Royal British Legion memberhip struggle

Falling numbers mean at least half of Norfolk's Royal British Legion branches are struggling to survive, says the county manager.And as the latest victim, the Neatishead and District branch, prepared to hold its final Armistice Day event today, the veteran who has carried its flag for 60 years urged more people to get behind the branches and save them from closure.

Falling numbers mean at least half of Norfolk's Royal British Legion branches are struggling to survive, says the county manager.

And as the latest victim, the Neatishead and District branch, prepared to hold its final Armistice Day event today, the veteran who has carried its flag for 60 years urged more people to get behind the branches and save them from closure.

Since 2000, 24 of the county's district branches have closed as they struggled to find members willing to take on key roles and the few remaining stalwarts become too old to go it alone.

The overall number of branches in Norfolk has fallen from 94 to 70 and Kate Williams, county manager for the charity, said she estimated at least half of those left were “in the danger area”.


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She said: “All the branches could do with an injection of younger blood. At least half are running on minimum power.”

Geoffrey Neave joined the Legion in 1948 when he left the armed forces and has been the standard bearer for the Neatishead and District branch ever since.

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Today Mr Neave, who formed part of the Christmas guard at Buckingham Palace in 1945 and took part in the first Trooping the Colour in 1947, was due to carry the standard for the last time at the branch's Armistice Day event. Only three of about 40 members serve on the branch's committee and that has led the Legion to close it.

Mr Neave, who lives in Barton Turf, near Stalham, with his wife Doreen, said the branch had changed a lot in 60 years. He said: “Then, most of the chaps coming out of the forces joined it. We all had something in common. We got together to give parties for children and pensioners. Now people just hand the money over and don't do anything. It's a shame.”

Last night Mr Neave, who has two sons Glen, 52, and Terry, 49, urged more people to join their area's branch and help keep them going. He said: “We try to pick up money to help the chaps who are having a rough time. It's a great help to them, and they need it now more than ever.”

The former bricklayer said he will feel like he had “lost some-thing” when the Neatishead branch officially closes in June and aimed to join another group to remain part of the Legion.

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