Belper’s female legionnaires to carry on ‘flying the flag’

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The long-serving ladies of Belper’s Royal British Legion are celebrating the news that their much appreciated work will continue - at least for another year.

Like their female colleagues all over the country, the Belper Legion’s women’s section had been scheduled to shut down later this year as the national organisation integrated them with the main men’s body.

However, a recent decision has given them a ‘stay of execution’ for at least another year - meaning that their work with the poppy appeal, other fundraising and events like last Thursday’s coffee morning can continue.

Val Hall, who is currently secretary of the women’s section, is relieved that the organisation has agreed to defer its decision.

She said: “We now know that for the foreseeable future we are going to be able to carry on as normal.

“We were worried because the national women’s section was stopped from laying a separate wreath at the cenotaph last year.

“It felt like a kick in the teeth which made it look as though the women’s sections didn’t matter.

“Many women fought and died in the war and the men here are totally with us in terms of what we are doing.

“We know the decision will be reviewed next September or October, but for now we’re going to carry on as normal.”

Committee member Marjorie Fox says their group is a ‘very friendly’ one which is ‘not cliquey at all’.

“We go on outings to garden centres and things like that and visit members who can’t get to meetings any more,” she says.

“I think we have got to keep this going because without it many people would have nowhere to go and nothing to do.”

One of the most popular events they put on are the coffee mornings on the last Thursday of every month.

“No matter what happens in the future the coffee mornings will never be stopped,” explains Marjorie.

“We get about 50 or so coming down every month and they see it as a bit of an outing.

“The Thursday Club at Belper Community Hall has just closed down so the coffee mornings are even more important now.”

The ladies enjoying tea and cake in the Legion building on Strutt Street last Thursday morning were full of praise for the work the women’s section does.

Glenys Meakin, who is 79 and from Belper, goes along to the coffee morning every month with her older sister.

“We come for the social side of it - we really enjoy it,” she says.

“It is very important for us to stay active and to keep meeting up with people.”

Eve Chamberlain said: “I used to go out fundraising with them - I even have a medal for 45 years of selling poppies.

“I can’t anymore, but we still come here for companionship and to talk - if we couldn’t we would have nowhere to go.”

And Mrs Foulk said: “We come here because we enjoy the social side - most of us are on our own.

“We went to Sudbury prison recently and the inmates made us lunch which was really nice and we go on a lot of other trips out as well.

“Some of the younger ones still do a lot for the poppy appeal and raise quite a bit of money, but not all of us can do that anymore.”

The only man present is committee member and treasurer of the main branch, Carl Moore. He is in no doubt about the value of the women’s section to the work of the legion.

“The women’s section is a great asset,” he says.

“Without them it would all depend on the committee and that isn’t big enough on its own.

“They are one of the greatest assets we have got, particularly for the poppy appeal but collecting more generally as well and events like this coffee morning.”

If you are interested in joining the women’s section or finding out more, call Val Halls on 01773 826691.