poppy field

Royal Tunbridge Wells






February/March Newsletter 2022

Welcome to the February/March Newsletter of the RBL Royal Tunbridge Wells Branch. We hope you are keeping in good spirits as the worst of the pandemic seems to have passed, and with social restrictions This issue brings you updates on several topics which we hope will keep you informed about what’s happening of interest to RBL in Tunbridge Wells--being lifted life returns to a sort of normality, albeit with a continuing rising local infection rate.

-the 2021 Poppy Appeal

--points from the AGM in November

--the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year

--Branch Community support reporting

--the Garden of Remembrance, Tunbridge Wells Cemetery

--80th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein

The 2021 Poppy Appeal

The amount collected by the town’s cadet forces totalled £8,592-83, which is a really good figure. We are extremely grateful to them all-- the Tunbridge Wells Sea Cadets, the Skinner’s School CCF, the Tunbridge Wells Air Cadets, the Tunbridge Wells Army Cadets, and the Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School CCF for their efforts. But we don’t yet know the overall total for the town. Phil Danton, Tunbridge Wells’s Poppy Appeal Organiser, should know soon and will give us the figures as soon as he is able.


2021 AGM Points

The Branch’s 2021 AGM was held on-line on 16 November, attended by eight members. David Wakefield and I were again elected as the Branch’s Points of Contact. I presented a report on the past year and a number of decisions were taken. The minutes of the meeting are attached. Many thanks to Dennis Homewood for taking the notes.


   The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee                     

 This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne. She became Queen in 1952 at the age of 25, and has ruled longer than any other monarch in British history. But her association with the Armed Forces began before she became Queen. When 18 during WW2 she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service and as a full-time member trained as a vehicle mechanic & driver, no doubt being known in her unit as 230873 Hon Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor. And soon after, she got to know and in 1947 married a young naval officer Prince Philip whose family had been expelled from their home in Greece, and who had been educated in Britain. He served with distinction in the Royal Navy.


Since becoming Queen and as the official Head of the Armed Forces she has developed a very close relationship with them through regular visits to units on land and sea to meet servicemen and women of all ranks. She holds many military appointments and honorary ranks, and is Patron of the Royal British Legion. She has also given her name to the Elizabeth Cross, a new medal given to the next of kin of members of the Armed Forces killed in conflicts or terrorism since 1948 as a mark of recognition of their loss.

here will be many celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee, culminating in a special 4 day public holiday weekend 2-5 June. They will include a Birthday Parade involving over 1,400 members of the Armed Forces, Beacon lighting, a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s, a live concert from Buckingham Palace, and Jubilee parties all over the country. We understand Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is planning a festival of music and dance on Friday 3 June but no details are available yet. We are sure there are many who will want to celebrate in one way or another through community and association events, and we encourage you to do so when and where you can. This Branch is not planning any event of its own.

Branch Community Support reporting

Your help is needed please

For various reasons, the Branch has let lapse its regular reporting to RBL centre of the number of contacts it has with members who appreciate a regular call to keep in touch and check on their well-being. At the AGM it was agreed we should rectify this. Jon Vanns has kindly agreed to gather & record the data. We are now asking everyone who initiates such contacts to let us know when they do. All that’s needed is the name of the member you contacted and the month it took place. Our contact details are below.

The WW2 Garden of Remembrance in Tunbridge Wells Cemetery, Hawkenbury

The WW2 Garden of Remembrance in the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery at Hawkenbury which is owned by the Borough Council and jointly cared for by the Council, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and the Friends of the Cemetery is in urgent need of repair & renovation. Many parts of the paved surface are uneven, and the several different height levels all pose trip hazards. There have been several falls in recent years. The area is also inaccessible to wheelchair users.

At the instigation of Peter Blackwell, and with the support of this Branch & the Friends, steps are being taken to assess & cost options for its repair and renovation. David Hall of Burslem is kindly providing technical assistance. The aim is to present a proposal which will

 persuade the Borough Council to fund and carry out the work. It is possible some substantial changes to the periphery of the area may be made, while preserving and enhancing the core of the Gardens which play a vital part in helping us remember and respect those died in WW2.

