

Former Branch secretary Ted Blanchard on car park duty at Burton Hill.

The annual Burton Hill School, the Shaftsbury Home for handicapped children was supported each year by the Branch members. Entry control and car park duty now a practised art ensured our presence was welcomed each year. The Branch would run recruiting and some small side-shows to raise funds.

Other Branch members became committee members of the Malmesbury & District Skittle league and we had a participating team. In the event, our lasting legacy was to convince the league to change the method of match scoring. For years it had been two points for a win and one for a draw. As each game consisted of three legs, members of a loosing team would drift away as soon as the game appeared lost. At meeting held at the George Hotel, bolstered by the presence of many Branch members, we introduced a system whereby each leg could win two points and two more for an overall win. This change proved so popular that the League rapidly expanded into five divisions.

 

Malmesbury and the Tidworth Dream.

In 1995 the RBL decided to build a £1 million Hotel facility in Tidworth; half the cost to be met by the De Vere group and half by the RBL. The hotel would train men, women and their spouses at the end of their service and the hotel would make money. Before the building was completed the RBL gained European Union money to build a training collage with a further 20 bedrooms. The nine month deadline to complete the structure to secure the £32 million grant was met against all the odds.

The Malmesbury Branch gave a large donation to the college to equip a room with furniture and specialised wiring needed to complete the computer training suit. This was known as the Malmesbury Suite and in September 1998 a brass plaque was unveiled to mark the grant and occasion.

Tidworth plaque

Derek Tilney being thanked for the donation

 

There was a crèche on the site, aptly called the ''Poppies Nursery'' which would have been the object of our next grant. That is when the bubble burst!

Tidworth College

The Mod lost interest; the RBL realised that building was easy and to run the college in the long term was a different matter. After standing empty for a long time it was sold to Aspire Defence.

The moral is clear; Stick to what you know best!

 

Bicycle Coding

With the the introduction of Post Codes it became a very useful method of identifying individual bicycles and returning them to their owners. Armed with a set of metal punches, some coloured stickers from the local police and a copy of the newly agreed postal codes , the branch set up in the junior School one Saturday morning to mark the children's bicycles.

Although never intended it became quickly apparent that many of the bicycles were in need of simple maintenance and adjustment. Our common sense approach to repairing as we went along was years ahead of the ''H & S'' of to day.

Mr Darwell stamps the frames

Mike Darwell, in brown coat stamping post codes on the bicycle

One year we had a visit from the National Green Cross code man, David Prowse. His visit was arranged by June Tilney through the local Road safety Committee. This was circa 1976, well before David Prowse played the part of Darth Vader in Starwars.

Darth Vader mechanic

June Tilney and guest

 ONWARDS:

2002 Branch President

Major Turner served the Branch until 2002 as Branch President. 

( Anyone with suitable anecdotal or factual historical information of Maj. Turner, is asked to forward their reminiscences to the Branch Secretary for inclusion here ).

 2002 Branch President

Major Harrison MBE TD, served from 2002 as Malmesbury Branch President until 2008. A brief summary and tribute to Jim can be found in our Rememberance Section, in the Tributes folder.

 

 

2010 VETERANS EVENING

Held in a local pub, an informal skittles match against members  of  DHL Transport and Iceland Foods personnel who support The Royal British Legion, to celebrate Veterans Day.

Chairman Dhl Team

Chairman welcomes Challengers

Vets 2010 Skittles

Home Team Warming Up.

 Our Gurkha Guests

Our special guests from Hullavington Gurkha Garrison

Denis Compton David Oleo Derek Tilney

County Chairman, Denis Compton, Chelsea Pensioner David Oleo. and Derek Tilney, Branch Chairman.

Dhl Iceland Present Cheque

At the end of an extremely friendly but nonetheless competitive and successful evening the DHL & Iceland staff presented a very generous cheque to the Royal Britsh Legion coffers.

