Not just tea and poppies...

Karen BethellIN this week's Face to Face, Alex Hurrell talks to Hazel Kingswood, who has followed her parents, devoting much of her time to supporting Britain's troops, past and present.Karen Bethell

IN this week's Face to Face, Alex Hurrell talks to Hazel Kingswood, who has followed her parents, devoting much of her time to supporting Britain's troops, past and present.

'I HATED growing up in a legion family,' says Hazel Kingswood, 61, current chairman of both the Norfolk Royal British Legion (RBL) Women's Section and its Aylsham and District branch.

The second world war has played a large part in Hazel's life. Her late father, George Chamberlain, served with the 5th Royal Norfolks and his brother Jack was killed serving in Belgium. Hazel was born in one of the ex-RAF Oulton wartime pre-fab homes in the grounds of Blickling Hall.


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Her parents became leading and respected members of Aylsham RBL and she bitterly resented being left in charge, with her older sister, of three younger siblings while they were out on legion duties.

Hazel's 'conversion' came with the Falklands conflict in 1982 when she realised that the horrors of war were not a thing of the past but affected her own generation.

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She joined the women's section with friend Pauline Laxen, organised a fund-raising dance in Blickling Village Hall to help the troops - and neither has ever look back.

Sunday will see Hazel in her branch role at Remembrance Day services in Itteringham Church and St Michael's, Aylsham, and in the evening she will wear her county hat at the Salvation Army citadel in Norwich. She hopes to have even more time to devote to legion duties after retiring from work last Friday .

Hazel, who lives in Marsham with her 'soulmate' Jeff Ayling, had been a care assistant for eight years in Cromer's Benjamin Court Day Centre; one of many jobs in a career as a working mum of two daughters which also included roles at Aylsham's St Michael's Hospital, with Eastern Counties Farmers in Marsham, and 21 years serving in Marsham's village shop and Post Office.

When her marriage broke up Hazel drew on her parents' strong sense of service and threw herself into community life, serving on Marsham's parish council, village hall committee, as a school governor and she is also a founder member of the Marsham Belles handbell team.

Hazel urged any woman, with or without service connections, to join the legion. She said: 'Whether or not you think we should be there, I feel we should all support our troops.'

What's the best thing about your role?

'Having fun for such a worthwhile cause.'

… and the worst?

'Getting the message across that we're not just an arm of the legion, we're a hard-working charitable organisation in our own right. And it's not just about selling poppies for two weeks and giving cups of tea to old people who want to talk about the second world war. We fund-raise 52 weeks a year and help serving soldiers as well as old and young ex-servicemen and women and their dependents. We're sending boxes now out to Afghanistan.'

Favourite book, film and TV programme:

'A book of quotes called The Complete Pocket Positives. Two favourites are: 'Don't wait for a light to appear at the end of a tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself', from an Australian female writer, and from Winston Churchill: 'We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.' It's a Wonderful Life is definitely my favourite film. James Stewart as George Bailey is my dad, George Chamberlain. I loved Morecambe and Wise on TV.'

What one song or piece of music would you take to a desert island?

'Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Simon and Garfunkel.'

Pet hates:

'Fat-cat greedy bankers and businessmen, and politicians who tell us what we must do to save the planet and watch our carbon footprints, while they fly all over the world, or around the UK in one of their several cars - that we pay for! Boy racers, drivers with mobiles … and so many more.'

Tescos in north Norfolk towns. Yes or no?

'Don't swear in my presence! They are too big and greedy for a town like Aylsham. I just don't like them and I have never shopped there.'

Man's best invention?

'RJ Mitchell's Spitfire and steam trains - sticking my head out of the window, getting smuts in my face and smelling the smoke: I love it.'

Your treat menu?

'Fillet steak with a Dijon mustard sauce, chips, peas and mushrooms, followed by raspberry pavlova. Also, the Sunday breakfast Jeff cooks is out of this world.'

Describe yourself in three words:

'George Chamberlain's daughter.'

�Aylsham and District RBL Women's Section will have a fund-raising stall in Aylsham Market Place this Saturday morning.

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