If you would like to know more about the present situation and the work in hand, please contact Peter or me.

80th Anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein

The 2nd Battle of El Alamein was fought in the north African desert in the autumn of 1942, and in Britain is one of the most well-known campaigns of WW2. Gen Montgomery commanded the allied 8th Army consisting largely of British troops but also units from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Greece, free French & the US who decisively defeated a German & Italian army under the command of Field Marshal Rommel. Air superiority, infantry, and weight of force were the 8th Army’s key advantages. Some of our own members and individuals in their families fought in the battle.


The battle had great strategic significance. At the time, Germany had control of most of Europe. U-boats in the Atlantic were sinking ever larger numbers of allied ships bringing war material, fuel and food to Britain, and Soviet forces were being attacked and retreating eastwards. Up to this point Britain’s ground forces had lost most of their encounters with Germany. This was the British Army’s first clear-cut and irreversible victory since the start of the war. The defeat of the Axis army and subsequent actions led to the removal of the threat to the Suez canal and British oil & raw material supply lines from the Middle East and Asia; and it provided a big morale boost at a key time. The Allied victory paved the way for success in subsequent campaigns.

 The Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at El Alamein contains the graves of 7,240 killed in the battle, including many airmen.


Commemorative Lunch?

We think it would be a good idea for the Tunbridge Wells Branch to mark the 80th anniversary of this key battle by having a lunch together in September or early October. It would be at a hotel or restaurant in the town, and the cost would be about £25 a head.

Please let me know if you would be interested in coming.


Thank you. Stay safe.

RBL Tunbridge Wells Branch contacts

Points of Contact--Branch Leader and Newsletter John Cohen johncohen1946@gmail.com 07766 313047 and Honorary President David Wakefield 01892 263453. Jon Vanns 07979 562163































Thank you.   Stay safe. 

RBL Tunbridge Wells Branch contacts

Chairman and Newsletter John Cohen 07766 313047 President David Wakefield 01892 263453 Malcolm Blythman 07754 593131  Dennis Homewood 01892 528203













Royal Tunbridge Wells Branch


                                August Newsletter

9 August 2020

Welcome to the RBL Tunbridge Wells Branch August Newsletter.

This month’s edition features three significant and contrasting events, and has been particularly hard to write :

1 The 75th Anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ) Day

                                 2 The End of the Second World War

                                 3 The proposed closure of this Branch of RBL—have your say


VJ 75 Day, 15 August

Whilst VE Day marked the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, many thousands of Armed Forces personnel were still engaged in bitter fighting in the Far East. Victory over Japan would come at a heavy price, and VJ Day marks the day Japan surrendered on the 15 August 1945, which in effect ended the Second World War.

The 14th Army

This is the badge of the 14th Army, also known as the Forgotten Army, Britain and the Commonwealth’s multi-national principal fighting force in Asia.  Formed in 1943 after the loss of Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaya, the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies, it was estimated to have a strength of 1m men, and it held the longest battle line of any army during the war, from the Bay of Bengal to the borders of China. The Army comprised 2 British Divisions, 1 East African, 2 West African, and 10 Indian Divisions drawn from the 2.5m all-volunteer British Indian Army. Its job was to protect India and regain territory lost earlier. Under Gen Slim it outfought the Japanese in some of the most difficult terrains in the world.  

VJ 75 Day, 15 August

Whilst VE Day marked the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, many thousands of Armed Forces personnel were still engaged in bitter fighting in the Far East. Victory over Japan would come at a heavy price, and VJ Day marks the day Japan surrendered on the 15 August 1945, which in effect ended the Second World War.

VJ 75 Day, 15 August

Whilst VE Day marked the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, many thousands of Armed Forces personnel were still engaged in bitter fighting in the Far East. Victory over Japan would come at a heavy price, and VJ Day marks the day Japan surrendered on the 15 August 1945, which in effect ended the Second World War.

around the world, a lasting legacy to the success and comradeship of those who fought in the Asia-Pacific. 

