Royal British Legion will mark its centenary in Shropshire on Saturday

Royal British Legion representatives across Shropshire will be laying wreaths on Saturday to mark the founding of the movement 100 years ago.

County chairman Ian Williams will lead the centenary commemoration at the War Memorial in Ellesmere where he is president of the local Legion branch. He is hoping that officials of the other 32 branches in Shropshire will hold similar ceremonies at 9am to replicate an event that happened in London a century ago. He said the work of the legion is as important as it has ever been.

It was on May 15, 1921 that a small group of ex-servicemen walked to the newly- dedicated Cenotaph in Whitehall.

They represented four armed forces organisations that had been set up nationally to care for those who had suffered as a result of service in World War 1, which had ended three years earlier with the 1918 Armistice.

The wreath they laid at the base of the war memorial bore the badges of the National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, the British National Association of Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors, the Comrades of the Great War, and the Officers’ Association.

In joining together, they became the British Legion, the UK’s largest armed services charitys initially led by Field Marshal Earl Haig, who had been the British commander at the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele.

Within months of its formation, the Legion launched the first Poppy Appeal. The appeal has continued annually in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, raising more than £50 million in 2019.

On its golden anniversary in 1971 The Queen awarded the Legion a “royal” prefix to its title.

Mr Williams said the legion's work is as vital as ever as it continues to pioneer new ways of meeting the varied and increasingly complex needs of hundreds of thousands of military veterans, current service personnel, and their families whenever they need help.

“Unlike the aftermath of the First World War, this community is no longer young – nearly half of them are over the age if 75, reflecting the numbers conscripted in the Second World War and for National Service during the 1950s," he said.

“So much has changed from those early days but the Legion’s original three-fold mission remains the same -- to provide for all members of the armed forces community in need, to campaign in their interest, and to remember and

honour their service and sacrifice.

“The Legion holds a special place in the nation’s heart and next Saturday will be a proud and historic landmark as we move forward in forging new pathways and partnerships with other service charities to ensure those seeking help receive the specialised expertise and support that they deserve.”

Because of Covid 19 restrictions, attendance at wreath-laying ceremonies is strictly limited to Royal British Legion representatives, together with civic representatives and clergy.

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