poppy field


In 1920, less than 2 years after the Armistice in November 1918, Holsworthy was holding monthly meetings of its branch of the "National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers". On 13 & 14 November of that year, the Chairman represented the branch at a Special Conference on the amalgamation of all ex-Service men's organisations in Leicester. Monthly meetings at that time were held in the Stanhope Hotel, which is now the local branch of Barclays Bank.  Among the members were those who must have been the fathers or even grandfathers of some present members, as the local family names of many occur. 

It would seem from records of votes taken, for and against various propositions, that the attendance at these meetings was about 20. Interesting is that in these early years, members were helped financially when sick or un-employed, as well as help given to itinerant ex-Servicemen looking for work in the area. 

In March 1921 the branch paraded and laid a wreath at the unveiling of the Town War Memorial. June 1921 saw the branch adopt the title of "British Legion", Holsworthy Branch, as that of the newly constituted amalgamated organisation, voting that the outgoing Officers and Committee be re-elected en-bloc. Armistice Day Parades were also held on the Sundays nearest to 11 November, in 1922 with the Holsworthy town band. By November 1922 there already was an active branch Management Committee, Benevolent Committee and Sports Committee, and an end of year branch dinner was established. Further, an ex-Servicemen's bed was being supported in Halwill Hospital. The membership at this time was reported to be 73, and the subscription was 8 shillings per year, paid quarterly in advance.  Locally at this period, many would have earned 8 shillings a week.

In 1934, the branch was still using the Stanhope Hotel for its meetings, and many of the officers from the 1920s were still serving, for instance Mr J F Oke, who was still chairman. The Benevolent Committee was by then the Relief Committee, and had made a large number of grants during the past year, reducing the branch funds to only £4, as reported by the treasurer. It was however decided that the annual subscription should remain at 6 shillings per year, a reduction of 25% over the subscription paid in the early 1920s. For the Armistice Day celebrations, it was again decided to ask Miss Kivell to arrange 'Poppy Day', and a unanimous vote of thanks forwarded to her for her past services.

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, as well as ATS, WRNS & WAAFs, returning after service in the Far East, Africa, Italy, France and Germany joined the Holsworthy branch of the British Legion. One member remembers joining the same week as he was de-mobilised in 1947, having returned from the Army of Occupation in Germany. Meetings were held in the Ex-Servicemen's Room of the Memorial Hall, and the annual subscription was five shillings.

On 10 September 1971, the British Legion became The Royal British Legion, Holsworthy. During the 1980s and 1990s the branch always sent at least one representative to the Regional and National Legion Conferences, and the branch with its Standard was often at the Albert Hall for the Commemorative Evening. In early 1981 the branch moved to what is now the Magpie/RBL Club House, where meetings are still held monthly. The branch's oldest First War Veteran at 102 years old, was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur medal, 82 years after he had enlisted with the infantry regiment, the 7th Worcestershire.

August 1981 saw a branch visit to the D-Day beaches, with their Standard, but this was no isolated outing, others being to battlefields in Malta, Italy and Holland, as well as Gibraltar, Cyprus, Crete, Portugal and Jersey. The latest of these was to Flanders's Fields in March 2003.

Welfare Committee

By the early 1970s, what had been the Benevolent Committee in the 1920s and the Relief Committee in the 1930s had become the Service Committee, and held its monthly meetings in the Ex-Servicemen's Room of the Memorial Hall. Not only were small grants of financial help given to members who were unfit for work, but visits were made by a very active Secretary to members at home and in various hospitals. Small gifts of flowers for the ladies and cigarettes or grapes for other patients were given. Long term illness of 3 months or more were referred to the Area Secretary. Transport was arranged for members' wives to visit sick husbands in hospital. Members representing the Branch, and often the Standard Bearer, attended the funerals of old members who faded away. At this period, Xmas donations were still considered legitimate, it was only in the 1990s that the Area Management raised objections to these benefits, including the funding of the children's Xmas party etc. It was however explained to County that these parties had their origin in treats for Service personnel's children during their parent's absence in WWII. In 1975, the Service Committee was supporting the Hospital Car Service run by the Churches.

Commemorating 50 years since VE day, The Royal British Legion Holsworthy shared the donation of a seat with memorial plaques at the town pump in March 1995.

By March 1988, the Committee was known as the Welfare Committee, which name it retains today, still showing care for sick and elderly members and their families in difficulties and bereavement.

The Branch also supports ex-Service personnel and their nearest dependant in the area, even if they are not members of the Legion.

Service Units  in which Holsworthy Members have served

RN Fishery Protection Flotilla
Aircraft Carriers
The Royal Yacht


Royal Army Veterinary Corp
Royal Army Service Corp
Royal Artillery
Royal Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
Devon & Dorset's
Various other County Regiments
25th Dragoons
Pioneer Corp
Royal Army Medical Corp
Military Police


Bomber Command
Fighter Command
RAF Ground Crews