British & Allied Prisoners of War

140,000 Allied troops had been taken prisoner by the Japanese during their early offensives, of whom over 40,000 were British. They were treated exceptionally harshly and suffered in large numbers from malnutrition, beatings, disease and overwork. The most infamous construction project was the Burma -Thailand railway.

Over a quarter died. According to one estimate, the death rate during captivity was 7 x greater than under the Germans. After three and a half years, the survivors returned home sick and damaged.

Air lines of communication in the Burma Campaign were crucial. Some 615,000 tons of supplies and 315,000 reinforcements were airlifted to and from the front line, frequently by parachute drops, and 210,000 casualties were evacuated.


The Royal Air Force and the Indian Air Force, supported by carrier-borne Fleet Air Arm aircraft, mounted constant offensive bombing sorties, together with fighter cover and essential photo-reconnaissance. Towards the end of the War, RAF Liberator aircraft carried out some of the longest operations ever flown to drop mines into the Pacific.


At sea, the Royal Navy and the Royal Indian Navy provided the landing craft, the minesweepers and the combined operations necessary for the coastal offensive in the Arakan, as well as providing off-shore fire support. The Royal Marine Commando, as well as Royal Marines from the units of the Fleet took part in the Arakan operations.


The Fourteenth Army was one of the most diverse in history – more than 40 languages were spoken, and all the world’s major religions represented.

The descendants of many of the Commonwealth veterans of that army are today part of multicultural communities

The Fourteenth Army was one of the most diverse in history – more than 40 languages were spoken, and all the world’s major religions represented.

The descendants of many of the Commonwealth veterans of that army are today part of multicultural communities


Veterans of the Far East campaign will be at the heart of RBL’s commemorations as the nation thanks them for their service and sacrifice. 

The Wider Pacific War 1941-45

The war in the remaining Pacific theatre was of a completely different type. After the Japanese surprise attack on its Pacific Fleet in Dec 1941, the US entered the war.  British, French, Dutch & US bases in Hong Kong, Philippines, Thailand, Malaya, & Singapore were also all attacked simultaneusly.


  US sea, ground and air forces with help from Australia and New Zealand fought long & costly battles to halt the Japanese advances south, east & west in the Pacific. Australia, India and even the US mainland were threatened. The dominance of the powerful Japanese fleet was challenged by US aircraft carriers, fighter planes, surface ships and submarines. An early psychological blow was struck when 16 carrier-based B25 bombers attacked Tokyo in 1942.  But it took more than 2 years of hard fighting before the US was able to set up a land 


base for bombers within range of Japan. The challenges of mounting amphibious assaults 1,000 miles from secure bases were immense, and contrasted with the similar invasion of Europe from a distance of only 100 miles at about the same time.     

Over many battles, the Allies gradually gained the offensive, and many of the islands and much territory were recaptured after hard fighting. Major assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and naval battles led to the conclusion that only a successful invasion and occupation of Japan’s home islands would force their surrender. In that event, US casualties were conservatively expected to be 225,000.     

 Against this background, President Truman authorised the use of two atomic bombs which resulted in Japan’s surrender. 110,000 were killed and 120,000 injured, with thousands more dying later from radiation. This was VJ Day, and the end of WW2.

We salute and thank all those who gave their lives or served in WW2 for us, especially those in the Asia Pacific theatre.

VJ 75 Events in Tunbridge Wells, 15 August 2020

At 11am RBL Tunbridge Wells Branch will lay a wreath at the War Memorial with the Standard, in a short Act of Remembrance. No Last Post will be sounded and no general publicity given to avoid attracting a crowd. The 3 of us will keep apart.

At 3pm there will be a short Remembrance ceremony organised by the Friends of Hawkenbury Cemetery at the Garden of Remembrance attended by the Mayor to pay tribute to the fallen of WW2, particularly those buried in the Cemetery. The pandemic requires the event to be strictly controlled and only those personally invited may attend.    