2011 June -  Branch President.  

Rbl 90Th Bobby Gibbs

Bobby Gibbs has regrettably had to stand down as President due to poor health. I am sure you will all join the Committee in saying a very big thank you to Bobby for the sterling support shown to the Branch and its activities over very many years, both as President and now once again as a member. It would be remiss if we did not also record a special thank you to his wife Jane who has helped Bobby consistently in his endeavours with the RBL. We all wish Bobby a speedy recovery.

Bobby is succeeded by Dr David Williamson, who has kindly agreed to become President of the Branch.

Dr Wife Treasurer

New Branch President Dr Williamson and wife with

Branch Treasure Ian Mckay, centre.

November 2015 – Annual Donation Cash Boost. 

During the manual count of the coinage donated into the many Royal British Legion Malmesbury Branch collection bins, an unusual coin was noted.

Rbl Coin Copy

 The Branch Treasurer, Charles Vernon, received advice from the local bank to submit the coin for further investigation, suggesting a specialist auctioneer to appraise the task. It became apparent that a 1971 2p coin had sold recently for £1350 !

Rbl Times Story Mat 2016 Copy

 The coin was submitted to the Royal Mint who confirmed that this 2p coin was struck on a 10p blank. The Chairman, Derek Tilney, contacted London HQ. who agreed to arrange publicity and sell the coin crediting the Malmesbury Branch Account with what ever proceeds could be achieved. 

This 2015 coin raised £1350.00 for The Royal British Legion.

 

2017  Fund Raising Pub Night Quiz a Sucess:

Chairman and Treasure attended the Pub Quiz Night organised by Allison Cross-Jones. 36 people attended in 7 teams and £228.53 was raised for the Royal British Legion. Nov 2017.

 

2018  GB 90  WW1 Return to Ypres  Menin Gate Parade 

Two representatives from Malmesbury Royal British Legion Branch, Charles Vernon and Wayne Preece joined 2,200 others to visit First World War battlefields and take part in a ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres between 5th and 9th August.2018. 

 The Great Pilgrimage 90 marked 90 years since 11,000 veterans and war widows made a similar trip shortly after the dedication of the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing. Two days were spent visiting places on the Somme and around Ypres as our forebears did. 

On Wednesday 8th a parade took place through the centre of Ypres following the same route as in 1928. This time 1,150 Royal British Legion Standards accompanied by a similar number of wreath-bearers took part. Once at the memorial the wreaths were laid and a ceremony commemorated the launch of The Hundred Days Offensive and those who never returned. 

This commemoration is important as people mainly associate the war with the failure of the first day of the Somme in 1916 and the horror of Passchendaele in 1917 but forget that The Hundred Days Offensive (the final 100 days of the war) defeated the German Army with the British and Empire forces playing the leading role. 

Malmesbury's wreath remembered the following local men whose names are inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial: 

Pte W E Wakefield 2 Wiltshires MIA 24-Oct-1914 Malmesbury

Pte A E Bailey 1 Coldstream Gds MIA 29-Oct-1914 Malmesbury

Pte A Snell 1 Gloucesters KIA 29-Oct-1914 Luckington

Pte F Heavens 2 Wiltshires KIA 2-Nov-1914 Ashton Keynes

Tpr G Oram 18 Hussars DOW 14-May-1915 Malmesbury

Pte T Long 1 Wiltshires KIA 16-May-1915 Ashton Keynes

Lt J H Leckie 1 Royal Dragoons KIA 13-Jun-1915 Crudwell

Pte G White 1 Wiltshires KIA 2-Sep-1915 Crudwell

Pte A E Goodfield 1 Wiltshires KIA 3-Sep-1915 Crudwell

L/Cpl A C Hayes 1 Wiltshires KIA 25-Sep-1915 Hankerton

Pte J R B Morse 58 Can Inf MIA 12-Jun-1916 Minety

Pte T Sherwood 1 Wiltshires KIA 7-Jun-1917 Sherston

Cpl W Bailey 6 Wiltshires KIA 3-Aug-1917 Little Somerford

Pte J Chappell 1 Grenadier Gds KIA 5-Aug-1917 Sherston

 90Gp Charkes Rbl

 ( Permission givem to reproduce above from W & G Standard gained telecom 9 August 2018 quote Hugh, with thanks ).

To be continued.

 

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