Overview of the Royal British Legion
The Royal British Legion (RBL), sometimes referred to as simply The Legion, is the United Kingdom’s leading charity providing financial, social and emotional support to those who have served or who are currently serving in the British Armed Forces, and their dependants.
The British Legion was founded in 1921 as a voice for the ex-Service community as a merger of four organisations: the Comrades of the Great War, the National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers and the Officers’ Association. It was granted a Royal Charter on 29 May 1971 to mark its fiftieth anniversary which gives the Legion the privilege of the prefix ‘Royal’.
Earl Haig, commander of the Battle of the Somme and Passchendaele was one of the founders of the Legion, and was President until his death.
Best known for the yearly Poppy Appeal and Remembrance services, the Legion is a campaigning organisation that promotes the welfare and interests of current and former members of the British Armed Forces. In this respect the Legion fight nearly 36,000 ongoing War Disablement Pension cases for war veterans and make around 300,000 welfare and friendship visits every year.
Ongoing Legion campaigns include calls for more research into: Gulf War syndrome and compensation for its victims; upgrading of War Pensions; the extension of endowment mortgage compensation for British military personnel serving overseas; and better support for British military personnel resettling into civilian life. In 2007, the Legion launched the Honour the Covenant campaign urging the Government to honour the Military Covenant.
The Poppy Appeal
The Legion organises a fund-raising drive each year in the weeks before Remembrance Sunday, during which artificial red poppies, meant to be worn on clothing, are offered to the public in return for a charitable donation. The poppies are manufactured at the Poppy Factory in Richmond.
The Festival of Remembrance
The Legion also organises ‘The Festival of Remembrance’ on the Saturday before ‘Remembrance Sunday’ which is historically derived from the 1918 Western European First World War ‘Armistice Day’ (11 November) with the Royal Albert Hall, London.
The Royal British Legion has an extensive network of Social Clubs called Legion Clubs throughout the United Kingdom. The Royal British Legion also has branches in the Republic of Ireland, and spread around the world, mostly in mainland Europe, but also in America, and Azerbaijan amongst other world nations.