The last page of this Newsletter lists VJ Day 75 activities elsewhere.

Proposed closure of the Tunbridge Wells Branch

It has become sadly clear in recent years that age and disability are preventing increasing numbers of members from attending monthly meetings, and taking an active part in the activities of the Branch.  Appeals to join the Committee have failed to find any new people willing to serve on it.  The result is that the Branch has become almost completely reliant on the same small band of public-spirited volunteers who offer themselves for election year after year in order to keep the Branch going.  

Unfortunately there is a limit to how long that can continue.  All of us on the Committee recognise we have reached a critical point in the life of the Branch. At a meeting last week we discussed all the options and have come to the regrettable conclusion that none of us was willing to carry on as Committee members much longer.  In fact we have all individually decided not to offer ourselves for re-election at the AGM in October.  If no other candidates for election come forward, then it is highly likely the Tunbridge Wells Branch will have to close.

We recognise the significance of this decision both for Branch members and the local community who rely on us to represent veterans in the town.  Also for those with whom we have strong relationships and Affiliations such as the cadet units at TS Brilliant, Skinners School, TWGGS, RAF cadets and the ACF.  Next year also marks the Centenary of RBL. So we would like to have your views

Issues to consider

When Might the Branch close?

If a new Committee cannot be formed at the AGM on 13 October, the Branch will need to close soon after.  We will run the AGM on-line if as seems likely we cannot meet in person.

What will happen to my membership of RBL?


Your membership of the Legion will be unaffected.

What will happen to the Branch’s assets?

The Branch has an investment fund currently worth about £13,000, approx. £500 in its current account, and a Legacy from John Pring of approx. £5,400 held by RBL hq which we have been unable to access.  There are a number of options—

1.transfer assets to the Poppy Appeal

  1. use them to help fund a TWBC project at the Hawkenbury Cemetery Garden of Remembrance to upgrade the area around the Cross of Sacrifice which is at present hazardous to walk around and inaccessible to wheelchair users
  2. some other local project
  3. if permitted give them to some other charity for the welfare of Armed Forces Veterans



Will the Poppy Appeal be affected?

The Poppy Appeal is organised by RBL at County level, with the support of individuals. This arrangement should not change.

Will the town’s Remembrance Sunday ceremonies be affected?

With no Branch in the town, TWBC would be unable to rely on formal office holders in the branch to represent veterans in Services and ceremonies.  However, individual RBL members resident in the town could still unofficially represent veterans, but that would be for the Borough Council to decide.



In the event of the Branch closing, how would the event be marked?

The Branch has been in existence for almost 100 years, and we would definitely wish to celebrate its life and achievements with a programme on the lines of

A short Act of Remembrance at the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial

A short Service at either Christ Church or King Charles the Martyr to lay up the Standard, followed by refreshments

A private self-funded dinner at a local hotel for all who wish to attend

All subject to prevailing pandemic restrictions.



Your Views Please

So we would very much welcome your views on the following

** Are you willing to stand for election to the Committee of the Tunbridge Wells Branch at the October AGM?  The positions to be filled are Chairman, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and 3 Committee members.  These are the minimum number required by RBL to administer a Branch.

** In the event that a new Committee cannot be formed, do you support the existing Committee’s conclusion that the Branch can no longer continue?

** Which of the above options for the disposal of the Branch’s assets do you favour?

**  Do you have any other comments?



To conclude

With best wishes from all on the Committee, and volunteers.  Stay safe.  If you need to contact any of us for help, our numbers are below—


   RBL Tunbridge Wells Branch Committee members & Volunteers

Chairman and Newsletter John Cohen 07766 313047

Vice Chairman Malcolm Blythman 07754 593131

Secretary  Dennis Homewood 01892 528203

Treasurer (& President) David Wakefield 01892 263453

Committee Members  Derek Powell, Jeffrey Rowland, Laurie Manser, Richard Avis

Lorna-Jane Gittings  07793 271990  Gary Faulkner 07930 269669    Jon Vanns 07979 562163