Son to honour military father and Royal British Legion stalwart at Freedom Parade

A Market Drayton man is set to take part in the Freedom Parade this weekend in honour of his father who passed away during Covid.

Len Birch pictured with his best friend Billy Timmis who will receive the Freedom scroll from the Market Drayton Town Mayor Roy Aldcroft on Saturday
Len Birch pictured with his best friend Billy Timmis who will receive the Freedom scroll from the Market Drayton Town Mayor Roy Aldcroft on Saturday

Nick Birch has been granted permission by the branch's Chairman Major, (Retd) Ian Nellins QGM BEM, to take part in the parade which will take place this Saturday.

Mr Birch has no previous military experience, no drill knowledge and has never marched in his life, but will be taking part in memory of his father Len Birch.

Commenting on the parade, Mr Birch said: "It's all about honouring him. He died during Covid so he didn't really get the send off that he would have done, so it's in memory of him and to show him that we still care.

"I'm a little bit apprehensive but I'm sure it will be fine."

Lenny Birch and Nick Birch

Lenny Birch was a stalwart of the Royal British Legion branch in Market Drayton – a member for almost 70 years – and a military man through and through.

He served in the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry and the Yorkshire Light Infantry and was in the Malayan Campaign in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

After joining the RBL branch in 1951, Lenny went on to serve on both branch and club committees and became a very active member, especially with the Poppy Appeal and looking after local welfare.

In 1993, Lenny became Market Drayton's Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal Organiser, this was a role that he served in for 17 years.

During this time, Lenny was responsible for raising in the region of £300,000 and was also heavily involved in the organising of the local RBL Annual Flower and Vegetable Show.

In 2002 Lenny was made an Honorary Townsman of Market Drayton. This honour was bestowed on him by Market Drayton Town Council for his services to the town's Royal British Legion and to to the town.

In September 2009, Len was awarded the highest honour the Royal British Legion can bestow – The RBL Gold Badge.

When the then National President Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely KCB MC was made aware that Len had been granted this award, he took it on himself to come to Market Drayton to personally present Len with this honour in front of his family and friends.

Lenny passed away on May 27, 2020, during the first Covid lockdown.

At the time, local RBL members and standards provided a guard of honour for him with social distancing rules observed.

When asked about his father, Mr Birch said: "He was very strict and very disciplined. He never stopped working. He was always someone who organised things and would take a lead role."

Mr Birch is cutting short his golfing trip to Scotland so he can be back in time for the Saturday's event.

The parade will be led by Wellington Brass Band from Church Street to Market Drayton's War Memorial for an official presentation and service.

The event will feature a performance by The Silver Buglers of The Light Infantry Association and a flyover by the two remaining Avro Anson Aircrafts.

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