The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League – RCEL


The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League was founded in 1921 in Cape Town, South Africa, as the British Empire Services League by Field Marshal Earl Haig and Field Marshal Jan Smuts in order to link together ex-service organizations from throughout the British Empire.
It was renamed the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League (BCEL) in 1958 and then the Commonwealth Ex-Services League (CEL) in 2002.
The appellation “Royal” was granted by royal assent in 2003. The RCEL has 56 current Member Organisations in 48 countries.


The RCEL’s Member Organisations as follows:


  • The Returned and Services League of Australia Limited
  • British Legion – Bahamas Branch
  • Bangladesh Armed Services Board
  • Barbados Legion of RCEL
  • Belize Ex-Services League
  • Burma Forces Welfare Association
  • Fraternal Union of Cameroon Ex-Servicemen of the Crown
  • The Royal Canadian Legion
  • Cayman Islands Veterans Association
  • Cyprus Veterans Association World War II
  • Dominica Legion of RCEL
  • The Royal British Legion
  • Returned Soldiers & Ex-Servicemen’s Association of Fiji
  • Gambia Legion
  • Veterans Administration of Ghana
  • Grenada Legion of RCEL
  • Guyana Legion
  • The Royal British Legion (Hong Kong & China Branch)
  • Indian Ex-Services League, New Delhi
  • East India Charitable Trust, Calcutta
  • Ex-Service Associations India, Chennai (Chennai, Bangalore & Deccan)
  • Ex-Service Association India, Mumbai
  • Jamaica Legion RCEL
  • Defence Forces Comrades Association (Kenya)
  • British Legion Kenya
  • Basotho Legion of BESL (Lesotho)
  • Commonwealth Ex-Services League of Malawi
  • Malaysian Ex-British Army Association
  • The Royal British Legion (Malta Branch)
  • The Mauritius Ex-Services Trust Fund
  • Montserrat Legion
  • MOTHS in Nambia
  • Royal New Zealand Returned & Services Association (inc)
  • Nigerian Legion
  • Commonwealth Ex-Services Association Pakistan
  • Pakistan Armed Services Board
  • St. Kitts-Nevis Legion
  • St. Lucia Ex-Services League of RCEL
  • Royal St.Vincent Legion RCEL
  • The Royal British Legion Scotland
  • Poppyscotland (The Earl Haig Fund Scotland)
  • Seychelles Ex-Servicemen Fund
  • Sierra Leone Ex-Servicemen’s Association
  • BHC Singapore
  • Somaliland Scouts Association
  • South African Legion of Military Veterans
  • Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen’s Association
  • Umsizi Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare Assocation (Swaziland)
  • Tanzania Ex-Services Association
  • Trinidad &Tobago Legion
  • Turks & Caicos Ex-Servicemen’s Legion
  • Uganda Ex-Servicemen’s Association in RCEL
  • Ex-Servicemen’s League of Zambia
  • The Legion Zimbabwe



The RCEL helps 13,400 beneficiaries.  The last major fundraising campaign was held in 2002 – The Jubilee Appeal for Commonwealth Veterans  and it raised £3 million. The majority of the help given is for basic food and shelter. In some areas RCEL struggles to provide even a minimum level of subsistence being only 20 meals a month. In addition, where possible, it helps with healthcare. Apart from funding the cost of drugs, optical and dental care, it also funds some prosthetics. In both India and Africa it also now operates a Medical Fund to help lessen the suffering for veterans unable to pay for medication.


In some areas, RCEL has funded Maize Mills, fresh water wells and welfare generating projects, in an endeavour to provide an income to a family so that they are able to look after their veterans. In the case of Maize Mills, monies raised by the milling enables the local organisation to help with the welfare payments.


It is sad that the work of RCEL is necessary. However not all Commonwealth countries on achieving independence chose to recognise the role that so many played in establishing and preserving peace in the World. In all some five million men and women from the Commonwealth volunteered to give up their youth to fight alongside Britain and the Allies. It is for these brave people that the RCEL now campaign for.



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