poppy field


Watlington Branch was officially formed on 29th January 1927 in the Hare & Hounds (sadly no longer with us) where a group of ex-Servicemen called the Old Comrades Association used to meet under the chairmanship of General Moore. The annual subscription was 2/6 (12 ½ p) and up to the start of WW2 membership fluctuated between 20 and 30. Benevolent work in those far off early days mostly concerned donations of 2/- (10p) for board and lodging given to unemployed ex-Servicemen passing through the town, where a night's board could be had at the local pub for 4d. The Branch was very active socially, and from about the mid 1930s darts, dominoes and cribbage matches were played against other Branches weekly throughout the year. We won the Group Cup in 1938 and although the Group (now known as John Hampden Group) had dwindled from 24 down to 9 branches by 1986 Watlington's name appears on it 10 times. The pinnacle was reached in 1961 when our team of four, Sam Martin, Les Nixey, Don Stanmore and Don Field won the National Darts Final, the Hamburg Cup.  Following the 39-45 conflict membership started to increase but by 1970 numbers  had fallen again and the Branch was very much in the doldrums and about to be wound up before being revived by local resident General Sir John Mogg GCB. CBE. DSO. DL.who reined in Ken Cook (ex RN) as Chairman and Jack Frost (ex MN) as President. They were joined by Mrs Creasey (later Hopkins) as Secretary, and in the late 70's Derek Elliott (ex KRRC) was elected Vice Chairman; this team worked diligently to put the Branch back on its feet.

Jack Frost retired in 1981 and his place as President was taken by Rear Admiral Derrick Hetherington who served the Branch well until ill health forced him to give up in 1989 when he handed over the baton to General Mogg: The General remained in office until 2000 when he in turn handed over to his son Brigadier Nigel Mogg DL who is still our President today.

There have been some notable high lights marking the Branch's progress through the years: In 1975 our old Standard was laid up in the Parish Church and a new one dedicated: the ceremony was attended by a congregation of some 400 and the parade at which the salute was taken by the County President was led by 37 Standards and the drums & bugles of the Army Cadet Force. For our 50th Anniversary in 1977 a Grand Fete was held (remembered by many for the appalling weather on the day!) Our 60th Anniversary in 1987 was celebrated by a Military/Musical Pageant at Shirburn Castle with The Normandy Band of the Royal Greenjackets, the Bands of The 1st Bn Royal Hampshire Regiment, The 2nd Bn The Wessex Regiment, and The Central Band of The Royal British Legion amongst others. For our 70th we were fortunate to engage the Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas who gave a concert and Beat Retreat at the local school; and our 80th was marked by a Celebration lunch at which the guest of honour was the National Chairman John Hawthornthwaite.

As well as those special occasions, over the years the Branch has attended numerous Fetes and other fund raising events, been represented at most County, Area, and National Conferences, won the County Branch Efficiency Trophy 15 times and the Best Kept War Memorial in the County 8 times, provided a County Chairman, two County Treasurers, and a Secretary and Chairman of the John Hampden Group. Since 1970 ten members have been awarded the Legion's Gold Badge, and two have received the top honour of the National Certificate of Appreciation.

Sadly, and in common with many other Branches, membership is falling as the old and bold fade away, but the present committee are working hard to keep things going to ensure the Branch has a secure future.